A BRIEF SKETCH OF SOME OF THE LIBRARIES IN CHICAGO.
By W: B. WlCKERSHAM.
Before the great fire of 1871, Chicago had no public library, nor was there any statute in the State authorising the establishment of one. After the fire; for many years the Public Library was almost the only institution of its kind through which the public had access to books. The Law Institute, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Academy of Sciences were early re-established, but they were so crippled, especially the last two, that they were some years getting into operation. The city was busy repairing the breaches and little interest was taken in educational or literary institutions beyond the rebuilding of schools for the small army of children everywhere demanding attention. Later, public sentiment took a stride forward and encouraged a higher and broader culture by establishing the Athenaeum, Manual Training Schools, the Art Institute, the Newberry Library, the great Chicago University, the Armour Institute, the Field Museum, and the prospective John Crerar Library and the Lewis Polytechnic Institute. All these, to say nothing of university extension centres and of clubs and classes galore,go to show that Chicago is at present wide awake on the question of education and culture.
In the old Metropolitan block before the great fire of 1871 there existed the only library of any considerable size In the city of Chicago. This collection of some 18,000 or 20,000 volumes was owned by an association called the Chicago Library Association, and was accessible only to members who paid $5 a year for membership. The association was understood to be deeply in debt, and its destruction by the flames October 9, 1871, may have been an unlooked—for piece of good luck to the stockholders, who would thus be spared the more tedious operation of being sold out by a receiver under an order of court.
When the news of the burning of Chicago reached England, the people there, In common with the inhabitants of all civilized countries, began making contributions of clothing, blankets, money, etc., for our stricken city. Among them were some, however, who thought that a more substantial gift than food and raiment would be acceptable. At the suggestion of Mr. Burgess, then secretary of the Anglo-American Society In London, the Hon. Thomas Hughes, Its president, called a meeting of that association and proposed that while others were sending to Chicago something for our bodies, they should contribute something for our minds. Supposing that Chicago bad lost a great free public library, Mr. Hughes contributed copies of his “Tom Brown’s school days” and “Tom Brown at Oxford,” and set about among his friends, authors and publishers, to make a collection of books for a nucleus for anew free library and as a result of his efforts about 5,000 books were contributed, the Government sent hundreds of valuable public documents and papers. Among this interesting collection are books given by the Queen with her autograph, others by Thomas Carlyle, John Bright, Lord and Lady Trevelyan, etc.
As soon as official word reached Chicago that such a gift was being collected, a number of enterprising citizens met at the call of the Hon. Joseph Medill, the mayor at that time, and prepared a bill authorizing cities and villages of Illinois under certain restrictions to organize and maintain free public libraries and reading rooms. This bill was taken to Springfield, where the committee found a similar bill, which had been introduced into the House on March 23, 1871, and had passed to a second reading. This bill was amended, hurried through with an emergency clause attached, and signed by the governor March 7, 1872. The establishment of the Chicago Public Library by the city council and the appointment by the mayor of a board of nine directors to manage it, followed in close succession.
On the 20th of July, 1872, the writer was elected secretary and acting librarian by the board. When he reported for duty there was nothing put into his hands or charge except the record book and a few letters. For some time he had no office save an old chair kindly loaned him by Mr. C. J. Richardson, then, as now, assistant librarian of the Law Institute, in whose office in the temporary City Hall, at the corner of La Salle and Adams streets, known as the “Rookery,” the use of the chair was allowed. In a few weeks new rooms in the same building were completed for the library, and about the same time books began to arrive from England. It was a notable day for the Chicago Public Library, that 31st of August, 1872, when on temporary shelves in one of the office rooms the first book was placed in position, that book being John Brighl’s “Speeches on questions of public policy.”
The growth of the library was rapid. Many citizens of Chicago, whose homes had escaped the flames of the great conflagration, gave liberally from their libraries, and as soon as appropriations became available the board commenced to purchase books generously.
England was not alone in the contribution of literature towards the formation of anew library in Chicago. Germany, France, Bohemia, and some other countries also forwarded valuable collections.
On the first day of January, 1873, the reading room was formally opened to the public. invitations had been sent out to many citizens, and the new room was comfortably filled. Speeches were made by the president of the board, the late Hon. Thomas Hoyne, by Director Daniel L. Shorey, Mayor Medill, and others. And so the new library was dedicated and started on its mission.
On the 25th of October, 1873, the board elected the late lamented Dr. W: F: Poole librarian, and entered upon his duties January 1, 1874.Dr. Poole had had large experience, having been librarian of the Boston Athenaeum for many years and later of the Cincinnati Public Library for six years or more, and to his wise selection of books the Chicago Public Library owes much of its present completeness and prosperity.
The library was opened to the public as a circulating library, on the southeast corner of Madison street and Wabash avenue, on the first day of May, 1874, and as such took rank at once among the first in the country. One year later it was removed to the southwest corner of Lake and Dearborn streets, where it remained until the early summer of 1886, when it found a home in the City Hall. It is hoped that another and final move to its new building on Michigan avenue, between Randolph and Washington streets, will be made in the spring of 1896.
Chicago Public Library
Michigan and Randolph
On July 23, 1887, Dr. Poole resigned the librarianship of the public library, and accepted a similar position at the head of the Newberry Library, which post he held until his death over one year ago. On October 15, 1887, Mr. Frederick H. Hild was elected Dr. Poole’s successor as librarian of the public library. Mr. Hild had been for many years the Doctor’s assistant, and, though a young man, was well qualified for the responsible position. If any fears were entertained at the time, the rapid growth and development of the library ever since give evidence of the wise selection of the board.
At the present writing there are in the library 207,000 volumes, the annual net accessions being about 10,000 volumes. The circulation of books for home use during the year ended May 31, 1894, was 1,027,219 volumes, of which 446,168 were Issued through the delivery stations. The average daily circulation of books for home use at the present time is 4253. The largest circulation of books for home use in any one day was on February 23, 1895, when 7731 volumes were issued. 52,663 persons hold cards entitling them to draw books for home use.
The books on the shelves of the public library cover all fields of literature, science, and art. The general plan laid down by Dr. Poole, that of making it an all-around library, has been adhered to by his successor. No department can hardly be said to be more complete than the others, though In bound and complete sets of periodical literature the collection is surpassed by few libraries In the country.
While keeping in view the needs of the masses, the board has also been quite liberal in the purchase of books for the student and scholar, though, it has never felt that it was the province of the people’s library to supply expensive volumes either in art or science. Yet, notwithstanding this general policy, the board has supplied a good many valuable and expensive works In the line of art which were demanded and which could not be found elsewhere. Among the donations of our English friends Is a complete set of the specifications and drawings of the British Patents. There being only a few sets in this country, and the reports being wholly out of print, they are exceedingly valuable. The library also hat a complete set of specifications and drawings of the United States Patents, as well as those of France, Germany, and Canada. All these are in a room by themselves where they can be freely examined.
The public library is supported by a tax levied upon all the taxable property within the city, the limit up to the present time being not to exceed one-half of one mill on the dollar of valuation. It has required the full half-mill for some years to provide for the current expenses, which amount in round numbers to $125,ooo, and in view of the additional expense of maintaining the library in its new building, the board has asked the present General Assembly to amend the law and make the limit one mill. This amount, with the present assessed valuation of property, will be just sufficient for its needs.
In 1884 the board tried the experiment of opening a few places remote from the centre of the city where book borrowers could exchange their books without the time and expense necessary for a trip to the main library. These places were called delivery stations. They soon grew into popularity, until at the present time 32 are in successful operation. Many of the stations are located so as to accommodate the laboring classes, and books left In the morning as the laborer goes to his work are charged during the day, and a fresh volume is ready for him as he goes home in the evening. All this at no expense whatever to the book borrower. More than one-third of all the books circulated are issued through this channel. In October, 189o, the experiment of branch reading rooms was begun. Six store rooms were rented, fitted up with tables, bookcases, etc., and supplied with a good collection of reference books and periodicals. These rooms have become very popular and are patronized by all classes of citizens. Pupils and teachers of schools In their vicinity are especially benefited by them. So great was the demand for books of a general and popular nature that the board added to the reference books several hundred volumes of standard works, including some fiction. At the present time the total number of volumes in these rooms is about 10,000,
As an adjunct to the schools, an arrangement was made many years ago with the board of education whereby books might be ordered by the principal of the school for collateral reading by the pupils on the subjects being pursued, in which case the books are kept one month with out renewal, the board of education being responsible for their safety and return. In addition to this the librarian permits and encourages teachers in the high schools and seminaries, as well as those of private classes, to bring their pupils to the library, where all the best books illustrating their particular theme are laid out before them, and they can spend an hour or so in uninterrupted study with their instructor.
The management of the public library has been such that very few books have been lost through circulation or theft. Besides the theft of a Webster’s Dictionary or two and a few volumes of Appleton’s Cyclopedia, which were dropped to the street from a window of the reference-room while the library was located at Madison street and Wabash avenue, the only theft of any moment occurred about ten years ago, when one of the employes of the library, who on trial proved to be a veritable bibliomaniac, carried off and secreted in a barn more than 2,000 volumes, many of them valuable works of reference. His shrewdness only served him in getting the books out of the library without detection, for he made no attempt apparently to dispose of them, and when asked why he took them said that he intended to return them as
soon as he had read them. All but a few were recovered.
THE NEWBERRY LIBRARY.
The library next in importance to the general public of Chicago is the Newberry, located in the North Division of the city. This library was founded on July I, 1887, under a provision of the will of Walter L. Newberry, deceased, which set aside one-half of bis estate therefor, after the death of his wife and two daughters. This half, on the date above mentioned, amounted to $2,149,2o1, most of which was in real estate, much of it at that time unproductive. On the 13th of the same month Dr. W: F: Poole was elected librarian and entered upon his duties August 1.
60 W Walton
This library contains at the present time 124,500 volumes and 30,600 pamphlets. It is for reference only and makes a specialty of music, medicine, and religion ; being also strong in American history, bibliography and incunabula. There are no juvenile books on the shelves and no fiction as a rule. About $25,ooo are expend ed annually for books. The number of readers for the year ended March 1, 1895, was about 100,000. The number of volumes used during the same time was 110,177. The present use of the books, however, is about 1ooo volumes per day. The number of employes in the library proper is about 35. The Rudolph indexer has been recently introduced and the entire subject of bibliography is now indexed. It is the intention to catalog the entire collection of books by the indexer for public use.
The Newberry Library has a new home of granite on Walton place, facing Washington Square, of which it may justly be proud. The death of Dr. Poole in the spring of 1894 left a vacancy which was but recently filled by the election of Mr. John Vance Cheney, late of the public library of San Francisco.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LIBRARY.
The University of Chicago Library, presided over by Mrs. Zella A. Dixson, was founded with the university in 1891. The number of volumes on the shelves is reported at 295,000, which no doubt includes pamphlets. They consist for the most part, according to a recent compilation, of works on biblical literature, church history, homiletic and systematic theology, political economy, sociology, history, science, and ancient classics.
This library is maintained by a special appropriation by the trustees of the university, and by a fee of $10 per year required of each student attending the school; to which is added rent fees on travelling libraries. The fund for the maintenance of this library must be very generous, as the number of volumes added each year is reported at 25,000.
A special feature is department libraries, which are located In the class-rooms and are for reference only. They consist of choice reference books bearing upon the particular branch of science taught in that room.
THE ARMOUR INSTITUTE LIBRARY.
The Armour Institute Library, of which Miss Katherine L. Sharp is librarian, was founded in January, 1893, and consists of 11,000 volumes. It is maintained, like the other departments of the institute, from the generous pocket-book of Mr. P. D. Armour, its founder. As the accounts of no complete year of its existence are accessible, the annual expenditures are not definitely known. The library is chiefly for reference, with access to the shelves, so that no statistics of the use of the books are kept. The books are mostly scientific, free to all, some books being circulated among teachers and students and a few to outsiders.
An interesting feature of this library is its library or training class, which is limited to 18 in number, the course of study extending over two years, though there is such a demand for trained help in libraries that no one has remained to complete the full course.
33rd and Armour
Another feature Is its system of home libraries. By this system a few choice books are placed in some private house under the care of one of its inmates, and the books are allowed to be read by the members of the family and by a certain number of the near neighbors, the only requirement being that the books shall be kept as clean as, possible and be otherwise properly cared for, and returned when read. Once a week a member of the library class visits the house where the library is stationed and talks or reads to the children who are collected for that purpose. Sometimes she exhibits pictures or other works of art and explains them to the boys and girls, who are eager listeners. After the books have all been read, which requires from two to three months, the library travels on to another section of the city. Only books suitable for children are placed in these libraries, and if any book is found to be unpopular, it is at once, replaced by another.
CHICAGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY LIBRARY.
The Chicago Historical Society was organized on June 9, 1856, though it did not receive its charter until the following year. The general object of the society is to encourage historical inquiry and spread historical information, especially within the state of Illinois. One of the first provisions of the constitution is for the establishment of a library of books and publications appropriate to such an institution.
In 1868 the society completed a building supposed to be fireproof on the corner of Ontario street and Dearborn avenue, and moved in, but had hardly got settled when the fire of 1871 swept the building, which cost $60,000, and its contents, which had cost vastly more, out of existence. As no report had been made after the removal to its new home, the exact number of volumes in the library at the time of the fire is unknown, but in 1868 it bad 15,412 bound volumes, 72,104 pamphlets, 1,738 files of newspapers, 4,689 manuscripts, 1,200 maps and charts, 38o cabinet specimens, and 4,682 miscellaneous prints, etc. Its collection of public documents both of the United States Government and of the territorial and state governments of Illinois were exceptionally complete.
Chicago Historical Society I
Ontario and Dearborn
After the fire liberal contributions were made to the society by similar societies and by other learned societies, as well as by individuals. These were stored temporarily in rooms on Michigan avenue owned by Mr. J. Y. Scammon, a member of the society, and in the second great fire which occurred July 14, 1874, this valuable nucleus was totally destroyed. At the present time there are in the library about 20,000 volumes and 4o,ooo pamphlets. This collection is soon to be housed in a new fireproof building on the old site, to cost $150,000. With a book fund of $4,500 per year the library should make vigorous strides forward.
JOHN CRERAR LIBRARY.
The John Crerar Library can really be said to be prospective only, inasmuch as nothing has been done beyond planning. John Crerar died in Chicago, October 19, 1889. His commercial ventures had been successful, and after devising liberal bequests to his relatives, friends, and public charities, he left the remainder of his estate in trust for the establishment of a public library. The amount so left Is estimated at two and one half million dollars. Messrs. Norman Williams and Huntington W. Jackson were appointed by the will executors of the estate, with power to add to their number for the management of the library. The only stipulations in the will restricting the executors in the formation of the library were that it should be In the south division of the city and that trashy novels — particularly French novels — should not be admitted to the shelves. Only a few steps have been taken up to the present time. Having obtained the passage of an act by the General Assembly authorizing the Incorporation of boards of trustees for the management of libraries provided for by will, 11 well-known gentlemen were chosen, who, with the executors, organized under the new law. They have decided that the library shall be for reference only; that it shall be a purely scientific library, and that only the income from the main bequest shall be used for all expenses. This amount is estimated to be about $100,000.
The John Crerar Library
Reading Room 1
Marshall Field Building
No location has been chosen for a building. Indeed It will be some years yet before any steps can be taken In that direction, as there must be a saving of the cost of the building from the annual income. Temporary quarters are to be selected, however, and we may soon have the satisfaction of seeing the long-talked-of library actually on its feet.
THE CHICAGO LAW INSTITUTE.
The Chicago Law Institute was organized in 1857 under a charter granted by the General Assembly of the state of Illinois. Its main object was the collection of a comprehensive law library in this city. On the 8th of October, 1871, it had on its shelves 7,000 volumes valued at $30,000. It had complete sets of all American law reports; all reports of the English courts; many of the Scotch and Irish reports; the law journals of the United States and England, besides text-bcoks and treatises of law, ancient and modern, English, federal, and state statutes, etc. All these were lost in the great fire of 1871, and of the $20,000 insurance, only about $2,500 could be collected on account of the insolvency of most of the companies. This amount, with something over $1,300 in the treasury at the time, formed the nucleus for a new library. On November 6, 1871, the annual meeting was held amid the still smoking ruins of the old court-bouse, the institute’s former home, and a resolution was passed to relay the foundations of the library. To that end an assessment for the current year amounting to one-fourth of the par value of the stock of the shareholders was levied. Provision was made for the admission of new members and a board of managers was selected from among the most eminent members of the profession. A room
was set aside for the use of the institute in the old Rookery building, where it remained until its removal to the new court-house. It now contains 29,000 volumes, and the annual accessions are 1,250. The daily use of the books is 2,500. The total cost of maintaining the library is about $10,000 which is derived from membership fees, assessments, interest, etc.
CHICAGO ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.
The Chicago Academy of Natural Sciences was organized in 1857 by 12 public-spirited gentlemen who subscribed $15oo with which to make a beginning. A room was taken on the corner of Lake and Clark streets and a few cases for specimens were made, but before the museum was fairly on its feet the financial panic of that year so paralyzed business that for two years very little was done. In 1859, to place the Institution on a firmer basis, it was Incorporated under the general law of the state as “The Chicago Academy of Sciences,” its object being the increase and diffusion of scientific knowledge by a museum. a library, by the reading and publication of original papers, and by such other suitable methods as shall from time to time be adopted.”
In 1862, Mr. Robert Kennicott, the first director of the museum, returned from an extensive trip throughout British North America, bringing many specimens of natural history. Although this expedition was made in the Interest of the Smithsonian Institution, the academy was furnished with duplicates of nearly everything collected, and rooms for the enlarged museum were taken at the corner of Randolph and La Salle streets. After a partial destruction by fire in 1866, a lot was purchased on Wabash avenue near Van Buren street. A building supposed to be fireproof was erected upon part of this lot, and it was occupied in January, 1868.
The books in the library were essentially scientific — many of them being transactions of learned societies. The supposed safety of this building induced several persons to deposit in it their collections of scientific books, as well as many special collections of specimens. The growth of the library as well as of the museum seemed assured. On the 9th of October, 1871, this building and its entire contents—library, manuscripts, and specimens — were swept away by the great fire, but within 12 days there after steps were taken towards the restoration of the academy. It was determined to rebuild on the same site and nearly on the same plan. The new building was completed in the fall of 1873. The library was upon the first floor and contained In 1877 about 15oo volumes, with some hundreds of pamphlets.
But this valuable collection was destined to be disturbed in its peaceful occupation of its home. Money had been borrowed for the erection of the building and it was impossible to meet payments. The result was a foreclosure and a surrender of the property. For some years many of the specimens were exhibited In the Exposition building on the lake front, the remainder, with the library, being stored. Two or three years ago the question of another attempt at a home for the academy came to the front. The Lincoln Park commissioners, under authority granted by a recent statute, provided the location and part of the funds, but to the munificence of Matthew Laflln and his sons the public is mainly indebted for the beautiful and imposing building now adorning the park. The academy has but recently taken possession of Its new quarters, and begins its new career with 4ooo volumes of scientific works upon its shelves, besides a vast number of valuable specimens, which are rapidly being put In position under the direction of the well-known scientist, Dr. S. H. Peabody.
THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO.
This institution was Incorporated May 24, 1879, and was the first movement towards a revival of the art interests after the great fire. It offers courses of instruction In drawing and painting, sculpture, designing and architecture, the last being In connection with Armour Institute, whose scientific equipment, including its library of 11,000 volumes, is at the disposal and use of all pupils in this department.
After a sojourn in temporary quarters for three years, In 1882 the property at the southwest corner of Michigan avenue and Van Buren street was bought for $45,000 and a structure erected. In 1885, additional ground was pur chased and a brown stone building was erected the succeeding year. By 1892, the building was outgrown, the property was sold for $425,000, and the money was put into the new building on Michigan avenue at the head of Adams street. The institute in all its departments, under the experienced hand of the director, Mr. W. M. R. French, is in a flourishing condition and is being rapidly made more valuable and attractive by the addition of works of art.
The library of the Institute, of which Miss J. L. Forrester is librarian, consists of about 599 volumes, most of which are strictly reference books and cannot be taken from the building. The most valuable acquisition of the library is the gift by Dr. D. K. Pearsons of the publications of Braun & Co., of Paris, comprising about 18,600 large carbon photographs or autotypes, being reproductions of paintings, drawings and sculpture of the best-known galleries of Europe. They are much used by pupils and are highly prized. The expenses of the library are met by the matriculation fees of students. This amount is about $600 per annum. Books are loaned to members of the institute and to pupils, and the reference books are much used by the latter. 1,716 books were loaned to pupils during the two years ended June 1, 1894.
THE FIELD COLUMBIAN MUSEUM.
In March, 1894, the Field Columbian Museum was formally established. The museum grew out of the Columbian Exposition, becoming, as it were, the residuary legatee of many of the exhibitors. In addition to donations received, the directors of the museum made large purchases of valuable exhibits from individuals and governments that could not part with their treasures without remuneration. This they were enabled to do through the munificence of Marshall Field, of Chicago, for whom the museum was named and whose gift of $1,000,000 placed the new institution on a substantial foundation at once.
The Field Columbian Museum
Formerly Palace of Fine Arts
Mr. Edward L. Burchard, the librarian, reports at the present time about 9,000 titles, of which about 2,000 are valuable pamphlets. These books consist in large measure of special libraries, and some were received direct from the departments where they were exhibited during the Columbian Exposition. Thus the museum contains the special libraries from the Departments of Ethnology and Mines and Mining, and the collection of books on transportation and railroads from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s exhibit. The museum has acquired by purchase the special library on gems and precious stones of Mr. George F. Kunz.with Tiffany & Co., of New York. A special library on ornithology is also to be found on the shelves, with a promise of the valuable collection of E. E. Ayer, of Chicago, on the same subject.
As far as possible the books will be placed in the rooms to which they relate, making information on special lines easy of access to both curators and students. Probably no museum in the world has started on its career of usefulness with a better collection of books and specimens, or with brighter prospects for the future than the Field Columbian Museum.
Through the facilities offered by the various libraries and schools Chicago is becoming quite a literary centre. Students and writers come long distances for the purpose of obtaining access to books not to be found elsewhere in the West. Books are also sent long distances under proper restriction, to persons whose time or business will not permit pf a visit to the city. Thus Chicago is acquiring a reputation for something besides beef and pork—something, too, which is quite as necessary—the facilities for the culture of the mind.
- City Hall V—1873-1874
City Hall VI—1886-1897
Chicago Public Library—1897-1991
Harold Washington Library—1991-Present