Since 1848 the College of the City of New York and its predecessor, the Free Academy, have carried forward an educational work the importance of which is scarcely appreciated. Yale and Princeton are household words, where the existence of the City College is unknown. Yet the college has rivaled the more prominent institutions both in numbers of students and in the efficiency of the courses of instruction. From the point of view of this journal, it is sufficient to note that at least two members of the National Academy of Sciences are graduates of the college, and that the only living ex-president of the academy was formerly one of its professors. There is reason to believe that September 29, when a new president was installed and the corner-stone of the new buildings was laid, will mark an epoch in the history of the institution, and that it will become one of the chief centers for the educational progress of the future.
The ceremonies of installation and dedication were themselves imposing. Those who hold that academic processions, gowns and the like are somewhat out of place in a modern democratic community were at least given the pleasure of seeing gowns handed out with an even hand to all, whether or not they possessed academic degrees. The fact of special interest was the representation on the program of republicans and democrats, of protestants, catholics and jews, all united in the service of the college without regard to political or denominational differences. Mayor Low spoke immediately after Mr. Shepard, his rival in the contest for the mayorality two years ago, and Ex-President Cleveland followed Senator Depew. Other speeches were made by Governor Odell, the presidents of Columbia, Cornell, Yale and the Johns Hopkins Universities, and by representatives of the trustees, faculty, alumni and students of the college. The new president of the college made an admirable inaugural address, showing full appreciation of the problems before the college and the city.
Dr. John Huston Finley was offered the presidency of the college after a careful search had been made through the whole country for the best attainable man. That one born in Illinois, at the time professor in a university in another state, regarding whose political or religious affiliations no questions were asked, was chosen, shows that municipal institutions can be conducted without local or partisan prejudice. General Webb, who retires from the presidency at the age of sixty-seven years, held the office for twenty-three years. A graduate of West Point and a general in the regular army, he possessed valuable qualifications for the office, but he was not an educational leader. The students were well trained and well drilled, but instructors were assigned to teach subjects with which they were not familiar and investigation was not sufficiently encouraged. The college did not take an important place in the educational and scientific progress of the country. Dr. Finley has the vigorous personality and has had the training and experience fitting him for a college presidency—one of the most responsible and influential, and at the same time one of the most complicated and difficult of positions. As a boy he worked on a farm and in a