Annales Yalensis is a weekly column aimed at highlighting the interesting, absurd, and impactful events of world history and their representations within the historical archives of Yale University.

The New York City Subway By Daniel Ma

The New York City subway, by far the largest and most widely-used American subway system, first opened on October 27th, 1904. The initial subway had a single line running from City Hall in Lower Manhattan to 145th Street and Broadway in Harlem. Train cars were initially quite lavish and played to the tastes of fascinated New Yorkers willing to try the new system over the old streetcars, street-level railways, elevated lines (the “el,” as they were called), and buses. Passengers paid a nickel fare to take the subway for any distance. The silent video here was taken in 1905 and shows a car from the original batch travelling between 14th and 42nd streets, moving through tunnels, also providing rare images of the original stations while the train pauses for passengers to embark and disembark.

An earlier 312-foot tunnel under Broadway had been made in 1870 as a demonstration for a potential subway system, but objections by landowners who preferred the el (the first of which also opened in 1870) along with the Panic of 1873 torpedoed the proposal. Interestingly, that subway had been powered by an enormous fan blowing the subway cars down a tube in which they were carried—a design the actual subway abandoned in favor of normal train cars.

At the time, the subway was run privately under the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) company, whose lines eventually became the numbered lines of the subway system today of “IRT.” The IRT had previously made the elevated lines that were the main system of quick transportation in the city before the subway. Extensions to initial service came rapidly. Within a month, service was extended further north and the east side branch was opened, also to 145th street. By the following year, service had reached the Bronx, fulfilling the “Interborough” of the company’s name. In the next decade and a half, the paths and stations of the west side and east side IRT lines very closely resembled the modern 1/2/3 and 4/5/6 lines, and all the boroughs were serviced with the exception of Staten Island. These two IRT lines alone take 2.5 million of the 5.5 million daily passengers on the NYC subway today, each taking more passenger traffic than any other American city’s entire metro system.


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New Map of New York City c. 1900. Photo Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

A rival company to the IRT, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT), began in 1915, taking passengers between Brooklyn and Manhattan. This was soon acquired by the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT). The BMT emphasized its relatively more comfortable cars and focused on tourism more so than rapid transit, connecting its subways to preexisting lines to Coney Island and Brighton Beach. Then, in 1932, the city opened the Independent Rapid Transit Railroad, or IND, and established the first public subways in the city. The IRT and BMT were bought by the city in 1940 during the Great Depression as the system struggled and service worsened in quality. Refusing to bow to political pressure, the city doubled the nickel fare in 1948 after 44 years, the struggle being one of the main reasons it made a single and separate public corporation, the NYC Transit Authority, for the subways in 1953. Hence began the modern MTA that has since expanded its scope also to buses, bridges and tunnels, and commuter rail—including the Metro-North that Yalies take to New Haven.

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New York City. Manhattan. Sixth Avenue. View of a subway construction worker by Carl van Vechten (25 August 1937). Photo Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The legacies of the early transit system can still be seen today, a century later. The IRT/BMT divide persists, as the numbered lines are IRT and the lettered lines are BMT or IND. The numbered and lettered lines have different rail gauges, different tunnel widths, and different station lengths, a reminder that the subway system started with a disunified series of private companies. While the nickel fare is long gone, the subway has retained its tradition of charging the same amount for trips of any distance, unlike many other systems around the world. Even the old City Hall station, the inaugural station opened on that day 116 years ago, is still present; it sits along a loop of track where empty trains change direction at their present terminal at the new City Hall station. New Yorkers may malign the subway, but it is still dear to our hearts.

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Two Women and Man (Subway) sketch by Saul Steinberg (1946). Photo Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


APTAAdmin. “Ridership Report.” American Public Transportation Association (blog). Accessed October 24, 2020.

“Feb. 26, 1870: New York City Blows Subway Opportunity.” Wired. Accessed October 24, 2020.

Gavrielov, Nadav. “The Subway Fare Rises on April 21. It Could Be Worse: One Year It Doubled. (Published 2019).” The New York Times, April 12, 2019, sec. New York.

New York Transit Museum. “Home.” Accessed October 24, 2020.

Interior NY Subway. New York at the Turn of the Century. American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1905.

“Mta.Info | 110 Years of the Subway.” Accessed October 24, 2020.

New Map of New York City. From the Latest Surveys Showing All the Ferries and Steamship Docks, Elevated, Subways Electric and Cross Town Car Lines. c 1900. Map. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Steinberg, Saul. [Two Women and Man (Subway)]. 1946. Sketch. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Van Vechten, Carl. New York City. Manhattan. Sixth Avenue. View of a Subway Construction Worker. August 25, 1937. Photograph. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

“World’s Oldest Metro Systems - Railway Technology.” Accessed October 24, 2020.

Opening of the Erie Canal By Caroline Parker

Photo credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

On October 26, 1821, the Erie Canal was completed. This feat of engineering caused an increase in westward migration and made trade west of the Appalachian mountains easier and more accessible than it had been previously. Construction began on the site in 1817 -- although there were reportedly plans to construct such a canal as early as 1768. New York Governor DeWitt Clinton advocated heavily for the project, first as a state senator and later as the mayor of New York City. When the federal government refused to supply the necessary funds, he convinced the state legislature to authorize $7 million of loans to support construction. When it was in its early stages of development, the canal was jokingly called “Clinton’s Big Ditch.” The canal was ultimately an immediate success, though, lowering transportation costs, attracting settlers, and cementing New York City as a hub of commerce.

The canal stretches 363 miles from Albany to Buffalo, connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River. At the time of construction, it was 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide; however, it has been enlarged three times since. The canal featured 83 locks -- today 57 -- and an elevation change of 570 feet. In 1825, it was a marvel, and the canal remains impressive to this day, especially because it was built without the help of a single professionally trained engineer. At the time, only West Point offered an engineering program; however, several engineering schools, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, were founded in response to the project. Additionally, the engineers trained on this project applied the knowledge they gained to multiple canal and railroad construction works in the next decades. Work was divided between several small contractors who provided their own labor, equipment, and supplies. Laborers were paid little, typically somewhere between 80 cents and 1 dollar per day.

Goods were transported in both directions along the canal in mule-pulled canal boats. The price of shipping goods from Buffalo to New York City shifted from $100 per ton to less than $10 per ton. People could travel more quickly -- traveling from Buffalo to New York became a 5 day trip, rather than the previous 14 day expedition. Ideas also traveled freely around the canal, which saw the First Women’s Right Convention at Seneca Falls in 1848 and religious revivalism in the 1820s and 1830s with the Second Great Awakening. Paths along the canal were also utilized in the Underground Railroad, as many locals were outspoken abolitionists. It should be noted that despite these benefits, the construction of the Erie Canal disrupted the lives of Native Americans who called the region home. Construction occurred at the same time as several “Indian removal” policies, which moved Native Americans to remote reservations, typically in the Midwest.

On October 26, Governor Clinton and his party boarded the Seneca Chief to travel from Buffalo to New York City. Upon his arrival in New York eight days later, Clinton ceremoniously dumped water from Lake Erie into the Hudson River, calling it a “marriage of waters.”

Today, the New York State Canal System is the oldest continually operating transportation system in North America. Traffic on the canal has shrunk significantly since 1825, as more rapid transportation systems have grown, and much of the canal is now dedicated to multi-purpose recreation and parks.

Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library houses two well-preserved maps of proposed routes for the Erie Canal dating from 1811 and 1821.

Works Cited

“History and Culture.” Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, 2020, Accessed 18 Oct. 2020.

Maverick, P. “Map of the Western Part of the State of New York Shewing the Route of a Proposed Canal from Lake Erie to Hudson’s River Compiled by John H. Eddy from the Best Authorities 1811.,” n.d. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Robb, Frances C. “Erie Canal.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 11 Mar. 2020, Accessed 18 Oct. 2020.

Sadowski, Frank E. “The New York State Canal System.” New York State Canal System, The New York State Canal Commission, 2012, Accessed 18 Oct. 2020.

“Today in History - October 26.” The Library of Congress, Accessed 18 Oct. 2020.

The Accession of King George III By Jeremy Sontchi

Marble Bust of King George III by John Nost III, 1764. Image credit: Yale Center for British Art

October 25, 1760- All across the United Kingdom of Great Britain, church bells rang and mourning services were planned. Their king of the past 33 ears, George II, had passed away on the toilet in the early morning. To take his place, the nation turned towards his young grandson, 22 year old George William Frederick of the House of Hanover. He would reign under the name George III for almost 60 years until his death on the 29th of January, 1820. To this day he remains the oldest and longest reigning King of the United Kingdom and only eclipsed by Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II. His reign also saw some of the greatest shifts in British political and economic life, including the loss of the American colonies, the Act of Union of 1801 unifying the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, the defeat of Napoleon, and the early beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

When George III was officially crowned on September 22, 1761, he broke a long pattern of the British monarch being foreign-born. His two predecessors, George I and George II, had both been born and raised in Hanover. As such, neither were fluent or familiar with the English language or its customs. George III was different. The grandson of George II, he was born and raised in London, making him the first Prince of Wales born in England since 1630. This was a fact he was well aware of. At 10, he performed a new prologue for Addison’s Cato, saying “What, tho' a boy! It may with truth be said, A boy in England born, in England bred.”

Prince George and Prince Edward Augustus, Sons of Frederick, Prince of Wales, with Their Tutor Dr. Francis Ayscough by Richard Wilson, c. 1748-1749. Image Credit: Yale Center for British Art.

The accession of George III also brought about a radical shift in royal finances. Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, William and Mary were granted a yearly revenue of approximately £700,000 to help defray the costs of funding the civil government, including the salaries of the civil service, ambassadors, judges and the royal household, which had previously been entirely paid by income from the hereditary lands of the monarch. Following the financial difficulties of George III in the last years of his reign, Parliament passed the Civil List Act of 1760. Under this law, George III willingly surrendered all income from his hereditary properties to Parliament in exchange for a fixed yearly salary of £800,000 for the maintenance of the royal household and government assumption of responsibility for funding the civil government.

Even to this day, George III is still known to most people as the king who lost America. In large part this is due to the writing of contemporary American patriots, who described him as “a royal brute” and accused him of wishing to enslave his American subjects. As a target of vitriol for the rebellion, King George was an odd choice, having little to no involvement in the ire inducing Stamp, Townshend, and Quartering Acts or most other grievances named in the Declaration of Independence. Relatively detached from politics and previously uninterested in America, his role in the American Revolution was mostly limited to raising volunteers and morale visits to troops.

Margaret Nicholson Attempting to Assassinate His Majesty, George III, at the Garden Entrance of St. James's Palace, 2nd August 1786 by Robert Dighton, 1786. Image Credit: Yale Center for British Art.

In 1786, George III faced a challenge to his rule of a different sort than the American Revolution. Margaret Nicholson, a former housemaid, approached His Majesty at the entrance of St. James’ Palace on the 2nd of August bearing a piece of paper as if it was a petition. However, the paper was blank and when he approached to receive it she stabbed at him twice with a dessert knife. He dodged the first stab and received a glancing blow from the second before she was subdued. Feeling that the attack was poorly planned and only half-heartedly attempted and that Ms. Nicholson might be in danger from an angry crowd or his guards, he shouted “The poor creature is mad; do not hurt her, she has not hurt me.” She was arrested and brought in front of the privy council, as opposed to the normal practice of trial by jury for treason, on the prerogative of the king. There an investigation revealed that she had produced substantial writings claiming to be the rightful monarch and that “England would be discharged with blood for a thousand years if her claims were not publicly acknowledged.” On this basis, she was declared insane and sentenced to life in Bethlem Hospital. This represented a substantial show of clemency from King George as she could have expected death for treason if he had not exercised his power to try her in the privy council and once found guilty, she would have normally been expected to be held in a gaol. Not guilty by reason of insanity would only appear as a verdict in 1800, again for an attempted assassination of King George III, but on that occasion by James Hadfield. Following fears that insane criminals could be let free, Parliament passed the Criminal Lunatics Act of 1800, which dictated that all those found not guilty by reason of insanity be detained at  the pleasure of the king, most often in gaol or a madhouse.

Along with the loss of America, King George is also remembered for his madness late in life. Characterized by mania and hypothesized to have been the result of porphyria or bipolar disorder, he suffered a severe episode in 1788 which manifested in him “sleeping badly, hoarse with relentless talking, unsteady on his feet, mentally confused, and occasionally violent.” The primitive nature of medical knowledge and treatments for mental at this time meant that his doctors’ primary remedy was what he ruefully referred to as his “coronation chair,” a restraining chair that he would be locked into until his mania subsided. The prevailing theory of his illness at the time was that he had bad humors in the legs, possibly the result of not promptly removing wet stockings. This illness also sparked off a political controversy as members of the government considered whether the condition was severe enough to justify a regency by George, Prince of Wales (later George IV), a question that involved significant political implications around the Prime Minister. The House of Commons passed a Regency Bill in 1789 which was set to come into force on the 20th of February. Just three days before then, George III recovered and praised the government for acting correctly in his debilitation to work towards appointing a Regent. 20 years later, in 1810, he became very ill again and, accepting the necessity of a regent, had his son, George, Prince of Wales (later George IV), take the regency under the auspices of the Regency Act of 1811 until his death in 1820.


Cannon, John. “George III (1738–1820), King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and King of Hanover.” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press, September 23, 2004.

Eigen, Joel Peter. “Nicholson, Margaret (1750?–1828), Assailant of George III.” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed October 24, 2020."William III, 1697-8: An Act for granting to His Majesty a further Subsidy of Tunnage and Poundage towards raiseing the Yearly Su[m]m of Seven hundred thousand Pounds for the Service of His Maj[es]ties. Household & other Uses therein menc[i]oned dureing His Majesties Life. [Chapter XXIII. Rot. Parl. 9 Gul. III. p. 4. n. 5.]," in Statutes of the Realm: Volume 7, 1695-1701, ed. John Raithby (s.l: Great Britain Record Commission, 1820), 382-385. British History Online, accessed October 24, 2020,

Annie Edson Taylor By Taylor Barton

Photo credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

On October 24th, 1838, Annie Edson Taylor was born in Auburn, New York. On that same day in 1901, at 63 years old, she would become the first person to successfully complete the journey over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

After a life full of money troubles and unfortunate circumstances, in 1901, Taylor began looking for a way to earn money fast and improve her situation. In addition to supporting herself, she was also supporting two of her friends who were in need, along with both of their families. One day whilst reading the newspaper, she discovered that the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 would be held very close to her in Buffalo, New York, and that people were expected to flock to Niagara Falls afterwards. Inspired by the daredevils and street performers that came before her, she quickly came up with the idea to "Go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. No one has ever accomplished this feat.” She planned that a crowd would gather during her stunt and a collection would start, but beyond this thought, no actual planning went into making a profit off of her daring feat.

Once she decided to attempt this stunt, she began doing research. Many before her had attempted to conquer the falls, but most died, and none of them thought to make the journey in a barrel. Determined to increase her likelihood of survival, Taylor began designing her own barrel out of Kentucky Wood, fit with harnesses and cushions for her protection, which was eventually custom made by Bocenchia, a local business.

The planning began in August, and by October, Taylor and her barrel were both ready to make history. On October 24th, Taylor got into her barrel and entered the water at the head of Grass Island where her journey began. From here, she would travel one mile through the rapids until she reached Horseshoe Falls, a trip that ultimately took 20 minutes to complete. She described this portion of the journey as “pleasant,” after she recovered from the initial fear of suffocation. She was able to calm herself by praying and reminding herself to be brave. The trip was smooth until the barrel arrived at the end of the falls. She claims that “it was then [she] began to suffer.” She was fully submerged for a time after striking the water, a time which she describes as being completely  silent. After the silence came the violence, as the barrel became caught in the thrashing water at the bottom of the falls. The barrel was thrown harshly against rocks, shaking Taylor roughly inside. Finally, after 17 minutes of terror, just as she began to lose consciousness,Taylor’s barrel was pulled from the water.

The rescue effort was headed by John Ross, Chief Engineer of the “Maid of the Mist,” and Mr. Williams, a Canadian Civilian. They found a wrench and promptly opened the barrel to retrieve Taylor. Ross was so shocked when he discovered Taylor alive that, according to her, he exclaimed, “The woman is alive!” to which she responded “Yes she is, though much hurt and confused.” While she had suffered both a minor head injury and shock during her journey down Niagara Falls in a barrel, she ultimately survived, making headlines as “The first and only human being who has made this fearful leap over the falls and lived to describe it.” While she gained temporary fame for her stunt, she unfortunately did not receive the financial compensation she was expecting.

In the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale has a photo of Horseshoe Falls from 1900, taken only one year before Taylor made her iconic journey down that very same stretch of Niagara Falls.

Works Cited

Horseshoe Falls, Niagara. 1900. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Accessed 10 Oct. 2020.

Taylor, Annie Edson. Over the Falls. Annie Edson Taylor, 1902. Core, Annie Edson Taylor,

"Went over the Falls." Wellsville Daily Reporter [Wellsville], 15 Oct. 1901. Rare Newspapers, Accessed 10 Oct. 2020.

The Battle of Sekigahara   By Louie Lu

On October 21st, 1600, the forces under Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated its opponents, loyalists to the Totoyomi clan, at Sekigahara. This victory allowed the ascendant Tokugawa clan to establish a shogunate (bakufu), a military government that traditionally ruled in place of the Emperor, a regime that ensured peace in Japan for more than two and a half centuries.

The previous Ashikaga shogunate proved unable to assert central authority over their vassal daimyos, powerful clans that controlled entire regions of the realm. The autonomous daimyos began to wage war on each other to expand their territory, with a dispute between the Hoshikawa clan and Yamana clan in 1467 beginning an era of constant internecine conflicts, named the sengoku jidai or the Era of Warring States. Amidst the strife rose the Oda clan, whose head Oda Nobunaga would defeat the most powerful clans. While Nobunaga’s sudden betrayal by a retainer halted his ambitions for power, another one of his followers, Totoyomi Hideyoshi, managed to completely unify Japan. Hideyoshi implemented a series of administrative reforms that brought stability to the country.

Yet, Hideyoshi was never able to assume the title of Shogun nor ensure a stable succession due to his lowly birth. His death at 62 left his young son in the regency of the five most powerful lords of Japan, one of which being Ieyasu. The death of the most respected regent led to the development of two factions divided along territorial lines. The eastern lords supported the powerful Ieyasu while the western lords wished to prevent the young Totoyomi Hideyori from being supplanted. A failed assassination attempt on Ieyasu’s life and the refusal of one of the daimyos to demilitarize led the two factions to fight.

The western lords, led by Ishida Mitsunari, managed to capture some fortresses initially and marched to Gifu castle, whose control would have allowed them to advance on the capital. Unfortunately, the eastern forces of Tokugawa had recently dislodged the castle from the loyalists, and Mitsunari ordered his forces to retreat south to take a defensive position near the town of Sekigahara.

While the loyalists were outnumbered by the Tokugawa forces, Mitsunari attempted to use the mountainous terrain of Sekigahara and superior positions to trap their opponents. However, unbeknownst to him, Ieyasu had been secretly contacting some of the western lords, securing their defection. Ieyasu ordered his advance guard to charge the loyalists’ right flank, and one of the key loyalist defenders there chose at that moment to defect, leaving the flank vulnerable. Continued Tokugawa successes caused more western daimyos to defect, allowing Ieyasu to destroy the right flank and push back the center. Isolated, Mitsunari could only await defeat.

Ieyasu’s victory cemented his primacy in the land, confiscating territory from the defeated enemy and rewarding his supporters. He also executed Mitsunari while allowing for Hideyori to reside in Osaka castle as a show of leniency.

The Emperor in 1603 granted the title of shogun to Ieyasu, creating the Tokugawa shogunate. Ieyasu would maintain the reforms of his predecessors, maintaining the strict caste system implemented by Hideyoshi while implementing the policy of sakoku, diplomatic isolation for Western powers. The 260 years of peace brought by the Tokugawa shogunate coincided with increased urbanization and the development of a merchant class in Japan. Tokugawa rule would end in 1868 when the arrival of foreigners provided an opportunity for the Emperor to reassert his authority in what would be known as the Meiji Restoration.

Part of the Komonjo harimaze byōbu, this document from 1602 bears the stamped seal of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Photo credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.


Tokugawa Ieyasu shuinjōan. Yale Association of Japan Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

The Opening of the Beinecke Library                                                                        By Jeremy Sontchi                                                                    

October 14, 1963- The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library was officially opened at Yale University.  One of the largest rare book and manuscript libraries in the world, it is the primary location for Yale’s literary archives, rare books, and delicate materials.

Photo Credit: Yale University and Michael Marsland

Designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and the gift of three brothers and Yale alumni, Edwin J. Beinecke (1907), Frederick W. Beinecke (1909),  and Walter Beinecke (1910), the library attracts over 200,000 visitors a year. The vast majority of these visitors do not come for the collections but instead for the stunning architecture. Located within the neoclassical Hewitt Quadrangle, the box-like and stark white Beinecke is highly conspicuous. From the outside, it is an elevated rectangular prism covered in white stone panels running five tall, ten wide, and fifteen long, forming a 1:2:3 ratio in honor of the materials within as many early books and manuscripts are laid out in this same ratio.

Photograph of Beinecke construction with steel blue framing visible. Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

On the inside, these panels display their true beauty as the one and one quarter inch thick slabs of Vermont white marble are translucent, allowing the sunlight to fluoresce through with a golden glow. The marble plays a crucial function in the library’s design. It does not just change the color of the light but also filters out harmful spectra that could damage or degrade objects inside. The inside of the library is a vast cathedral-like exhibition hall split into two levels and dominated by a six-story glass-enclosed book tower. This book tower holds roughly 180,000 books and there is room for another million books in underground storage. It is commonly said that the library stacks contain a fire suppression system so extreme that it will kill anyone within them by removing all the oxygen. This is false. While the original system called for carbon dioxide, it has since been replaced over personnel safety concerns with a mix of inert gases which lower the percentage of oxygen to a non-fatal level. The Beinecke book tower has also been the home of innovation in pest control. The library invented the process of freezing books at -20℉ for 36 hours to control bookworm infestations following an infestation in 1977. The process is now widely used in archives around the world. Around the tower are the exhibition floors which hold items on permanent and temporary displays.

Photo Credit: Yale University and Michael Marsland

The permanent display consists of two items: an original and complete Gutenberg Bible and the Double Elephant Folio of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. The first printed book in the world and an excellent example of the beauty of textual illumination, Yale’s Gutenberg Bible is one of only five perfect copies in the United States and one of only 49 copies of any quality existing in the world from the original printing. Both of its volumes sit in the case, open for viewing. Across the hall from the Gutenberg bible sits Yale’s copy of Audubon’s Double Elephant Folio. This monumental work is a printing of John James Audubon’s famous Birds of America, a documentation of the avian wildlife of the continent. Both of these works remain safe in climate controlled cases but if you visit over long enough periods, you will see different images. Four times a year, the pages are flipped as a part of the larger rearrangement of the temporary exhibitions.

Photo Credit: Yale University and Michael Marsland

Alongside the temporary and permanent exhibitions, the Beinecke contains an extensive selection of reading and seminar rooms below ground to facilitate access to the collections for registered readers. A non-circulating collection, all materials must be used on the premises under observation. While this might seem excessive, these security measures are very important as the value of the collections make them an alluring target for theft. In 2005, Edward Forbes Smiley III was arrested in New Haven, CT for theft. After a librarian noticed an X-Acto blade on the floor of the Beinecke reading room, Mr. Smiley, a rare maps dealer, was stopped and discovered to have seven maps on his person that he had cut out of rare books with his knife. A single map he had was worth over $150,000 and his total career haul of 97 maps, stolen from a variety of academic and public collections, was worth more than $3,000,000.


Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. “About the Building,” December 14, 2018.

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. “History and Architecture,” December 20, 2018.

James, Kathryn. “Seeing the Gutenberg Bible and The Birds of America.” Text, March 31, 2018.

“Rare Bookman - The New York Times,” June 14, 2018.

“The Double Elephant Folio | Audubon at Beinecke.” Accessed October 4, 2020.

“The Gutenberg at Beinecke.” Text. Accessed October 4, 2020.

Tidmarsh, David, Feb 04, and 2010. “Myths Abound about Beinecke.” Accessed October 4, 2020.

The Battle of Hastings                                      By Louie Lu

A Copie of the grants of the liberties of the Eyre of London, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University 

On October 14th, 1066, the Normans under the leadership of William the Conqueror decisively defeated England at the Battle of Hastings. This battlefield success translated into Norman conquest of the entire English kingdom.

The previous Anglo-Saxon King of England, Edward the Confessor, died heirless at the start of 1066. Previously, Edward had declared William, the bastard Duke of Normandy, as his heir, yet at his deathbed he decided to that the crown would instead go to the most powerful English noble in his realm, Harold Godwinson, the Earl of Wessex. Immediately after Harold’s ascension to the throne, his rule was contested by two neighboring kingdoms. To the south William protested that Edward had originally promised him the throne while the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada prepared a large invasion force to press his own claims.

The Norwegians first landed in the north, reaching as far as York. Harold retaliated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in late October and drove Hardrada’s forces off English soil. However, he had lost a significant number of his soldiers here.

Upon learning that the Normans too had landed in the south of England, Harold force-marched his forces across the kingdom. His already-exhausted troops managed to accomplish the task within three weeks, arriving at William’s newly-built fort at Hastings. The English army, which was composed almost entirely out of infantry including professional retinues of soldiers known as housecarls, took up a defensive position at Senlac Hill. On the other hand, the Norman army that was only half infantry with the other half containing heavy cavalry and archers opted to attack, hoping to break through the enemy infantry.

Contrary to Norman expectations, the English formations remained steady and rendered the Norman cavalry charges ineffective. As the Normans retreated, seemingly broken from the failed attack, some English soldiers sensing blood would rush forward to capitalize on perceived enemy weakness only to find themselves victims of feigned retreats. As a whole, the battle lasted the entire day without either side achieving a clear advantage.

Near the end of the battle, Harold Godwinson took an arrow to his eye and fell in battle, and his demoralized troops soon lost the will to fight. William soon took London and was crowned King of England after defeating another pretender from the house of Wessex, and he would continue to crush localized noble resistance later on in his reign. Norman rule coincided with a dramatic increase in construction of castles and keeps for them to retreat into whenever a rebellion did break out.

Punishing his opposition and rewarding his military supporters, he confiscated the lands of English nobles and redistributed them to Norman followers, resulting in the replacement of the vast majority of England’s ruling class (and the English nobility’s dogged determination to raise rebellions). In just a short period of time, nearly all governmental and ecclesiastic offices would be held by Normans. In fact, the nobility ceased to use English altogether, with French and Latin dominating the court. William and his descendants also preferred to spend most of their time in Normandy, securely ruling England from afar.

Despite the demographic changes in the elite, adopted and developed on the more existing administrative and legal system of England which was more complex than that of Normandy. William saw his two titles as distinct; he could be a vassal of the French crown as the Duke of Normandy and simultaneously be an equal as the King of England. Likewise, he respected the laws implemented by his past kings, especially that of Edward. The Beinecke holds a manuscript that “includes a copy of the charter in Old English presented by William the Conqueror to citizens of London, affirming the laws and rights they held Edward the Confessor.”

The Norman conquest had greater impacts than the integration of French words into the English language. For the next four centuries, English kings with numerous holdings in France would create continuous conflicts between the two neighbors, culminating in the destructive Hundred Years War in the 14th century.


Osborn fa31 A Copie of the grants of the liberties of the Eyre of London.London, England; early sixteenth century (during the reign of Henry VII). Parchment; 22 ff.; 750 x 290 mm.; 1 column. Dry-point ruling.

The Founding of Yale By Jeremy Sontchi and Taylor Barton

OCTOBER 9, 1701- Fitz-John Winthrop, Governor of the Colony of Connecticut, approves “An Act for Liberty to Erect a Collegiate School,” the school that would later become known as Yale University.

This “Collegiate School” was the dream of Reverend John Davenport, a founder and leader of the New Haven Colony in the late 1600s. He wanted to create a college in New Haven to educate future leaders in the arts and sciences to prepare them for careers in religion and politics inspired by the example of the New College, later known as Harvard University, in Massachusetts and the College of William and Mary in William Mary. Unfortunately, his goal was not accomplished until after his death, when his successor Reverend James Pierpont advocated for the creation of the school. The school’s charter emulated the desires of Davenport, laying out an institution such that “Youth may be instructed in the Arts & Sciences who thorough the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church & Civil State.” With an official charter granted by the legislature, the Collegiate College began educating in the home of Yale’s first rector and president, Abraham Pierson. While the charter called for the location to be Saybrook. Reverend Pierson’s congregation was opposed to his leaving and, as such, he taught from his home in Killingworth.  Upon his death in 1707, the school moved to Saybrook, yet just 9 years later in 1716, the school moved again to New Haven, Connecticut. It was after this move in 1718 that Elihu Yale made a generous donation to the budding college, and the Collegiate College was renamed Yale College in his honor.

Since then, Yale has undergone many changes and transitions that make it the school it is today. A great deal of these transitions expanded the diversity of the once homogenous student population and changed the meaning of what it meant to be a Yale student. At the beginning, the Collegiate school was explicitly limited to male students of Congregationalist orthodoxy. In the past three centuries, the student body has vastly expanded in both size and diversity. In 1854, Yung Wing was not only the first student of Chinese ethnicity to graduate from Yale, but also the first person of Chinese descent to graduate from any American university.In 1874, Edward Bouchet was the first African American to graduate from Yale. Two years later, he also became the first African American to earn a doctorate degree at an American University.

The establishment of gender diversity among the student body also represented a long process. In 1869, the Yale School of Fine Arts was opened as a coeducational school, with two women enrolling in the first class. 15 years later, the Yale Law School accidentally accepted a woman, Alice Rufie Blake Jordan, who applied with her initials. While she was allowed to complete her degree, after her graduation course enrollment was explicitly limited to men, with a repeal only occurring in 1919. In 1892, women were first admitted to the Yale Graduate School and, finally, in 1969 women were admitted into Yale College for undergraduate studies.

Yale’s early mission to educate future leaders has carried on through the years, as five US presidents have attended Yale, as well as a myriad of very successful people in every field. However, while the goal to educate has remained, Yale has changed significantly over the years. The original charter for the Collegiate School of Connecticut can be found in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where it serves as a reminder of how greatly Yale has evolved from its humble beginnings in a house to the renowned institution it is today.

Hangŭl By Louie Lu

On October 9th, 1446, King Sejong the Great introduced the newly-created Hangŭl alphabet to the Joseon kingdom. Today, Hangŭl is the official writing system on the Korean peninsula. The

Before the adoption of Hangŭl, Korea primarily used traditional Chinese characters, Hanja, as their primary script due to its historical cultural ties with the neighboring civilization, and the spreading Buddhist and later Confucian ideas that eventually becoming state ideologies relied primarily on Chinese texts.

However, Hanja did not represent adequately many aspects of the Korean language, and the sheer volume of characters required significant time dedicated to memorization. Thus, only the ruling elite privileged enough to receive an education could learn to read and write Hanja leaving the vast majority of the population illiterate.

Sejong, seeking to enable the common Joseon person to read and write one’s language, started working on creating a new writing system more similar to an alphabet that would be easier to learn than the taxing memorization of each Hanja character, and he kept his efforts a secret foreseeing that the elites who saw Hanja as a symbol of their power and status would voice their opposition. While sources at the time report that the Joseon king personally created the characters, it is believed that he left the task to the Hall of Worthies, a royal advisory council of scholars that was transformed into a research institute by Sejong.

Whatever the case, by 1443 Sejong announced the completion of Hangŭl, and in October of 1446 Sejong promulgated the new writing system to the Joseon public. Originally he called his project Hunminjeongeum, which means “to teach the people proper sounds” as the name Hangŭl is a recent invention.

While the elites, who referred to Hanja as “true letters”, continued to resist the incorporation of Hangŭl, the new script was quickly adopted by the general populace, especially enabling women to read and right to the extent that the elites also called Hangŭl “women’s script”. Sejong and his successors, fulfilling their obligations as Confucian rulers, were able to convey its moral virtues to the common people directly translating texts previously written only in Hanja into Hangŭl. The Beinecke library has one such text, a 19th century copy of Ŏm Ssi hyomun ch'ŏnghaengnok focusing on the theme of filial piety, which also happens to be an excellent research resource on the history of Hangŭl. Hangŭl also found popularity as the writing system of choice for popular literature.

With the rise of Korean nationalism in response to Japanese imperialism, Hangŭl became the widely accepted writing system as hanja faded from common usage outside of academic circles. In light of this important aspect of Korean heritage, today the South Korean government considers October 9th a national holiday, Hangeul Day.