Walter Loomis Newberry died on November 6, 1868, during a return trip from France for medical treatment. His bequest of $2.1 million ($46 million today) would eventually result in the foundation of the Newberry Library on July 1, 1887.
Walter Newberry was a businessman and philanthropist who was a prominent figure in the early development of Chicago, Illinois. He was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, on September 18, 1804, and moved to Chicago in 1833.
Newberry quickly established himself as a successful businessman with interests in land development, banking, shipping, and railroads. He was also a civic leader, serving as an alderman on the Chicago Common Council and President (1863-1863) of the Chicago Board of Education.
Newberry was a generous philanthropist, and he donated large sums of money to support education, culture, and social welfare causes. In 1887, his will established the Newberry Library, a research library that is one of the leading independent research libraries in the Nation.
|Postcard of the Newberry Library in Chicago from Washington Square (aka Bughouse Square) c.1910 from the "I Will" series of postcards, Acmegraph Company, Chicago, ca.1910.|
Today, the Newberry Library, at 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, stores tens of thousands of digital files from its collection, which consists of over 1.6 million books, 600,000 maps, and 1,300 distinct archival collections containing approximately 5 million manuscript pages. The number of digital image files stored by the Newberry Library is not publicly disclosed, but it will likely be in the millions.
Newberry was also a patron of the arts and sciences. He was a founding member of the Chicago Historical Society and the Chicago Academy of Sciences. He also donated money to support the construction of several public buildings in Chicago, including the old Chicago Main Public Library and the Chicago Art Institute.
Newberry was one of the founders of the First Chicago Bank, which morphed into (The First National Bank of Chicago in the 1860s, which financed the Civil War; Union National Bank in 1900; Metropolitan National Bank in 1902); and today it is the Chase Bank.
The Newberry Library was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
Newberry died at the age of 64. He is buried in Graceland Cemetery, 4001 North Clark Street in Chicago.
Newberry's legacy continues to benefit the city of Chicago and the world. The Newberry Library is a vital resource for scholars, students, and the general public.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.