Scope and arrangement
The People's Institute records, 1883-1933, consist of minutes, correspondence, memoranda, reports, photographs, programs, fliers, pamphlets, legal documents, financial records, clippings, class rosters, press releases, and printed matter that document the founding and operations of the Institute. The records of the Board of Trustees include the Institute's constitution, minutes, correspondence, and reports. The Director's Office files consist mostly of the correspondence of the four Directors of the Institute: Charles Sprague Smith, Frederic C. Howe, Edward F. Sanderson, and Everett Dean Martin. Correspondence, programs, memoranda, circular letters, and other material document the activities organized by the Institute at Cooper Union, its adult education classes, the community-centered work of several committees, the efforts of the drama, music, and literature departments to promote appreciation of the arts among immigrants and the working-class, and the activities of some affiliated organizations. The Printed Material consists of Institute publications, brochures, pamphlets, and fliers, as well as material on topics relevant to the Institute's interests. Photographs, in the form of prints and lantern slides, mainly depict the lectures, concerts, and other events organized by the Institute in poor, immigrant Manhattan and Bronx neighborhoods. The records also include 60 glass plate negatives and the postcard reproductions of the plates, which were taken by Sidney Ateller of immigrant children's pageants and other activities in Chicago in 1914-1915.
The People's Institute records are arranged in sixteen series:
- 1897 - 19212 boxes 3 volumes
This series consists of the administrative records of the Board of Trustees; it contains the constitution of the People's Institute, minutes, and reports. Minutes document the founding of the People's Institute, the crucial early meetings, and program development. The reports are to the Board of Trustees from various departments and affiliates of the Institute, such as the People's Music League and the National Board of Censorship. Some reports include financial statements.
- 1883 - 19326 boxes
This series contains the records of the four Directors of the Institute: Charles Sprague Smith (1897-1910), Frederic C. Howe (1910-1916), Edward F. Sanderson (1916-1922), and Everett Dean Martin (1922-1934). It consists mainly of correspondence files for each Director alphabetically arranged. Charles Sprague Smith's files contain incoming letters from many well known individuals, including Lyman Abbott, Felix Adler, Robert Fulton Cutting, William E. Dodge, Richard Watson Gilder, Samuel Gompers, Abram Stevens Hewitt, Henry Demarest Lloyd, and Lillian Wald. Sprague's material also includes organizations' endorsements of the People's Institute protest of the subway franchise of 1899. Frederic C. Howe is the second most represented Director in the series. His correspondence also contains noted correspondents, including Jane Addams, Louis Brandeis, and Hamlin Garland.
Other material in this series includes the 1917 correspondence of Louis R. deCravioti, the Assistant Director of the Institute; acceptances and regrets to invitations to Everett Dean Martin's speech "The Psychology of the Mind," given on April 23, 1925 in Adolph Lewisohn's ballroom. General files include crank letters, Institute stationery, circular letters, drafts of the constitution and amendments, election proxies, lists of officers and members, and miscellaneous reports.
- 1897-19261 box
The Institute regularly engaged the Great Hall of Cooper Union for various events and programs. The Lecture Program of the Institute utilized the Great Hall for regular meetings to raise public consciousness, advocate change, and work towards social progress. Topics covered by the lectures included home rule for NYC, rapid transportation in NYC, the effects of WWI, and democracy. Lists, circular letters, ads, and programs document these lectures.
In 1916, the Institute invited Dr. Werner Hegemann, Secretary for the Architectural Development of Greater Berlin and General Secretary of the City Planning Exhibitions of Berlin and Dusseldorf, 1909, to speak throughout the United States as a recognized expert in city planning. The Lecture Bureau correspondence (alphabetically arranged by city) concerns requests from various organizations to the Institute to schedule Dr. Hegemann as a speaker.
The Labor Forum (Carl Beck, Managing Director) correspondence with John Collier, Director of the Training School for Community Workers, documents a bitter dispute that broke out between Beck and Collier in December 1917. Beck questioned the sincerity of some statements Collier had made about the Fusion reformers in newspaper interviews.
The Cooper Union Sunday Evening Programs were non-denominational programs on the religious and philosophical issues of the day. The topics are documented by circular letters, programs, and printed matter.
- 1919 - 19302 boxes
The Institute's Adult Education Classes were modeled on reading courses offered at Oxford University and Columbia University. This series contains general correspondence, reports, leader's class reports and salary vouchers, information on experimental classes, attendance records, bulletins, and various reports focusing on the years 1926 through 1930.
- 1915 - 19183 folders
The Community Art League records contain correspondence, reports and printed matter that document the League's work promoting the arts to the public.
- 1913 - 19212 boxes
This series contains correspondence, memoranda, reports, and printed matter. The Committee on Recreation files highlight one of the People's Institute greatest accomplishments, the Festival and Pageant of Nations (June 1916). Hundreds of people celebrated the heritage of the immigrant communities -Irish, Slavic, Jewish, and Italian- living on the Lower East Side of New York City .
In 1915, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment of New York City appointed a committee on recreation. The objective of this committee was to improve the recreation and playground facilities of New York City. The People's Institute, through its Committee of Leisure, contributed to the city's efforts.
In 1918, the Institute organized the Summer Health School at P.S. 40. This was an experimental program that was meant to improve the health of undernourished children through the education of their parents.
Correspondence, programs, reports, financial papers, legal papers, and printed matter reflect the work of the Training School for Community Center Workers, 1913-1919. The School, located at 70 Fifth Avenue, was affiliated with the People's Institute. John Collier was its Staff Director for the period covered by the records in this series. A report to the Trustees of the Training School by John Collier (November 14, 1918) states the Training School's two objectives: to recruit and train leaders for community work and to popularize and develop the community movement itself. The Training School offered a one-year course in professional work in Community Centers, Social Settlements, Public Employment, and Child Welfare Services. Its reports reflect the People's Institute's focus on the Americanization of immigrants.
- 1899 - 19261 box
This series contain material related to the work of three organizations and committees: the Committee on Unadjusted Children, the Needlecraft Guild, and the People's Club A.
The Committee on Unadjusted Children's first objective was to co-ordinate the work of existing agencies (i.e. Department of Education, Police Corrections Department, and the Child Welfare Department) for the care and rehabilitation of children with emotional and mental problems. The committee was established in 1916; E.F. Sanderson was its Chairman while serving in the position of Director of the People's Institute. John Collier (Staff Director of the New York Training School for Community Center Workers) acted as one of its consultants. The second objective of the Committee was to establish a social clinic for studying and diagnosing individuals.
The Needlecraft Guild correspondence and reports for the years 1916 through 1919 focus on the Ukrainian Needlework Guild, which worked in co-operation with the Art Alliance of America and the People's Institute.
The People's Club A was a branch of the People's Institute. The club sponsored lectures, programs, and social gatherings.
- 1905 - 19181 box
This series contains minutes, correspondence, plans, handbills, circulars, programs, discount theater tickets, membership cards, vouchers, and stationery. The Department of Drama sought to encourage public appreciation of the arts by offering discounted theater tickets. Handbills informed the public that the Institute offered half price tickets to nearly every theater in New York City.
- 1900 - 19276 boxes
Like the Drama Department, the Music League's objective was to broaden the general public's interest in the arts. The general correspondence (alphabetically arranged by correspondent) documents the Music Department's recruiting musicians to play at concerts, rehearsals, and ethnic music showcases; arranging concerts in New York City schools, hospitals, and other locations; and fundraising. This series also includes circular letters, invitations, stationery, subscriptions, reports, and applications. Concert programs and a complete list of programs (boxes 19-20) provide a comprehensive overview of all the concerts, recitals, and other performances that the Music League arranged.
- 1896 - 18991 box
The Comparative Literature Society was founded in 1896 by Charles Sprague Smith. The purpose of the Society was to promote the understanding of literature and stimulate literary production through conferences, lectures, readings, discussion, and classes. This series does not comprise the complete records of the Comparative Literature Society. The general correspondence (alphabetically arranged) contains predominately incoming letters to Charles Sprague Smith in his capacity as Director of the Society and regards lecture schedules, participants, and topics. The series also contains an unbound scrapbook of fliers, applications for membership, and newspaper clippings. The scrapbook gives the most comprehensive overview of the Society.
- 1901 - 19212 boxes
This series consists of the Institute's files on its peer institutions and organizations. The files include minutes, letters, reports, and printed matter.
- 1899 - 19172 boxes
- 1898 - 193415 boxes
This series consists of annual reports, brochures, broadsides, programs, pamphlets, and bulletins published by the Institute. It also includes pamphlets and periodicals issued by peer organizations. The newspaper clippings and related materials (boxes 30-40, 1898-1922) are disbound scrapbooks and make up the bulk of the series. Arranged chronologically, these scrapbooks include programs, pamphlets and other ephemera, in addition to clippings. The scrapbooks provide an overview of the Institute's activities, work, and affiliates.
The clippings regarding the Stadium Symphony Concerts document concerts held during the summers of 1919 through 1921 at Lewisohn Stadium at the City College of New York. The concerts were sponsored by the Music League of the Institute. A small fee of admission was charged to concert-goers with the proceeds going to the Institute.
- 1898 - 193321 boxes 26 volumes
- 5 boxes
The half tone printing blocks were used for various Institute publications. These blocks are not available for consultation.
- 1908 - 1921