Old New Haven

The Institute Library has many out-of-print books on the history of New Haven and other Connecticut towns, as well as the new books that I featured in Monday’s post. One of these books is especially important, not only to New Haven, but to everywhere that has local history and folklore. The man in the print about the fireplace at the Institute Library is John W. Barber – who is credited as the first person to collect, record, and publish local histories. He learned the craft of print making and opened a store in New Haven in 1823, and traveled around Connecticut, making etches and engravings of the sites and collecting stories from the people. He published History and Antiquities of New Haven, Conn., in 1856

This isn’t the only out of print New Haven book either – we have an entire alcove of local history books! The back wall is mostly Connecticut towns, with a few books on Massachusetts. The outer walls of the alcove have books on other states and some books on the Central & North American countries. 

(From right to left) History of the Colony of New Haven, published 1881, Hartford Conn., published 1889, Catalogue of the Trustees, Rectors, Instructors and Alumni of the Hopkins Grammar School of New Haven, Connecticut: 1660 – 1902, published 1902, The English Memorial: New Haven Colony Historical Society, published 1893, History of Wallingford, Meriden, and Cheshire, published in 1870, North Haven Annuals, published 1892, History of the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, published 1887, and An Old New England Town, published 1895.

The covers of a lot of these older books are cloth – without much on the cover. I photographed a few of the title pages:

There are many, MANY more books on New Haven and other Connecticut towns — please visit and learn some New Haven secrets.


New Haven Books

The Institute Library’s collection of new books on New Haven history

Industrial New Haven

I apologize for being absent over the past few weeks – now that life is back on a somewhat routine schedule, I am back to blogging!

I just finished giving a tour of the library. Giving the tour is my absolute favorite thing in my professional life — the discussion during the tour usually leads to the richness of New Haven’s history and all that it still has to offer. Many people who live here know the stories of Judge Whalley, John Dixwell, and William Goffe — and how they hid from the Brits in Judges Cave in West Rock, but there are more interesting aspects to New Haven’s history than just this story! (Additional information: Daily Nutmeg, Society of Colonial Wars, or check out THIS book)

One of my favorite New Haven history books is Carriages & Clocks, Corsets & Locks

The book chronicles New Haven as an industrial city. Most cities around the time of the Industrial Revolution thrived on manufacturing one or two products, but New Haven was home to hundreds of manufactured goods: carriages, rubber boots, corsets, erector sets, folding & reclining chairs and much, much more – many of which were invented in New Haven!

A photo from Carriages and Clocks, Corsets and Locks

More on New Haven awesomeness soon!

A Bit of History

Stephen Kobasa hung a new bulletin board at the library last week and tacked up a type-writer typed document he found.  I’m not sure what is factual or what is library folklore.  Hopefully, as we dig through documents at the Beinecke, we will be able to do some fact checking.

In the meanwhile, there are some really fun bits of information I’d like to share:

  • Some of the debate topics at the early meetings during the late 1820s and early 1830s:
    • “Does the married man or bachelor enjoy the most happiness?”
    • “Are novels injurious to a reader?”
    • “Would the abolition of slavery in the U.S. be an advantage to the country?”
    • “Are lotteries justifiable in any respect?”
    • “Ought capitol punishment be abolished?”
  • Charles Dickens was made an honorary member, who came to the Institute and presided at a meeting in 1842.
  • The New Haven Camera Club rented a rooms on the third floor of the library for $100.00 per year starting in 1893**
  • The electric lights were installed in the library in 1911
  • The library was broken into in 1964. Only $3.00 worth of stamps were taken.


**According to the New Haven Camera Club’s website – they didn’t become an organization until 1911.  Yale does have information on a New Haven Camera Club exhibit that was on view at the institute library in 1894.  Does anyone have any information on this?


Playable Furniture

New Haven artist, Willie Hoffman, has two pieces from his Playable Studio on “functional display” at the Institute Library.  Come, grab a book and use the ONI – bench/table/stool/rocker or VIO – table/bench/slide/fun!!

Here is the library’s executive director, Will Baker, lounging on the VIO after a long day of work!

I apologize for the blurriness of this photo – I was trying to not get caught.  I eventually fessed up – telling Will that I took this photo and and asked his permission to post it to the blog.  🙂

A Wedding Day in 1869

I (Meg) am getting married next week.  The fiancé and I have been neck deep in wedding planning several months now – program design, menu planning, dress fittings, dessert tastings (this was the best part), guest lists, ceremony writing, music selections, etc.  I realized today that we had not consulted the books at the Institute Library!  Certainly there must be something there that can teach me how to be a good wife, how to be a perfect bride, wedding etiquette, etc – all things that may or may not align with my personal beliefs.

I skipped my allotted lunch break today to search through the card catalog for possible books on weddings, brides, and being a good wife.

I found several catalog cards for fiction books about brides (The bride dined alone, Bride in the bush) and weddings.

And then I found what I was looking for:

Wedding day in all ages and countries, published in 1869.

The book was checked out three times in 1969 and probably hasn’t even been opened since then.  I feel like it is going to fall apart in my hands.

I love this – “The ancient Scythians, being a warlike people, would not marry a maiden who had not killed an enemy.”

And there is an entire chapter dedicated to the various origins of the wedding ring!  If I wasn’t moving tomorrow (yes, I’m moving tomorrow and getting married a week from tomorrow) and/or it was still my lunch break, I would read this book cover to cover.  Perhaps, I will have the time sometime soon!

Happy Birthday, Institute Library!!

On this day, August 1st, in 1826, the Apprentices’ Literary Association – which eventually became the Institute Library – held its very first meeting at the home of Albert Wilcox.

Today we applaud the Institute Library’s 186 years of collaboration, book circulation, and the mutual assistance in the attainment of useful knowledge.