Caleb Tillinghast was born on April 3, 1843. When he was a child, the family moved to Windham County, Connecticut where Caleb worked on a farm when he was not attending the rural school. He walked five miles on Saturdays to get books from an association library to augment the instruction in the school room. His ancestors were Quakers.
At one time he held the office of school visitor in the town of Killingly, Connecticut. Similar to a school committee member, his job was to make rules and buy books. He held other minor offices. On Aug. 10, 1862 he married Ardelia Martin Wood. Their son, Linwood Morton Tillinghast, was born on July 4, 1865. In the spring of 1870, they moved to Boston, where Tillinghast found a position as a reporter on the Boston Journal. He soon rose to the position of editor.
In 1849, the legislature passed an act that made the Secretary of the Board of Education the State Librarian with the power to appoint an assistant librarian and clerk. This changed in 1893 when the legislature passed a statute that allowed the Governor to make the appointment of the Librarian. Tillinghast was appointed acting librarian by John W. Dickinson, who was secretary of the State Board of Education and State Librarian. In 1893, Governor Russell appointed Tillinghast State Librarian when the Office of the State Librarian was created.
Tillinghast was interested in methods of instruction for the "deaf, blind and feeble minded" and that those in country towns desiring to become teachers receive a suitable teacher's education. He had many friends who inspired him to belong to many societies including the Worcester Antiquarian Society, American Antiquarian Society, Old Colony Historical Society, Boston Art Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the General Theological Library and the Massachusetts Total Abstinence Club.
He also devoted time to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. As Vice-President for Massachusetts and chairman of the Committee on Publications, he encouraged plans to develop the Society's usefulness.
One passion of his was to search for biographical materials for the members of Massachusetts state government. He estimated he had written more than 75,000 letters in this quest. This collection of index cards in the State Library is known as the Legislative Biographical file.
His main interests were promoting education, creating libraries and advising officials in many subject areas. He received only a salary as a librarian even though he was offered other library jobs that paid better, such as the head of the Boston Public Library. He received an honorary degree of Master of Arts from Harvard University in June, 1897 and a Doctor of Literature from Tufts College in 1905.
Come view the sculpture of the state's first State Librarian in the main reading room, room 341, through April 15, 2011.
The Sculpted to Inspire series is sponsored by the Friends of the State Library.