Report of the CENTENNIAL COMMITTEE
YOUNG MEN’S INSTITUTE 1826—1926
New Haven, August 1, 1926
THIS is our centennial year. A mere glance at our history reveals the usual periods of growth:
1st. The period of infancy from our birth to our incorporation, 1826-1841.
2nd. Childhood and youth, with the acquisition of a considerable library and the adoption of the lecture system, 1841-1864.
3rd. Early manhood, extending down to the purchase of the land and erection of the building which we now occupy, 1864-1878.
4th. The period of maturity and even of old age, 1878-1926.
CHANGE OF NAME
In the one hundred years of our existence we have had several different names and habitations not a few.
We began as the Apprentices Literary
Association. “This day (August 1, 1826) the following, namely,
Alfred E. Ives
George S. Gunn
Eastman S. Minor
James F. Babcock
Edward W. Andrews
met at the house of Mr. A. Wilcox and organized a Society called the A. L. A.”
In November 1828 a new constitution was submitted to the consideration of the Society and on November 21st the 111th meeting adopted the constitution of the Young Mechanics Institute. This was signed by twenty-four members and we continued under that title until 1840, when the name was changed to the New Haven Young Men’s Institute, and the same was incorporated by the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut at the session of 1841.
“A majority of the members included in said charter or Act of Incorporation this evening organized themselves under said Act into a Society of the same name and elected as members of said Incorporated Institute all the existing members of this unincorporated Institute.” All the furniture, books, and property belonging to the association were “granted, transferred and conveyed to the said association” subject to the terms and conditions of the conveyance of the said property to them by the Social Library Company dated August 3, 1840.
It immediately became customar
y to drop the New Haven in our title, and in the recollection of your committee even the Young Men’s has disappeared from common usage and we exist under the appellation “The Institute.” As early as 1846 we appeared in the records by that now very familiar title of “Y. M. I.”
CHANGES OF LOCATION
The first meetings of the association were apparently held at the residences of members, but the 8th meeting was held September 21, 1826, at the office of the Religious Intelligence. Even this may have been a member’s residence, but the following month a room was secured and on October 26 the regular meeting of the association was held at No. 10 in the Glebe Building at the corner of Chapel and Church Streets.
April 12, the 33rd meeting was held in No. 9 in the Glebe Building, but whether this was only a temporary pilgrimage or a more or less permanent location does not appear from the records. Moving was an easy matter that first winter.
At a meeting of the Institute January 24, 1831, it was voted “That a committee be appointed to Contract with Mr. Elliott for his room (in Orange Street) for one year, at fifty dollars per annum,” and “that the aforesaid committee be authorized to obtain four seats, to procure and fit up a Stove, to build a Stage, to purchase two Suspension Lamps and four plain Chairs for the new room.” On January 31st the Debating Class met in this new room, which was certainly the third and may have been the fourth local habitation of the Institute. It is spoken of as the Hall, and even the Institute Hall, in the records, and, by the way, was let on Sabbath Evenings for the use of the choir of the United Congregational Society.
On May 1, 1834, the Institute secured in Mr. Marble’s Building in Church Street a room “which would accommodate the Institute much better and at the same price,” $50 a year payable quarterly. This room was rented for two years,—our fifth habitation, or certainly the fourth.
In February 1836 a committee was appointed to inquire into the expediency of procuring a new room, and that committee or some other seems to have been created “with power,” for in February 1837 the society was occupying a room in Street’s Building, for the use of which the Mechanics Society refused to accept any payment. In the winter of 1838-1839 “some small difficulties having occurred with the Mechanics Society,” they had been “principally obviated and adjusted by the Executive Committee” before the Quarterly Meeting, February 6, 1839. By an agreement with the Social Library Company, dated August 3, 1840, in consideration of five hundred dollars and for other valuable considerations, we acquired a library of some 2,000 volumes, and a few days before the first of August the Library and Reading Room were removed to the spacious hall in Saunder’s Building.
Here, in our sixth dwelling place, in the third story, the first meeting of the incorporated New Haven Young Men’s Institute was held “at seven o’clock in the evening of Wednesday, the fourth day of August, A. D. 1841.” This time the property was evidently not all of it transferred, for on March 19, 1842, there was received by the Executive Committee “an application from The Young Mechanics Lyceum desiring to hire certain settees, tables, &c. belonging to the Institute, and still remaining in the hall in the third story of Street’s Building.” And in August 1844 a committee was appointed “to dispose of the Railing formerly used in the Saunder’s Building by the Institute.”
Our seventh residence was at the “Temple,” corner of Orange and Court Streets, and we apparently moved there in January, 1844. The record book shows that an adjourned meeting was held there August 13th, and the quarterly meeting on November 6th. At the meeting of the executive committee December 24, 1844, it was voted to accept the terms of the Trustees of the Union School Society for a lease of the two rooms now occupied in the Temple, with the use of yard, coal house, and spring included for one year from January 1st, 1845, at $125.00 per annum.
In the winter of 1846-1847 we moved to our eighth location, the Phoenix Building, but the effort must have been extreme. All records seem to have disappeared, both of the society and of its executive committee, from 1846 to 1850.
Our next move was to a building all our own, in Orange Street. By 1855 we read that “the subscriptions to the new building now amount to about $13,000 and more are in prospect. After much deliberation the lot south of the Savings Bank in Orange Street was selected for the proposed building. . . Plans for the building have been adopted and the trustees intend to proceed in the erection of the building with as little delay as practicable.” This new building was first occupied in July 1856, and formally opened on October 13.
But either the date was an unfortunate one, or for some other reason,—war, recklessness, or lack of foresight in not providing suitable income to cover overhead expenses—the affairs of the Institute became sadly tangled and it was deemed necessary to sell the building, balance the account, and occupy new rooms in Chapel Street, in the old Phoenix Building again, 1864-1865.
“Early in the year (1871-1872) an advantageous lease for five years of the rooms formerly occupied by the Institute and more recently by the Home Insurance Company, in the Palladium Building, was taken and the library and reading room were moved thence from the old quarters in the Phoenix Building.” Is this our eleventh residence, or merely returning as tenants to an old home that had previously belonged to us?
The forty-ninth annual meeting was held May 12th, 1875, in the new Library Room in the State House Building, and for a trifle over two years we had our home in the State House.
A winter in the Leffingwell building was followed during the summer of 1878 by the building we are now in being placed at our disposal, our thirteenth home to be occupied in fifty-two years, but one which has served us well for the last fifty years, by occupying this second floor and renting the others until such time as our needs increased and our means grew sufficiently to meet them.
Fluctuations in membership have been almost as frequent and extreme as our migrations from place to place. In the first four months of our history forty per cent of the membership withdrew their names from the constitution. But of these three-fourths were readmitted, one to withdraw again in February following, one to be elected president in March 1827. The third became president in 1842. A total of thirteen new members was added during the first year, and by the time of the quarterly meeting in February 1829 membership had increased to forty-two, with sixty-five books in the library. The number of members doubled during the following year, and had been increased to 333 before the eighth anniversary of the society in August 1834. But in the ne
xt two years over fifty per cent of the membership withdrew their names from the constitution, the number being 135 at the tenth anniversary.
As incidental to the acquisition of the Social Library Company and the incorporation of the society in 1840 and 1841, membership was greatly increased again.
On February 2, 1842, the membership was reported as
58 life members and about 350 annual members, and during the succeeding ten years this number was practically doubled. In 1855 there had been “since August last a decrease of eighty to ninety in the annual members, which is mainly attributable to the stagnation in business by which many of our young men have been thrown out of employment.” But at the annual meeting in 1857 the total membership was reported as about 600, of whom 482 were annual members, and the high notch was reached the following year with 660 members,—a number not reached again until within the present decade. Membership declined to as low as one hundred in 1869.
FOR many years previous to 1855 the members and friends of The New Haven Young Men’s Institute had considered the advisability of owning a building which would provide permanent quarters for the Institute. This project was taken up with much enthusiasm in the Fall of 1854 and subscriptions for the purpose amounting to about $12,500 were made. Committees on location and plans were appointed, and at a meeting of the subscribers and executive committee of the Institute on February 13, 1855, the following resolution was adopted—
“Resolved by the subscribers to a fund for erecting a suitable building for the New Haven Young Men’s Institute that Messrs. O. F. Winchester Harmanus M. Welch and Sidney A. Thomas be authorized and directed to purchase the lot offered by Joseph E. Sheffield, Esq., on the terms named by him and hold and improve the same as our Trustees.”
In accordance with this vote the Trustees purchased for $7,500 a lot of land on the east side of Orange Street, a little north of Chapel Street, upon which they proceeded to erect a building which was to be held in trust under certain regulations adopted by the donors. This was the building afterwards known as “The Palladium Building.”
Although over $12,000 had been subscribed, only $1,500 was paid down at the time of purchase and the Trustees were authorized to borrow such sums as were needed to complete the building. The subscriptions were apparently not all paid in cash as the records show some were paid by notes, and that eventually some were charged off as unpaid. Loans were secured by the Trustees from most of the banks in New Haven and from the State School Fund in order to complete the building, which was apparently accomplished in the Fall of 1856 as we find that rents were collected for 1857. Among the tenants during the next seven years were
The Board of Education
The New Haven Chess Club Young Men’s Christian Union
There was also a rental charge of $300 a year made to The Young Men’s Institute.
Apparently subscriptions were not received in sufficient amounts to properly finance the undertaking and in June 1864 the building was sold to The Home Insurance Company for $30,000 and the Building Account was charged with a loss on the transaction of $5,161.60.
This sale was in accordance with votes passed by the Executive Committee and the Trustees in May 1864, at which time it was voted that the Trustees purchase from Samuel Peck the property on Crown Street known as Music Hall. The Trustees, however, did not succeed in arranging this purchase with Mr. Peck and on June 6th it was agreed to purchase a lot of land on Daggett Street of Messina Clark. Why this lot was purchased is not clear, but it was held by the Trustees for seventeen years and was sold in December 1881, for $720, which amount could not have paid the cost with taxes and interest for that period.
The loss on the Orange Street building did not apparently cut into the amount as originally subscribed, as the records in 1867 showed a fund of $12,500. This had been increased in October 1877 to over $30,000, and in December of that year the following vote was passed by the Trustees—
VOTED that H. M. Welch be a committee to purchase twenty-three feet of land on the western part of the Hughes property so-called, located on Chapel Street on the north side between Chapel and Orange Streets at a price not to exceed $21,000 for the purpose of erecting a building thereon.”
This land on which our present building stands was subsequently bought in January 1878, for $20,909, and the present building erected during that year at a cost of approximately $10,000. Since then alterations and improvements have been made from time to time, but the building remains substantially the same.
The building is held in Trust for the Institute by a self-perpetuating board of three trustees and the following gentlemen have been elected as trustees in the order named, a new trustee being elected by the two remaining trustees on the death or retirement of the third.
Oliver F. Winchester
Harmanus M. Welch
Sidney A. Thomas
Ruel P. Cowles
John E. Earle
T. Attwater Barnes
Pierce N. Welch
James D. Dewell
Roger S. White
George J. Bassett
Roger S. White, 2nd
Edward E. Bradley
R. Edward Chambers
Arthur B. Woodford
The present members of the Board are George J. Bassett, Roger S. White, 2nd and Arthur B. Woodford, Mr. White being President and Mr. Bassett Secretary and Treasurer.
During the century of its existence the Institute has at various times received from its friends substantial tokens of their encouragement and support.
THE SHEFFIELD FUND
In 1856 Joseph Sheffield transferred to the Institute $5000 in the capital stock of The New Haven and Northampton Railroad Company with a letter, as follows:
“I beg to present the Young Men’s Institute of New Haven, Connecticut, the enclosed $5000 in stock of the New Haven & Northampton Railroad Company, the income of which forever to be invested in such books as the President and Managers may deem most useful to the members of the Institute and the classes connected with it; such income to be invested annually or at such other times as may be deemed most expedient, but all the income shall be invested as often as once in five years. The books so purchased shall be labelled either on the cover or inside, thus
YOUNG MEN’S INSTITUTE LIBRARY
and shall as fast as purchased be registered in a book prepared for that purpose stating date of purchase, title of the work, the number of volumes and the cost; so as to form a running catalogue of the collection and its cost.”
The New Haven and Northampton stock, on consolidation of the various lines, was exchanged for stock of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.
For some years this provided income which was invested in accordance with the terms of the gift.
For the past few years we have failed to receive any income from this fund.
In 1891 George Gabriel died, leaving a will providing that the residue of his estate be divided:
“One third to Young Men’s Institute for the purchase of books—books of permanent value, not fiction. In addition I give to the Institute my own books, being in number about 200 volumes.”
There was paid over to the Institute from the estate the sum of $3,964.53. Of this $3,500 was at once invested in a first mortgage which is still held. The balance was placed with other Institute funds and not separately invested. A few months ago it was brought to the attention of the Directors that part of this fund had failed to be invested as such and there was then deposited in Connecticut Savings Bank the sum of $1,200 representing this balance with accumulated interest and constituting a part of the “Gabriel Fund.” The Library Committee has annually expended much more than this income in “non fiction,” and has thus kept in mind the purpose of this testator.
THE SIZER FUND
In 1915 Mrs. Katherine Sizer died, leaving a will which provided:
“I give to the Young Men’s Institute of New Haven, Connecticut, the sum of $3,000 to be known as “The Sizer Fund,” the income of which is to be applied toward the purchase of books.”
This sum has been invested in bonds and the income used as directed.
THE BASSETT FUND
In 1918 the Institute received from the executor of the will of Edward L. Bassett $1,000, the clause of his will under which this was paid being:
“I give to the Young Men’s Institute of New Haven, Connecticut, $1000.”
This sum was invested in a U. S. Liberty Bond which is still held.
THE ENSIGN FUND
In 1922 we received from the executor of the will of Mrs. Emilie G. Ensign the sum of $2,000 as provided in the following paragraph of her will:
“I give and bequeath to the Young Men’s Institute of New Haven $2000 to be known and called The Ensign Fund to be theirs absolutely.”
This sum has been invested in Liberty Bonds.
We hold then invested funds, gained by gift or bequest, amounting to $15,700.
OFFICERS AND LIBRARIANS
IN reading through the well preserved records of the Young Men’s Institute, it is interesting to note the number of men of prominence in New Haven who at one time or another served as its officers. Among these should be mentioned Ex-Governors Luzon B. Morris, James E. English and Henry B. Harrison, Ex-Lieut. Governors Oliver F. Winchester and James D. Dewell, Ex-Mayors Frederick B. Farnsworth and John B. Robertson, and in the business world Oliver F. Winchester, the founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Ruel P. Cowles, the founder of C. Cowles & Company, Morris F. Tyler, for many years president of the Southern New England Telephone Company and later treasurer of Yale University, Charles E. Graves, treasurer of Trinity College for many years, Joseph R. French, the well known educator, Hon. A. Heaton Robertson, for a long time Judge of Probate, and George S. Gunn, uncle of the present head of the National Tradesmens Bank and Trust Company. In the military world Gen. Stephen R. Smith, Adjutant General of the State, former Colonel of the Second Regiment, Captain of the New Haven Grays; Gen. E. E. Bradley, Adjutant General under Gov. Morris and who so ably served the State and City, as well as devoting a great deal of his time to the affairs of the Young Men’s Institute, being a member of its Board for twenty-six years, including eleven years as vice-president and ten years as president. It is interesting to note, however, that the records seem to be entirely missing between 1846 and 1850. At the annual meeting held Aug. 8, 1850, the following vote is found—“on motion it was unanimously voted that the thanks of the Institute are due Charles Ives, Esquire, for the able manner in which he had discharged the duties of secretary for the last four years—(!!).” From the way it is written one might judge this was sarcasm, but as he did not appear on the list of officers elected Aug. 12, 1846, it would seem as though he really did save the continuity of our records.
For the first two years, or until Nov. 25, 1828, when the constitution was adopted, the presidency changed every two or three months, as there were thirteen incumbents between Aug. 1, 1826, and Nov. 25, 1828. During that time one man held the office four times and two others twice. Joseph R. French held office for the longest term, from 1892 to 1907, with Edwin Marble, 1859 to 1869, and Gen. E. E. Bradley from 1907 to 1917, tying for second place. While our vice-presidents in a great many instances moved up to the office of president, the Hon. A. Heaton Robertson, who held that office for the longest term, 1907 to 1924, refused an election as president. Samuel Lloyd, former cashier of the old City Bank before it joined with the New Haven County Bank and the New Haven Bank, held the office of treasurer of the Institute from 1889 to 1915, a period of twenty-six years, more than three times as long as any other incumbent of the office. Our present secretary, Ward Church, has the honor of having served the Institute in that capacity longer than any of his predecessors.
It is interesting to note that from 1840 to 1879 corresponding secretaries were elected and on Aug. 4, 1830, a collector was appointed, evidently to help the treasurer collect the dues. The last record found of such an election to that office, however, was in 1839. There was also a deputy collector elected from 1835 to 1839. The number of directors, outside of the officers, seems to have been four for a greater part of the hundred years existence of the Institute. Although a vote was found on Aug. 1, 1854, reducing the number of directors from eight to four, the previous year showed the only case where eight directors were elected. The annual meeting, which from the beginning up to 1854 was held in August, was changed in accordance with a vote taken at quarterly meetings Feb. 7th and May 2d, 1855, from the first Wednesday of August to the second Wednesday of May under new by-laws adopted at that meeting. On June 26, 1878, this date was changed to the first Wednesday evening in October. Strangely enough, at the meeting held Aug. 17, 1844, the name of the treasurer elected was not recorded. As he was elected treasurer in 1842 and 1843 and again appeared as treasurer in 1845, it seems quite probable that Elijah Gilbert, Jr., was elected that year and his name omitted from the records by mistake.
The present officers are George J. Bassett, president, president of The John E. Bassett & Company, vice-president of the New Haven Bank, N. B. A., and a former president of the New Haven Chamber of Commerce. His service to the Institute dates back to his election to the Board of Directors in 1907. Our vice-president, J. Frederick Jackson, is a former member of the Connecticut State Board of Health besides being for a long term of years secretary of the Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers. Our secretary, Ward Church, is a well known lawyer, and our treasurer, William R. White, is Secretary of the Connecticut Savings Bank. To all of these officers we owe a deep debt of gratitude for the prosperous condition in which the Young Men’s Institute Library is at the present time.
The record of our librarian shows a constant change for the first few years, until Mr. Beach’s appointment in 1841. As the records are missing between 1846 and 1850 all we know is that there were five librarians during that term. Although Miss Lizzie C. Todd held the office for eighteen years, the longest consecutive period, Mr. William A. Borden, who served from 1887 until 1894 and again from 1897 to 1910, was with us for a period of twenty years in all. The services of the present efficient incumbent of the office, Miss Abigail D. Dunn, date from 1910. The assistants at the present, time are Miss E. J. Bristol and Mrs. L. T. C. Meyer.
AIMS AND PURPOSES
When eight young “apprentices” of this city organized in August 1826 their “Literary Association” they were moved by a most commendable urge toward the “intellectual improvement of its members.” At a time when comparatively few enjoyed the benefits of any-thing beyond a common school training these young men felt that as citizens it was their duty to develop such resources as each possessed. There was no outside assistance, financial or otherwise, and to that fact, perhaps, may be due the survival of this one association out of a number of similar beginnings.
This self-development was to be attained, they at first thought, by declamations and debates in which each in turn took part. Later, as their debates led them into avenues of which they had no knowledge, they found that such knowledge was to be derived only from books; so a library was soon started. Classes were also established giving to these seekers after knowledge some of the instruction now in our high school courses. The members were in earnest and intended that no slackers should retard the good work.
Self-improvement, not instruction from an outside source, was the motive power of the institute, and we find in 1840, with 110 members enrolled, the Executive Committee urging the adoption of a more liberal policy in management and that a good reading room be established.
In 1841, with the purchase of the 2000 volumes formerly owned by the defunct Social Library Company, a legal incorporation was secured, the charter stating that the new organization was “for the purpose of intellectual and moral improvement.”
The By-Laws adopted at this time declared their object was “material assistance in the attainment of useful knowledge” and further that to accomplish this purpose the Institute may “establish a library, reading room, and procure lectures.” Improvement and development of its members was still the aim of its existence, but in the fifteen years they had learned that first in the list of means to that end was a good library.
The next twenty years was a period of lectures.
The Institute, as a literary center of the city, brought to the New Haven public in annual lecture courses men and women of national reputation whose addresses served as an inspiration to the members and their friends. Incidentally the profit on these lectures made up the thousand dollar difference between the expense of running the library and the fees received from members.
In 1855 the records showed that we had 500 members, a library of 6000 volumes, a reading room well supplied with papers and periodicals and an educational department serving from 250 to 300 young men.
The lecture courses had ceased to bring in satisfactory financial returns but were for some time continued, the members being repeatedly reminded that on the financial success of these lectures depended the continued existence of the library.
With the excitement of the Civil War the Institute naturally found its activities lessened and its members losing interest. In its forty years of experiments the Institute had found that the improvement and development of its members was best served by providing for their use a well equipped library and reading room.
The library of the Institute was then the only one in the city to which the public had access. Its shelves were at the command of all who desired to pay the fee and abide by the rules.
A library and reading room which, by supplying a limited number, was a benefit to the city would naturally be a much greater aid if its advantages were open to all.
In the report of the Executive Committee in 1865 we find the desire to make the Institute free, their regret that lack of financial resources made this impossible and the hope that “Perhaps some good unknown friend may yet endow it, appreciating the educational and moral influences which it has already and may hereafter exert upon the young of our city.”
This hope was apparently realized by the bequest in the will of Philip Marett, of which mention will be made later. As will also be seen, the hope thus apparently realized was doomed to disappointment so far as the Institute was concerned. The Endowment was to accomplish good, but through another agency.
In the next year’s report the Committee thus stated their view of the place and work of the Institute:
“If any failure in supplying the youth and citizens of the city with good reading, with classes of instruction, exists, it lies only with the public in not furnishing the means, and not with the officers of the Young Men’s Institute whose great endeavor and object is to accomplish all the good that can be under existing circumstances.”
It is to be noticed that good reading now comes ahead of the classes of instruction. From this time on the library was the main interest. In the report of 1867 the Committee again announces the hoped for translation of the Institute to public use and control.
“A public library and reading room is acknowledged to be a great necessity and would be a great boon, but the meagre receipts of the Institute are not sufficient for the undertaking.”
In 1868 the Institute found a deficit of $1,200 and were compelled to close the reading room for a year or two. Naturally this made them still more certain that a public library must have either private endowment or public support.
In 1869 Philip Marett died leaving a large estate which was given to his daughter for life and after her death was to be divided among various public beneficiaries. One tenth of the estate was left “to the city of New Haven in trust, the income to be applied by the proper authorities for the purchase of books for the Young Men’s Institute or any public library which may from time to time exist in said city.”
The Institute directors, knowing of this bequest, made mention of it occasionally in their reports during the next twenty years while the life tenant enjoyed the income of the estate.
Meanwhile the Institute took steps to join with the city.
In 1883 we find a resolution of the directors declaring
“WHEREAS it has been the wish and aim of the managers of Young Men’s Institute that it should bring the advantages of a Public Library to the people of New Haven so far as practicable; and
WHEREAS it has always been the intention of its managers to make said library and reading room free as soon as their means would allow;
Resolved: That it be and hereby is declared to be the sense of the Board of Directors, and their intention, to make the same free just in proportion and to the extent that they shall have proper means, by public or private endowment.
Resolved: That the Institute shall be made free and open to the citizens of New Haven under such reasonable rules as shall be found necessary, for any year towards which the city of New Haven shall contribute from the City Treasury a sum sufficient to pay for the wear and tear of books, and the other necessary expenses of the Institute.”
No mention is made of lectures or classes. These had been maintained while desired, but were now discarded.
The Institute at its annual meeting endorsed the above statement of purpose, voting:
“That it is the chief object of the Young Men’s Institute to afford the advantages of a public library to as many of the residents of the city as its resources will allow”—
“That the Board of Directors be and they hereby are authorized and requested in behalf of the Young Men’s Institute to make such arrangements with the City Government of New Haven as they shall deem best calculated to establish a free public library in the city; provided, that due care be taken to preserve the trusts committed to the Institute and that the plan agreed upon shall be approved by a future meeting of the Institute.”
After talking over various plans for union with the city, thereby establishing a free public library, the Institute finally in 1886 submitted to the Common Council a plan by which all the Institute property be leased to the city at a nominal rent, for a period of ninety-nine years, the city make annual appropriation for maintenance, the library to be free and managed by a Board of nine, six chosen by the city, three by the Institute.
The Council finally indefinitely postponed the matter, ending the idea of union, and shortly afterward the city started a public library with funds bequeathed by Mrs. Hoadley B. Ives.
In 1889, upon the death of Marett’s daughter, his estate was distributed. The one-tenth paid to the city (amounting to about $68,000) was held by the city and the income used to build up and equip the public library, which—it may be with a view to the Marett fund—had just been started.
The Institute, believing it was the beneficiary intended by the donor, took legal steps to compel the city to pay over the income. The matter was reserved for our highest Court, argued by able counsel, and finally decided against the Institute.
The new public library thus took in the life of New Haven the place toward which the Institute had been working.
Debarred from larger work as a public library, the directors sought other means of service and in this report in 1892 President Dewell said: “With sufficient means to carry forward new improvements a substantial benefit would be derived not only to the Institute, but to all New Haven as well, could an addition to our present building be made to be devoted to Art and Music. This is a matter which should engage the attention of the Directors until the needed improvement is made.”
This improvement was apparently thought impracticable, for no steps seem to have been taken in that direction.
During the past thirty years the Public Library, with the Marett bequest as its foundation, has grown to be an important part of the life of the city, taking the place toward which those guiding the Institute had looked forward with hope and enthusiasm.
A free public library, with its attendant activities, thus being in the capable hands of public officials, the Institute has during the past thirty years contented itself with maintaining for its members, at a small cost, attractive and well-stocked reading rooms in connection with a circulating and reference library containing, we trust, the best current literature. We have naturally followed the desires of our members in purchasing new books, and a large proportion of the additions to our library consists of fiction, of no permanent value.
We are practically a circulating library with certain features and privileges of a club, marking time, as it were, till we see the light of a real purpose, some real niche in the city which we can fill.
 To quote the Record Book.
 Again to quote from the Records.