Biddeford was one of the first cities in Maine to enjoy public library service; its first library was a city department and occupied a room in the City Building. When the City Building burned in 1894, the Mayor recommended that a private association assume the responsibility of maintaining a public library.
With seed money willed to the association by Elizabeth Stevens, a retired employee of the Laconia mills, and the energy of Robert McArthur, an agent of the Pepperell mills, the association bought the former Pavilion Congregational Church at 270 Main Street and dedicated the McArthur Library in October of 1902.
Robert McArthur, an Irish immigrant who had started working in a Rhode Island mill as a bobbin boy at the age of eight, was a self-educated man whose belief in the importance of a public library was so strong that he gave both the funds to purchase the library's current home and monies to provide for its maintenance—a gift that was repeated by both of his daughters, Jane Owen and Lena McArthur.
Selected McArthur Public Library images:
- Pavilion Congregational Church, Biddeford, 1870
- Main Street, Biddeford, October 1909
- Laconia Mills boarding houses, Biddeford, ca. 1895
- Biddeford Pool Life Savers, ca. 1910
- Cast of the Biddeford High School senior play, 1924
- Hotel Rox, Biddeford, 1911
- St. Andre's Church, Biddeford, circa 1910
- U.S. Army discharge paper for Robert McArthur, 1865
- Odd Fellows Block, Biddeford, ca. 1874
- Milk delivery sleigh, Biddeford, ca. 1895
- British army canteen, ca. 1888
- Main Street, Biddeford, east from Benoit's, 1909