Today I went to the Rochester Public Library for a presentation on “Treasures of the Central Library” by Robert Scheffel. Bob is the Assistant Division Head of the Local History Division of the Rochester Public Library. Along with him was the City Historian, Christine Ridarsky who added some historical facts. This is part of the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Rochester Public Library.
The first thing that Bob showed was the first accession book of the library. That is a register of the books acquired by the library and it noted that they received their first book (The Two First Centuries of Florentine History) on 26 June 26, 1912. The oldest book in the library is dated 1697 with a very long title about English nobility.
There is a lot more things in the library than just books. They have a many old scrapbooks. One scrapbook is pictures of the Erie Canal being rerouted out of downtown Rochester about 1917. Another is a scrapbook of pictures of smallpox patients from the early 1900s. Then there is a scrapbook of bicycle paths from early 1900s before the automobile took over. There was also a scrapbook dated 1839 with braids of hair most with the names of people that they came from.
The library has some really odd things in their collection. Bob showed off a collection that was retrieved from a cornerstone of the old Kimball Tobacco Factory, which used to be where the War Memorial is now. In that cornerstone were posters dealing with smoking and a calendar showing dancing girls of the world. Another collection that came from an old cornerstone of the Plymouth Congregational Church which was built in 1834 had an old Bible and a small Primer (school book).
The library also has some interesting original art works. There is art from the the Rochester Centennial in 1934, both paintings and drawings. Another bound volume of art is plans of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings (from the Art Div.). More obscure kinds of art that were shown were textile sample books and another sample book of kinds of wood.
Finally, Bob showed off an original deed from the manuscript collection in Local History Division. It was dated 1792 and was from Ebenezer “Indian” Allen to Benjamin Barton. That deeded land for what was then called the One Hundred Acre Tract (mill lot) that was basically was all of the land that is downtown Rochester west of the Genesee River. The deed has been recently conserved through a gift to the library.
The Rochester Public has a lot more things in their collection than just books. Over the last 100 years they have been the recipients of a varied collection of historical items that may be of help to you.