Newberry Library

60 W Walton St Chicagoundefined

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The Newberry Library is for bibliophiles: those who swoon over Alexander Hamilton’s original Federalist Papers and maps dating back past Ptolemy. It holds more knowledge about your genealogy than

Appropo for a library, its founding benefactor, Walter Newberry, lived a life that was fitting for a book...with a horrific ending. Walter Newberry, a businessman and philanthropist, desperately wanted to leave his mark on the world and have his name live on, yet his first idea was worthy of an early American reality show! Without a son to carry on his name, and with two daughters who failed to catch even a stray eye, he offered $100,000 to any gentleman that would take his daughter's hand in marriage...with a catch. The new groom-to-be would have to change his name to Newberry. Oddly enough, there were no takers.

Walter Newberry was en route to meet his wife and daughters in France for a family vacation when he became sick and died at sea. Knowing that the man was incredibly wealthy, the ship's captain and crew were hesitant to toss him overboard, a standard burial at sea in those days. Yet, the thought of having a dead man aboard drove them to extreme measures. The crew sacrificed one of their precious barrels of rum to store the dead body, in the hope of preserving him. To top it off, they decided to drag the barrel behind the boat. Perhaps that was to keep the crew away from some very rich rum.

Newberry’s will provided for his daughters, who unfortunately never found love. After their deaths, Walter’s estate would be used to carry on his name, as no suitor would, through the founding of a public library. Yet, by the time of their deaths, the Chicago Public Library was already established. Instead, the estate was used to form the Newberry in 1887, a free independent public research library specializing in the humanities. Its collection holds 1.5 million books, 5 million manuscript pages, and 500,000 maps, some of the rarest in the world. Free tours to the public are held every Thursday at 3 pm and Saturday at 10:30 am.

Newberry Library in 1910 and today

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