via The Redwood Library & Athenaeum

The Redwood Library & Athenaeum has been selected by  Patrick Conley, Historian Laureate of Rhode Island to house a substantial portion of the Dr. Patrick T. Conley  Library consisting of scholarly works on all phases and aspects of American History. 

His generous donation includes his most prized scholarly books in American history ranging from exploration and discovery, the colonial period, and the American Revolutionary era, a section particularly strong because of Conley’s chairmanship of the Rhode Island Bicentennial of Independence Commission (ri76), the state’s bicentennial of the Constitution and Bill of Rights Commission, the Rhode Island state bicentennial observance, and the United States Constitution Council. 

Dr. Patrick Conley left Benedict Leca, right. Photo credit: David Hansen

The gift also contains scholarly sections on the Early National Period, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the  Gilded Age, the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the post-World War II era. It also contains works on  Regional Americana, especially New England, the South, and West, Ethnicity and Immigration, Politics and  Government, Biography, Religion, especially American Catholic history, Economic History, American  Historiography, Military History and Social History, including Sports. Finally, the donation consists of over  one hundred recent Rhode Island titles, most of which were published from 1974 to the present by Conley’s  Rhode Island Publications Society. 

Conley had made earlier large donations to Notre Dame (200 rare 16th-century vellum-bound  books), Johnson & Wales University (3000 volumes, including many of his wife’s culinary books) and Roger  Williams University (6000 volumes of general American and European history). 

Begun by Conley in 1960 when he became a reference librarian in the Social Science Reading Room at the  library of the University of Notre Dame where he was studying for his masters and doctoral degrees in  American history, the collection was gradually enlarged and strengthened during Conley’s thirty-year tenure  as a professor at Providence College (1963-1993), and especially during his career as a used and rare book  dealer from 1963 through 1998. In that capacity he handled over 300,000 volumes, reserving the choice,  scholarly works on American history for his personal library collection. 

Conley commented, “I chose the Redwood primarily for its prestige and because it is an American literary  and architectural icon. I also felt that historic Newport, one of the USA’s oldest cities, was an appropriate  setting given the continuing interest of its residents in American History; and finally, because of the initiatives  of the library director, Benedict Leca.”

Redwood Executive Director Benedict Leca said, “As the historic intellectual center of Newport with a 300- year history, we have long been the recipient of significant book collections, but this donation of more than  8,000 volumes by Professor Conley is of another order. Coupled with our ongoing acquisition of primary  material of early Americana, this curated collection of secondary critical literature adds to what we already  have to make the Redwood a premier research stop for students and scholars interested in all aspects of  American history and culture across 4 centuries.” 

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