Skip to main content
Drexel Library Libraries Home Button Drexel Health Sciences Search Services Get Help About Drexel University

This month marks the 122nd anniversary of the first classes at Drexel.  The Drexel Institute was dedicated in December 17, 1891, but classes didn't begin until January 1892.  In fact, "1892" appeared on the Drexel seal at first, until the Institute settled on the 1891 date that we use today.  If you walk through the Great Court today, imagine how many students before you have crossed that hall on their way to class in the last 122 years.


Students walking through the Great Court, 1960s

A story in The Atlantic online by Rebecca J. Rosen today made me appreciate our small but lovely miniature book collection even more.  You can read the full story here, but to summarize: librarians at the University of Iowa were curious about the contents of their smallest item which measures, Rosen writes, "0.138 inches square and 0.04 inches thick."  So Iowa librarian Colleen Theisen put the tiny book under the microscope in order to discern its contents and trace its history.

Here at Drexel University Libraries, we have dozens of miniature books, including both the practical and the fanciful.  When students visit the Archives, these tiny works are usually among the most popular items on display.  To learn more, take a look at this online exhibit, Many Littles Make a Much, created by Scott Ziegler.  Or better yet, stop by the Archives, on the Lower Level of Hagerty Library, and see the miniature books for yourself!

Above are just a few of the items in the collection, arranged to show the scale.  Below are pictures of the cover and the first page of "The Sea," by L.C. Powell, one of several items printed at Dawson's Bookshop (Los Angeles) in the 1960s.

For the past two years the nation has marked the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, 1861-1865.  We reach the midway point this week, as we recall the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the pivotal events of the war.  Less well known, but perhaps equally important, is the battle for control of Vicksburg, which ended in Union victory one-hundred and fifty years ago today.  

According to the National Park Service's Vicksburg National Military Park website, President Lincoln saw the Battle for Vicksburg as "the key" to winning the war.  Lincoln sent Major General Ulysses S. Grant to march down the Mississippi River in Spring 1863 with one objective: take Vicksburg.  Grant began a long siege of the city, which ended 150 years ago today as the rebels raised the white flag.  The next day, July 4, Grant accepted the surrender of Confederate general John C. Pemberton.

Grant would take command of the Union armies the following year and successfully run for president in 1868.  After serving two terms, Grant and his wife Julia began a tour of the world that would last two years and take them through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  It was from Paris that Grant wrote this letter to his friend and banker, Anthony J. Drexel; one of the treasures of the University Archives collections, the letter is reproduced below.  During his presidency, Grant regularly came to Philadelphia to seek Mr. Drexel's advice on financial matters; indeed he offered Mr. Drexel a post in his cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury, but Mr. Drexel declined. Although Grant is known for going bankrupt at the end of his life and dying penniless,  for most of his retirement he lived in comfort, having entrusted the management of his investments to A.J. Drexel.  In 1884, Grant abandoned Mr. Drexel's prudent approach and instead invested all his savings in a Ponzi scheme; Grant was swindled, lost everything, and died of throat cancer the next year.  

Letter from U.S. Grant to A. J. Drexel


Transcription of the letter

Paris, France
Dec. 13th, '78

My dear Mr. Drexel:

We just arrived here yesterday morning from our tour through Spain. A most delightful trip it was, but with some discomforts of travel. We had however every comfort that could be given, and every attention. Spain is generally a very poor country, with resources destroyed, but a better people than I expected to find. My impression is that the Spanish people would be industrious if they could find a reward for their labour, and that the Latin might become - again - prosperous. I wish you had been with me. On my arrival at Paris I determined to change my mind and to return home by India, China & Japan. The Sec. of the Navy was kind enough to send me an invitation to accept passage by the Richmond, which was to leave the States on the l0th of Dec. via the Mediterranean, for the Asiatic Squadrons, which letter I received at Gibraltar. I acknowledged the receipt of the letter, with thanks for the courtesy, but said that I had determined to return by the Atlantic. But I added, that if I should change my mind before the sailing of the Richmond, I would cable him. On the6th I did so. I wish you could go along. It would be the best medicine you could receive. The Sec. of the Navy would be glad to offer you a passage so far as Govt. Steamers carry us. When I sent my dispatch to the Sec. of the Navy Mrs. Grant said she wished she could take May Drexel with her. It is probably too late for anything of that kind now: but if it is possible, and you wish it, ask the Sec. of the Navy if there would be any objection, and cable me so that I may communicate with the Commander of the steamer on his arrival in the Mediterranean. But if you come we can fix a place for you either with me or in a hammock. Mr. Childs is such a sailor - having been in the Navy in early life - that I would not ask him to witness my contortion in a heavy sea. He would not enjoy it for a six months voyage. I have written to Fred to get a leave of absence to accompany me. Whether he can do so I do not know. I hope he will be able to. It will be very valuable to him and a great pleasure to me. Give our love to Mr. and Mrs. Childs, to Mr. and Mrs. Boni and Mr. and Mrs. Paul, and say to Mr. Boni and Mr. Childs that I shall write to them before I sail - and while away. I hope you will write to me often if you do not conclude to join "the Ship" and take a good rest. Mrs. Grant's and my love and regards to all your family.

Very Truly Yours

U. S. Grant

Welcome back, students.  Hope you enjoyed your Spring Break.  When you're ready to study, the Libraries are ready for you!

Students studying in the Library (now Korman Center) circa 1981

Letters, photographs and objects from the collections of the University Archives are on display now through the end of May in the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery (3401 Filbert St).  The exhibition, A Legacy of Art, Science & Industry: Highlights from the Collections of Drexel University, brings together for the first time under one roof the art and historical treasures of Drexel's many special collections.  Among the items on display are such documents from the University Archives as a letter from Ulysses S. Grant to Anthony J. Drexel, photographs from the first decade of the Drexel Institute, and the 1930s dance cards pictured below.  Please come to the exhibition and let us know what you think! 

Dance cards, 1933-1935

Recently the Archives was contacted by the granddaughter of alumnus Charles E. Dougherty '23, who found his Drexel diploma in some family papers.  "On a whim," she writes, "I decided to look at your archives online. Imagine my surprise to see him in the photo."

Mr. Dougherty earned a diploma in Civil Engineering from Drexel's Evening School.  He is, according to his granddaughter, "the dapper gentleman in the lower right corner" of the photo.  Here's a closer look:

Here's a call to the Drexel community: do you have any ancestors who went to Drexel?  Let us know!







Today is the start of Drexel's winter quarter and the campus is already bustling. Drexel adopted the quarter schedule in 1919, as part of the new cooperative education program instituted by then-president Hollis Godfrey.

Engineering School, freshman class, circa 1919Engineering School, freshman class, circa 1919

The University Archives will be closed from December 22 until January 1. We'll be open by appointment only January 2-4. We'll return to our regular schedule on Monday, January 7.

Happy New Year!

Author: Pyle, Howard,

Today marks the 101th anniversary of the death of Howard Pyle, one of the great illustrators of the 20th century. Known for his books of Arthurian legends, Robin Hood stories and pirate tales, Pyle taught and headed the Drexel Institute's School of Illustration from 1894 to 1900. His students included Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, and Jessie Willcox Smith. The University Archives' Pyle collection consists of correspondence and pamphlets documenting his time as an instructor in the school of illustration at Drexel as well as publications about Pyle.

Catalogue of the First Exhibition of work done in the School of Illustration under the direction of Howard PyleCatalogue of the First Exhibition of work done in the School of Illustration under the direction of Howard Pyle

The Archives is open today on our regular schedule. Hagerty Library experienced no flooding and our collections are safe and dry. We share the sentiments of Dean of Libraries, Danuta Nitecki, that we escaped damage "in large part due to the superb preparation and vigilant watch given us by members of campus Facilities."

Copyright © 2014 Drexel University  |   Privacy Policy

Powered by Drupal Druplicon icon