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Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois

The History of Sleeping Cars 150th Anniversary Symposium


Passenger Train Historical Society's Conference - Chicago (Pullman), Illinois   -   April 23 - 26, 2009

By Carl Morrison,


The Newberry Library

60 West Walton Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
312 255-3506
Reference Desk:

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Library house are Tues. - Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.  Free tours of the library are offered Thursdays at 3 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.  We arrived about 2:30 for the 3 p.m. tour.

We took advantage of the discounted parking available at the garage located at 100 W. Chestnut  for $7 with validation at the Newberry's front desk.  We met Roy Jackson, from south of Chicago, and others joined the group at 3 pm.  There were lockers for our backpacks, etc. for 25 cents, and we were taken by Karen up to a conference/reception room.  Karen, our guide, had worked at the Newberry since 1967.  We sat at a single slab redwood table (below) and Karen began telling us about the Newberry.

The Newberry Library is a two-million volume research library in the humanities,  European and American.  The founder was Walter L. Newberry from New York.  He was a businessman, educated by his brothers who had businesses in Detroit.  One of his businesses was ship building.  After the Detroit fire, he came to this spot in Chicago in 1833.  He 'bought by the acre, and sold by the frontage foot.'  He opened the first Savings and Loan Bank in Chicago.  He was a member of the group that opened the first lending library in Chicago.  He lead a tragic family life, his 4 sons died in infancy and his 2 daughters got TB.  He relacated his family in Nice, France, at Mr. Newberry's retirement in 1868.

Upon Mr. Newberry's death, he willed 1/2 of his estate to the lending library, located north of the river in Chicago.  This was written in a will just before he boarded a ship to see his wife and daughters in Nice.  He died on the way to Nice on the ship.  They returned his body, most often those who died onboard ship were burried at sea, to Chicago in a barrel of rum.  He was burried in Graceland (where Pullman is burried).

All was lost in the Chicago Fire, north of the river, except a mansion on this spot and the Unity Church across the corner.

Both girls died in their 20s and Mrs. Newberry returned to Utica, NY.  When she died, there was a $2.25 million endowment that was used to start the Newberry Library.

Classes are taught in the Library, 3 sessions a year.  Their catalog is online.

Knowing we were a railroad group, Karen mentioned that the railroad archives are in the Special Collections Dept. of the Library.  There are donated libraries from:  Pullman, Burlington, CBQ & IC.  There are many maps in the library, as well as many railroad maps, and the Map Society meets the 3rd Thursday of each month. 

The single-slab redwood table where we leaned about the Newberry from Karen.

Placque on the redwood table, the seam is between the two pieces of glass that cover the table.

Roy Jackson looks at one of man individual carrols used by researchers.

Researchers using their computers to record information from loaned books.
This early map shows California as an island.

1859 Railroad ad (right).



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