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Laying of Library Cornerstone Features '13 News

(Reprinted from CRIMSON issue of June 17, 1913.)


In the presence of a throng of about 250 spectators the impressive ceremonies connected with the laying of the cornerstone of the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial were held yesterday morning. At 11.10 o'clock Mrs. Widener and Mrs. Lowell, accompanied by President Lowell, and Professor A. C. Coolidge '87, entered the building grounds, and were followed by the procession of the members of Phi Beta Kappa.

The audience stationed themselves about the spot which marks the northeast corner of the building, some standing on the platform arranged for the purpose, and a great many climbing up on the piles of stones in order to command a better view. A choir, composed of picked members of the University Glee Club and the Chapel Choir, opened the ceremonies with the anthem. "A mighty fortress is our God." President Lowell then mounted the rostrum and made the introductory speech.

Publications in Cornerstone

In the cornerstone was placed a parchment bearing the inscription, copies of the College publications of the day--the Lampoon, Monthly, Illustrated, Advocate, the 1916 Red Book, yesterday's CRIMSON, pictures of Gore Hall, the old library, copies of the various official University publications, and a copy of "College Life" by Dean Briggs.

Professor A. C. Coolidge '87, of the History Department, director of the library, delivered a short commemorative address, after which the stone was raised, and a sealed copper chest was placed beneath.

Mrs. Widener Spreads Cement

Mrs. Widener spread the cement with a silver trowel, and the stone was lowered into place, while the choir sang Martin Luther's impressive hymn, "Nun danket alle Gott." President Lowell then introduced Justice Swayze, president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Massachusetts, speaking especially of the fittingness of the cornerstone of the Memorial, being laid in the presence of the first scholars of the University.

Coolidge's Talk

Professor Coolidge's talk was as follows:

"Mr. President, Mrs. Widener, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Brothers of the Phi Beta Kappa:

"This is a notable day in the annals of Harvard. We are assembled to witness the laying of the corner stone of a building that will not only surpass in its splendid proportions any other that has been erected for us in the two hundred and seventy-seven years of the life of Harvard University, but it will also fill a long felt and grievous want, for it will furnish a place where our students can make the best use of every volume helpful to their education; a home for the treasures of learning and literature that have accumulated here in the course of generations, making those treasures accessible under ideal conditions to scholars and investigators and book lovers in future days. Thus our most crying need is the one that has been most generously met.

"But our deep gratitude on this occasion is sobered by the recollection that our good fortune has come to us under the shadow of an appalling calamity. The great monument to be erected here will commemorate a son of Harvard, who while still in his earliest manhood met a here's end in one of the most touching tragedies of modern times. Life had seemed to hold out to him the fairest promise. Secure in the affection of family and friends for he had won the respect, admiration and attachment of those who knew him, free from the harsh necessity of toiling for his daily bread, he could pursue the scholarly interests that were dear to him and gratify the refinement of his taste. A lover and seeker of the rarest books, and familiar with them in their minutest details he had gathered together in a brief space of time a collection of choice volumes that has but few equals in the whole world.

This collection that was so infinitely precious to him is coming by his desire to the University from which he had graduated not five years before. It will remain as a memorial of his love for his College in the centre of the superb edifice which will henceforth bear his name and which will link it imperishably with that of Harvard. With these thoughts in our mind we now thankfully but gravely greet the moment of the laying of the cornerstone of the Harry Elkins Widener Library."

Swayze's Address

Judge Swayze spoke as follows:

"Harvard College began with the gift of a library. Our gratitude to John Harvard for his gift is mingled with regret that we cannot see the books he read, and by handling them imagine ourselves in actual touch with him. His little library of two hundred and sixty volumes, large for the time and place, has been succeeded by one of the greatest collections of printed books in the world. Today the princely gift of another lover of learning, in loving memory of a young scholar of our own time, too soon and too tragically taken from us, makes it probable that our books will be preserved for centuries to the advantage of the thousands who are to follow us. Others have expressed the gratitude of the University.

"It is my good fortune as the representative for the moment of the Society that has always honored scholarship, to express the gratitude of those who in the splendor of the new building will remember the profitable hours spent in Gore Hall. The Library shares and will continue to share with our museums and gardens, our hospitals and laboratories, in the glory of making this spot one of the intellectual centres of the world. Here books are not kept in prison but are open to the use of all without undue restrictions. We often echo the lament of Ecclesiastes, but it is only over-much study that is a weariness of the flesh. It is as true today as when Cicero said it that books adorn us in prosperity, comfort us in adversity, delight us at home and do not hinder us abroad. Time discards the spawn of the press on the gossip of the hour, and the treasures remain. The field of learning widens but work becomes specialized and subdivided, and each scholar may know his part. All are under obligation to the munificence of past generations.

The library of John Harvard cannot be preserved with the library of Harry Elkins Widener. We may, however, indulge the hope that as long as scholarship and learning are honored, and the wisdom of the past is cherished, the endless generations of future scholars will seek this spot and recall with the grateful spirit with which we recall the names of Harvard and of Gore, the name of the donor of the enduring building to be erected here."

The singing of "Fair Harvard" closed the ceremonies

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