Overdue San Francisco Library Book Returned After 100 Years

Overdue San Francisco Library Book Returned After 100 Years


A long lost library book is finally making its way back to its rightful home.

Webb Johnson was surprised when he found an overdue library book—a selection of short stories, ironically titled Forty Minutes Late—among the possessions of his great-grandmother, Phebe Dickenson Webb. The book had a century-old due date and had racked up hundreds of dollars in overdue fines. But luckily, the San Francisco Public Library is offering a Fine Forgiveness Program (you can return your super-late books without penalty through Valentine's Day this year); Ms. Dickensen Webb's book will be returned to the Park Branch on Friday, January 13th at 2pm.

Phebe Dickenson Webb originally checked out the book from Branch 6 in the Fillmore sometime in early 1917. It appears from the due date form that it was due on April 6, 1917—two weeks after she died.

Phebe came to Walnut Creek from Northfield, MA in 1864 and married Frank Webb the same year. They had seven children, all raised in Walnut Creek. When Frank died, Phebe moved to San Francisco, fulfilling a life long dream, and lived another 14 years.

Her personal belongings, the overdue book among them, were returned to her daughter's house in Walnut Creek and sat there until Johnson found the book about 25 years ago.

"The book sat waiting to be rightfully re-united with the San Francisco library until I read an article in the Chronicle [about the Fine Amnesty Program], and resolved to do the right thing," explained Johnson. "I'm delighted that the now-rare volume will be made available to readers who will find its author, F. Hopkinson Smith, a delight."

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