In 1857, George Peabody's founding letter dedicated the Peabody Institute to the citizens of Baltimore in appreciation for their "kindness and hospitality." The Massachusetts-born philanthropist eventually moved to London where he built one of the largest mercantile houses in the world.
The Peabody Institute, according to George Peabody's charter, originally comprised a free public library, a lecture series, a conservatory of music, and an art collection. The Peabody Library building, which opened in 1878, was designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind, in collaboration with the first provost, Dr. Nathaniel H. Morison. Renowned for its striking architechtural interior, the Peabody Stack Room contains five tiers of ornamental cast iron balconies, which rise dramatically to the skylight 61 feet above the floor. The ironwork was created by the Barrett-Robbins Company foundry. The library reflects for the most part the scholarly interests of the nineteenth century.