The Emerging University Library – 1855-1951 previous | next
Mechanics Academy

Northeast view of Mechanics’ Academy, the University of Iowa, 1897 (Iowa Digital Library:

The Mechanics’ Academy, which had been built in 1842 by the Mechanics’ Mutual Aid Association, was rented by the University trustees in 1855 so the first classes of the new State University of Iowa would have someplace to meet.

A short letter to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute from the Office of Public Instruction, dated May 7, 1855 states:  “Our university is but in its infancy the present being the first Session of the University proper.  We are wishing to collect a Library as fast as possible, and as this is the only one of your Const[?] which we have, can you not furnish us with the previous 5 volumes?  If so please direct to Iowa City.”  It is unknown if these volumes were sent.

In November of 1855 approximately 50 books were received from President Amos Dean in New York, and they were put in the Academy in a four-by-four foot room. Thus was started the University’s library.

Librarians: D. Franklin Wells, Professor, Normal Department Frederick Humphrey, Professor of Mathematics


Additional Mechanics’ Academy images are available in the Iowa Digital LibraryIowa City Town and Campus Scenes collection.