Library and Lehigh Origins

To fulfill his dream of a school that could produce well-rounded engineers who were equally proficient in the classics as with surveying tools, Asa Packer donated $500,000 to Lehigh University, of which $100,000 was used to construct Linderman Library in honor of his recently deceased daughter Lucy. The remaining $400,000 was set aside to establish an endowment for the collections and maintenance of the library. Beginning in 1878, Chemistry professor William H. Chandler, namesake of the Chandler-Ullmann building, served as the University’s first library director. In this role, Chandler decided which books belonged at Lehigh and what was worth keeping in the library. Many of Chandler’s acquisitions are still held in the library collection, with the tenth book accessioned into the library collection on display. Thanks to Chandler’s foresight and the work of subsequent generations of librarians and archivists, we are able to display Chandler’s own library correspondence. Also on display is the earliest accession book, which was used to systematically track every work added to the library collection from 1878 to 1929. 

Even before Asa Packer donated the money that established the formal library, students of Lehigh University were actively collecting books and meeting together to discuss them. The first club founded at Lehigh was The Literary Society, later named “The Junto.” This club was formed in 1867 and consisted of most of Lehigh’s inaugural class, some of whom can be seen in the photo on display. This club created its own library, which it would later donate to the University for inclusion in Linderman. One of the literary club’s founding members, Miles Rock, would go on to become the University’s first Civil Engineering graduate. Only one year after receiving his degree, Rock was working professionally as a surveyor and mapmaker. One of Rock’s early maps is on display, showing the Friedensville Zinc Mine, located nearby campus on land donated to Lehigh by alumnus Donald B. Stabler ('30, ’32G, ‘74H). Lehigh Special Collections now holds the archival collection of the New Jersey Zinc Company, which operated the mine, and the Stabler Land Company, which later owned the mine. Also on display is the handwritten Charter that founded Lehigh University. By preserving these early records of Lehigh, its students, and the library, we ensure that the University will have an institutional memory. Thousands of people have attended or worked at Lehigh, and it is the job of the Archives to remember their impact and contributions.