The New International Encyclopædia/New York Public Library
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden foundations, was formed by the consolidation on May 23, 1895, of the Astor Library, the Lenox Library, and the Tilden Trust.
The Astor Library, incorporated January 18, 1849, was founded by John Jacob Astor, who bequeathed $400,000 to establish a free public library; gifts from other members of the Astor family trebled its buildings, added largely to its book collections, and increased its endowment to $941,000 in 1895. Opened February 1, 1854, with about 80,000 volumes, in 1895 it had 267,147 volumes.
The Lenox Library, incorporated January 20, 1870, received from James Lenox his library, art collection, its site and building, and an endowment amounting to $505,500 in 1895. It was not a general reference library, but an institution for the exhibition and scholarly use of book rarities. In 1895 it contained 86,000 volumes.
The Tilden Trust was incorporated March 26, 1887. To it (before incorporation ) Samuel Jones Tilden had bequeathed his private library, 20,000 volumes, and the bulk of his estate, over $5,000,000, to establish a free public library. The will was contested and the trust provisions declared invalid. By a compromise agreement the executors secured for the trust about $2,000,000, part of the share of one of the heirs.
The new corporation had an endowment of about $3,446,500, owned the Astor and Lenox library sites, and possessed 353,147 volumes and pamphlets. Through an address to the Mayor legislative permission was secured May 19, 1897, for an issue of bonds by the city to construct a building on the reservoir site at Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, and to contract with the library for its occupancy. Plans were adopted November 10, 1897, and the corner stone was laid November 10, 1902.
On December 11, 1900, the New York Free Circulating Library offered to consolidate; the offer was accepted and on February 25, 1901, reorganization was completed. The following libraries also came into the system: Saint Agnes Free Library on August 1, 1901; Washington Heights Free Library on December 1, 1901; the New York Free Circulating Library for the Blind on February 21, 1903; and the Aguilar Free Library on February 28, 1903. By these accessions the circulation department consisted on March 1, 1903, of 18 branch libraries, owning 320,816 volumes.
On March 12, 1901, Andrew Carnegie offered to give about $5,200,000 to erect branch libraries in New York City, if the city would furnish sites and maintain the branch libraries when built. An act passed April 26, 1901, permitted the city to accept such a gift, and in a contract executed July 17, 1901, between the city and the library acting as Carnegie's agent, the city agreed to provide 42 (later increased to 65) sites in Manhattan, Bronx, and Richmond, on which the library agreed to erect buildings with funds provided by Carnegie, the city agreeing to pay annually for their maintenance one-tenth of the sum expended by Carnegie. The first building so erected, on East Seventy-ninth Street, for the Yorkville branch, was opened December 13, 1902; the second, for the Chatham Square branch, was opened in the summer of 1903; four more will be ready by the end of the year.
In the new institution the 500 periodicals received in 1895 have increased to 4500 in 1903; the annual receipts of 12.483 volumes and 2599 pamphlets in 1895 increased to 65,381 volumes and 87,868 pamphlets in 1902; the 94,331 readers consulting 260,694 volumes in 1895 increased to 165,434 readers consulting 410,671 volumes; and the total of 353,147 pieces available to readers in 1895 amounted to 1,131,961 on March 1, 1903.