Popular Science Monthly/Volume 64/February 1904/Washington University
THE organization and establishment of universities, colleges and institutes of learning in the middle west during the half century just past, has been a striking feature in the growth of that section of the country. The act of congress of 1861 to assist state universities by the grant of lands opened the way for the foundation of a number of colleges and universities under state control which have since become great institutions covering all branches of learning, notably the universities of Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. How well these excellent institutions of higher education have covered the field and supplied the demand for higher learning is shown by the fact that but two important non-sectarian universities, not under state control, have developed in this part of the country, namely, the University of Chicago and Washington University of St. Louis.
Numerous small colleges are to be found throughout all the states, usually under denominational control, and in many instances but little more than high schools, these nevertheless have supplied a certain demand which could not be filled otherwise and have occupied a not unimportant part in the educational system of the country; but the natural location both of Chicago and St. Louis, with a large and populous territory tributary to each of them, demanded university education of the highest type. And the advantages that a great city affords to the student in the many libraries, artistic and scientific museums, hospitals and dispensaries, law courts, manufacturing plants and machinery of all kinds, are such as can not be found outside of a large town.
In 1853 Mr. Wayman Crow, then a member of the Missouri state senate, secured the passage of an act of incorporation, approved February 22, 1853, by which a charter was granted to an educational institution to be known as the Eliot Seminary.This charter, one of the broadest and most liberal upon which any institution is founded, is a perpetual one, and all property belonging to the university is exempt from taxation, city, county and state; and no limitations of any sort are imposed, except those which forbid any sectarian or partisan teaching. So desirous were the founders to avoid any accusation whatever of political or religious bias, that at their first meeting, this eighth article of the constitution was adopted;
No instruction either sectarian in religion or partisan in politics shall be allowed in any department of the university, and no sectarian or partisan test, shall be used in the election of professors, teachers or other officers of the university, for any purpose whatever. This article shall be understood as the fundamental condition upon which all endowments of whatever kind are received. Any violation whatever of this article is punishable through the courts.
After the lapse of a year, on the twenty-second of February, a meeting of the incorporators was held, the charter accepted and the institution organized under the name of Washington Institute, which name was further changed in 1857 to Washington University. The name was chosen because of its national significance, having also been suggested by the day, February 22, on which the charter was given. The first building was erected in 1853-4, and since that time the university has had a steady and substantial growth, a new department being added when the circumstances warranted it, until to-day Washington University comprehends six departments and has three preparatory schools organized under its charter and, embracing the whole range of university studies except theology, affords complete preparation for every sphere of practical and scientific life.
The first board of directors was composed of seventeen well-known influential citizens of St. Louis, who were named in the charter and who were given the power to fill vacancies in their number caused by death or resignation. To this board made up of many of the most prominent and successful professional and business men of St. Louis much of the success of the university is due. Not only have they at all times been most generous in their gifts, but by their careful and broad-minded administration of the affairs of the institution, they have carried it through several financial crises and brought it to its present prosperous condition and to its place of commanding influence in the educational world.
The beginnings, like those of most of the educational institutions of the country that have not had a munificent gift from some philanthropic
millionaire with which to build and equip an entire institution at the start, were necessarily small, and the growth slow, until the public should recognize the worth and value of such an organization and assist it with substantial gifts.
The first building erected by the university was the south wing of the old university group on Seventeenth Street, near Washington Avenue, in which a school was opened in 1856. During the first year 108 scholars were entered in this school, which afterwards became the preparatory department of the university, the name being subsequently changed to its present title of Smith Academy.
On the twenty-second of April, 1857, the formal inauguration of the Washington University took place, with appropriate exercises in Academic Hall and an oration delivered by the Honorable Edward Everett, as well as addresses by the president of the board and several of the directors. This same year, 1857, saw also the erection of a building for a chemical laboratory and the appointment of Dr. Abram Litton to the chair of chemistry. Dr. Litton, 'the first thoroughly trained chemist west of the Mississippi River,' held this position until 1892.
The chair of mechanics and engineering was filled by the appointment of Joseph J. Reynolds, a graduate of West Point, and afterwards Brevet Major-General in the United States Army. The chair of physics and civil engineering was filled by the appointment of John M. Schofield, also a graduate of the United States Military Academy, of the class of 1853, who, after a brilliant record during the civil war, finally reached the rank of Lieutenant-General commanding the United States Army.
Dr. George Engelmann, 'the leading scientist of the west,' was called to the chair of botany; Dr. Charles A. Pope, the celebrated surgeon at the head of the St. Louis Medical College, was made professor of comparative anatomy and physiology, and the Rev. Truman M. Post accepted the professorship of ancient and modern history. With such distinguished men on its first faculty, the influence of the university in the community was at once felt, and the future seemed assured.During 1858 a college building was erected on the corner of Washington Avenue and Seventeenth Street, and on December 17 of that year Joseph G. Hoyt was elected the first chancellor of the university. Chancellor Hoyt was a native of New Hampshire and a graduate of Yale College, of the class of 1840, and for many years had been professor of mathematics at Phillips Academy, Exeter, N. H. He was a man of scholarship and learning, and of great tact and affability, than whom no one could be better fitted for the young institution.
Hardly had he taken up his work when the civil war broke out, and for four trying years the university had a hard struggle, handicapped as it was by loss of professors and students, but with reduced resources it braved the storm and continued the work of the institution in all departments. In 1862 the first class was graduated from the college, and in November of the same year, after four years of successful labor, spent in organizing the work of the university. Chancellor Hoyt died. He was succeeded in 1863 by William Chauvenet, who, a year or so before, had been appointed professor of mathematics and astronomy. Chancellor Chauvenet was a classmate of his predecessor at Yale College and a mathematician of national and even of international reputation. He was for some years professor of mathematics at the United States Naval Academy, both at Philadelphia and at Annapolis, and great credit is due to him for his part in organizing that institution, which has always enjoyed such a high scientific position. His textbook on trigonometry is still the standard work in most colleges of this country. For seven years he held the chancellorship, and during his administration a steady growth was maintained. On his death he was succeeded, in 1872, by the Rev. Wm. G. Eliot, the president of the board of directors since the incorporation, both of which positions he continued to hold until his death in 1887.
In 1867 the law school was organized and equipped, and some of the ablest lawyers and judges of the city became members of the faculty. Two years later, in reorganizing the scientific department, courses of study leading to degrees in civil and mechanical engineering and in chemistry were established in this department; in 1870 these courses were lengthened from three to four years, and in 1871 a course of study in mining and metallurgy was added.
And so, finally, we find the work of the scientific department carried on in conjunction with the work of the college, and these two departments soon became grouped together, as the undergraduate department. This union gave final form to the general scheme of the university—a department offering work in arts and science, around which center preparatory and professional schools. Thus, in but a little more than a decade, the university had been organized and the various departments brought into due coordination, leaving the way clear for rapid expansion in the directions which were best adapted to the demands of the times.In 1878 a new building was provided for the academy, thus separating it completely from the college, and in 1880 the Manual Training School was organized as a third preparatory department. It was the first school of its kind in the country, and its organization is due to Professor Calvin M. Woodward, who was, and still is, professor of mathematics and applied science in the university.
In 1880 the School of Fine Arts was established and the Museum of Fine Arts was erected and presented to the university by the Hon. Wayman Crow.
In 1885 the Shaw School of Botany was founded and endowed by Mr. Henry Shaw, as a department of the university, in close connection with the Missouri Botanical Garden, with rare opportunities for advanced botanical research.
In 1892 the Missouri Dental College was made a department of the university, and in 1895 the St. Louis Medical College, organized in 1841, was made the medical department of the university. Two years
later the medical course was lengthened to four years, and in 1898 the Missouri Medical College, founded in 1840, was united with this department, forming one of the strongest departments of the university. As it has at its disposal the combined resources of two institutions of such high standing, it is now one of the best schools of medicine in the country.
On the death of Chancellor Eliot, in 1887, there was an interregnum of four years, during which Professor Marshall S. Snow, dean of the college, acted as chancellor. He was succeeded in 1891 by Winfield S. Chaplin, the present chancellor, a graduate of West Point, in the class of 1870, who had been successively a professor in Maine State College, in the Imperial University of Tokio, Japan, in Union College of Schenectady and in Harvard University, where he was also dean of the Lawrence Scientific School.
A high standard of scholarship has at all times been maintained, though often with the loss of students, who could obtain their degrees elsewhere with less labor. That this standard is fully recognized is shown by the fact that a degree from the undergraduate department of the university will admit its holder to the best professional and graduate schools in the eastern institutions.
Until 1892 a regular prescribed course leading to each degree was required, but in the fall of that year the elective system of studies was
adopted, and at the same time the scientific department was reorganized and the name changed to the School of Engineering, so that now eight courses of study are offered in the undergraduate department, all requiring four years' work.
Elective Course in Arts.
School of Engineering.
1. Civil Engineering.
2. Mechanical Engineering.
3. Electrical Engineering.
4. Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
6. Architectural Engineering.
7. Science and Literature.
The undergraduate department of the university has always recognized that its field of usefulness lay in the city of St. Louis, and no attempt has been made to draw students from a distance. In the early catalogues of the university is found this notice: “Washington University has the advantage of not being incumbered with the dormitory system, which has been proved by experiment to be both expensive and troublesome—a great part of the disturbances so common in collegiate institutions and most of the temptations to which young men in college are exposed, arise from their monastic mode of life, and the consequent removal from the social influence of home.”
But in the last fifty years conditions have changed. St. Louis is no longer a small western town of 78,000, but a metropolis of 700,000 inhabitants and the great commercial center of a vast and rapidly growing territory, especially to the south and southwest, and preparations had to be made to receive the increasing number of students coming to St. Louis for university training. Then the westward growth of the city had left the group of university buildings in the midst of factories and other objectionable surroundings. The noise was uncongenial to classic teaching, the passing cars and heavy traffic prevented delicate scientific observations and the dirt and smoke made the situation almost unbearable.
In 1896 a tract of land containing 110 acres on the western border of the city, adjoining Forest Park, was purchased with the intention of moving the undergraduate department to this high and commanding situation. The purchase price of $296,000 was subscribed by citizens of St. Louis, largely through the efforts of the president of the board of directors, Mr. Robert S. Brookings, to whom also belongs the credit of raising an endowment fund of $500,000, of which he gave one fifth, as well as the gift of the Cupples Station, a large group of wholesale business buildings with splendid railroad facilities, valued at $3,000,000, the joint gift of Mr. Brookings and Mr. Samuel Cupples.
An architectural competition was held to select a design for a group of buildings for the undergraduate department on the new site. Plans were submitted by the best architects of the country, and after careful deliberation by an impartial committee those of Messrs. Cope and Stewardson, of Philadelphia, were selected.
The style of architecture is that of the Tudor-Gothic period, and the buildings are constructed of the best red Missouri granite in the most substantial manner, and are thoroughly fireproof; they are all two stories high, thereby avoiding tedious climbing, the lecture rooms and numerous laboratories are large, well-lighted and ventilated, and all the latest improvements in scientific education are included, making them equal, if not superior, to any group of college buildings in the country.
Eleven buildings are now occupied and ready for occupancy by the university at the expiration of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition which has leased them for the World's Fair period.
University Hall, facing the main approach to the group of new buildings, the gift of Mr. Robert S. Brookings, was erected at a cost of $220,000. The building is 325 feet long, with wings on each end 119 feet long, and the towers 85 feet high. This building will contain the administrative offices of the university, and the offices and lecture rooms of twelve professors, besides study rooms, reception and faculty rooms.
Cupples Hall, No. 1, erected by Mr. Samuel Cupples, at an expenditure of about $110,000, is to be used by the department of civil engineering and architecture. The building is 232 feet long and the width 52 feet. It is two stories high on the quadrangle and three on the north side. The first floor will be used by the department of architecture and the second floor will be devoted to civil engineering.
Busch Hall, the laboratory of chemistry, was presented by Mr. Adolphus Busch and cost $110,000. The building is 291 feet long and about 60 feet wide, two stories high on the north side and three on the south side, and contains laboratories for all branches of chemical instruction and research work.
The library finishes out the first quadrangle and occupies a central position in regard to the group of buildings. It was erected at a cost of $250,000. The eastern front is 257 feet long and the depth is 46 feet, with a reading room one story high in the rear of the center of the building, about 100 feet long and 41 feet wide. The building will contain stacks with room for over 400,000 volumes.
Cupples, No. 2, and the Cupples Engineering Laboratory, directly behind it, were also presented by Mr. Samuel Cupples, and cost together about $165,000. The hall is 207 feet long, the first floor of which is to be devoted to mechanical engineering, and the second floor to electrical engineering. The laboratory adjoining is only one story, but is built in a style uniform with the other buildings, and of the same grade of granite and will contain the engines, pumps, dynamos and motors, etc., as are necessary for instruction in those departments. The university power house close by is provided with a splendid equipment of boilers, engines and dynamos, to furnish light, power and heat for the entire plant.
Eads Hall, the laboratory of physics, the gift of Mrs. Eliza How in memory of her father, Captain Jas. B. Eads, the well-known engineer, adjoins the library on the west.
Farther to the west are two large dormitories both of the same style and construction of the other buildings. Liggett Hall, erected by Mrs. Elizabeth J. Liggett in memory of her husband, the late Mr. John E. Liggett, at a cost of $100,000, will accommodate 75 students, and the other, built by the university at an expenditure of $190,000, containing a large dining hall, will accommodate 80 students.
At the western end of the university tract is the gymnasium adjoining the athletic field. This building, costing $150,000, is of the bold gothic type, with two square towers facing the east. It contains eight large dressing rooms with showers and lavatories attached, and will accommodate 2,000 men. The gymnasium hall is 75 feet by 108 feet, with overhead running track.
The large athletic field is provided with a grand stand of solid concrete 704 feet long, extending the entire length of the south side of the field, and will seat 7,300 people.
The Washington University Club, on the corner of Twenty-ninth and Locust Streets, is a splendidly appointed club-house belonging to the university and managed by a committee composed of the dean, one alumnus and one student of each department. Membership is open to all officers, to all male professors and instructors of the university, and to all male students and graduates of the college, the schools of engineering and law and the medical and dental departments. The building is admirably constructed and contains dining-rooms, library, smoking and reading-rooms, billiard-room and bowling alleys. The dues are only $5.00 a year, and meals are furnished to students at $3.50 a week. The club has proved of great value in the social life of the university, by bringing together on a common ground the students of all departments, so keeping all the students in touch and helping to create a true university spirit.
With a large and productive endowment, with an efficient faculty, with buildings that will compare favorably with any in the country and with a large enrollment of students in all departments the future growth and usefulness of the university seem to be assured.
- The Popular Science Monthly, December, 1903, p. 122, footnote.
- See The Popular Science Monthly, 1903, for account of Missouri Botanical Garden.