A Taste of History

We’re celebrating American Archives Month this October by highlighting local food history in our collection!  The Buffalo Collection includes several cookbooks compiled by community organizations and businesses, as well as professional and amateur chefs. Even the B&ECPL Staff Association produced a few over the years.

Below are just a few of the cookbooks are available for perusal in the Grosvenor Room, and there are additional copies of some titles that can be checked out.  Perhaps you’ll rediscover a old favorite recipe or find an unusual dish to try.


 Some of the historic recipes in our collection can be found in these titles:

Best sellers cookbook / Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (N.Y.) Staff Association. Lenexa, Kan.: Cookbook Publishers, [1982]. TX715 .B48553

BRAG’s soul food cook book 1971 / Buffalo Rights Action Group. Buffalo, N.Y., [publisher not identified], 1971. TX715 .B8233 1971

The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo cookbook / Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. Josephine Goodyear Committee. Buffalo, N.Y.: Thorner-Sidney Press, 1962. TX715 .C5295 1962

A book of recipes covering three generations of the Farny and Wurlitzer family and the wives of present business associates / Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. [North Tonawanda, N.Y.], [publisher not identified], [1956]. TX725 .W8 1956

Blizzard cookbook / Turgeon, Kitty. [East Aurora, N. Y.] : [Roycroft Campus Gift Shop], 1978. TX715 .T94

The best of Buffalo: A cultural cookbook of area restaurants / Gentner, Norma L. Buffalo : The Author, [1980]. TX715 .G4

Na zdrowie! = “To your health”; authentic Polish recipes and memories of a Lackawanna tavern keeper / Rog, Helen Jakubowski. Buffalo, NY: The Cookbook as Legacy, [1992]. TX723.5.P6 R58 1992

Cookbooks recent

Recently published local cookbooks include the following:

Food for four seasons / Seychew, Christa Glennie.  Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Spree, [2013]. TX715 .F66 2013

Buffalo cooks with Janice Okun: memories and recipes from a life in food / Okun, Janice. Buffalo, NY: Western New York Wares, Inc., [2010]. TX715 .O386 2010

Great Lake effects: Buffalo beyond winter and wings; a cookbook / Junior League of Buffalo. TX715 .G81145 1997 Buffalo, N.Y.  The League, [1997]

Nickel City Chef: Buffalo’s finest chefs and ingredients / Seychew, Christa Glennie.  Buffalo, N.Y.: Buffalo Heritage Unlimited, [2011]. TX714 .S48 2011

Cookbooks_Beer books

As for drinks, we can’t forget our brewing history.  These books on Buffalo beer are popular with local historians and brewing enthusiasts.

Buffalo beer: The history of brewing in the Nickel City / Rizzo, Michael F. Charleston, SC: American Palate, 2015. HD9397.U63 R69 2015

Nickel City drafts: a drinking history of Buffalo, NY / Murphy, Dan. Buffalo, N.Y.: Western New York Wares, [2010]. GT2890 .M87 2010

Rushing the growler: A history of brewing in Buffalo / Powell, Stephen R. Buffalo, N.Y.: Apogee Productions, [1999]. HD9397.U63 B88 1999

becpl owl with border

We couldn’t resist adding this image of our old owl logo from the 1982 Best sellers cookbook  by the B&ECPL Staff Association. Bon appétit!

Posted in Library History, Local History | Tagged , ,

Saying Goodbye to Summer

The turning of the new fall season has us taking a last look at lush trees and full foliage. These charming 1930s pictures are part of the Grosvenor Room Collection and can be found in the Trees in and Around Buffalo scrapbook.

Scrapbook Tree Scans 2_editedScrapbook Tree Scans 3_1editedScrapbook Tree Scans 2 - 2 Copy_editedScrapbook Tree Scans 5_2editedScrapbook Tree Scans 5_1editedScrapbook Tree Scans 3_2editedScrapbook Tree Scans 4_1editedScrapbook Tree Scans 4_2editedDelaware Ave.

Posted in Local History | Tagged

110th Anniversary of The NY to Paris Race

Flyer image

In 1908, a car manufactured in Buffalo gained international acclaim by winning the an unprecedented  “New York to Paris Race.”

At the dawn of the 20th century, automobiles were an infant technology with none of the infrastructure we take for granted today: road maps, traffic signals, pavement, gas stations, fast food, parking lots, expressways, or motels. Most people in the world had never seen a car in person.

What, then, could be more fun than the first ’round-the-world automobile race under such punishing conditions? In the summer of 1907, Paris newspaper Le Matin and the New York Times announced “The Great Race: New York to Paris by Automobile.” Four nations entered six cars: Italy, with the Brixia Zust; Germany, with the Protos; France, with the De Dion, the Moto-Bloc, and the Sizaire-Naudin; and the United States, with the Thomas Flyer.

Legend has it that the Thomas Flyer entered the race at the insistence of President Theodore Roosevelt, who hated the prospect of European automobiles crossing the country unchallenged by Americans.  The Thomas Automobile Company of Buffalo pulled one of its production models out of the factory at the last minute and entered the race. Buffalo’s own George Schuster was driver and chief mechanic.

The starting line, on February 12, 1908, was in Times Square. Two hundred and fifty thousand people turned out to watch. The route crossed the country to San Francisco. There, drivers shipped out to Alaska and drove to the Bering Strait, where they ferried across and pushed through Russia to Europe, finishing at the Eiffel Tower. Organizers estimated the trip to take six months and the route to be 20,000 miles long.

Newspapers around the world followed the progress of the race. The Sizaire-Naudin didn’t get past the snowdrifts of the Hudson Valley before dropping out. The Moto-Bloc got lost in the farm fields of Iowa and withdrew. The Protos was caught cheating when the driver boarded it on a train and received a 30-day penalty. Fearing bandits and the brutal weather of Siberia, the De Dion backed out in Russia.

The Protos crossed the finish line first, but factoring in its penalty, did not win the race. The Thomas Flyer arrived in Paris on Friday, July 31, 1908, 170 days after leaving Times Square, the true winner. Buffalo was ecstatic and threw George Schuster a hero’s welcome party in Cazenovia Park that drew 10,000 people.

thomas flyer headline

Buffalo Sunday Morning News, September 6, 1908, p. 7

thomas flyer text

Buffalo Sunday Morning News, September 6, 1908, p. 7


The victory of the Thomas Flyer briefly boosted sales for the Thomas Automobile Company, but mechanical flaws in subsequent models doomed the company and all production ceased in 1913. Its factory at 1200 Niagara Street is now owned by Rich Products and bears a plaque honoring its achievements.  In addition to winning the race, E.R. Thomas was also one of the world’s first commercial manufacturers of motorcycles and taxicabs.

The winning Thomas Flyer was restored to finish-line condition under the supervision of George Schuster, who died in Springville in 1972 at age 99. The car is on exhibit at the National Automobile Museum of Nevada.

This year, the modern incarnation of “The Great Race” starts in Buffalo on June 23rd.

For more on the historic race, see our New York to Paris research guide and digital collection of the 1905 Thomas Flyer catalog and detailed map of the 1908 New York to Paris race route.

Posted in Local History | Tagged ,

The Grosvenor Room welcomes new Arlen and Yellen songs to our sheet music collection!

Twenty-one Harold Arlen and Jack Yellen songs have been added to the Grosvenor Room’s sheet music collection.  The Grosvenor Room now carries about 260 songs (combined) by these Buffalo composers.

Arlen 1

Harold Arlen was born in Buffalo in 1905 and lived here until 1924.  It was here that Harold formed his first band, Hyman Arluck’s Snappy Trio, in 1919. The Snappy Trio expanded into the six-piece Southbound Shufflers and played in clubs and on excursion boats cruising Lake Erie.  He disbanded the Shufflers in 1925 and joined The Yankee Six, which grew to 11 pieces and became The Buffalodians.  They moved to New York City in 1926 where they eventually broke up.

Arlen went on to become one of the major song composers of the 1930’s and 1940’s.  His compositions were overtly influenced by blues and jazz music at the time.  He contributed to 15 Broadway stage shows and 33 feature films between 1930 and 1963.

Among his best-remembered film scores are those for The Wizard of Oz, Cabin in the Sky, and A Star is Born.  He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song nine times, winning for “Over the Rainbow.”  Among his other major hits drawn from films are “That Old Black Magic” and “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.”  Many of his most popular songs originated in the five nightclub revues he wrote for the Cotton Club from 1930 to 1934 with Ted Koehler, including “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and “Stormy Weather.”  His other major collaborators were Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer.

The nature of his music made it popular with African American performers such as Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, and Lena Horne.  But he also became a particular favorite of Judy Garland, who frequently sang his songs in her films and concerts, and Barbara Streisand, with whom he recorded an album late in his career.

Arlen 2

Arlen Sheet Music Additions:

Hittin’ the Bottle

I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues

I Promise You

Let’s Take the Long Way Home

The Merry Old Land of Oz

One for My Baby


Tell Me with a Love Song

Tess’s Torch Song (I Had a Man)

Yellen 1

Jack Yellen’s family emigrated from Poland to Buffalo in 1897.  They owned a small pawnshop on William Street.  He attended Buffalo’s Old Central High School and then the University of Michigan.  After college, Yellen came back to Buffalo to work as a reporter and sports editor with the Courier Express.  During his time in college and with the Express he collaborated on songs with composer George Cobb.

Around 1916, Yellen moved to New York City to advance his career as a songwriter.  After a brief stint in the war, he met success.  His songs were gaining notoriety in Tin Pan Alley and were starting to be included in The Ziegfeld Follies and in George White’s Scandals.

A pivotal moment in Yellen’s career came when he began his collaboration with Milton Ager in 1920 for the revue What’s in a Name.  This partnership would last throughout the 20’s and yield a wealth of hit songs for radio, theater, and the movies.  His most popular songs include “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Hard Hearted Hannah,” and “Happy Days are Here Again,” which was adopted as the theme song for President Franklin D. Roosevelt by the Democratic Party.

Yellen went on to work with other composers writing songs for both stage and screen.  In 1931, he worked with Buffalo-born composer Harold Arlen on the successful Broadway musical, You Said It.  He continued writing for such stars as Shirley Temple and Sophie Tucker until the 1950’s.

Yellen 2

 Yellen Sheet Music Additions:

According to the Moonlight

Alabama Jubilee

Good Night, My Beautiful

A Gypsy Told Me

I May Be Wrong (But, I Think You’re Wonderful!)

I Was Born Too Late

It’s Home

Listen to That Dixie Band

Oh Baby

Please My Nerves

That Twilight Melody

Welcome Honey to Your Old Plantation Home


Songs from the Arlen and Yellen collections are for reference use only and may be viewed in the Grosvenor Room.

Posted in Genealogy

A Curiosity for Mother’s Day

This charming book was found in the Grosvenor Room’s music stacks.  Published in 1907, it was intended to entertain and build moral character.  The authors, John Alden Carpenter and his wife Rue, were well-known in music circles during the first half of the twentieth century.  Mr. Carpenter composed the music and collaborated with his wife on the lyrics.  Mrs. Carpenter was the sole illustrator.  Multiple editions of the book were published in the pre-WWI era, usually offering new songs.  The humorous songs were frequently played in concerts during their time.  Be sure to read the playing instructions at the beginning of every song for an extra chuckle.  To view the complete book, visit us in the Grosvenor Room.

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Posted in Genealogy

B&ECPL history: How it all began

Grosvenor Library c. 1920's

Grosvenor Library, circa 1920’s

The origin of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system dates back to 1836, when the Young Men’s Association (YMA) established a collection of books of permanent or lasting value for its members.  60 years later, this “members only” institution evolved into the Buffalo Public Library, publicly supported and free to all.

The Grosvenor Library has a parallel history, and in 1871 it became Buffalo’s first public reference library.

The demand for public library service throughout Western New York led to the creation of the Erie County Public Library System in 1947.

In 1953, the Buffalo Public, Grosvenor, and Erie County libraries merged to create the current Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system.

The local history, genealogy, music, and Rare Book collections in the Grosvenor Room were all built on the foundations of these predecessor libraries.  To illustrate our storied and complex history, we created the timeline below.

Buffalo Library history timeline


Posted in Genealogy

Vinyl Divas

This Women’s History Month, surround yourself with the sound of strong, powerful women.  Visit the Grosvenor Room to find your favorite divas on vinyl.



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Posted in Music