1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Unraveling the Mystery, continued

Conclusion

This then is the context in which Lewis Brooks made his now controversial gift to the University of Virginia. Brooks was a northern gentleman who became wealthy in the textile industry. He was, in the era of Reconstruction following the Civil War, someone who sought to help restore the wartorn South by bestowing upon it, through well-intended philanthropy, "Northern" intellectual traditions and a "Northern" model for society. This model saw a fundamental order to nature, with everything in a proper place, but it also recognized and encouraged change as natural as well. It was also a model that saw progress, both social and biological, evolving through competition, with the "fittest" surviving and prospering. As the members of the Rochester Pundit Club believed, the challenge for the industrial era was to master change by understanding how it "works."

To many businessmen and intellectuals in the nineteenth century, natural history taught that lesson as clearly and dramatically as it could be told, and a natural history museum displayed that lesson in bold strokes. Such was, I believe, the intent of Mr. Brooks' gift to the University of Virginia. Not coincidentally, Brooks simultaneously bestowed a more direct financial gift upon his friend, Henry Ward. In this manner, Brooks Hall came to the University of Virginia. Its continuing presence is dramatic testimony to the unusual Victorian era within the rich and diverse history at the University, and to the fascinating intellectual history of that time.

 

Acknowledgments

I would like to extend my appreciation to the following individuals: John Durgavich and Marion Ross, who first made me aware of the references to Lewis Brooks in the Smithsonian Archives; Ellen Contini-Morava, Cathy Cutbill and Fred Damon for their insights into the structure of the "names on the wall"; Robert Carter for his assistance at the Virginia Division of Historic Landmarks; Noel Boaz for sharing a copy of McHugh's master's thesis; and Richard Lindemann for his invitation to publish this article and his patience in receiving it. Finally, I am particularly indebted to Susan McKinnon, Richard Handler and Rachel Most for their encouragement and help throughout my work on the history of Brooks Hall.

There is much more to be written about Brooks Hall, and I would be interested in hearing from anyone with personal recollections or photographs of the museum prior to 1940. Please contact me by writing to the Department of Anthropology, Brooks Hall #303, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22904.

 


Footnotes

  • (1) In preparing this paper I benefited greatly from research done previously by two students in the Architectural History program at the University of Virginia: Kevin McHugh, "Form and Fitness: John Rochester Thomas and Brooks Museum at the University of Virginia" (MA,Arch.Hist., University of Virginia, 1987); and Anthony O. James, "Brooks Museum at the University of Virginia: An Architectural, Historical, and Adaptive Use Study" (unpublished seminar paper [1975], Historic Sites File, Virginia Division of Historic Landmarks).
  • (2) George Shackelford, "Two Victorian Rectors of the University Virginia, Magazine of Albemarle County History, 40 (1982), pp. 45-62.
  • (3) Pres. F. L. Hereford, Jr., to Junius Fishburne, Jr., Exec. Dir., Virgiliia Historic Landmarks Commission, 1977 March 8, Brooks Hall File, Virginia Division of Historic Landmarks. 
  • (4) William M. Fontaine, Introductory Lecture with a Short Account of the History of the Lewis Brooks Museum of Natural History (Charlottesville, 1879).
  • (5) James, "Brooks Museum," p. 61.
  • (6) Minutes of the Board of Visitors, 1876, pp. 1087-1099, University of Virginia Archives, University of Virginia Library [cited hereafter as UVA Archives].
  • (7) Vera Via, "Looking Back," Daily Progress, March 10, 1952.
  • (8) The Jeffersonian, 1877 September 26.
  • (9) ibid., 1878 January 9.
  • (10) Fontaine, Introductory Lecture.
  • (11) Frank Leslie, "The Lewis Brooks Museum of Natural Science," Illustrated Magazine [newsclipping], "Brooks Hall," Prints File, UVA Archive.
  • (12) ibid.
  • (13) Minutes of the Board of Visitors, 1878, p. 1187; 1881, p. 1274. 
  • (13) Minutes of the Board of Visitors, 1878, p. 1187; 1881, p. 1274.
  • (14) University of Virginia Alumni News, 52 (1963/64), pp. 2-5.
  • (15) "Brooks Hall," Prints File, UVA Archives.
  • (16) James, "Brooks Museum," Ch. I.
  • (17) Via, "Looking Back."
  • (18) Stephen Andrews, "Myth Surrounds Brooks Museum," Cavalier Daily, 1961 February 28.
  • (19) James, "Brooks Museum."
  • (20) Wilson to Calder Loth, 1977 May 23, "Brooks Hall File," Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission.
  • (21) University of Virginia Alumni News, 52 (1964), pp. 2-5.
  • (22) Fontaine, "Introductory Lecture."
  • (23) James, "Brooks Museum."
  • (24) McHugh, "Form and Fitness."
  • (25) Neil Levine, "The Romantic Idea of Architectural Legibility Henri Labrouste and the Neo-Grec," in The Architecture of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, ed. A. Drexler (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1977), pp. 325-416.
  • (26) Ibid., p. 332.
  • (27) Ibid., p. 351.
  • (28) K.A. Zittel, "Museums of Natural History in the United States, Science, 3 (1884), pp. 191-196.
  • (29) Helmut de Terra, Humboldt: the Life and Times of Alexander von Humboldt, 1769-1859 (New York: Octagon, 1979). 
  • (30) Fontaine, Introductory Lecture.
  • (31) McHugh, "Form and Fitness."
  • (32) Carl Resek, Lewis Henry Morgan: American Scholar (Chicago: Univ. Of Chicago Press, 1960), p. 46.
  • (33) ibid., Pp. 61-63.
  • (34)Ibid., p. 61.
  • (35) Ward's Geological Supply Catalog (Rochester, New York, 1987).
  • (36) James, "Brooks Museum," ch. 1.
  • (37) Ward to Baird, 1874 October 18, Record Unit 52, Smithsonian Archives.
  • (38) Ward to Baird, 1874 December 3, ibid.
  • (39) James, "Brooks Museum," p. 61.
  • (40) ibid.
  • (41) Ward to Baird, 1874 October 18, Record Unit 52, Smithsonian Archives.
  • (42) Ward to Baird, 1874 December 3, ibid.
  • (43) Ward to Baird, 1874 December 8, ibid.
  • (44) Ward to Baird, 1874 December 11,ibid.
  • (45) Ward to Baird, 1877 August 17, ibid.
  • (46) James, "Brooks Museum." pp. 59f.

 

 

 

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