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Pennsylvania library book checked out in 1904 is finally returned after 120 years​

It's a good thing they cap the fines at $10.

library book; carbondale public library; 120 year old library book; library book returned after 120 years
Courtesy of the Carbondale Public Library

Library book checked out in 1904 is finally returned

Just about everyone has had the misfortune of forgetting to return a library book. Some turn it in and pay whatever fine that's been assessed while others never find the book and decide to pay for the replacement. But there's a small group of people that don't return the missing book or pay the library to replace it. It's simply checked out forever for reasons no one knows.

Horace Short fell into the latter category. Back in 1904, Mr. Short checked out "The Cruise of the Esmeralda" by Harry Collingwood, a novel about adventures at sea, from the Carbondale Public Library. For some reason, Short never returned the book and librarians assumed it had been discarded according to Jessica Pratt, Adult Services Librarian at Carbondale Public Library.

Much to the delight and surprise of the librarians, the book was recently returned, 120 years late. Hawley Public Library found the antique book at their book sale and informed the Carbondale library of their discovery.


Pratt told Upworthy, "When we saw the date on the library card in it, we realized that it was likely borrowed and never returned. We were quite thrilled not only for having a book returned to us that late but because it also contained a Carbondale Public Library library card that was over 100 years old!"

The library shared about the book return on their social media account where they humored commenters with working out the late fee fines.

"If we go by the fines based of the date the item was checked out (2 cents per day), Mr. Short would owe us $872.82. If we go by the fines the library charges today (25 cents per day), he would owe $10,910.25. Mr. Short is very lucky we currently cap fines for books at $10," Carbondale Public Library writes.

library book; carbondale public library; 120 year old library book; library book returned after 120 years

"The Cruise of the Esmeralda" by Harry Collingwood

Courtesy of Carbondale Public Library

As for Mr. Short, the library did some sleuthing to see if they could locate his family to tell them about the extraordinary find.

Pratt tells us, "We’ve done some research on the card holder, Horace J. Short. He was born in or around 1877 near Prompton, PA. He moved to Carbondale and was working as a butcher. In 1899 he lost the fingers on his right hand to a sausage grinder! Sometime between 1904 and 1907 he moved to Wilkes-Barre, PA and spent many years as a messenger for the railroad. We know he died sometime between 1930 and 1940 but unfortunately, we lose track of him and his family after then. We know he had one daughter, Reta, but we don’t know if she ever married or had children."

The librarian says that anyone interested in reading the book can find it online on Project Gutenberg. But the library itself is working on some projects they're pretty excited about like the Family Place room to promote early literacy for families with children under three. They are also cultivating an outdoor space so it can become a certified pollinator garden according to Pratt.

So if you're near Carbondale, Pennsylvania and want to check out the century's late library book, stop by to take a look and maybe check out your own book. Just be sure to return it on time.

Image from YouTube video.

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