Special Collections & Archives

Access & Use

Here's the nitty-gritty about using our special collections:

Plus, you don't need to be a Hopkins affiliate to use our stuff, but you do need a photo i.d.!

Got Digital?

Though we love using old books and photographs for our research, we also know there is interest in online access to our collections.  Rare materials and digital media unite!  Here are some ways you can access digital resources from our collections:

The Smart Set: March 1922

Regarding Hopkins History

Q: Who was Johns Hopkins and why the extra "S"?
A: First things first: why the extra "S"? Because his first name was really a last name.

Johns Hopkins' great-grandmother was Margaret Johns, the daughter of Richard Johns, owner of a 4,000-acre estate in Calvert County, Md. Margaret Johns married Gerard Hopkins in 1700; one of their children was named Johns Hopkins.

The second Johns Hopkins, grandson of the first, was born to Samuel and Hannah Janney Hopkins in 1795 on the family's tobacco plantation in southern Maryland. His formal education ended in 1807, when his parents, devout Quakers, decided on the basis of religious conviction to free their slaves and put Johns and his brother to work in the fields. Johns left home at 17 for Baltimore and a job in business with an uncle; then, at the age of 24, he established his own mercantile house.

He was an important investor in the nation's first major railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio, and became a director in 1847 and chairman of its finance committee in 1855.

Hopkins never married; he may have been influenced in planning for his estate by a friend, philanthropist George Peabody, who had founded the Peabody Institute in Baltimore in 1857.

In 1867, Hopkins arranged for the incorporation of The Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and for the appointment of a 12-member board of trustees for each. He died on Christmas Eve 1873, leaving $7 million to be divided equally between the two institutions. It was, at the time, the largest philanthropic bequest in U.S. history.

Q: How long has Hopkins admitted undergraduates?
A: Since its founding in 1876. President Gilman and many of the trustees initially advocated an all-graduate institution, but they were pressured into admitting undergraduates during the initial planning stages. Gilman, once the decision was made, welcomed undergraduates warmly. The first undergraduate class received their bachelor's degrees in 1879, while the first PhDs were awarded in 1878. Until the early 1900s, the undergraduate course of instruction required only three years to complete.

Q: When did Hopkins first admit women as graduate students or undergraduates?
A: Although a few women graduate students were admitted as early as 1877, the trustees formally approved the admission of women to graduate study in 1907. Those admitted prior to 1907 were considered on a case-by-case basis and usually had a champion within the faculty or administration to press their case. It was not until 1969 that the trustees approved the admission of women to undergraduate studies. The first undergraduate women entered (as transfer students) in the spring of 1970.  Interested in learning more about the history of women students at Hopkins?

Q: Is it true that Daniel Coit Gilman's will required that no building should rise higher than the Gilman Hall clock tower, or that the clock tower should not  be blocked from view of Charles Street?
A: There is no truth to either statement. Gilman retired from Hopkins in 1901 and died in 1908. He left no money to the University, nor did he leave any stipulations as to future construction on the campus. Gilman Hall, constructed between 1913 and 1915, was named for him to recognize his 25 years service as Hopkins' founding president. The reason the MSE Library was constructed primarily underground is that a building of such size, built above ground, would have dwarfed Homewood House and neighboring classroom buildings. Homewood House, with its Federal style of architecture, served as the model for subsequent campus buildings.

About Those Old Books

How many books do you have?

Our breakdown of books is as follows:

  • Over 60,000 in the A-Level Rare Book Collection
  • Over 28,600 in the John Work Garrett Library
  • Over 300,000 in the George Peabody Library