University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Chicago Mechanics' Institute Records 1875-1941

© 2006 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary


Chicago Mechanics' Institute. Records




3.5 linear ft., (6 boxes)


Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.


The Chicago Mechanics' Institute was chartered in 1843 to provide education to mechanics, apprentices, and other workingmen. The Records contain correspondence concerning the Institute's educational activities, reports, minutes, membership lists, legal documents, financial records, and historical materials.

Information on Use


No restrictions.


When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Chicago Mechanics' Institute. Records, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Historical Note

In 1843 the State of Illinois chartered the Chicago Mechanics' Institute, an organization devoted to providing a means of further education to "mechanics, apprentices" and other workingmen, with a view to "elevating their trade -- and consequently the community -- by elevating themselves." The organization flourished, building up a large membership and a large library; offered numerous lectures, and was soon expanding into larger quarters. In 1849, past President Azel Peck died, leaving a will in which he bequeathed one half the income of his real estate holdings to the Institute for the period of twenty-one years after his wife's death (Ann Peck died in 1866), following which the whole fee would devolve upon it. The use of the money was specifically directed to "the education of poor apprentices and the support of widows and children of indigent artisans and mechanics in Chicago."

Three events, however, were to set back, and almost destroy the Institute. The great financial crisis of 1857 forced the Institute to retrench; the Civil War scattered its membership; and the great Chicago fire of 1871 completed the destruction of assets and property, and dispersal of membership. Beginning in 1875 the Institute began the task of rebuilding.

Scope Note

The Records contain the record of the Chicago Mechanics’ Institute’s growing activity and operations from 1875 to 1941. Included are historical materials, legal documents, minutes of meetings, membership lists, financial records, and correspondence concerning the Institute's educational activities.

Related Resources

The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:


Subject Headings


Box 1    Folder 1

Early reports and financial statements, Act of Incorporation, Azel Peck's will, list of old members, tax abstracts, leases, and deeds (materials date from 1843, Peck's will)

Box 1    Folder 2

Vouchers, 1919-1920, 1930-1931, 1934-1941

Box 1    Folder 3

Receipts, 1900-1909

Box 2   Folder 1

Historical Materials

Box 2   Folder 2

Correspondence with the Chicago Business College

Box 2   Folder 3

Correspondence with the Children's Scholarship League

Box 2   Folder 4

Letters of Appreciation

Box 2

Cash book

Box 2

Jno. Clark's plan for the Metal Worker's building

Box 3   Folder 1

Treasurer's Reports, 1875-1899

Box 3   Folder 2

Treasurer's Reports, 1900-1907

Box 3   Folder 3

Miscellaneous forms and copies of Constitution and By-Laws of C.M.I.

Box 3   Folder 4

Pupils in C.M.I., 1876-1911, inclusive

Box 3

Check book stubs, 1917-1941 (8 books)

Box 3

Admission receipt book, 1904-1911

Box 3

Pamphlet- The Chicago Mechanics Institute, 1 Jan 1913

Box 3

One half-tone cut of S.W. corner of Clark and Washington, Chicago, 1858

Notebook 1

Minutes of Meetings of the Board of Directors of the C.M.I., and of regular monthly meetings of the C.M.I., 1875-1888

Notebook 2

Minutes of meetings, etc., 1890-1893

Notebook 3

Minutes of meetings, etc., 1895-1906

Notebook 4

Minutes of meetings, etc., 1907-1914

Notebook 5

Treasurer's account book, 1918-1940

Notebook 6

Student's receipt book, 1890-1895

Notebook 7

Student's receipt book, 1895-1901

Notebook 8

Record of student's courses and hours, 1901-1914

Notebook 9

Pupils Register, 1874-1889, inclusive