Charleston Library Society, founded in 1748, is a subscription library in Charleston, South Carolina. The library is the third oldest subscription library in the United States after the Library Company of Philadelphia (founded 1731 by Benjamin Franklin) and the Redwood Library and Athenaeum of Newport, Rhode Island (1747). The Charleston Library was founded before The Providence Athenaeum (1753), the New York Society Library (1754), and the Boston Athenaeum (1807).
On June 13, 1748 a group of seventeen gentlemen from Charleston organized to begin purchasing current periodicals from England. The founders were Alexander Baron; Samuel Brailsford; Robert Brisbane; William Burrows; John Cooper; Paul Douxsaint; James Grindlay; William Logan; Alexander McCauley; Patrick McKie; Thomas Middleton; John Neufville, Jr.; Thomas Sacheverel; John Sinclair; Paul Stevenson; Peter Timothy; Joseph Wragg, Jr.; and Samuel Wragg, Jr. The men each contributed ten pounds sterling to the enterprise. The mission expanded quickly, and by December 1748, the group had decided to acquire books as well.
The group attempted to secure a charter for their organization, and twice such a measure was adopted by the Colonial Assembly. Both times, however, the Governor refused to sign the bill. Aid from the Royal government in London was refused, and the Society stopped its activities temporarily. Eventually, though, in 1754, after having added other members, they acquired a charter under the name the Charles Town Library Society. Governor Glen signed the bill, and the Crown ratified it in 1755.