Mystery surrounds Society’s second librarian…

Reading Brooklynology’s great post on our first librarian, Henry R. Stiles, inspired us to post about our second librarian, George Hannah.  From 1863 to 1889 George served as head librarian of the Society.

BHS Librarian, 1863-1889

George Hannah, BHS Librarian, 1863-1889, V1984.1.620, Photography Collection of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

There is a bit of mystery surrounding George, who went missing for three days in January 1889.

In an article that appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on January 15, 1889 it is stated that George told his wife upon his return that he had merely left the Society for a brief walk at 3 p.m. on Saturday.  The next thing he remembered was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and then the next thing he knew he was in a stateroom of a steamer bounded for Boston.  According to this recount he had no recollection of what he did in Boston nor of his return to his residence in Manhattan.  However this was not the only version of the story reported to the Brooklyn daily, according to George’s brother-in-law, Dr. Luigo G. Doane, the librarian had planned the trip to Boston to deal with a personal matter.

A New York Times article offered a slightly different version of events leading up to the disappearence of George.  Described by the author as resembling General U.S. Grant, George left his home in Manhattan that Saturday to go to work but had complained of a headache, “due to recent over work in connection with the library.”  He had met a friend in lower Manhattan around noon and then his brother at 2 p.m., but left to return to work shortly thereafter only to complain of feeling sick and leaving to go for a walk.   In an article that appeared the following day yet another story is revealed where George told friends that he decided to take a trip due to not feeling well and had written a letter to his wife and his brother telling them this.  Unfortunately his wife never received the letter and the one addressed to his brother was found in George’s hat!

Against the wishes of friends and family, George returned to work only a couple of days later.  However he was forced to go home after only a couple of hours.  Two months later, in March 1889, George, then 57 years old, retired.   His assistant of 20 years, Emma Toedtleberg, is promoted to head librarian, BHS’s 3rd librarian.

Stay tuned for a future post about Emma and her legacy at BHS!

Elizabeth Call

About Elizabeth Call

I have been the librarian at the Brooklyn Historical Society since 2006. In addition to managing the reference function for the library, I am responsible for overseeing the books, maps, and special collections.
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