Newberry Library Archives
Scope and History of the Collection
The Newberry Library's institutional records, records of the Walter L. Newberry estate, personal papers of staff members and trustees, photographs, and publications that document the establishment and operation of the library.
Beginning with Newberry estate trustees Blatchford and Bradley, individuals associated with the Newberry Library have conscientiously preserved the great majority of the institutional records documenting the Library's history. However, over the years no coordinated effort to organize and describe the records had been undertaken, making much of the extensive archive inaccessible except through the intervention of knowledgeable staff members.
In 1990, the Newberry Library received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to establish an archives program for the Library's institutional records. The primary objective of this project was to provide an overall structure for and descriptive access to the Library's historically and administratively valuable records.
Several preliminary documents paved the way for the actual arrangement and description of the archives. The Newberry Library Archives was formally established through a Trustee-approved Archives and Records Policy Statement which defined the archives' scope, responsibility, authority, and governance. To facilitate systematic and timely transfer of office records to the archives, the project staff prepared a Records Disposition Schedule Handbook containing series level record group descriptions and retention recommendations arranged in record groups and subgroups paralleling the Newberry's organizational structure.
Based in part on this classification system, the Newberry Library Archives are organized in sixteen record groups representing the Library's larger divisions and departments; special formats such as publications, artifacts, and audiovisual materials; and outside source materials (e.g. newspaper clippings). The record groups are further divided into subgroups representing smaller departments or sections and staff offices within divisions; or types of materials (e.g. photographs). Within each subgroup, or office of origin, the record series identify and describe individual office files.
All record groups, subgroups, and series are assigned numbers, which when placed together constitute a unique identification number. For example, 02/01/20 would represent Board of Trustees (record group), Office of the Board of Trustees (subgroup), Annual Reports (series). A complete classification guide to the Newberry Library Archives lists by number and title all record groups, subgroups, and series held in or designated for eventual transfer to the archives. In the classification guide, the 142 processed record series can be identified by the presence of inclusive dates following the title. Marked with asterisks, unprocessed files have for the most part been transferred to the archives and are shelved in classification guide order.
Arranged in classification number order, the present guide contains narrative record group, subgroup, and series descriptions, and box and folder lists for processed records only. The 142 processed record series comprise virtually all of the pre-1940 or historical files and records transferred to the Archives to the date of processing.
- Creation: 1885-ongoing
- Newberry Library (Organization)
Materials are primarily in English.
Conditions Governing Access
The Newberry Library Archives are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).
Unprocessed records are available by appointment only. Advance notice is necessary, particularly for administrative files, so that files may be screened for personnel records that are removed when records are processed.
Files containing personal or confidential information about individuals (including individual files on members of the Board of Trustees, individual donor files and records reporting the donations of an individual, personnel records, payroll records, and individual accepted fellows files) are closed for 30 years.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Newberry Library Archives are the property of the Newberry Library. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.
History of the Newberry Library
The Newberry Library is a privately endowed, independent research and reference library which has been open to the public for over 100 years.
The Newberry was founded on July 1, 1887 and opened for business on September 6 of that year. The Newberry’s establishment came about because of a contingent provision in the will of Chicago businessman Walter L. Newberry (1804-68), which left what later amounted to approximately $2.2 million for the foundation of a “free, public” library on the north side of the Chicago River, if his two children died without issue. After the deaths of Mr. Newberry’s daughters and then, in 1885, of his widow, the trustees of his estate, Eliphalet W. Blatchford and William H. Bradley, with the counsel of Chicago business and cultural leaders, moved to establish the library as a research and reference institution. In 1887-88 it was located at 90 La Salle Street, in 1889-89 at 338 Ontario Street, and in 1890-93 at the northwest corner of State and Oak Streets. The Newberry was officially incorporated under a new provision of Illinois state law in 1892.
The trustees immediately hired the Newberry’s first librarian, William Frederick Poole, who had been serving for some years as the first librarian of the Chicago Public Library. Under Poole’s leadership, the Newberry purchased 25,000 books in its first year and a half, and had a collection numbering 120,000 volumes and 44,000 pamphlets by the end of his tenure as librarian in 1894. Among these volumes were the rare European materials of the Pio Resse and Henry Probasco Collections, the first major en bloc acquisitions, but they also included American journals for readers interested in mechanics, chemistry, electricity, and engineering.
In 1889 the trustees acquired property on West Walton Place to build a permanent home for the Newberry. The site was chosen because of its “highest usefulness to the greatest number,” with good sunlight and access to public transportation prominently in mind. Poole and the architect hired to design the library building, the young Henry Ives Cobb, disagreed vigorously about the arrangement of the interior spaces. Poole’s vision won out, and as a consequence the new structure contained smaller reading rooms with specific collections in close proximity to library staff possessing relevant expertise, and did not include a central bookstack. Cobb’s Romanesque exterior was built of pink granite from Branford, Connecticut. The new building opened in November 1893.
For two years before the “Cobb Building” opened, the Newberry was already deeply involved in educational programs for the public, especially as part of the relatively new university extension system. Public exhibitions began in 1896 and became frequent from 1909. In 1897, the Newberry began to focus its collection building on the humanities, as the result of an agreement that divided library specialization with the Chicago Public Library and the new John Crerar Library. After the turn of the century, the Newberry began to add important humanities collections acquired en bloc by purchase, such as the Prince Louis-Lucien Bonaparte Collection, and by gift, including the Edward E. Ayer and John M. Wing Collections. The combination of gifts and purchases has been central to the Newberry collecting process ever since.
The addition of a bookstack tower in 1982 provided environmentally secure conditions for the collections and enabled the Cobb Building to be refitted for staff activities and to provide a wider array of public programming, which soon followed. Fellowships for advanced research and scholarly conferences were introduced in the 1940s and gradually became a major feature of the Newberry in the 1960s and 1970s. Four research centers – focusing on the History of Cartography, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, the Renaissance, and American History and Culture – came into existence in the 1970s, with the goal of stimulating disciplinary and inter-disciplinary scholarship. Semester-long undergraduate seminars began in concert with Midwest liberal arts colleges in 1965, and later with Chicago universities.
638.9 Linear Feet
The Newberry Library's institutional records, records of the Walter L. Newberry estate, personal papers of staff members and trustees, photographs, and publications that document the establishment and operation of the library, its growth and transformation over time, and its active participation in the cultural and intellectual life of Chicago and the nation. Also information on the Newberry family and property development in Chicago.
Collection Stack Location
- Canal Trustees Subdivision, Block 16 of Part of Section 33, T. 40 N., R. 14 E. of 3rd P.M., Oct. 22, 1874 (1 map)
- Newberry's Addition, Chicago, Blocks 1-18. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule Nos. 1-152, 1872-1888 (20 maps)
- Original Town of Chicago, Sublots 2 and 3, Lot 5, Block 4. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule No. 158, Oct. 23, 1876 (1 map)
- Kinzie's Addition, Chicago. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule Nos. 160-166, 1875-1890 (16 maps)
- Bushnell's Addition, Chicago, Blocks 1, 10. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule Nos. 167-180, 1878-1890 (9 maps)
- State Bank of Illinois Subdivision, Chicago, Blocks 7, 8. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule Nos. 200-238, [n.d.] (1 map)
- Newberry Estate Subdivision, Chicago, Block 36. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule Nos. 264-359, 1885 (1 map)
- Library Subdivision, Cook County, Illinois, Northeast Quarter of Section 5, T. 38 N., R. 14 E. of 3rd P.M. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule No. 361, 1886-1891 (4 maps)
- West 1/2, S.W. 1/4 of Section 22, T. 39 N., R. 13 E. of 3rd P.M., Cook County, Illinois. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule No. 362, 1886 (1 map)
- N.E. 1/4 of Section 34, T. 39 N., R. 13 E. of 3rd P.M., Cook County, Illinois. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule No. 363, 1886 (2 maps)
- North 1/2 of West 1/2 of N.W. 1/4 of Section 24, T. 40 N., R. 13 E. of 3rd P.M., Cook County, Illinois. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule No. 364, 1886 (2 maps)
- Profile of Belden Ave., Chicago, Between Clark Street and Lincoln Park, 1884 (1 elevation)
- Milwaukee County, Milwaukee, Wisconsin lands. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule No. 366, [n.d.] (10 plats, elevations, and broadsides)
- Outagamie County, Appleton Wisconsin lands. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule Nos. 368-377, 1859-1885 and [n.d.] (12 maps and plats)
- Brown County, Green Bay, Wisconsin. Newberry Estate Real Estate Schedule Nos. 378-478. 1856-1883 and [n.d.] (17 plats and maps)
- Fair Oaks, Lot 53 in the Subdivision of Block 7, S. 1/2 of the S.E. 1/4 of Section 6 - T. 39 N. - R. 13 E. of the 3rd P.M., Apr. 10, 1925
- George Smith's Addition to Chicago, Lots, 7,8,9 and Lot 6 (except the North 35 feet thereof) in Block 6, Feb. 15, 1909
- Library Subdivision: N.E. 1/4 of Section 8.38.14: Lot 7 Block 1, Oct. 31, 1902
- Library Subdivision: N.E. 1/4 of Section 8.38.14: Lots 98c, 10, 8 Block 1, Nov. 26, 1919
- Library Subdivision: N.E. 1/4 of Section 8.38.14: Lots 8 & 9 Block 6, July 24, 1907
- Library Subdivision: N.E. 1/4 of Section 8.38.14: Lot 12 Block 4, July 24, 1911
- Newberry Estate Subdivision of Kinzie's Addition: Lots 18-31 in Subdivision of Lot "A" of Block 43, Lots 20-30 of Lot "B" in Block 44, etc., Apr. 8, 1907
- Newberry Estate Subdivision of Kinzie's Addition: Lots 18-24 in Subdivision of Lot "A" of Block 43, May 10, 1921
- Newberry Estate Trustees' Subdivision of Lot 5, Block 16, Bushnell's Addition, Apr. 30, 1895
- Newberry's Addition to Chicago: Lot 5 Block 10, Feb. 6, 1909
- Newberry's Addition to Chicago: Lot 4 Block 11, Oct. 25, 1916
- Newberry's Addition to Chicago: Lots 14, 15, 16, 17 Block 13, July 9, 1906
- Newberry's Addition to Chicago: Lots 18, 19, 20, 21 Block 17, Nov. 11, 1909
- Newberry's Addition to Chicago: Lots 18, 19, 20, 21 Block 17, Apr. 27, 1910
- Newberry's Addition to Chicago: Lots 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 Block 17, Oct. 3, 1914
- Newberry's Subdivision of Block 7 in State Bank of Illinois Subdivision, Mar. 1, 1894
Newberry Estate Plat Maps and Surveys Removed from Collection and Cataloged Separately
Forming part of Newberry Library Archives 03/09/30, Estate Property Documents, the following plat maps have been cataloged separately in the Newberry Library Map Collection.
Forming part of Newberry Library Archives 04/07/51, Financial Services - Business Office - Endowment, the following plat surveys of property owned by the Newberry Library have been cataloged separately in the Newberry Library Map Collection.
Martha Briggs, Alison Hinderliter, and Cynthia Peters, 1993.
- Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography (Organization)
- Newberry Library. Board of Trustees (Organization)
- Newberry Library (Organization)
- Newberry, Julia Rosa, 1853-1876 (Person)
- Newberry, Walter Loomis, 1804-1868 (Person)
- Pargellis, Stanley, 1898-1968 (Person)
- Poole, William Frederick, 1821-1894 (Person)
- Ruggles, Rudy Lamont (Person)
- Towner, Lawrence W. (Lawrence William), 1921-1992 (Person)
- Utley, George Burwell, 1876-1946 (Person)
- Ayer, Edward Everett, 1841-1927 (Person)
- Blatchford, E. W. (Eliphalet Wickes), 1826-1914 (Person)
- Carlton, W. N. C. (William Newnham Chattin), 1873-1943 (Person)
- Cheney, John Vance, 1848-1922 (Person)
- Cobb, Henry Ives, 1859-1931 (Person)
- Cullen, Charles T., 1940- (Person)
- Dr. William M. Scholl Center for Family and Community History (Organization)
- D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies (Organization)
- Edward E. Ayer Collection (Newberry Library) (Organization)
- Graff, Everett D. (Everett Dwight), 1885-1964 (Person)
- Everett D. Graff Collection (Newberry Library) (Organization)
- Greenlee, William Brooks (Person)
Genre / Form
- Book collecting -- Illinois -- Chicago
- Libraries -- Illinois -- Chicago
- Library administration
- Library architecture
- Library buildings -- Illinois -- Chicago
- Library statistics
- Manuscripts, American -- Illinois -- Chicago
- Rare book libraries -- Illinois -- Chicago
- Research libraries -- Illinois -- Chicago
- Inventory of the Newberry Library Archives, 1885-ongoingNL.ArchivesNL.Archives
- Finding aid prepared by Finding aid prepared by Martha Briggs, Alison Hinderliter, and Cynthia Peters
- Language of description
- Script of description