1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vassar College

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[ 946 ]

VASSAR COLLEGE, a non-sectarian institution for the higher education of women, about 2 m. E. of Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.A. It was incorporated in 1861 as Vassar Female College (which was changed to Vassar College in 1867), and was named in honour of its founder,[1] Matthew Vassar, who transferred to a board of trustees of his own selection about $400,000 (increased by his will to twice that amount) and the tract of about 200 acres of land upon which the college was built. Building began in June 1861, and the institution was opened on the 20th of September 1865, with John Howard Raymond[2] (1814-1878) as president, and Hannah W. Lyman (1816-1871) as lady principal; it had a faculty of eight professors and twenty instructors and teachers, and an enrolment of 353 pupils. The first graduating class was that of 1867, and comprised four members, to whom were given temporary certificates stating that they were “entitled to be admitted to the First Degree of Liberal Arts,” as the propriety of awarding the degree of “bachelor” to [ 947 ] women was questioned at that time; in 1868 these certificates were replaced by diplomas bestowing the degree of A.B. The present equipment includes more than twenty buildings, and the campus has an area of about 400 acres. The college confers the baccalaureate degree in arts (A.B.) upon the completion of the regular course of four years, and a second degree in arts (A.M.) upon Bachelors of Arts of Vassar or any approved college who have completed (by examination and thesis) a course of advanced non-professional study. In 1909-10 there were about ninety professors and instructors and 1040 students. The college had in 1909 total productive funds of about $1,360,000, yielding an income of about $600,000. James Monroe Taylor (b. 1848), a graduate of the university of Rochester and of Rochester Theological Seminary, became president of the college in 1886.

See Benson J. Lossing's Vassar College and its Founder (New York, 1867) and Frances A. Wood's Earliest Years at Vassar (Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1909).


  1. Matthew Vassar (1791-1868) was born at East Dereham, Tuddenham parish, Norfolk, England, on the 29th of April 1791, son of a Baptist who emigrated to the United States in 1796, settled 3 m. E. of Poughkeepsie in 1797 and in 1801 established a brewery there. The brewery was burned in 1811, and Matthew took up the business and in 1812 established an “ale and oyster saloon” and a brewery, from which he became wealthy. He was a prominent member of the Baptist church. He got the idea of founding a college for women from his niece, Lydia Booth, a school teacher. He died on the 23rd of June 1868 while reading his farewell report to the Board of Trustees. His nephew, Matthew Vassar, Jun. (1809-1881), was born in Poughkeepsie, became manager of his uncle's brewery, was a member of the Board of Trustees of Vassar College, and its treasurer until his death, gave in all about $500,000 to the institution, and with his brother, John Guy Vassar (1811-1888), also one of the trustees and a benefactor of the college, gave to the college the Vassar Brothers' Laboratory.
  2. Raymond graduated at Union College in 1832; studied law and then (at Hamilton, N.Y.) theology; in 1839-49 taught rhetoric and English literature at Madison (now Colgate) University, at Hamilton, N.Y.; was professor of belles-lettres at Rochester University in 1850-56; and organized the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1856-65.