Category Archives: Local History

The Anthony J. Sisti Papers, circa 1925-1982

Sisti, n.d.

Anthony Sisti (1901-1983)


Tony Sisti was a boxer turned painter, art collector and teacher who spent most of his life in Buffalo.  Born in Greenwich Village in 1901, Sisti relocated to Buffalo in 1911 where he attended art classes at the Albright Art School.  He began boxing at the local gym at 17, and after winning a New York State bantamweight title, became a professional boxer with 76 victories in 101 fights.  He traveled to Italy and studied painting under Felice Carena, receiving his Doctor of Arts degree in 1929. He continued both his boxing career and his art studies, later teaching at the Art Institute of Buffalo before opening his own gallery at 469 Franklin. Active from the 1920’s until his death in 1983, Sisti was best known for his oil paintings and murals but also painted formal portraits of notables such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, among others. His works have been exhibited in major museums around the country, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center in Buffalo, which has many of his paintings in its permanent collection.


Sisti in the classroom, n.d., s.l.

Sisti in the classroom


Donated in 2012 by art curator and writer David F. Martin of Seattle (originally from Niagara Falls, NY), this particular collection of Sisti papers consists primarily of personal and professional photographs, news clippings, correspondence and programs from numerous artist shows at the Sisti Gallery in Buffalo.


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Filed under Acquisitions, Art, Collections, Local History

John F. Grabau Bookbinding Specimen



One of the items to be featured in our upcoming architectural exhibit, Building Buffalo, is a uniquely bound guest book believed to have been owned by the Darwin Martin family.  The beautiful designs on the cover closely reflect the window designs of the Martin house, and the book includes the signatures of numerous Martin relatives.

The book, which was probably bound at the turn of the 20th century, was created by internationally renowned bookbinder John F. Grabau (1878-1948),  a local teacher, lecturer and master of the hand-tooled art.  Examples of his work were owned by four American presidents, European royalty and many literary celebrities, and Grabau’s works were exhibited at numerous significant exhibitions.

Among the visitors of the Martin family who signed their names as guests between 1907 and 1930 include American poet Carl Sandburg, who was presented to the Buffalo social organization the 20th Century Club in November of 1920, and organic architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


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Filed under Book Art, Local History, Rare Book Exhibits

Buffalo on the Map Exhibit

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The latest exhibit in the Grosvenor Rare Book display room is You Are Here: Buffalo on the Map. Featured in our display cases are several rare and one-of-a-kind maps of Buffalo recently conserved thanks to a New York State Discretionary Grant. Among them, our infamous red-light district map from 1893, Mann’s Map of the Buffalo Harbor, and Map of Buffalo Village, 1805, made under the direction of the Young Men’s Association. Our wall panels include facsimiles of maps of the Olmsted parks system, the church district maps, pictorial maps and the harbor. Come see Buffalo’s landscape as it develops from an early 19th century pioneer settlement into a flourishing center of commerce and industry.

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Filed under Collections, Local History, Manuscripts, Maps, Rare Book Exhibits

“Buffalo in 1813” Map Returns from Conservator

Buffalo in 1813 after treatment

Buffalo in 1813 after treatment

Buffalo in 1813 before treatment

Buffalo in 1813 before treatment

The Rare Book Room map, “Buffalo in 1813″ hand drawn by Charles J. North from the original map created by local merchant Juba Storrs just prior to the burning of Buffalo in December of 1813, has returned from our conservator and looks cleaner and crisper than it has in many years.

The original map, known as “Plat of Buffalo Village as it is at this date, April, 1813” has been extant for over 100 years, and similar reproductions on a much smaller scale are held by the Buffalo History Museum and Cornell University Library. Our copy measures 65X51 centimeters, or approximately 1 and a half by 2 feet, and will be on display in the Grosvenor Room this December to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the burning of Buffalo during the War of 1812.

The redrawn map was made in 1917 by Charles North, a poet and former treasurer of the First Presbyterian Society, and he has added the present day names of some of the streets and listed the number of members of the First Presbyterian Church at the time.

Chas J. North, 1917

Chas J. North, 1917

This truly historical artifact has been preserved thanks to a grant by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network and can be viewed and studied by patrons of the library for generations to come.

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Filed under Collections, Local History, Maps, Rare Book Exhibits, Uncategorized

Bruce Shanks Cartoons

Hold Everything!!
A recent gift of 7 original prints of cartoons by Bruce Shanks from 1959 to 1963 has been added to the Rare Book Room collections. Shanks, born in Buffalo in 1908 and educated locally at School 38 and Lafayette High School, won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1958 for his cartoon, “The Thinker,” about unions and racketeering. He began his newspaper career as a copy boy in 1927 for the Buffalo Express, drawing cartoons in his free time. He later worked for the Buffalo Times as a cartoonist and in 1933 joined the Buffalo News, where he became the editorial cartoonist in 1951, receiving numerous awards until his retirement in 1974. Shanks died in 1980.

Same Earth signals we get every August, 1959

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Filed under Art, Collections, Local History

When Buffalo Burned…..

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Please check out our latest exhibit: When Buffalo Burned: The War of 1812 on the Niagara Frontier

The Burning of Buffalo on December 30, 1813 during the War of 1812 was an early setback for the flourishing frontier village that remains an integral part of its legacy.  As devastating as such an event was to the expanding settlement, the resilient pioneers of Buffalo and the Niagara region would soon rebuild, becoming the western terminus of the all-important Erie Canal and growing continuously until becoming host to the Pan-American Exposition in 1901.

Along with items of local and regional interest, on display are a series of letters from the war, maps from the time period, popular literature and broadsides, and documents of cultural and national relevance, including the declaration of war and early printings of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Exhibit dates: June 28, 2012 through  January 20, 2013

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Filed under Events, Local History, Manuscripts, Maps, Rare Book Exhibits, Uncategorized

David Gray’s Travel Journal

Gray’s Travel Diary, 1866-1868

A recent acquisition in the Grosvenor Rare Book Room is the manuscript travel diary of David Gray (1836-1888), an editor of the Buffalo Courier and friend of Mark Twain.  Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in November 1836, Gray’s family would emigrate to the United States thirteen years later and settle on a farm in Wisconsin.  Gray would move to Buffalo in 1856 when offered a job by his uncle William to serve as secretary and librarian to the Young Men’s Christian Union, and by 1859 would become associate editor of the Courier, the rival of Twain’s newspaper, the Buffalo Express.  In 1865, Gray was offered a temporary position as guardian and tutor of the 19-year-old son of William G. Fargo, President of the American Express Company in Buffalo.  As part of his duties, Gray would accompany the lad on a trip around the world, beginning with Liverpool in June of 1865. As a journalist he would publish 58 of his travel letters in the Courier until April of 1868, but he was also a noted poet.

Page from Gray's Travel Diary

This unassuming little book contains two years of Gray’s descriptions and observations while traveling abroad, and most would be published in a two-volume posthumous collection in 1888 that would include his poems and prose writings.  While in need of some tender loving care and conservation, this journal has found an appreciative home among the other local and international treasures of the Rare Book Room.

George Alfred Townsend, Mark Twain and David Gray, 1871


Footnote:  Gray’s journal has been returned from our bookbinder, and after carefully subtle repair is ready for cataloging.

After Conservation


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Filed under Local History, Manuscripts, Mark Twain