This is a bookmobile—a library on wheels. These mobile libraries used to travel around bringing books to the people. The blog Messy Nessy Chic has a great roundup of images of these vehicles of bibliographic wonder:
A traveling library often used to provide books to villages and city suburbs that had no library buildings, the bookmobile went from a simple horse-drawn cart in the 19th century to large customised vehicles that became part of American culture and reached their height of popularity in the mid-twentieth century.
One of the earliest recorded bookmobiles was the Perambulating Library. Here’s a photograph of the cart from 1859 in Warrington, England.
The bookmobile didn’t make it over to the United States until the early 1900s. This pictures shows an American bookmobile, from Washington, D.C., still drawn by a horse.
Eventually, bookmobiles were motorized. The Public Library of Cincinnati got its first bookmobile in 1927.
In 1936, a bookmobile visited Greensboro, North Carolina.
And here’s one from the Anne Arundel Country Public Library.
Messy Nessy Chic has more images, which are worth checking out. Today’s bookmobiles are far larger and fancier than these older versions. But the books themselves are just as great.
More from Smithsonian.com: