While the original construction of the Redwood Library, as designed by architect Peter Harrison, met the needs of its members in 1750, the library had to grow in the centuries that followed to accommodate an ever-increasing collection of books and to serve its new members.
One of our fall projects here at the Redwood Library is to begin a new effort to catalog and digitize our Newport Collection of photographs. Our archives hold several boxes of photos that serve our researchers well when they come to visit, but there isn’t currently a way to get a complete idea of our collection without contacting a reference librarian. We hope to change that this season and present here an overview of the collections we will be providing access to.
On this same weekend at the end of the summer of 1778, Mrs. Mary Almy (1735-1808) set down her own account of the cannonading of the French Fleet led by the Comte De’Estaing (1729-1794) for her husband, Captain Benjamin Almy (1724-1818). Mrs. Almy was loyal to the English crown while her husband supported the revolution, which colors her view of the events she experienced during the war here in Newport.
This weekend the Redwood Library is holding its Annual Garden Party to celebrate the end of summer. Of course, while it promises to be a beautiful day, no garden party in Newport could ever be quite as elaborate as the Masque of the Blue Garden, held on August 15, 1913 by Harriet James and her husband Arthur Curtiss James at their home on Beacon Hill.
The Charles Bird King Scrapbooks contain his collection of print images, which served as source material for his artistic talents. In this brief overview, we present a few examples from the collection and its significance.
In the vast portrait collection of the Redwood Library, there are only a handful of self-portraits. Prolific portrait artists like Charles Bird King (1785-1862) and Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) each have at least one to their name among the many other portraits of theirs lining our walls. In contrast, the only portrait we have by decorative artist Michele Felice Corné (1752-1845) is his own self-portrait. Prolific in other areas, he was not known for his skills as a portrait artist, but his self-portrait is a fine representation of his artistic talent nonetheless.
Neatly presented as a scrapbook, this bound work from the Ralph E. Carpenter collection of manuscripts (RLC.Ms.040) tells the story of the Newport trial of thirty-six men accused of piracy, twenty-eight of whom were found guilty and twenty-six of whom were executed in 1723. The trial scrapbook undeniably tells the most detailed story of a Newport event in this collection.
Bearing the same name as the now-infamous founding father, though of no relation, Dr. Alexander Hamilton (1712-1756) crossed paths with the earliest version of the Redwood Library, the Literary and Philosophical Society, in 1744 on a journey through the northern colonies.
When Abraham Redwood gave the funds for the Original Collection in 1747, many of the books were on practical subjects like medicine, farming, or, interestingly enough, beekeeping. John Thorley (1671-1759) writes expressively on both the preservation of bees and on their utility as an ideal model for human behavior.
It was in this coming week, in 1780, that General Rochambeau arrived in Newport with around 6,000 French soldiers under his command, signaling to many the beginning of the end of the Revolutionary War. He remained at Newport through 1781, when he joined forces with George Washington’s troops at the Battle of Yorktown.