What ever happened to the Broadman Library?

A recent gift to the Library reminded me that I had first read about the Broadman Library in an old back issue of The New Yorker. Joseph Broadman (1883-1966) was a Manhattan medical doctor who eventually gathered more than 500,000 pamphlets, posters, periodicals, and newspapers relating to World War I and the unstable peace thereafter. He also developed a patented method for the preservation of wood pulp papers, chiefly newsprint. The story in The New Yorker was like other stories about his collecting — all either mentioned directly or alluded to common themes, namely, that, in the case of Joseph Broadman, collecting had become:

  1. A pastime turned into a vocation. The theme here is unintended consequences; also, that fulfillment is found unexpectedly, rather than resulting from a series of conventional steps.
    Example: “Over twenty years ago Dr. Joseph Broadman of New York City, began the pursuit of an unique hobby. Shortly thereafter that unique hobby began the pursuit of Dr. Broadman.” — opening paragraph by Hayden Welles in 1935 article in New York University Alumnus. [See list of sources below for details.]

  2. A private activity now conducted on a scale that makes it a public utility.
    Example: “Dr. Joseph Broadman of 141 West Forty-first Street, without any previous training in history or library work, without any realization of the magnitude of what he was attempting, has assembled this collection with brings exclamations from historians and librarians.” — paragraph two of a 1930 New York Times article “Novel War Library Grows From Hobby”

  3. A lesson as to what our pubic priorities ought to be.
    Example: “It is our hope that some day this very valuable library will be on public display. It is a commentary on the times – that no money is available for a collection of information that could well be a vital force for peace.” — Editorial headnote to 1959 article on the Library by Broadman published in General Practice.

  4. An activity that others will eventually “finally” tally.
    Example: In the 1935 NYU article, the author Welles closes by speculating: “It will be hard when Dr Broadman’s contributions to history are finally tallied to decide which is the greater. Will it be his Library on the World War …or will it be his paper preservative?
    Welles answers his own question “Probably the latter, for without the preservative, ravenous Time will slowly but irresistibly devour the Library.”

So what happened to the Broadman library?

For years, he tried to sell the collection. His efforts, starting in the 1930s, were directed at university libraries, such as Indiana, and Princeton. After the end of World War II, he renewed his efforts to place the collection by publishing a 35 page pamphlet entitled Broadman Library of World War I and World War II: Including the Years Intervening and Following. Its Inception, Growth, Contents, World Opinion.

Despite Broadman’s efforts, no one took his collection for many years, and one can only speculate on why this was so, as I do later in this note.

Eventually, late in life, in 1966, he gave the collection to a newly established Quaker institution on Long Island, the Friends World College. The college moved around the island several times and eventually settled on the North Shore in Lloyd Harbor. That is where the collection was last seen.

In the spring of 2006, I gathered the story of its last days from former college officials and from local town’s people. To quote my notes:

“I eventually reached Donald W. Smith of Greenport, NY who was on the board of trustees of the FWC in 1990-1991. (1991 was the year in which the FWC merged into Long Island University and became the Friends World Program. The merger had been brought on by a funding crisis.) He told me on April 2, 2006 that the Broadman Library was stored on the grounds in various buildings such as the second floor of the Barn and in some of the stables. He further said it had been offered around by FWC to a number of public libraries as well as to Swarthmore College. No one wanted it. Thus, he continued, when the remaining real estate of FWC at Lloyds Neck was sold in 1990, the grounds, buildings, and contents such as the Broadman Library, passed to the new owner.”

The FWC property was known as Livingston Manor. The new owner eventually pulled down all the outbuildings together with the main house, evidently ca. 1994-95. When the barn containing the Broadman Library was demolished, the contents too passed into oblivion.

Ironically, all that remains of the Broadman Library, as far as I can tell, are records about it, such as correspondence files at the New York Public Library, the FDR Library, Indiana University, even here at Princeton. Publications about the collection issued by Dr Broadman himself also remain. His collection has vanished.

Further reflection • Broadman tried to claim value for the collection by making it part of a category of value that had not been collected by traditional collectors whose goods are preserved by the workings of the antiquarian book market. Instead, and perhaps because of his professional training, he chose to make it a part of a category of value that was created by universities and research institutions. It is they — the professionals — who value breath, depth and equal opportunity for all viewpoints.

There were advantages and disadvantages to Broadman’s approach.

On the one hand, it brought him regard with those from whom he sought regard, such professional men as university presidents, historians, and diplomats.

On the other hand, he did not completely share their values. He challenged an emerging consensus among them regarding the use of microfilm as a means of dealing with the preservation of large twentieth century archival collections. Broadman challenged claims about the stability of microfilm as a satisfactory means for preservation of records. Evidence of the challenge comes from Broadman’s exchange of letters on this subject with Princeton librarian Julian Boyd. In a letter to Broadman dated November 29, 1941, Boyd wrote: “I have read your comments with much interest, though I regret to say with almost complete disagreement. … I am in most complete disagreement with your suggestion that the National Bureau of Standards has been under undue influence in its tests of films, …” Moreover, Broadman also insisted that his collection be preserved with his patented process. (Such a project would cost the host institution untold sums.)

In the end, it was not just lack of money preventing sale of the Broadman Library . For many years, there appears to have been insufficient funds of institutional good opinion, so that, after any money was spent, those in the institution could feel that their opinion had been validated. Just as Broadman wanted to feel better after adding to the Library — he said “There are hundreds of thousands of doctors, but there’s only one library like this” (1941 New Yorker article) — so those in an institution would want to feel better after acquiring the Broadman Library. It takes more than money to preserve a collection.

Another further reflection • The evidence is only suggestive, but I can not help but wonder if Broadman’s motivation for collecting was to accumulate a protective surrogate. Some examples: Official records state he was born in Austria and that German was his native language. The country in which he made his living and raised his family was anti-German. It was clear that he was defensive about his hertiage, as evidenced by a letter to the editor of The New York Times (September 18, 1924) protesting the Times editorial “The Steuben Society Bloc.” Broadman controverted many points, such as the article of the Versailles Treaty that fixed responsibility for the war on Germany. In reply, Broadman wrote “… the publication of the secret archives, Russian, German, Belgian, and Serbian, proves the fallacy of this charge.” In 1940-41, Broadman began issuing “Research Bulletins” with such titles as “Facts vs. Propaganda” and “Hitler, the Man of Honor …?” New York Herald Tribune reporter Barrett McGurn, in his article on Broadman, August 3, 1941, stated that Secretary of the Navy William Franklin “Frank” Knox responded to Broadman’s bulletins as “warning … the world situation leaves no room for complacency.” McGurn concluded that “Dr. Broadman was now stressing in his bulletins the need for America to use all its forces to make certain a repetition of the Allied victory over Germany.”


• Newspaper and periodical articles

“Novel War Library Grows from Hobby. Dr. Joseph Broadman’s Collection of Human Data on Conflict Called Best of Kind. Experts Praise It Highly. Contains Magazines, Newspapers, Clippings Costing Thousands – Several Colleges Seek to Buy It. Has Cost Thousands of Dollars. Untrained as Librarian. Fine War Library Grows from Hobby. Foot Notes Give Many Facts.” The New York Times, Sunday, July 20, 1930.
[available at NY Times archive 1851-1980]

“A Hobby That Became an Institution: the Story of the Broadman Library That Grew From a Handful of Newspaper Clippings Into a Collection of 400,000 Items and an Amazing Invention.” New York University Alumnus, vol. XV, no. 5, January, 1935.

“500, 000 Items in War Library Offered as Gift. Dr. Joseph Broadman, Who Collected Big Work, Will Donate to Any Institution That Agrees to Preserve It.” The New York Herald Tribune, September 8, 1938, page 10.

“Library.” The New Yorker, October 4, 1941, page 15-16.
[available at The New Yorker archive]

“One-Man, 50-Ton War Library Wins Renown. Doctor’s Collection, Begun in Pockets, Now Arsenal of Facts Against Nazis.” The New York Herald Tribune, August 3, 1941.

“Dr. Broadman, 83, Library Creator. Author of Book on Curative Role for Bee Venon Dies.” The New York Times, February 26, 1966, page 17.
[available at NY Times archive 1851-1980]

• Pamphlets

William Steward Ayars. Broadman Library of World War I and World War II: Including the Years Intervening and Following. Its Inception, Growth, Contents, World Opinion. (New York: Broadman Library Foundation, 1948) 34 pages. Includes several photographs. [Copy of the brochure is at Mudd Library in AC123 (Library Records), series Librarian’s Records, sub-series Boyd, old box number 148]

Joseph Broadman. The Broadman Library on “War, Peace and International Relations” (New York, 1959). 8 pages. Reprinted from the October 1959 issue of General Practice.

[Related work] Joseph Broadman. The Scientific Preservation of Perishable Papers; A Comparison of the Various Processes of Preservation of Originals and Photographic Reproduction. (New York, Broadman process, inc. [1941]). Includes photograph of Dr. Broadman reproduced above. Broadman is pointing to parcels labeled “Letters to Editors.” This category was one of 12 major sub-divisions of the Library as listed in “Section B” of the Ayars 1948 pamphlet. The other sections were: Newspapers, Indices, Scrap Books (about 1500), Propaganda—Pamphlets and Leaflets, Books (about 3000), Official Records, Posters, Cartoons (several thousand), Scrap Book Index (about 60,000 cards), Periodicals, and Miscellaneous.

• Archival

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park, NY • President’s Official File #4825, “Broadman, Dr. Joseph, 1939-45,” contains 71 pages (approx. 20 letters and memoranda) •
Samuel I. Rosenman Papers. Folder titled, “Broadman Library of the World War.” It contains 52 pages which consist of some 21 letters and memoranda between March 1942 and November 1943 and attachments. These papers included an 8 page document, “Brief and Incomplete Description of Contents of the Broadman Library.” Broadman and FDR discussed donation of selected runs of periodicals for the library at Hyde Park.

Indiana University. Archives. Bloomington, IN. •
File on Broadman in the papers of President Herman Wells, 1938-1943.

New York Public Library. New York, NY. •
File on Broadman in the administrative archives of the Library: RG6 (Central Administration Central Administration – Director – Lydenberg, Hopper, and Beals – General Correspondence — Box 7)

Swarthmore College. Friends Historical Library. Swarthmore, PA. •
Records of the Friends World College. (RG 4/ 082) Minutes of the Board of Trustees. Vol. 11-13 (April 1971 – January 1974). The minutes of the Trustees Executive Council for August 10, 1972, page 10, “Broadman Library. As previously reported, the Broadman Library collection (an early gift to the college of documents for a peace library comprising a large collection of materials from World War I through World War II). has been badly damaged by vandalization last year of the Nike building in which it was stored. Through the efforts of Francis Koster of C.W. Post College, their chief librarian had taken a look and found it still valuable. That college may help us get funds and a place for it. A further report will be welcomed.”

Princeton University. Archives (Mudd Library). Princeton, NJ. •
Library Records (AC123). Sub-series for the papers of librarian Julian Boyd.

5 thoughts on “What ever happened to the Broadman Library?

  1. My father was on the original Board of Trustees for what became Friends World College and I worked as a gardener and caretaker at Harrow Hill as a high school student. I assisted in some of the transport of the Broadman collection from the basement of his apartment building near Central Park in NYC to the garages at Harrow Hill where the college was starting to build a library. What we moved seemed to be mostly boxes of newspapers he had carefully collected unread of all the major NYC daily papers. I recall hearing that he had devised a method of collecting bee venom for use in medical research as well. Sorry to hear that it all evaporated not to mention the buildings at the Livingston estate that I visited several times.

  2. Mr Mahoney, did Mr Ferguson ever answer your question? One would have expected a dealer of some sort to be called in to clear the library before demolition of the building, who would at least have taken some of it for resale

  3. Dear Mr. Ferguson, I realize several months have passed since your article was posted, but is there any recent news on where the collection might be? We can give it a home if it is still an orphan. Please advise.
    Michael Mahoney
    Mahoney Research Library
    Simsboro LA
    PH: 318.274.0445

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