First Founder’s Day

From the meeting minutes on the first Founder’s Day Address:
“On motion of Mr. Lamberton it was Resolved, that the thanks of this Board tendered to our President the Rt. Rev. Dr. Howe, Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, for the just, interesting, and eloquent memorial address he delivered this day in honor of our Founder; and that a copy of it is here requested for publication.”



Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, October 9, 1879


Founder’s Day Address, 1879



This publication and so many other important documents from Lehigh’s history are archived, preserved and, in many cases, made available online. Contact Special Collections for more information.


Redevelopment of Bethlehem

In the mid 1950s, like many metropolitan areas in the United States, the City of Bethlehem was invested in the “urban renewal” projects.
Prepared for the Redevelopment Authority, this 1956 report includes photographs of the neighborhoods and  architectural renderings of the current state of the City and proposed changes.


Aerial photograph of Bethlehem


Proposed Bethlehem Center City


Title page of the 1956 Interim Report


“Local History Collections” in Special Collections contains important publications like this 1956 report and many other document to research and study the land use and social, economical and industrial progress on and around the Lehigh University Campuses. Visit Special Collections for more information.



150 Years Ago…

Today, July 27 1865, is the 150th anniversary of the first meeting of the Trustees of Lehigh University. The meeting took place in the Sun Inn, Bethlehem. Lehigh officially opened and the first classes were held on September 1, 1866 but this July 27, 1865 meeting has always been considered the beginning of the University. Read more about this date and other Lehigh stories from the “Countdown to 150”

Here is the portion of the page from the Minutes of Board of the Trustees:


Board of Trustees Minutes of the July 27 1865 Meeting



Lehigh Music Festival


In 1948, Lehigh began a new tradition: the Lehigh Music Festival. The festival was well-met, with the first event attracting about 400 attendees. The next year, however, was the biggest festival year with 1100 attendees and plenty of publicity as seen with the billboard pictured above. The 1949 Music Festival was not a sign of years to come, though. The Festival would be cancelled several different times in the years leading up to 1959, but students wouldn’t let the festival go without a fight. There were several Brown and White articles in 1958 advocating for a festival in 1959 after the ’58 festival was cancelled. Meetings were held to judge student interest and the 1959 festival was ultimately planned and executed, but it would be the last of its kind.



A Lehigh Cyclist



Around 1890, this stylish Lehigh student was seen on his Velocipede riding around the Campus –Chemical Laboratory (now Chandler-Ullmann Hall) and (possibly) Hydraulics Lab (gone by the early 1900s) are on the background.

That is a bicycle, not a unicycle–look closely and you will see a small second wheel in the back. This type of bike is called a “high wheeler” for fairly obvious reasons. It came about around 1870 and bicycle makers just kept making the front wheels bigger and bigger as they realized that with a larger circumference, the wheel would travel farther with one pedal revolution.

The first American cycling company didn’t come about until 1878, with Columbia Bicycle. The company was based at a sewing machine factory, and each high-sheeled bike cost $125 while a sewing machine cost $13.

This man was likely the focus of much of his classmates’ jealousy with his expensive bicycle, though we’re not sure how he got around efficiently with all of the stairs. He must have broken a sweat riding up the hill, too, but Chandller-Ullman isn’t so high up.

With Lehigh’s Master Plan involving letting even less cars on campus, bicycles may soon be the only option left for students who are always rushing between the buildings. Who knows, though–with Lehigh’s “pedestrian campus,” they might not want cyclists, either.



The Surprising History of Lehigh’s Earliest Civil War Collection


Lehigh's copy of Literature of the Rebellion, inscribed by John Russell Bartlett in 1883.

Lehigh’s copy of Literature of the Rebellion, inscribed by John Russell Bartlett in 1883.


2015 marks the end of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Like many academic libraries, Lehigh’s Special Collections has a large collection of materials that were written and published during the Civil War. The bulk of our collection, however, comes from one man: Rhode Island writer, publisher, and politician John Russell Bartlett (1805-1886). Who was Bartlett and how did his Civil War collection come to Lehigh? Read on to find out.

Although Lehigh was founded in 1865, Linderman Library was not established until 1878. The first university librarian, Professor of Chemistry William H. Chandler (known as “Billie”), was responsible for building the library’s collections.[1] And, thanks to the generosity of Lehigh’s founder, Asa Packer, Chandler had plenty of money to do so.[2] Although it may seem strange that a chemist was picked to oversee the library, Chandler was by all accounts a polymath and an ardent book-lover. He even compiled his own general encyclopedia (Chandler’s Encyclopedia: An Epitome of Universal Knowledge, 1898). Chandler was known to scour catalogs from dealers across the United States and Europe looking for valuable books that would help Lehigh become a world-class library.[3] Competing with Harvard, Yale, and other more established libraries, Chandler successfully purchased a number of important rare book collections during the first fifteen years of the library’s existence.[4] One of these collections came from the personal library of John Russell Bartlett.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1805, Bartlett was a man of many talents and interests. He began his career as a banker, but before long, his love of books and reading took him in a different direction. In the mid-1830s, Bartlett moved to New York, where he entered into the book business. He and his partner, Charles Welford, opened the bookstore and publishing firm Bartlett & Welford in 1840. After the Mexican-American War, however, Bartlett was appointed to head up the Mexican Boundary Commission. When he returned to the United States, Bartlett became the Secretary of State of Rhode Island, a position which he held until 1872. Over the course of his life, Bartlett wrote a number of books, including A Dictionary of Americanisms (1848) and A Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas (1854) and Memoirs of Rhode Island Officers (1867).[5]

At the start of the Civil War, Bartlett began collecting books, pamphlets, broadsides, and anything else he could find related to the conflict. He was not alone. A number of individuals, including Benson J. Lossing and John A. McAllister, were also early collectors of the Civil War.[6] Unlike his fellow antiquarians, however, Bartlett’s collection was, in the words of one contemporary, “a working library.”[7] His purpose in collecting was to compile a bibliography that would aid future historians of the conflict. To ensure that the bibliography was comprehensive, Bartlett placed notices in major newspapers asking Americans to support his efforts by sending him relevant publications.[8] He also personally wrote to authors asking for copies of their work. Many individuals responded to Bartlett’s requests. In fact, we found several such letters tucked inside the pamphlets Bartlett sold to Lehigh. These items have been digitized, and are now available online through our I Remain website. In the end, Bartlett’s hard work paid off. When Literature of the Rebellion was finally published in 1866, it contained over 6,000 entries.

Even after his bibliography was finished, Bartlett continued to collect material related to the conflict. By the 1870s, Bartlett’s Civil War collection was well known. One writer remarked in 1875, “The materials which it preserves, necessary to a just and proper writing of the history of the great rebellion, are such as could not possibly be duplicated…Its loss by fire or other means, would be irreparable.”[9] On examining Bartlett’s collection a few years later, writer Horatio Rogers proclaimed it to be one of the largest of its kind in the country.[10]

The Library's early accession book noted everything that came from Bartlett.

The Library’s accession book noted everything that came from Bartlett.

Unfortunately, because of financial difficulties, Bartlett was forced to sell his Civil War collection.[11] In 1872, he offered 3,000 books and pamphlets to the Union League Club for $10,000. They declined.[12] In 1882, he approached Cornell University with the collection. They also declined, saying that they did not have the money.[13] We do not know if Bartlett approached Lehigh, or if Chandler took the lead and contacted Bartlett. But in 1885, Chandler officially purchased the collection. Lehigh received about 6,000 books, pamphlets, and broadsides, as well as a small manuscript collection related to the establishment of Gettysburg Cemetery in Pennsylvania (of which Bartlett played an important role).[14]

Today, Lehigh still has most of this collection, and it is not uncommon to find a book in the stacks with Bartlett’s name in it. The books and pamphlets are wonderful primary sources for those researching the Civil War. But they also have much to offer scholars interested in the history of reading and collecting. Bartlett took notes in a number of the texts, even sometimes recording where he had purchased the item. One of the books from Bartlett’s library that is now owned by Lehigh is Walter S. Newhall: A Memoir by Sara Butler Wrister. The book was published in Philadelphia in 1864. Inside the book, Bartlett wrote his name and a brief note explaining that he bought the book at the Metropolitan Fair in New York, at the table of Mrs. George McClellan on Saturday, April 9th, 1864. Other books were inscribed by the people who gave them to Bartlett. Reverend Augustus Woodbury inscribed his book, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside and the Ninth Army Corps (Providence: Sidney S. Rider & Brother, 1867) to Bartlett in March of 1867. These are just two examples of a rich and unique collection that deserves to be studied more thoroughly.

[1] R. D. Billinger, “The Chandler Influence in American Chemistry,” Journal of Chemical Education (June 1939), 253-257.

[2] M.E. Evans, “Lehigh University Library, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,” The Library Association Record 61:4 (April 1959), 90.

[3] Robert Metcalf Smith and Howard Seavoy Leach, The Shakespeare Folios and the Forgeries of Shakespeare’s Handwriting (Bethlehem, PA: 1927), 7-8.

[4] New York Times, April 3, 1883; December 18, 1887; February 28, 1890.

[5] John Russell Bartlett, The Autobiography of John Russell Bartlett, 1805-1886 (Providence, RI: John Carter Brown Library, 2006).

[6] Sandra Markham, “John McAllister Collects the Civil War,” The Magazine Antiques 170:2 (August 2006), 102-107. McAllister’s Civil War collection is now owned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

[7] Horatio Rogers, The Private Libraries of Providence (Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1878), 135.

[8] See, for example: Boston Daily Advertiser, May 9, 1865.

[9] Samuel L. Boardman, “A Valuable Collection,” Potter’s American Monthly 4:40 (April 1875), 270.

[10] Rogers, 142.

[11] John Duncan Haskell Jr., “John Russell Bartlett (1805-1886): Bookman,” Ph.D. dissertation, The George Washington University, 1977, 288-289.

[12] Haskell, 263.

[13] Haskell, 266.

[14] “Fifth Annual Report of the Library Committee to the Board of Trustees of the Lehigh University (For the Year Ending May 31, 1885),” Lehigh University Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes 1 (June 18, 1885), 564. The remainder of Bartlett’s library is at the Rhode Island Historical Society. His papers are split between the Rhode Island Historical Society and the John Carter Brown Library.


Clara Gravez and the Mart Science and Engineering Library Dedication

This May 30th will mark the 47th anniversary of the dedication of Mart Library, back when its addition (which morphed it into Fairchild-Martindale library) hadn’t been built yet.

The Mart Science and Engineering Library was a milestone project for the career of James D. Mack, the head librarian at the time, and the dedication was a sensational affair.

To help commemorate the birth of this new library, Mack invited a very special guest: Mary Clara Gravez, the first reference librarian at Lehigh. Ms. Gravez became reference librarian in 1947, retired in 1955, and attended the dedication ceremonies on May 30, 1969. At 85 years old, she traveled all the way from Evansville, Indiana.

gravez-1Ms. Gravez was celebrated at the dedication, and even received a corsage along with Mrs. Leon T. Mart, the library’s largest donor, and Mart’s daughter, Mrs. Richard Powell.

In Gravez’s thank you letter dated June 9, 1969 to James Mack, she writes about how much she appreciated all of the attention, compliments Mack on the event, and even calls the dedication her “swansong.”


James Mack’s personal speech draft, which mentioned Clara Gravez as a dear friend. Since Ms. Gravez did not work in Mart Library, she was not considered as a “Martian”

Clara Gravez’s personal thank you letter to James D. Mack after the dedication

Clara Gravez’s personal thank you letter to James D. Mack after the dedication


A Short and Sweet Vacation

Those were the days.  When a vacation could be just Phillipsburg to Bethlehem.  And when $100 was a huge baggage liability.

Check out this ticket stub issued by the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company which was started by Lehigh’s founder Asa Packer.



A War Club for President Richards

At the twentieth reunion of the class of 1902, an unusual gift was given to Lehigh’s President Richards.


Before the reunion banquet, the class presented him with a large war club with a brass plate inscribed with who it was from and how to use it. The part on how to use it is missing from the artifact today.


It is thought that this artifact is a copy or mock of a ceremonial mace, which would be used in important ceremonies to represent a persons, particularly the president’s in this case, authority.

The class seemed to have an infamous reputation at Lehigh for stuff like this. In the alumni bulletins leading up to the presentation of this mace, there were many comments on the class. Class of 1902 member, “Bob” Bird said that the reunion would be a quiet one and, in response, the author of the Bulletin responded saying “If so, it will be the first time this class has ever been quiet. I think they are trying to spring a surprise on the other reunion classes.” The Reunion Committee was described as “live-wires” and the class itself was said to be “one of those dangerous small classes.”

The war club was brought to Special Collections after being discovered in Packard Laboratory storage. It is cataloged and shelved with the other curious and divergent items in the Lehigh Memorabilia Collection.

Here are the links to the Alumni Bulletin online articles about the Class of 1902:


1998 MLK Birthday at Lehigh


Prof. Booth speaking at the MLK birthday event, 1998

The photograph above in the Lehigh Archives has a note attached reads as:
“Lehigh Observes Martin Luther King birthday: — Berrisford Booth  shares his selected reading during Lehigh’s first event observing Martin Luther King’s birthday. The Lehigh community gathered to read poems, plays, texts and scripture at noon in Great Room of Ulrich Student Center on January 19 (1998)” Photo by. T.Patton, Class of 1998

This year’s MLK Celebration events can be seen here:



Sages of the Pages