An Antiquarian Visits Tufts
Today Tufts has 5 times as many teaching positions as they used to have students.
By Bruce McKinney
When an antiquarian father visits colleges and universities with his new-age children it’s not surprising that they see these institutions differently. Recently I accompanied my daughter on a ‘visit’ to Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, just an easy gallop for Paul Revere north of Boston which is visible, if not actually accessible, from the roof of their library.
In preparation for this trip I read one of their college catalogues. It begins, “A Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Tufts College 1872-73 printed by John S. Spooner, 4 Province Court, Boston. I make a quick look in ABE’s fifty million listings for other items printed by him, found nothing and concluded he went to his reward without leaving much of a paper trail.
This catalogue starts with the Trustees that number eighteen and includes no one on US currency or coins. Names and places are shown and they are all men, and decidedly New England with one residing in Washington, D. C. Are they authors that have left a trail on the internet? They are. Lucius R. Paige, D. D. and secretary to the board left a variety of printed works of which his histories of Cambridge and Hardwick command low three figures. Richard Frothingham, LLD, the treasurer and apparently once the Mayor of Cambridge, left an array of printed items and signed documents and looks to be an obscure but collectible person. Alonzo A. Miner had no books by him on ABE but had two copies of a biography of him. Timothy T. Sawyer is found once for “Old Charlestown,” a 1902 volume. Henry B. Metcalf left to us his “Papers and Addresses” that one listing dealer describes today as “New England essays on universalism, church, school, citizenship, prohibition, abstinence, [and] church reform. [He] deals with the New England Universalist church.” Then there is the Rev. Elmer H. Capen, AM with three items on ABE, each in a single copy. They are Courage and Resourcefulness: The Fifth Link in the Chain That Binds Man to the Best [Home Culture Series], The People's Bible History; Book III, From the Call of Abraham to the Bondage of Israel, and THE COLLEGE AND THE HIGHER LIFE Baccalaureate Sermons Preached by Elmer Hewitt Capen in Goddard Chapel, Tufts College. Finally there is the Rev. Thomas B. Thayer, DD who left behind The Bible Class Assistant” and “The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment.” How tough was this school exactly?
I gather you needed to be quite serious to be appointed trustee.
In the catalogue each student’s name, address on campus and hometown are given. Not surprisingly the student body is also mainly from New England although John Fred Ridlon came all the way from Momence, Illinois, a place that finds many matches on Google today.
An Antiquarian Visits Tufts
The Tufts Trustees in 1872: both writers and written about.
Requirements for admission are clearly spelled out. Each applicant must produce certificates of good moral character and take an admission examination, that makes today’s SATs sound like a piece of cake, to demonstrate proficiency in Latin, Greek, mathematics and geography & history.
Then there is the list of courses to be taken by freshmen in their first semester:
Latin. Livy; Ramsey’s Roman Antiquities; Latin Prose Composition.
Of course the courses get tougher as one moves through the curriculum. It just starts off easy. I now begin to see the significance of “The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment.” Is this also the origin of “no pain, no gain?”
Greek. Homer’s Odyssey; Xenophon; Isocrates; Greek Prose
Composition; Goodwin’s Greek Moods and Tenses.
Mathematics. Peirce’s Geometry.
Rhetoric. Bain’s; Themese; Declamations.
Lectures on the Geography and Topography of Ancient Greece.
Higher education wasn’t free. Students who shared accommodations could expect to pay $221.50 a year. Adjusted for inflation this had become $3,197.43, the cost of four weeks of Tufts education today. Of course the costs have increased but so too have both school and student expectations. College, once a privilege, has become a requirement for virtually all significant work.
A tour of campus, the introductory session conducted by Claire Dennison of Admissions, a review of the literature and an online comparison of all the various metrics by which colleges and universities are compared, delivers the clear message, that while the name – Tufts – is the same not much else is.
Women today comprise more than half the Tufts enrollment and barriers to many of the once mostly male career paths are here unaccepted if not unrecognized. Tufts is strong in the sciences and converts many undergraduate women to the pursuit of science degrees, a formidable accomplishment in an America where home economics was not long ago a common course path. For a father visiting with a daughter, its encouraging to see the playing field leveled for women who will stake their claims to what we might have until recently called the American dream but which we should more accurately call the world dream. For those who have made it this far Tufts for the next school year, will cost $40,000 for tuition, fees, room & board with about half the enrolling students receiving some financial aid and needing it.
So what would the trustees of 1872-3 have to say if they could come back to visit Tufts today? They might note on the Tufts website that the lead article “Featured Tufts Authors” celebrates the release of 48 books written by faculty and graduate students. It seems that some things never change.