Building for a
The University of Chicago and Its Donors, 1889-1930
Unlike donors who provide funds for buildings, scholarships, and the purchase of library materials, private individuals who present books and manuscripts to an institution have personal as well as philanthropic goals. Collectors who have acquired materials with purpose and passion often wish to preserve the integrity of their collection and see that it serves educational and scholarly uses.
One gift to the University of Chicago Library, made at the suggestion of Charles L. Hutchinson, was the only book collection to have survived the Chicago fire and be preserved under one roof. The Ebenezer Lane Library was started by lawyer and judge Ebenezer Lane (1793-1866), who arrived in Chicago in 1856 from Ohio and served as counsel and resident director of the Illinois Central Railroad. His son, Ebenezer S. Lane (1819-1892), graduated from Kenyon College and then studied medicine at the Ohio Medical School and in Paris. He left the practice of medicine to work in the railroad, real estate and loan business; and he also followed his father's interest in collecting books, manuscripts and autographs. The Lane collection totaled about 10,000 volumes when his children, the third Ebenezer Lane and his daughter, Fannie G. Lane, began discussions about presenting it to the University of Chicago, along with family papers. The collection, now dispersed throughout Special Collections and the Library's circulating stacks, brought important works in history, travel, topography, science, art, architecture, and literature to the University at a time when faculty interests were expanding into new areas of concentration.
Because collectors often constitute a closely knit community, decisions about the disposition of a collection can influence others in the circle. Few Library donors did more than Gunsaulus to extend their own contributions by persuading their friends to contribute. Knowing of the strong tradition of biblical study at the University, Chicago collector Emma B. Hodge made a series of gifts between 1912 and 1920 of early printed books and manuscripts of the Renaissance and Reformation period, so that they would be available to students and scholars. Her gifts included works written or containing commentary by Erasmus, Luther, and Philip Melancthon. Scholarship has concluded that marginal commentary in two books previously believed to have been owned and annotated by Melancthon are more likely to have been written by members of the Grynaeus family of humanists, illustrating the way that books in the Hodge collection continue to stimulate research and investigation.
Also at Gunsaulus's suggestion, Mrs. Erskine M. Phelps donated her late husband's Napoleon collection to the University in 1910. Phelps's husband had been passionate about collecting everything and anything associated with Napoleon. By the end of his life he had acquired seventy-five objets d'art, ninety-five books, three autograph documents, an assortment of objects including Napoleon's spectacles, and a lock of the general's hair.
Gifts to the University Library from Chicago collectors demonstrated confidence in the University's progress and a desire to support its educational and research program. In 1916, Mrs. George M. Eckels presented to the University the collection of books and other materials relating to Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan Commonwealth formed by her late husband, Chicago lawyer George M. Eckels. The collection, consisting of over 500 books, pamphlets, engravings and other materials, was considered to be the most complete at that time for the study of this turbulent period in English history. In her letter to President Judson, Mrs. Eckels explained that "While Mr. Eckels had no official connection with the University, he followed its development with enthusiastic interest, and I feel that
placing this material at the disposal of students of the Unviersity engaged in broad and thorough research is an expression, in concrete form, of that interest, and the best of memorials to him."
New Testament scholarship at the University resulted in a number of dramatic manuscript acquisitions to support the textual, iconographic, linguistic and historical research of Edgar J. Goodspeed and others. In 1932 Goodspeed discovered a complete thirteenth-century Byzantine New Testament manuscript in a Paris antique shop that was acquired by Goodspeed's colleague Harold R. Willoughby for Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick and loaned to the Department of New Testament for study. The Rockefeller McCormick New Testament was purchased by Elizabeth Day McCormick, daughter of Anita McCormick Blaine's cousin Robert, from her cousin's estate in 1942 and donated to the University. Elizabeth Day McCormick also acquired a unique illustrated manuscript of Revelation in Greek, dated ca. 1600. She made the manuscript available to University scholars and in 1937 presented the Elizabeth Day McCormick Apocalpyse to the University.
Not all Library donors were wealthy members of the city's establishment. A young Polish-American post office employee, Stansilaw Jan Figura, also sought to emulate the example of earlier benefactors. Starting with a few Polish-language pamphlets in 1934, Figura donated more than 200 books to the University Library over the next twenty-five years, purchasing them on his meager U.S. postal clerk's salary.
Frank W. Gunsaulus, photograph by Walinger, n.d.
Archival Photographic Files.
Giovanni Boccaccio. Genealogia deorum gentilium, 1385-1387. MS 100.
Gift of Frank W. Gunsaulus. Codex Manuscript Collection.
Eugene Field. Temptation of Friar Gonsol, manuscript, 1889. MS 228.
Gift of Frank W. Gunsaulus. Codex Manuscript Collection.