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1854: Business and industry; science; education; philosophy and religion.

The era of public libraries was beginning, and this year it received an important impetus with the opening of the Astor Library in New York City. The library was made possible by a bequest of $400,000 from John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man in the U.S. at his death in 1848. The library was chartered in 1849 and opened its own building on Lafayette Place as a reference library in 1854. Astor had little formal education but maintained a lifelong interest in literature and science. FitzGreene Halleck and Washington Irving, two of America's leading authors, are said to have been instrumental in persuading Astor to make the bequest.

The paper collar was invented by Walter Hunt, who had patented the safety pin in 1849.

The Boston Public Library was opened to the public. The library had been founded two years earlier. The library is credited with having inaugurated the practice of having popular books kept in large enough supply to fill the demands of many readers while keeping a regular complement of books of more limited circulation. This policy permitted development of the libraries of manuscripts and rare books for which Boston Public Library is famous. The original building was replaced in 1895 with a new structure designed by Charles McKim. It is a masterpiece of the new Italian Renaissance style.

Pennsylvania State College, University Park, Pa., was chartered by the Pennsylvania legislature as Farmers High School of Pennsylvania, the first such state school. It opened in 1859 and became the state's agricultural college in 1862. The name was changed to Pennsylvania State College in 1874.

Jan. 13

Pacific University was chartered in Forest Grove, Ore., as Tualatin Academy and Pacific University. It had been founded in 1849 under the joint auspices of Presbyterian and Congregational groups. The university awarded its first degrees in 1863 and became Pacific University in 1922.


Cornell College was chartered in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, as the Iowa Conference Seminary, under Methodist auspices. It had been founded the previous year. The seminary became Cornell College in 1855 and granted its first degrees in 1858.

May 6

Transatlantic cable communication became possible when a company headed by Cyrus W. Field was granted a charter and a 50-year monopoly. Not until 1866 was a permanently successful cable laid.

Dec. 30

The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Co., the first U.S. oil corporation, was formed in New Haven, Conn., by George H. Bissell and Jonathan J. Eveleth, New York City law partners. Samples of surface oil found in Cherrytree Township, Venango County, Pa., had been analyzed by Prof. Benjamin Silliman of Yale, who found eight commercially feasible uses for the oil. Bissell and Eveleth then leased 200 acres and went into business with $500,000 in capital. The oil was obtained by digging wells and trenching.

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Author:Carruth, Gorton
Publication:Encyclopedia of American Facts & Dates, 9th ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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