Columbia University Archives: 49th Street Campus

University Archives

Butler Library postcardColumbia University Archives
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Butler Library, 6th Floor
535 West 114th Street
New York, NY 10027

Phone: (212) 854-3786
Fax: (212) 854-1365
E-mail: uarchives@columbia.edu

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Related Collections

Barnard College
The Barnard Archives and Special Collections serves as the final repository for the historical records of Barnard College, from its founding in 1889 to the present day. For more information, please contact archives@barnard.edu.

Health Sciences Library
The Archives and Special Collections at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University can help you find information about the schools of the Medical Center: College of Physicians & Surgeons, School of Nursing, College of Dental Medicine (formerly the School of Dental & Oral Surgery), Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences. For more information, please contact hslarchives@columbia.edu.

49th Street Campus

How to find information about Columbia when the campus was located on 49th Street and Madison Avenue, 1857-1897

This research guide aims to bring together the sources available to understand Columbia in the second half of the 19th century. In 1857, Columbia College left its original home on Park Place, near City Hall, and moved to a new campus on 49th Street and Madison Avenue, the former home of the New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb. What was supposed to be a “temporary” situation turned out to serve the College for forty years. Columbia moved to its permanent home in Morningside Heights in 1897.

 

Administrative Records

Below are archival collections and personal papers that document the official business and administration of Columbia College in the 49th Street era. Archival collections are non-circulating and can only be viewed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reading room (RBML)

  • Minutes of the Board of Trustees
    The Minutes provide official information about numerous topics in the history of Columbia including university governance (e.g., changes to the University statutes), teaching appointments, awards of honorary degrees and prizes, endowments and donations, real estate purchases, appointments to the Board of Trustees and its various committees, and construction projects. The minutes also often comment (both directly and indirectly) on major national events (e.g. Abraham Lincoln's assassination) 
     
  • Columbia College papers
    This collection contains the original correspondence and reports which informed and supplement the minutes of the meetings of the Board of Trustees. There are original letters, reports, draft resolutions, etc.

The following sources are all available online.

  • President’s Annual Reports
    Submitted to the Board of Trustees, the reports include fact and figures (enrollment, degrees conferred, tuition, expenses, gifts, etc.) and topical discussions (co-education, new degree programs, higher education and liberal arts education, current events, etc.). These started as publications during President F.A.P. Barnard’s administration (1864-1889).
     
  • Catalogues
    These publications usually include a list of trustees, officers of instruction, and administrators. They also contain information about the curriculum in the various programs, detail admission policies and requirements, note tuition fees, list prizes and scholarships, provide a copy of the academic calendar, and describe general regulations of the university.
     

Personal Papers

In addition to the official records, the RBML also holds the personal papers of individuals who were instrumental in the history of Columbia during this period. Archival collections are non-circulating and can only be viewed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reading room (RBML)

We do not have the papers of Columbia College President Charles King but you can find information about his presidency and about Columbia on 49th Street in the history professor Dwight D. Miner papers on the history of Columbia University, 1938-1978 (Box 3). Miner was working on a history of the University for the University's Bicentennial Celebration, which was never completed. 

In order to use the University Archives collections at the RBML, you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.

Faculty Papers

Below is a selection of archival collections or personal papers of professors who were part of the midtown campus.  Archival collections are non-circulating and can only be viewed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reading room (RBML). You can find a more complete list of the Faculty Papers, organized by department or discipline, in the Faculty Search research guide.

  • John W. Burgess, Professor of Political Science and founder of the Faculty of Political Science (now part of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences).
  • Charles F. Chandler, Professor of Chemistry and first Dean of the School of Mines (now the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences).
  • Thomas Egleston, Professor of Metallurgy and a founder of the School of Mines (now the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences).
  • Henry Smith Munroe, Professor of Mining
  • Ogden N. Rood, Professor of Physics
  • Edwin R.A. Seligman, Professor of Economics
  • Munroe Smith, Professor of Law and History
  • J. Howard Van Amringe, Professor of Mathematics and Dean of Columbia College

In order to use the University Archives collections at the RBML, you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.

Course Work

Below are collections that include materials produced by students on the 49th Street campus.

  • Columbia College A.B. Theses Collection, 1878-1905
    This collection consists of the undergraduate theses admitted for graduation by students of Columbia College from 1878 to 1905. A thesis or essay was required of all graduating seniors in order to receive a diploma until 1905. Of particular note is the 1887 thesis submitted by Mary Parsons Hankey, who enrolled in Columbia's Collegiate Course for Women, and was the first woman to receive an undergraduate degree from Columbia College.

  • Columbiana Manuscripts
    This is a wide-ranging collection but it has a wealth of materials from the late 19th century. There are mineral catalogues or specimen inventories, but there are also lecture notes, letterbooks and individual correspondence, student clubs or activities records, and diaries, both original and copied excerpts.  

  • Lecture notes collection
    This collection contains student notebooks and other course related materials. The majority of the students represented in the collection were students at the 49th Street campus. There are Arts or Columbia College, Mines and Law School students represented.

 

Student Publications

There are two kinds of student publications: those that feature students as individuals: biographical information and, sometimes, images. And there are those publications that feature students are writers: newspapers and literary magazines. Archival collections are non-circulating and can only be viewed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reading room (RBML)

Yearbooks
  • Class Photograph Albums
    Before there were yearbooks, Columbia students would assemble class photograph albums: albums with photograph cards of the president, faculty members, and graduating students, for each year, from 1856 to 1890. The albums vary in size; the size of the photos may vary; and some photos include names, some include autographs, and some are unlabeled.
     
  • Columbiad/Columbian and the Miner/the Engineer
    The earliest yearbooks published date back to the midtown campus (1865 for the School of Arts, 1878 for the School of Mines). A few of these have been digitized. You can find our yearbook holdings in the Yearbooks, Facebooks and Class Books finding aid.
     
  • Class Histories
    A class history summarized the class's progress and adventures during their four years at Columbia. These are sometimes called class books, class histories, and even senior year books. Samuel A. Blatchford’s history of the Class of 1867 was the first to publish a class history. After 1867, the Class of 1871 and the Class of 1874 (both available online) revived the format. Not all classes have a dedicated volume; but some classes published multiple editions after reunion years. These volumes can also include student lists (e.g., student organization rosters), commencement speeches, class poems and songs, biographical sketches of individual class members, and, in some, photographs. Not all classes have a dedicated volume. For some classes, there are also the minute books kept by the class secretary, Class Day programs and invitations, class directories, reunion or anniversary editions, etc. 

 

Literary Works
  • Cap & Gown and Acta Columbiana
    The first student literary publication was Cap & Gown, back when students wore caps and gowns to lectures. This monthly publication started in 1867 and included students’ takes on campus affairs and literary works. When the School of Mines joined the editorial board of the publication, the name was changed to Acta Columbiana in 1873. Paper issues are available at the University Archives.
     
  • The Columbia Spectator
    The Columbia student newspapers started in 1877 and documents life in the 49th Street and Madison and the eventual move to Morningside Heights. The newspaper has been digitized and is easily searchable.
     
  • The Blue and the White
    This student literary magazine ran from 1890 to 1893 and the issues are available online.
     
  • The Columbia Literary Monthly  
    In 1893 the Columbia Literary Monthly made its first appearance. Issues have been digitized and available online. After the move uptown, this publication was renamed Morningside.
     
  • University Quarterly
    This short-lived periodical collected stories from different colleges and universities in 1860-1861. There are pieces written by Columbia students (J.H. Van Amringe and Sigourney Knox) and faculty members. These issues have been digitized.

In order to use the University Archives collections at the RBML, you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.

Alumni Recollections

The Columbia alumni from the old 49th Street campus made some valiant efforts to maintain their connections to each other and to their Alma Mater. Many of their recollections were printed in Columbia publications: the Columbia Alumni News and the Columbia University Quarterly. All of the articles below are available online.

1850s
1860s
1870s

1880s

1890s

Images & Drawings

  • You can find photographs, drawings, and other reproductions in the Historical Photograph Collection. These includes photos of the buildings, neighborhood, interior, class photos on the grounds, and even the demolition of the old campus buildings. For more information on how to access photograph, please consult the Photographs research guide.
     
  • Views of Columbia College: Madison and Park Avenues, 49th and 50th Streets. New York: Library Bureau, 1886
    This booklet contains photographs of the Columbia College buildings on Madison and Park Avenues between 49th and 50th Street. This was Columbia's second of its three homes. The photos include the exteriors of the buildings (Hamilton Hall, School of Mines) and some of the interiors (Library, Collections Building).
     
  • The Buildings and Grounds Collection has some information about this campus and the buildings on 49th Street collected by Columbiana curators over the years. 
     
  • Columbiana Manuscripts, 1572-1986
    See Item 55 of this collection, "Forty-Ninth Street Campus Plans of the Buildings of Columbia College by H.F.J. Porter, Superintendent, 1888." This is a collection of hand-drawn floor plans for the buildings on campus. 
     
  • Charles Coolidge Haight architectural drawings and papers, 1874-1914
    At the Avery Drawings & Archives, you can find this collection of drawings and paper from the architect of the buildings on the 49th Street campus. Haight designed the School of Mines (1874) and the Library/Law School building (1883).

In order to use the University Archives collections at the RBML, you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.

About the images

Above - Exterior view from street of the "Maison de Punk" on the 49th Street Columbia College campus. Gift of estate of James A. Renwick CC 1876, November 1937. (Scan #0146) Historical Photograph Collection, University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Right - Exterior of the 49th Street Columbia College library building from the southwest. Photo by E.M. Bidwell. (Scan #1382) Historical Photograph Collection, University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.