Born in Massachusetts and educated
at the Bridgewater Academy in North Middleborough, Enoch Pratt clerked
in a Boston hardware firm before moving to Baltimore in 1831 to launch
his own wholesale hardware business on South Charles Street. In 1851 Pratt
and his partner invested in Western Maryland coal mines and iron yards
in Canton. They made their own merchandise, thereby ending their dependence
on northern manufacturers.
Pratt gave much of his time and
wealth to Baltimore’s cultural and charitable institutions. He served as
a trustee of the Peabody Institute as well as treasurer and chairman of
its library committee. He founded the House of Reformation and Instruction
for Colored Children at Cheltenham and the Maryland School for the Deaf
and Dumb at Frederick. In 1865 he donated a free school and public library
to his hometown in Massachusetts, and in 1881 began construction of an
imposing white marble structure on Baltimore's Mulberry Street that opened
five years later as the Enoch Pratt Free Circulating Library. The main
branch of the library is now located on Cathedral Street. Twenty-two branches
serve patrons throughout Baltimore. Today the nationally admired Enoch
Pratt Library stands as one of the premier resource libraries for the state
Pratt's office on South Charles
Street was spartan, furnished with simple clerk's desks with high stools.
The office was warmed by an old-fashioned Franklin heater which Pratt himself
fed from a woodpile in his warehouse.