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Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute textile swatches

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RITArc-0298

Scope and Contents

Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute textile swatches were created by students in the Institute. 1915 swatches were made by B.A. Phillips. Swatches for other years are unsigned or marked with initials H.E.J. Each textile card contains a swatch of fabric along with identifying information such as the fabric name, colors, source, and price. Sources consist of local Rochester stores, including Sibley's and Burke's. The cards also provide a description of each sample, information on the weave, and a list of possible uses.

Dates

  • 1915-1917

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.

Extent

0.9 Linear Feet (2 Clamshell boxes)

Language

English

Overview

Set of textile cards created by Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute students.

Arrangement

Textile cards are in no discernible order.

Physical Location

C.S. South, East wall, Shelf 77

Dimensions

Textile cards measure 5 x 8 inches with fabric swatches measuring 2.5 x 2.5 inches.

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Amy Vilz in November 2011.
Title
Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute textile swatches
Subtitle
RIT Archives
Status
Published
Author
Amy Vilz
Date
14 November 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Contact:
Rochester NY 14623 USA
(585) 475-4613