Last updated: 2/2/2011
2310 Sealy Avenue
Galveston, TX 77550
Galveston, TX 77550
John Augelli, Director
Nikkie Ferre, Museum Collections Manager
phone: 409-763-8854 x125
Funded by a bequest from Swiss emigré banker and commission merchant Henry
Rosenberg, the Rosenberg Library was chartered by the State of Texas in 1900. Opening its doors in 1904, this library has served since its inception as the public library and museum for the City of Galveston. The library also contains one of the major archival collections in Texas documentation, particularly the history of Texas from the time of the Republic through the Civil War and the history of Galveston from the Spanish exploration to present. The Rosenberg Library serves as a major cultural center for Galveston and is beloved and respected by its citizens who, in turn, continue to be generous with their donations.
The Rosenberg Library is different! The combination public library, archives, and museum has assured its reputation as an inter-disciplinary institution which will continue to fill a special need in the state and the City of Galveston.
Henry Rosenberg, a Swiss immigrant who made his fortune in Galveston in railroad and banking ventures, died May 8, 1893. The largest bequest from his estate, more than $600,000, was left to the City of Galveston "to organize and endow a free public library for the use of the people of Galveston" The state issued a charter to the Rosenberg Library Association in 1900.
The Association purchased land and then advertised for a design for a building. After a design competition, the contract was awarded to the architectural firm of Eames and Young of St. Louis, Missouri. The library opened on June 22, 1904 (Rosenberg's birthday), with a collection of 7,000 books.
Less than a year later, the Galveston City Commission donated to the Rosenberg Library all the books of the existing Galveston Public Library, which had evolved from the Galveston Mercantile Library, a subscription library established in 1870. By accepting these books, the Rosenberg Library absorbed the oldest and first legally constituted public library in the state of Texas.
The bronze statue of Henry Rosenberg on the east end of the building was purchased with voluntary contributions from the people of Galveston and was erected in 1906 to honor the memory of Henry Rosenberg and to show the appreciation of the citizens for the great library he had provided for them.
The Moody Wing was added in 1971 and was funded mostly by local donors. The library has grown steadily throughout the years and now houses a book collection of 250,000 volumes, plus microforms, audio recordings, videocassettes, and other nonprint media.
Also from the outset the Rosenberg Library has served as the principal museum for the city of Galveston. The Museum Department contains more than 5,000 objects including paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewelry, and historical artifacts documenting the history of early Texas and Galveston. The library employs a full-time museum curator to catalogue and maintain the collection and plan and mount exhibits. The museum has one permanent gallery exhibition, the Lykes Maritime Gallery, and two additional galleries, the Harris and Hutchings Galleries, which rotate exhibits from the collection.
From the beginning, the library was more than a collection of books. In accordance with the instructions in Henry Rosenberg's bequest, the library was to provide "free lectures upon practical, literary, and scientific subjects, and such other incidents to a great public library as may be conducive to the improvement, instruction, and elevation of the citizens of Galveston...." A free lecture series began in 1905 and continued for many years. The library has since provided a varied selection of programs of adults and children. Service to children has been an emphasis of the library from its inception and continues to be a major element of service to the community today.
The endowment left by Henry Rosenberg, with the addition of other gifts throughout the years, was the sole support of the library from its opening through the 1940s. It still provides substantial support today. The County began to support the library in 1942, and the City followed in 1946.
The Museum Collection of the Rosenberg Library consists of in excess of 7,000 objects.
This includes: historical artifacts, drawings, paintings, prints, household artifacts, and clothing and textiles which document the history of Galveston and early Texas. The collections include Mardi Gras costumes, a wedding dress collection, uniform collection, a Native American collection (most of which acquired before 1925), and the Samuel May Williams collection of artifacts which complement the Williams papers in the Archives of the Rosenberg Library.
The costume collection consists of various types of garments and accessories for infants,
children, and adults (male and female). Included are seven christening dresses (the earliest dating from 1826), and 16 wedding dresses dating from 1859-1956, all worn by local brides. There is a white organza demi-trained dress with boned bodice for an 1888 bride and a trained ivory satin and moire dress with a "Panier" draped skirt, worn in 1882. 1956 is represented with a "Ballerina" length satin and lace model.
In the category of male clothing, a large collection of military uniforms dates from before
World War I through the Vietnam War, including a pristine collection of officer's uniforms, U. S. Navy, ca. 1914. This includes a service Dress Blue, a Bridge Coat, and full Dinner dress,
complete with sword belt and cocked hat.
Mardi Gras coronations have been an institution in Galveston since the mid-19th century. This collection includes 14 coronation dresses dating from 1891 to 1953. There are three Queen's gowns and four costumes from the Children's Mardi Gras Coronations.
The Republic of Texas era, 1836-1846, is represented by the Samuel May Williams
Collection of household artifacts. Included in this collection are 15 pieces of flat silver and three silver presentation pieces. Of the 36 household artifacts, there is a mother-of-pearl Bodkin case and memorandum pad, a girandole
The Galveston and Texas History Center of the Rosenberg Library collects, preserves, and makes available to the public historic records of Galveston and early Texas. Among the holdings
of the archives are the papers of such notables as Samuel May Williams, secretary to Stephen F. Austin; James Morgan, commandant of Galveston Island in 1836; David G. Burnet, first president of the Republic of Texas; Gail Borden, inventor; J. C. League and H. M. Trueheart, land speculators; and H. Kempner, commission merchant and banker.
The history center is open to the public for research Tues.-Sat., 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. It is closed Christmas, and most national holidays.
Occasional monographs; Julius Stockfleth Gulf Coast Marine & Landscape Painter, J. P. McGuire. With Bold Strokes: Boyer Gonzales, 1864-1934. Edward Simmen (Texas A&M University Press, 1997)
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