Willian Allan Wilde, courtesy Massachusetts State ArchivesThe Acton Memorial Library
Soldiers' Memorial Tablets

In 1889, William Allan Wilde, Acton native son and successful Boston publisher, wanted to give something back to his home town. Following the example of Andrew Carnegie, he offered to build a public library. Wilde declined to have the building bear his name because he wanted it to be a memorial to the men of Acton who had served or died in the Civil War. The Acton Memorial Library was dedicated on May 24, 1890 and opened to the public on June 14.

The brick and brownstone building was designed by Boston architects Henry Walker Hartwell and William Cummings Richardson. The arched entryway featured two memorial tablets. One gave the names of Acton men who had served, and the other listed the names of those who had given their lives for the Union cause. The interior consisted of two large rooms and a smaller room for the trustees. An elaborate fireplace was the focus of the reading room. In the other large room, behind a gated screen, were the books to be checked out by the librarian. The structure cost $30,000, an enormous sum at the time.

As the years passed, many veterans and their families donated items from their military life to the library's collection in hope they could be displayed. A permanent exhibit, “Not Afraid to Go: Acton’s Part in the Birth and Preservation of Our Nation,” was dedicated on Patriots Day, April 19, 2008.

Portrait of William Allan Wilde, left, courtesy Massachusetts State Archives, http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/handle/2452/209409


Letter from William A. Wilde to the Selectmen of Acton, dated February 27, 1890, offering the gift of the library to the Town (Acton Town records on Microfilm, Film 15, image 201, Acton Memorial Library).

Letter from W.A. Wilde to "Friend [Luther] Conant", dated March 29, 1889, on W.A. Wilde and Company letterhead, stating his intention that the Memorial Library building be dedicated to those who fought in the Civil War. Page 1 | Page 2 (images courtesy Brewster Conant).



The Soldiers' Tablets

"Our Honored Dead"

"The Men of Acton Who Fought for the Union"



Interior of the Acton Memorial Library, 1890 (2 views)


Newspaper Accounts

[William A. Wilde's gift of the library and response from Acton Town Meeting], Concord Enterprise, March 14, 1890.

"Acton's Heroes, Extolled Today by John D. Long, Another Gem in Her Crown of Honor, Library Memorial of Those Who Fought for the Union, William A. Wilde's Gift Dedicated, Common Thronged with Townsmen and Distinguished Guests." Boston Daily Globe, May 24, 1890.

"Great Day for Acton. Wilde Memorial Library dedicated." Boston Daily Globe, May 25, 1890.

"Dedication of the Memorial Library Building and Soldiers' Tablets, at Acton, Mass."  Concord Enterprise, May 30, 1890.

[Portrait of William Wilde given to the Acton Memorial Library], Acton Centre [News], Concord Enterprise, October 31, 1890

"Acton", from "Memories of the Men Who Died for the Union." Boston Globe, May, 30, 1892 (description of the tablets).

"Malden's Loss, Sudden Death of William Allan Wilde." Boston Daily Globe, December 3, 1902.


"An Act to Incorporate the Acton Memorial Library." In: Acts and Resolves Passed by the General Court of Massachusetts in the Year 1890. Published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Boston: Wright & Potter, 1890: 51-52. (PDF, 3 pp.)

Dedication of Memorial Library Building and Soldiers' Tablets, Acton, Mass., May 24, 1890. Program flyer (AML.73.13.1) (PDF, 2 pages).

Dedicatory Services of Memorial Library Building and Soldiers' Tablets: Acton, Mass., May 24, 1890 with Addresses by Hon. John D. Long and Others. L. Barta & Co., 1890. (Acton Coll 974.44 A188). Digitial edition: https://archive.org/details/dedicatoryservic00acto

Luther Conant, "Memorial Library." In: Acton in History, by James Fletcher. J.W. Lewis, 1890: 284-287 (PDF, 4 pp.)

A History of the Acton Memorial Library, 1890-1990. Acton, Mass.: Board of Trustees of the Acton Memorial Library, 1990.   (PDF, 21 pp.)