United States Naval Lyceum Records, 1834-1846
A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029
Prepared by: David D'Onofrio
(Original Guide by Mary R. Catalfamo, 1990)
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
On November 28, 1833, a group of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officers, including Captain Matthew Perry and Commodore Charles G. Ridgely, founded the United States Naval Lyceum at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Organized to "promote the diffusion of useful knowledge, to foster a spirit of harmony and a community of interest in the service, and to cement the links which unite us [Navy and Marine Corps officers] as professional brethren," the Lyceum consisted of a library, a museum, and for a brief time boasted its own journal, Naval Magazine. Additionally, members of the Naval Lyceum were among the leading voices in favor of the establishment of a formal naval academy.
Fifty-five years after its founding, the United States Naval Lyceum was disbanded. After ceasing operations, the Lyceum's collections were transferred to the United States Naval Academy where they became the core of the Naval Academy Museum's collection.
Scope and Content Note
The United States Naval Lyceum Records, comprising 2.5 linear inches of documentation, consists of a catalog of the Lyceum's library and the Lyceum's membership ledger.
The library catalog, a single volume formally entitled "Catalogue of the Books Composing the Library of the U.S. Naval Lyceum," consists of a handwritten inventory of the Lyceum's library holdings. The catalog is organized by subject area, with headings that include ancient history, modern history, antiquities, geography, travels, memoirs, biography, politics, ethics, ecclesiastical history, natural history, chemical sciences, medical sciences, mathematics, astronomy, fine arts, and philosophy. Inscribed on the front cover is a note stating, "This Catalogue was transcribed by a person sent from the U.S. Ship Fulton, who left it a mass of Errors. It is, however, made correct and will answer for the Printer, to print from."
The membership ledger, formally entitled "Ledger No. 1," consists of the Lyceum's membership, arranged chronologically in the order of initiation. The ledger also lists each member's initiation fee and annual subscription fees. Included among the members listed in the ledger are Matthew C. Perry, Oliver Hazard Perry, Franklin Buchanan (first Superintendent of the Naval Academy), Hiram Paulding (eventual Commandant of the New York Navy Yard), Reverend George Jones (first chaplain of the Naval Academy), Charles G. Ridgely (first president of the Lyceum), Samuel F. Du Pont, and Dr. John Lockwood (medical officer and chemistry professor of the Naval Academy), as well as Alexander Slidell Mackenzie and Guert Gansevoort (Commanding and Executive Officers of U.S.S. Somers at the time of Philip Spencer's attempted mutiny).
Additional materials pertaining to the United States Naval Lyceum in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library include a Lyceum library catalog dating from 1880 (Catalogue of the Library of the U.S. Naval lyceum, Navy yard, New York, also Lists of Officers and Members), as well as a copy of the Lyceum's 1836 Constitution and By-Laws (currently housed in the Special Collections Vertical Files).