Early Institute miscellaneous records
Scope and Contents
Records includes the Rochester Athenaeum, the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Association, and Mechanics Institute Board of Directors meeting invitations, announcements of board meetings, exhibition invitations and correspondence by and about these institutions from 1847-1894. Many of the documents were addressed to George S. Riley of 23 Arcade, and 130 S. Saint Paul and Reynolds Arcade, City, including one letter from Henry Lomb, President of the Board.
- Folder 1: Board meeting invitations, 1847-1891
- Folder 2: Exhibition invitations, 1890
- Folder 3: Announcements and correspondence,1891-1894
- Folder 4: Invoice, 1991
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open to researchers.
Biographical / Historical
The Rochester Athenaeum was established in 1829 with the "purpose of cultivating and promoting literature, science and the arts." To this end, the organization established a library and sponsored various guest speakers and performers. Still, by 1838 the Athenaeum had already merged with several institutes. Some organizations, like the Rochester Literary Company, it simply absorbed; others it merged with out of necessity. The result was that by 1838 the dominant organization in Rochester was the Rochester Athenaeum and Young Men's Association (RAYMA), headed by newspaper man Henry O'Reilly. In two short years, RAYMA had over 2,500 volumes in its collection and 409 members.
Unfortunately for RAYMA, O'Reilly left Rochester in 1842. RAYMA found itself competing for members with another Rochester institution, the Mechanics Literary Association. Formed in 1836 by William A. Reynolds, the Mechanics Literary Association was geared toward a younger audience.
In 1847, the Mechanics Literary Association merged with RAYMA to form the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics' Association (RAMA), with Reynolds serving as its first president. Reynolds's first order of business was to move RAMA's operations from State Street to a new location. To this end, he financed the construction of Corinthian Hall behind Reynolds Arcade, the original home of the Rochester Athenaeum. The building construction sparked renewed enthusiasm in the organization so that soon RAMA had over 2,000 members. The hall not only housed RAMA's extensive library collection, but also hosted various lectures. Many of these lectures were given by notable individuals including Salmon P. Chase (politician), Charles Dickens (novelist), Frederick Douglas (social reformer), Ralph Waldo Emerson (writer), Horace Greeley (newspaper editor), and William H. Seward (politician). Despite its initial success, RAMA eventually fell on hard times. With the opening of the West, Rochester's prosperity was slowing. Additionally, the cost of bringing in speakers was becoming increasingly expensive. In 1871, Reynolds was forced to sell Corinthian Hall. He provided RAMA with a new space in the back room of his bank, the Rochester Savings Bank. But, when Reynolds died in 1876, RAMA was forced to vacate the space. The financial situation of RAMA had become so dire that in 1877 creditors forced the sale of RAMA's library collection.
The Mechanics Institute, established to provide needed technical training for skilled workers in industry, was founded in 1885 by Captain Henry Lomb, Max Lowenthal, Ezra Andrews, Frank Ritter, William Peck, and other Rochester businessmen and other influential citizens. The first class offered at the newly formed Mechanics Institute was mechanical drawing, held in the evening on November 23, 1885. The community response was overwhelming. More than 400 students enrolled in the Institute. Lomb was the first president of the Board of Trustees and guided the direction of the Institute until his death in 1908. Eugene Colby was appointed first teacher and principal of the Mechanics Institute. All funds for running the school were donated by the citizens of Rochester and instruction was free for the first year. In 1886, Fine Arts classes were added to the Institute's course offerings. Included were freehand drawing, architectural drawing, and design. Tuition was $8 a term for drawing, $12 for painting and modeling. Evening classes were free. The Mechanics Institute flourished, and in 1891, it merged with RAMA to form the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI), bringing under one roof cultural education and practical technical training.
4 Folder(s) (4 folders )
The collection contains Board meeting announcements and invitations, and other documents ranging from 1847-1894 for the Rochester Athenaeum, Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Association, Mechanics Institute, and the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute. Many of the documents are addressed to George S. Riley.
Materials are arranged by subject and then chronologically within each folder. The collection consists of 4 folders.
C.S. South, Shelf 151 in a box with other early Institute collections.
This collection of four folders is housed in a document box with other single-folder collections.
Finding aid created by Emily Kolenberg in July 2012.
- Exhibitions -- New York (State) -- Rochester
- Lomb, Henry
- Mechanics Institute (Rochester, N.Y.) -- History
- Rochester Athenaeum -- History
- Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute
- Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute. Board of Directors
- Rochester Athenaeum and Young Men's Association
- Universities and colleges -- New York (State) -- Rochester -- History
- Early Institute records
- RIT Archives
- Emily Kolenberg
- 10 July 2012
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note