University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The History of the University of Rochester Libraries--120 Years, Chp. 19

Volume XXV · Spring 1970 · Number 3
The History of the University of Rochester Libraries--120 Years

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Gifts and Acquisitions

Jacob R. Cominsky is an alumnus of whom the University of Rochester has always been justly proud. A member of the Class of 1920, he was an excellent student, editor-in-chief of the Campus, managing editor of the Interpres, and campus correspondent for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. After graduation he became a reporter on the Democrat, and in a few short years, its city editor. The call of New York City and its greater challenge drew him to the New York Times in 1928 where he became a member of its business staff, rising to the post of national advertising manager. In 1942, he joined Norman Cousins, editor of the then nearly defunct Saturday Review of Literature, as publisher. Under the talented leadership of these two men, the Saturday Review broadened its scope, increased its circulation enormously, and rose to a position of eminence among the literary periodicals of the country. 

Jack Cominsky died in the summer of 1968 at the height of his career. To summarize his personality, his achievements, his broad interests and contributions, one must rely on superlatives. Yet with all his success, his fame, his accomplishments, he was immensely proud of his Rochester background and his University. He served with pride as an alumni-elected member of the Board of Trustees from 1956 until 1959. 

Mrs. Cominsky, the former Roslyn Weisberg, was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music in its first class, and shared her husband's interest in the University. To create a memorial to her husband, she has provided the beautiful reading room in the area of the library devoted to rare books, manuscripts, and archives. In addition, she has given us a collection of Jack Cominsky's papers: correspondence, including letters from his many admirers, friends, and associates; albums for his twentieth and twenty-fifth anniversaries as publisher of the Saturday Review; scrapbooks, memorabilia, photographs, clippings. Louis Wiley (his great friend and mentor), George Eastman, and other Rochesterians are represented. President Truman, General Omar Bradley, Marshall Field, George Bernard Shaw, and a host of literary figures are also represented among his correspondents. The very real value of the collection is its portrayal of a man of many parts, a man greatly admired and loved by all who came in contact with him. 


In the summer of 1969, at the suggestion of Mrs. Joseph Roby, the family of Helen Rochester Rogers presented to the University library a collection of letters and other papers which Miss Rogers had accumulated during her lifetime. 

During the first World War, Miss Rogers volunteered for service in England. While resident there she became acquainted with a number of English literary figures with whom she corresponded after her return to the States. Prominent among them was John Masefield, who wrote to her over a long period of years, visited her in Rochester, and remained a good friend as long as she lived. The collection of Miss Rogers' papers includes sixty-six letters from Masefield, a number of photographs, sketches, and memorabilia. In addition there are letters from Sir John C. Squire, Hugh Walpole, Sir Hamilton Harty, Dame Myra Hess, and others. Miss Rogers' American correspondents include Paul Horgan, Claude Bragdon, and Mary Breckinridge. 

A descendant of Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, a graduate of Smith College, and a life-time resident of Rochester, Miss Rogers died in May, 1964. Her many interests included the Frontier Nursing Service in Kentucky, the Lewis Street Settlement in Rochester, the Society for the Preservation of Landmarks in Western New York, and a number of other local groups. Her papers reflect only a small part of her interests and activities, but those she saved, form a valuable collection and a fitting memorial to a prominent Rochesterian. 


Of the many familiar figures on the Rochester scene during the first half of the twentieth century, few were more highly esteemed than that of James P. B. Duffy, who died in January, 1969, in his ninety-first year. A long-time resident of the old Third Ward, Mr. Duffy's activities included business, administrative, legislative, and judicial service, an extensive law practice, and a "staggering donation of his time and counsel to public and community service." His nephew, E. James Hickey, and his secretary of fifty-five years, Miss C. Marie Blackwood, have given the library the diaries, account-books, memoranda, travel, business, and lecture notes, in which Mr. Duffy recorded in minute detail the events of his daily life. It is a remarkable record, revealing a man of deep religious feeling, self-disciplined, warm, friendly, and devoted to his fellow men. 


Dr. David Rhys Williams, pastor emeritus of the Unitarian Church of Rochester, has given the University library a collection of his personal papers, the record of his widespread activities of more than fifty years. Almost two thousand packets of speeches, sermons, and records of his involvement in numerous social movements of the past half century will be available for the student of American life of the period--economic, social, religious. 

Because of his concern with social justice, Dr. Williams has frequently been referred to as "a revolutionary." A quick glance at the great mass of his papers shows how deeply involved he has always been with some of the great social problems of our time, namely, women's suffrage, socialism, arbitration of labor disputes, and pacifism. His philosophy of the function of religion as a means of persuading men to come to grips with these problems is clearly indicated in these records of his long service. 



Rowland L. Collins, professor of English at the University of Rochester, and associate editor of the Bulletin. 

Catherine D. Hayes, editor of the Bulletin and assistant director of the University of Rochester Libraries. 

Dexter Perkins, professor emeritus of history at the University of Rochester.