Brooklyn Institute Prior to 1898

Brooklyn, in surrendering her political autonomy as a municipality and becoming a borough of the City of New York, nevertheless continues all of her educational institutions to be developed along the lines on which they have been established. Greater New York will have two great residential areas, one extending from Fifty-ninth street northward into the region of the Bronx, the other covering the whole of the County of Kings, with the exception of the river front. The Manhattan-Bronx area is long and narrow and is receding farther and farther up the Hudson River. The Brooklyn area is broad and easily accessible in thirty minutes time to the City Hall, New York. These two residential areas are separated by an area that may be known as the business and commercial portion of the great city. This industrial area is so extensive that educational institutions located in Brooklyn will be too remote from the Manhattan-Bronx area to be of service, while, on the other hand, the educational institutions at the upper end of Manhattan island and in the region of the Bronx will be too remote from Brooklyn to serve Brooklyn's interests.

This geographical fact makes necessary the development of libraries, museums, colleges and schools in north Manhattan and the development of similar institutions in Brooklyn. One of the Brooklyn institutions that gives character and significance to the Brooklyn Borough is the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, now so well established as to become identified with the welfare of Brooklyn, present and future. it grew with the village of Brooklyn and the city which succeeded the village. it began with a wheel-barrow load of books and less than $300,contributed by early Brooklynites who founded the Brooklyn Apprentices' Library at the corner of Henry and Cranberry street. The cornerstone of its first building was laid with pomp and ceremony out of all proportion with the modest beginnings of 1824 by General Lafayette on July 4, 1825, in the presence of the then President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, and a large concourse of military and civic organizations. Referring to that memorable date it is interesting to note that the institute has recently received from a public spirited citizens, Mr. Frederick J. Adler, of Portland avenue, a portrait of General Lafayette of inestimable value. The portrait was painted by Professor S.F.B. Morse, at one time president of the Academy of Design, and an associate of Franklin in the discoveries and inventions in electricity which have resulted in converting the latter part of this century into an age of electricity. In no other institution could the portrait find a more fitting home than in the Museum Building of the Institution the corner stone of whose first building was laid by the hand of Lafayette. The portrait is a full length figure of the French general, dressed in the navy costume worn by the French is the early part of the century. it has a fine bit of scenery as a background and shows at the right of Lafayette two marble busts, one of Washington and the other of Franklin.

Numerically, the institute is the largest educational institution in the world. Practically, it is doing more work along the lines of university extension than is being done in any other city, large or small. Its lectures and courses of instruction, its museum and library, its dramatic readings and its concerts, its school of art, political science and biology make of it a university for the people and for none less than all the people. The attendance at the lectures during the past year amounted to upward of 302,436; the attendance at the Museum Building since its opening on June 2 has been 67,000, and yet those who are familiar with the institute think of it only as being yet in the day of small things; think of it as an institution that in the course of a half century will be one of the most influential educational associations in America, or in the world.

The City of Brooklyn has set apart as the site for its Museum Building twelve acres of land on the summit of Prospect Hill, the most valuable land for museum purposes in the Greater City of new York; a site which, is so commanding as to vie with the site of the Capitol at Washington or the Capitol at Albany. The City of Brooklyn erected and equipped the first section of the Museum Building at an expense of $337,000, and on a design of classic beauty and on a plan that is unsurpassed in the museums of the world. The first section of the Museum Building is one-thirty-second part of the whole plan, thus giving opportunity generation after generation, as the city grows and comes to occupy all that portion of Long island which stretches from Fort Hamilton and New York Bay eastward to Jamaica, to meet the needs of the future. It is now located at the geographical center of the City of Brooklyn and in a quarter of a century will be at the center of the population of Kings and Queens Counties. The annual income of the institute for the present fiscal year will exceed $100,000; of this sum $10,000 has been contributed by the City of Brooklyn for the maintenance of the Museum Building. Upward of $20,000 is payable in 1898 by the City of New York for the same purpose, and the balance, some $7,000, is the income from invested funds and from members of the institute. The permanent funds of the institute amount to $228,000, but the annual contributions from members are upward of $60,000. The fact that the citizens of Brooklyn pay into the treasury of the institute in 10 cent pieces, quarters, half dollar and in annual dues, five dollar bills, making a total of upward of $60,000, indicates how far reaching is its work. The institute is entirely democrats in its management, all authority being derived under the charter from boards of trustees and a council that are elected respectively by the life members and associate members of the institute. The work of the institute, through its museum and lectures, relates itself directly with the public school system of the city on the one hand, and the work of the private schools and higher institutions of learning on the other. The treasures of its museum are open free to the public and p rivate schools of the city on four days in the week and are now monthly used by thousands of teachers and children. The present Museum Building is already well filled with collections of art and science representing painting, sculpture, architecture, archaeology, geography, geology, mineralogy, zoology, botany and other natural and physical sciences.

The institute is a witness of the fact that Brooklyn contains a larger number of generous minded men and women. The endowment fund of $228,000 has been contributed entirely by subscriptions and bequests. The president of the Board of Trustees, Mr. A. Augustos Healy, has recently presented a large group of statuary, the last and greatest work of the noted Florentine sculptor, Salvatori Albano. The group is entitled "The Fallen Angels," and represents a well known passage in Dante's "Inferno." It is cut from a block of Carrara marble which cost in the quarry $2,000. The sculpture was valued in Italy, previous to its purchase by Mr. Healy, at $20,000. The sculpture has recently arrived at the Museum Building and will be placed in the large square gallery on the first floor during the coming week. Mr. Abram Abraham, a member of the Board of Trustees and a generous contributor to the resources of the Institute, presented in June last a large painting by Ridgeway Knight entitled "The Shepherdess." This is one of the most popular and attractive of the paintings in the large gallery on the third floor and is one that is highly appreciated by the visitors to the Museum Building. It is but a few weeks since Mr. Joseph Jefferson presented one of his own paintings to the trustees at a gathering when he was visiting Brooklyn as the guest of Colonel Henry. T. Chapman, jr., Mr. Charles N. Peet has recently presented a portrait of the Rev. Dr. Cutler, for many years rector of St. Ann's Episcopal Church of this city, painted by Mr. Benjamin Frothingham. Mr. C.F. Brooks, of Eighth avenue, has also presented a painting entitled "Venus and Bacchus." by Nicholas Poussin. Mr. Frederick Loeser has given a painting entitled "The Wedding on the Rhine," by A. Kindler of the Dusseldorf School of Artists. A painting was presented by Mr. E.K. Austin of Flatbush, entitled "Off the Coast of Devonshire," by G.H. McCord. Two pieces of tapestry have been given by Mrs. Mary A. Kennedy, a member of the Institute, one representing an Old Testament subject and the other a scene in the life of Peter the Great. From Mr. William Calverly collections in botany and entomology of great value; from the late Rev. Charles H. Hall, D.D., a large botanical collection and library; from friends of the late Rev. Frederick A. Farley his library of 1,500 volumes; from the late Mr. Joseph T. Perkins, $10,000 for the endowment fund. During the past few days some thirty-five gifts of replicas of the best examples of Greek and Roman sculpture have been presenced  by thirty-four different people.

It is expected that during the coming year of 1898 work on the second section of the Museum Building will be commenced under the auspices of the Park Department of the Greater New York, and as soon as the second section is completed it will be possible to exhibit in the Museum Building portions of the collections of the Institute now stored in the Bedford Park Building and it will also be possible to make available the 25,000 volumes of reference books that would be valuable to the various departments of the institute in connection with the collections of the Museum.

In earlier years the largest donors to the institute were Augustus Graham, who in 1848 gave $17,500 toward the cost of the Institute Building in Washington street near the junction of Concord, a building that was occupied by the Institute from 1835 to 1890.

After the decease of Mr. Graham it was discovered that he had made provision in his will for carrying on the work of the Institute through the income of $27,000 which he had bequeathed. Mr. Graham's gifts were upward of $45,000. Mr. and Mrs. William H. Cary contributed in the seventies $10,000 for the support of the library and lectures; Messrs. Joseph C. Hoagland, Joseph Fahys and the late Edwin Beers each contributed in 1890 $5,000 and gifts of $1,000 were received from some twenty-five members of the present board of trustees.

Conspicuous among the earlier workers in the institute were Thomas Woodward, father of the later General Woodward and of Colonel Robert B. Woodward, Colonel Nicholas Pike, Mr. Duncan Littlejohn, Mr. Olcott, father of George M. Olcott, and Colonel Jesse C. Smith. In later years and particularly since 1887, the names prominently identified with its work are the late General John B. Woodward, president, from 1887 to 1895; the late Rev. Charles H. Hall, president of the council from 1888 to 1896; the late Mr. Edwin Beers, the first treasurer of the institute after its reorganization in 1890; the Rev. Dr. Richard S. Storrs, first vice president of the board of trustees; Mr. James S.T. Stranahan, second vice president; Mr. Eugene G. Blackford, treasurer from 1891 to 1895; Professor Robert Foster, secretary from 1888 to 1895; Felix Campbell, treasurer, 1895-6; William B. Davenport, treasurer from 1896; Dr. William H. Maxwell, secretary from 1896; to the present time; Professor Charles E. West, first president of the co0uncil and first president of the department of archaeology; Mr. George C. Brackett, treasurer of the old institute previous to its merging with the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and now particularly interested in building up the collection of casts representing the history of sculpture; Colonel Henry T. Chapman, jr., to whom is due the largest credit for the success of the opening exhibition comprising some six hundred paintings and other works of art; Mr. Caril H. De Silver, chairman of the committee on art museum. As a co-laborer with the other officers and members of the board of trustees and council and constantly working in the interests of the institute is Professor Franklin W. Hooper. The Rev. Lyman Abbott is now the president of the council of associate members which has general charge of the educational work, as the board of trustees has charge of the financial affairs. In a brief notice of the institute it is impossible to mention but a small fraction of its workers. Probably there is no educational institution that has a larger number of active officers and members. The museum has been heartily supported by the several administrations of the city government, by Mayors Chapin, Boody, Schieren and Wurster in turn and by Park Commissioners Woodward, Brower, Squier and Dettmer.

Website: The History
Article Name: Brooklyn Institute Prior to 1898
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 2, 1898
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