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Lewis Institute records, 1827-1984

Identifier: 001.02.01

This collection contains records produced by or about the administration, students, faculty, and alumni of the Lewis Institute. The bulk of the material is from 1890-1940, roughly the years of the school’s existence. These records were found in collection and did not have a cohesive original order; the collection also contains some additions from later accessions. The collection’s most comprehensive materials include records on the Lewis Estate and Lewis Institute Building construction, materials on the events surrounding the 1940 merger, and a complete set of the academic catalog serial publication. Less comprehensive are materials related to the academic programs, faculty, and student records. Of particular interest are the Alumni Records, which include correspondence on the Alumni Association, three scrapbooks, and several folders of correspondence from students serving in World War I to the Patriotic League. Also included are three boxes of photographs, though many are unidentified and undated. The collection has been arranged into eight thematic series: Series I contains assorted essays on the history of the Lewis Institute from various sources, and has been artificially constructed. Series II is a fairly complete record of the Lewis Estate before 1896, including property records, legal documentation, and information on the construction of the school building. Property records show the estate’s assets and are mainly for properties in Cook County, but include a few from New York and Connecticut. Many of the properties appear to have been rented out or sold to raise money for the school. The original order of these records are unknown, so they have been arranged in chronological order. Information that appeared on the original storage envelopes has been duplicated on the front of the current folders. There is also a book of minutes from the Estate’s Board of Trustees meeting and limited correspondence. Series III contains administrative records beginning from 1896 when the school was founded. This includes the minutes for Board of Trustees meetings, financial records, and the office records of administrative staff. The papers of Alex D Bailey, Chairmen of the Board of Trustees from 1934 to 1940 and of R.A. Mowat, Controller, are included as two separate subseries; they mostly include correspondence on the circumstances surrounding the merger. Materials specifically related to the merger, including alumni responses, are separated in to subseries 6. Series IV includes student records, student produced materials, and some academic materials. This series is very scattered and not comprehensive. Records include two volumes of student enrollment and some grade reports, academic materials including some student theses and assignments, and student produced materials include programs, flyers, and a newspaper. Related is Series V, the complete purchasing records of the library from 1896 to 1935. Series VI includes records of Lewis Alumni, including significant information on the founding of the alumni association and three substantial scrapbooks put together by that organization. The series also includes several folders of letters from alumni serving in World War I in response to a holiday card from Lewis Institute. Series VII is a complete run of the Academic Catalog, the Lewis Bulletin Newsletter, and Directors reports. The academic catalog was published under several names including the Lewis Bulletin, the Lewis Circular of Information, and the Lewis Annual. This series includes two copies of each catalog: one loose, and one as part of a set of bound volumes. The only exceptions are October 1908, April 1909, 1924 Circular, and 1935 Circular, which only exist as individual copies. The bound volumes contain some supplementary programs from plays, concerts, graduations, and assemblies. Note the Lewis Bulletin Newsletter (Subseries 2) shares a name with the earlier academic catalogs but is a distinct publication. Series VIII contains oversize records. Most are more real estate records, and there is one additional Treasurer’s Report. Series IX contains photographs of Lewis Institute faculty, students, and staff; including several portrait and classroom photographs. These have been arranged topically; Box 33 is oversized. The origin, subject, and dates of many of these photographs are unknown.


  • Creation: 1827-1984


Collection Size

195 linear_feet (30 hollinger boxes, 2 bankers box, 1 oversize box, 5 free standing volumes)


Records of the Lewis Institute was a technical and professional college that served the greater Chicago area from 1896 to 1940. In 1940 it merged with Armour Institute of Technology to form the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Includes financial and property records from the original bequest up to the founding of the school, and Board of Trustees minutes. Materials reference some other Chicago are colleges, including University of Chicago and Armour Institute of Technology. Student materials include involvement in WWI.

Biographical / Historical

The Lewis Institute was a technical and professional college that served the greater Chicago area from 1896 to 1940. In 1940 it merged with Armour Institute of Technology to form the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The Lewis Institute was created by the bequest of Chicago business Allen Cleveland Lewis (1821--1877), who willed his estate to the creation of a school of higher learning open to all men and women regardless of finances or social standing. The Lewis Institute was subsequently established in 1896 in a building designed by Henry Ives Cobb on the corner of Madison St. and Robey St. (now Damen St.) In the spirit of Lewis’ wishes, the school site was selected because it was easy to access from several train lines, and also housed a branch of the Chicago Public Library on its first floor. Lewis Institute’s first president, George Noble Carman (1856--1941) and first dean, Edwin Herbert Lewis (1866-1938), worked together to create an innovative higher education program that blended liberal arts with practical training. When Lewis Institute opened in 1896, it offered a high school (academy) program, a two year degree and a four year engineering degree. One of the requirements of Allen C Lewis’s will was that the college offer night classes for working adults; these began in 1896 as well, and are thought to be one of the first night college programs in the United States. By 1906 Lewis Institute expanded into three main areas of study: General Science, which included Domestic Arts; Liberal Arts; and Engineering and Mechanical Arts. In 1917 the school began offering a four year bachelor’s degree in Arts & Sciences in addition to Engineering. All of these programs, including Domestic Arts, focused on a practical professional education for both male and female students. Lewis Institute had a diverse and active student body. In 1928 a survey showed students of fifty two different nationalities, including emigrants from Scandinavia, Eastern European nations, India, China, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Altogether, Lewis Institute educated over 100,000 Chicago residents, many first or second generation U. S. immigrants. Students’ diverse backgrounds led to the creation of many cultural clubs and activities alongside more traditional college social life. The school produced a group of active and enthusiastic alumni who organized themselves into the Lewis Union Alumni Club as early as 1928. In 1940, after a decade of increasing financial and accreditation problems, Lewis Institute merged with the Armour Institute of Technology. Attempts to financially rebuild the estate had failed, and though the Lewis Institute considered merging with several Chicago schools, including the University of Chicago, it ultimately settled on the near south side engineering school. The new expanded institution was named Illinois Institute of Technology. After the merger, IIT continued to use the Lewis Institute building as an off-site campus, mostly for war training programs during World War II. The building was given to the city of Chicago in 1950 and later demolished. Since 1940 the name “Lewis Institute” has been periodically attached to liberal arts programs at IIT in honor of their origin.


I. Historical Essays II. Lewis Estate 1. Legal Records 2. Real Estate Records 3. School Property and Building III. Administrative Records 1. Board of Trustees Minutes 2. Bank Accounts 3. Records of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Alex D Bailey 4. Records of the Controller, R. A. Mowat 5. Other Administrative Reports 6. Merger Records IV. Academic Program Records 1. Faculty and Staff Records 2. Student Records 3. Academic Materials 4. Student Life 5. Student Newspaper V. Library Records VI. Alumni Records 1. Alumni Association Records 2. Patriotic League Records 3. Reunions 4. Alumni Newsletters 5. Scrapbooks VII. Serial Publications 1. Academic Catalogs 2. Newsletters 3. Directors Reports VII. Oversize 1. Real Estate 2. Treasurer’s Report VIII. Photographs

Part of the Paul V. Galvin Library. University Archives and Special Collections Repository

35 West 33rd Street
Chicago IL 60616
(312) 567-5993

Paul V. Galvin Library

35 West 33rd Street | Chicago, IL | 60616