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THOMAS CRANE NEVER SAW THE LIBRARY THAT BEARS HIS NAME

Born on Georges Island in Boston Harbor in 1803, Crane was seven years old when his family moved to Quincy. He was 26 when he left the Quincy granite quarries and went to New York City where he became one of that city’s leading stone contractors, and amassed a fortune in building and real estate.

Even though he had only lived in Quincy for 19 years, Crane’s affection for this city prompted his son Albert Crane, one of eight children, to donate almost a quarter of a million dollars for a library named and endowed in honor of his father. By the time the Thomas Crane Memorial Library opened in 1882, Thomas Crane had been dead for seven years.

In his keynote address at the library’s dedication, Charles Francis Adams Jr. described Thomas Crane as a man remarkable for his unwavering virtue:

“Thomas Crane,” said Adams, preserved, “amid all temptations, his New England birthright traits of simplicity, thrift, straightforward honesty, and deep religious feeling.”

Certainly no one can question Crane’s devotion to hard work and religion. As a child Crane and his five siblings walked four miles each way to school in Quincy. At the age of 15, when his father died, Crane began his apprenticeship in the Quincy granite quarries to help support his family. One of the early adherents to the liberal religious doctrine of Universalism, Crane also used to walk the twenty mile round trip from Quincy to Boston every Sunday to hear Hosea Ballou preaching the tenets of humanitarianism.

“Not that many people seem to know who Thomas Crane is,” says children’s library staff member Gail Columbare, opening a manila folder that bristles with articles she’s collected about the man for whom the library is named. She picks up a grainy picture of Crane’s portrait that hangs in the Trustees Room on the third floor, and studies Crane’s stern but handsome face.

Like many people familiar with the Library’s history, Columbare thinks of Crane as one of this city’s native sons. “Most people don’t know that he lived in Quincy Point,” she says. “Even though he was born on Georges Island, he was a real Quincy boy. And even after he left and made a fortune, he was a man who remembered his roots.”

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