Astor Library

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The Library has usually had an architect on staff to coordinate construction projects and building renovations. This individual has also had custody of the architectural drawings created by the Library or by outside architectural firms.

From the guide to the Architect records, ca. 1900-1980, (The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Archives.)

The Astor Library was founded as a privately funded reference library, open without charge to the public.

It was established by the will of John Jacob Astor in 1848. Joseph Green Cogswell, the first Superintendent of the Library, was instrumental in its planning a decade before Astor's death. The Superintendent was assisted by a librarian, Frederick Saunders, from 1858. Washington Irving was the first president of its 11 member board of trustees. The Board concerned itself with the Library's administration and financial matters. The Superintendent and Librarian oversaw collection acquisition and cataloging as well as reader registration.

From 1849 to 1853 the Astor Library occupied temporary quarters at 32 Bond Street. In 1854 the Astor Library building, designed by Alexander Saelzer and located on Astor land on Lafayette Place, opened to the public. Two major extensions of the building were made, in 1859 and 1881, which increased the Library's capacity to 400,000 volumes. As a public institution insufficiently funded by one family, the Astor Library faced financial difficulties from the time of its founding. In 1894 it entered into talks to consolidate with the Tilden Trust and, later, the Lenox Library. In 1895 the consolidation of these three entities was completed, forming the New York Public Library.

From the description of Astor Library records, 1839-1911. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122597000

The Astor Library was founded as a privately funded reference library, open without charge to the public.

It was established by the will of John Jacob Astor in 1848. Joseph Green Cogswell, the first Superintendent of the Library, was instrumental in its planning a decade before Astor's death. The Superintendent was assisted by a librarian, Frederick Saunders, from 1858. Washington Irving was the first president of its 11 member board of trustees. The Board concerned itself with the Library's administration and financial matters. The Superintendent and Librarian oversaw collection acquisition and cataloging as well as reader registration.

From 1849 to 1853 the Astor Library occupied temporary quarters at 32 Bond Street. In 1854 the Astor Library building, designed by Alexander Saelzer and located on Astor land on Lafayette Place, opened to the public. Two major extensions of the building were made, in 1859 and 1881, which increased the Library's capacity to 400,000 volumes.

As a public institution insufficiently funded by one family, the Astor Library faced financial difficulties from the time of its founding. In 1894 it entered into talks to consolidate with the Tilden Trust and, later, the Lenox Library. In 1895 the consolidation of these three entities was completed, forming the New York Public Library.

From the description of Astor Library Agency History. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 86164280

The Astor Library was founded as a private reference library, open free to the public, according to the terms of the will of John Jacob Astor (1763-1848). Joseph Green Cogswell (1786-1871), teacher and librarian, had originally urged Astor to fund a free library. As a result, Astor bequeathed $400,000 for such an effort and in the meantime hired Cogswell to purchase books and to plan for the future library.

The Astor Library was incorporated by an act of the New York State Legislature on January 18, 1849. The act of incorporation fixed the number of Astor Library trustees at eleven. The original trustees were Washington Irving, William Backhouse Astor, Daniel Lord, Jr., James G. King, Joseph Green Cogswell, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Samuel B. Ruggles, Samuel Ward, Jr., Charles Astor Bristed, John Adams Dix (who replaced Henry Brevoort, Jr., who died in 1848) and the Mayor of the City of New York.

The following served as President of the Astor Library: Washington Irving (1849-1859), William B. Astor (1860-1875), Alexander Hamilton (1876-1889), Hamilton Fish (Acting, 1890-1891), Thomas M. Markoe (1891-1895). The following served as Treasurer: William B. Astor (1849), Daniel Lord, Jr. (1849-1868), John Jacob Astor (1868-1890), S.V.R. Cruger (1890), Edward King (1890-1895).

The Astor Library was directed by its Superintendent and Librarian. Joseph Cogswell was chosen as the first Superintendent of the Astor Library by the Trustees in 1848 and served until 1861. Cogswell's successors as Superintendent were Francis Schroeder (1861-1871), Dr. Edward Richard Straznicky (1871-1876), J. Carson Brevoort (1876-1878) and Robbins Little (1878-1896). Beginning in 1858, the Superintendent was assisted by a Librarian, Frederick Saunders, who served until 1896.

Cogswell made his first purchase for John Jacob Astor in 1839 at the auction of the library of Major D.B. Douglass. When the Astor Library opened to the public in 1854, the collection had grown to 80,000 volumes purchased by Cogswell in the United States and abroad, through book dealers and at auction. By 1890, the Astor held over 260,000 volumes, making it the largest reference library in the New York metropolitan area.

From 1849 to 1853, the Astor library had temporary quarters at 32 Bond Street. The Astor Library building, designed by Alexander Saelzer and located on Astor land on Lafayette Place in lower Manhattan, opened to the public in 1854. At that time, the shelves were at almost full capacity with 80,000 volumes. An extension added to the north opened in 1859. This North Building or Hall accommodated books and readers in history and literature. Books and readers in science and the industrial arts remained in the original building, referred to as the South Building or Hall.

In 1881 a second extension, adjacent to the North, was opened, and this more than doubled the capacity of the Library to a potential 400,000 volumes. The main entrance to the Library moved from the South Hall to the Middle Hall (formerly the North Hall) which was altered to hold the catalog and exhibits as well as administrative and book-storage space. The new North Hall and the South Hall both housed large reading rooms and books.

The Astor Library was open to the public during the day on weekdays and Saturdays. Most readers reported to a main desk to request books which were then paged from the shelves. Some readers, usually scholars, were granted the privilege of being alcove readers, and they had full access to alcoves of books devoted to specific topics.

As an institution funded by a single family, the Astor Library faced financial difficulties from its beginning. In 1894, it entered into talks to consolidate with the Tilden Trust. On May 23, 1895 the trustees of the Astor and Lenox Libraries and the Tilden Trust reached an agreement to consolidate and establish The New York Public Library.

Although the Astor Library ceased to exist as a separate entity, the Astor Building continued to serve readers while the NYPL Central Building was planned and constructed. Beginning in 1895, the library was opened on Sundays and during the summer. In 1899, in a further effort toward democratization, alcove readers privileges were revoked, and all readers had to apply at the desk for books. In 1905, evening hours were added. Soon after consolidation, books were transferred between the Astor and Lenox buildings, with the Astor Building housing general literature, scientific books and serials, and duplicates. Robbins Little and Frederick Saunders retired, and NYPL Director John Shaw Billings served as head of the Astor with his office there.

The Astor Library building finally closed to readers on April 15, 1911, shortly before the opening of the new Central Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

From the guide to the Astor Library records, 1839-1911, (The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Valentini, Philipp Johann Josef, 1828-1899. Philipp Johann Josef Valentini papers, 1870-1899. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Rhees, William Jones, 1830-1907. William Jones Rhees Papers, 1744-1907 Huntington Library (San Marino, Calif.).
referencedIn Bayard Taylor papers, 1826-1912 (inclusive), 1845-1878 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Committee on the Consolidation of the Astor, Lenox and Tilden Libraries records, 1894-1899 The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Archives.
referencedIn New York Public Library. Central Administration. Director's Office. John Shaw Billings records, 1885-1915. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Secretary. Correspondence, 1865-1891 Smithsonian Institution Archives
creatorOf Astor Library. Astor Library Agency History. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Astor Library. Receipts from the Astor Library, signed by the superintendent Robbins Little, [New York], to Augustin Daly [manuscript], 1889-1891. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn Cogswell, Joseph Green, 1786-1871. Joseph Green Cogswell papers, 1817-1877. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Swinton, William, 1833-1892. Compositions, [18--] Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Irving, Washington, 1783-1859. Washington Irving papers, 1759-1898, bulk (1805-1866). New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Astor Library. Astor Library records [Readers], 1859-1911. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Astor Library. Astor Library records [Administration], 1839-1904. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Recollections of her employment in the Astor Library, 1977 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Philipp Johann Josef Valentini papers, 1870-1899. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Astor Library. Astor Library records [Collections], 1849-1910. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn New York Public Library Visual Materials, 1875- New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Astor Library. Astor Library records, 1839-1911. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn New York Public Library. New York Public Library Visual Materials, 1875- New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Sage, Gardner A. [Map of the area later bounded by Astor Place, 4th Avenue or the Bowery, 5th Street and Lafayette Street, Manhattan, New York (N.Y.)] / surveyed by Gardner A. Sage. New-York Historical Society Library
referencedIn Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Secretary. Correspondence, 1863-1879 Smithsonian Institution Archives
creatorOf Astor Library. Astor Library records [Finance], 1848-1896. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Charles Alexander Nelson papers, 1850s-1930s New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Astor Library records, 1839-1911 The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Archives.
creatorOf Cogswell, Joseph Green, 1786-1871. Joseph Green Cogswell letter, 1852 April 5. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn New York Public Library. Central Administration. Architect. Architect records, ca. 1900-1980. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn John Shaw Billings records, 1885-1915 The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Archives.
referencedIn New York Public Library. Board of Trustees. Committee on the Consolidation of the Astor, Lenox and Tilden Libraries. Committee on the Consolidation of the Astor, Lenox and Tilden Libraries records, 1894-1899. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Coffin, James H. (James Henry), 1806-1873. James Henry Coffin Papers, 1848-1884 Smithsonian Institution Archives
referencedIn Joseph Green Cogswell papers, 1817-1877 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Architect records, ca. 1900-1980 The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Archives.
creatorOf Saunders, Frederick, 1807-1902. Frederick Saunders manuscripts, 1888-1895. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Washington Irving papers, 1759-1898, 1805-1866 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Astor, John Jacob, 1763-1848. person
associatedWith Astor Library. Trustees. corporateBody
associatedWith Broadbent, Alice S., 1885-1979 person
associatedWith Carrère & Hastings corporateBody
associatedWith Carrère, John Merven, 1858-1911 person
associatedWith Cogswell, Joseph, 1786-1871. person
associatedWith Cogswell, Joseph Green. person
associatedWith Cogswell, Joseph Green, 1786-1871. person
associatedWith Daly, Augustin, 1838-1899 person
associatedWith Hastings, Thomas, 1860-1929 person
correspondedWith Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878 person
associatedWith Irving, Washington, 1783-1859. person
correspondedWith King, J. G. person
associatedWith Laning, Edward, 1906- person
associatedWith Lenox Library corporateBody
associatedWith Little, Robbins, b. 1832, person
associatedWith Nelson, Charles Alexander, 1839-1933 person
associatedWith Newberry Library corporateBody
associatedWith New York Public Library. corporateBody
associatedWith New York Public Library. Board of Trustees. Committee on the Consolidation of the Astor, Lenox and Tilden Libraries. corporateBody
associatedWith New York Public Library. Central Administration. Architect. corporateBody
associatedWith New York Public Library. Central Administration. Director's Office corporateBody
associatedWith New York Public Library. Central Administration. Director's Office. corporateBody
associatedWith Philipp Johann Josef, Valentini 1828-1899. person
associatedWith Saelzer, Alexander person
associatedWith Saelzer, Alexander. person
associatedWith Sage, Gardner A. person
associatedWith Saunders, Frederick, 1807-1902. person
correspondedWith Schroeder, Francis person
associatedWith Swinton, William, 1833-1892. person
associatedWith Taylor, Bayard, 1825-1878 person
associatedWith Tilden Trust corporateBody
associatedWith Valentini, Philipp Johann Josef, 1828-1899. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
New York (State)--New York
New York (State)--New York
New York (State)--New York
New York (State)--New York
New York (State)--New York
Subject
Research libraries--New York (State)--New York
Research libraries--User studies
Acquisitions (Libraries)
Libraries
Libraries--New York (State)--New York
Patents
Library circulation and loans
Classification--Books
Library architecture
Smithsonian Exchange
Research libraries--Acquisitions
Library decoration
Library buildings--New York (State)--New York
Library catalogs
Periodicals
Research libraries
Exchanges Of Publications
Pamphlets
Libraries--History--19th century
Acquisitions (Libraries)--New York (State)--New York
Library finance
Scientific publications
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1859

Active 1911

Americans

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