Transformation of American Academic Life: Harvard University, 1821-1892


The Transformation of American Academic Life: Harvard University 1821-1892

                                                                by Robert A.McCaughey


















































Robert A. McCaughey

When it comes to hiring learning, and inspiration and personal weight, the law of supply and demand breaks down altogether. A university can not be managed like a railroad or a cotton mill.

-Charles William  Eliot




It  is a commonplace among historians and sociologists to locate the  beginnings of  the  American  academic profession, along with those of the American university, no earlier than the 187o’s and 188o’s. “We  take for granted,” Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1963, “the existence of universities and the academic profession. But before the Civil War the United States had neither, in any respectable degree. Both  were created in one  generation.” More recently Christopher Jencks and David Riesman concluded that “until  the late nineteenth century there had hardly been an academic profession at all.” Unfortunately,  however,  this inter­ disciplinary consensus results not from  an abundance of detailed investigations of either the history or sociology of academic professionalization in the United States but from the paucity of both.1

For this situation historians bear the primary responsibility. “In spite of all the publication,” Richard H. Shryock reminded his colleagues more than two decades ago, “We do not yet have an adequate history of higher education in the United States, or even such a history of the American academic profession.” Work  done


1. Richard  Hofstadter,  “The  Revolution  in  Higher  Education,” Paths of  American Thought, Arthur M. Schlesinger and Morton  White,  eds. (Boston, 1963), p. 269; Chris­ topher Jencks and David Riesman, The Academic Revolution  (New York, 1968),  p. 160. For a more recent statement of this view, see Talcott Parsons and Gerald M. Platt, The American University (Cambridge, 1974), p. 4·




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since by Hofstadter and Walter  P. Metzger, Frederick Rudolph, and others represents an impressive though not definitive response to Shryock’s first call; his second remains scarcely acknowledged. Even Laurence R. Veysey’s The Emergence of the American University, the most important book published on American higher education in the last ten years, focuses not on the pre-1890 origins of academic professionalization but on the post-1890 structural im­plications of professionalization.2

Among the large number of factors that have contributed to this neglect, one no longer obtains: the dominance of American educational history by present-minded vocationalists. The rout of the Ellwood P. Cubberleys and Paul Monroes by Bernard Bailyn and Lawrence A. Cremin  in the early 196o’s appears complete  and has cleared the field, if not for Wilson Smith’s idealized “new historian of American education,” then at least for a new generation with broader historical references and a more sophisticated methodology. Yet, precisely because those now writing  American educational history are in reaction against the self-serving purposes and narrow,  internal  approach of  their predecessors, they  have shown little interest in the inner history of academic life.3

Traditionally, the history of American higher education has been written  by  historians whose  primary  research interests lie else­where, usually in political or social history. In many cases drafted by their employing institution to mark a centennial observance or note the passing of a distinguished president, they have dutifully


2. Richard H. Shryock,  “The Academic Profession in the United  States,”  American Association of University Professors Bulletin,  38 (1952), 34; Richard Hofstadter and Walter P. Metzger, The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States (New York, 1955); Frederick Rudolph, The American College and University (New York,1962); Laurence R. Veysey, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago, 1965). Two earlier efforts to assess the historical status of American academics are Wilson  Smith,  “The Teacher in Puritan Culture,” Harvard Educational Review, 36 (1966), 394-411; Williant  D. Carrell, “American  College  Professors: 175o-18oo,”  History of Education Quarterly, 8  (1968),


3. Bernard Bailyn, Education in the Forming of American Society (Chapel Hill, 1960), pp.

54-59; Lawrence A. Cremin,  The Wonderful World of Ellwood Patterson Cubberley  (New York, 1965). A recent brief for the externalist approach is in Hugh  Hawkins,  Between Harvard and America: The Educational Leadership of Charles W. Eliot (New York, 1968), pp. v-vi.



responded by producing the desired uncritical “company history” or hagiography. Indeed, in few other areas of American historiography has what Thomas C. Cochran called the presidential syn­ thesis or what Bernard Bailyn has called the heroic interpretation remained so unchallenged. As a result, most of what is known about any aspect of American higher education, including that of academic  professionalization, is from  the  presidential perspective. Only  recently have biographies such as A. Hunter  Dupree’s  Asa Gray and Ray Allen Billington’s Frederick Jackson Turner, or institutional  histories like Hugh  Hawkins’  Pioneer:  A  History of the Johns Hopkins University, 1874-188g,  begun to provide a view of academic life from the perspective of faculty members. While this imbalance remains, the distorted view of the president and the presidential office as the engine of all academic change, including the changes taking place within  the faculty during  the course of successive presidencies, is likely to persist.4

Another factor distorting  academic history generally, and the history of academic professionalization particularly, has been the tendency among historians to postulate a sharp break immediately after the Civil War.  In the chapter separating his discussion of “The  Age of the University” from Hofstadter’s “The  Age of the College”  in  The Development of Academic  Freedom in the United States, Metzger began: “Between the years 1865 and 1890 a revolution in American education took place.” Metzger has not been alone in invoking the revolutionary metaphor.  From contemporary observers like Yale’s President Noah Porter who characterized the academic scene of 1871 as “convulsed  by a revolution”  to Veysey who  began The Emergence of the American University by quoting Porter’s characterization, the metaphor has been virtually indispensable to those who would attempt to summarize the mani-


4· The “company  history” analogue is in Daniel]. Boorstin, “Universities  in the Republic ofLetters,” Perspectives in American History, 1 (1967), 369-379;  A. Hunter Dupree, Asa Gray (Cambridge, 1959); Ray Allen Billington, Frederick Jackson Turner (New York,

1973);  Hugh  Hawkins,  Pioneer: A History  of  the Johns  Hopkins  University,  1874-1889 (Ithaca, 1960).  Another  recent academic biography  which  eschews the adulatory  approach, though its subject is better known as an academic executive, is Dorothy Ross, G. Stanley Hall: The Psychologist as Prophet (Chicago, 1972).







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fold developments in American higher education during the late nineteenth century.s

When invoked simply to describe a period of rapid change, the revolutionary metaphor is useful. Surely no one would deny that in the history of American higher education the late nineteenth century was such a period. Among other things it witnessed the founding of Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Clark, and the University of Chicago, all of which consciously broke from the earlier pattern of sectarian-sponsored, fixed-curriculum  colleges, and established a new  pattern  of secular control  and specialized studies. Simultaneously undergraduate curricula were overhauled and graduate programs were inaugurated at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. The German-style PhD was domesticated, first by Yale in 1861, and, by the mid-1870’s, by Cornell, Harvard, and Hopkins. Professional societies representing emergent academic disciplines, such as his­tory, economics, and psychology, first came into being in the 188o’s as did such scholarly journals as the Political Science Quarterly  and Publications of the Modern Language Association. By the early 189o’s institutions of higher learning and the men who comprised their faculties had secured a conspicuous place in American life.6

Yet whatever its descriptive economy, the revolutionary metaphor serves no analytic purpose. On the contrary,  the emergence of the American university and the origins of the American academic profession usually get lumped together rather than differentiated as related but separate and not necessarily parallel phenomena. When a causal linkage has been inferred, it has been that the university’s emergence made academic professionalization necessary, rather than the no less logical inference that academic professionalization made the university’s emergence possible. Finally, by discouraging attempts to trace the origins of academic professionalization back before the putative chasm of the 186o’s, the revolutionary metaphor foreshortens the usable past.7


Veysey, Emergence of the American University, p. 2; Hofstadter and Metzger, Academic Freedom, p. 277.]encks and Riesman use the metaphor as the title of their book, though they also had another “revolution” in mind; Academic Revolution, p. xiii.

6. Rudolph,  American College, pp. 241-306, 329-354·

7· Hofstadter, “Revolution in Higher Education,” pp. 283-284.


Details about the impetus, timing, and mechanics of professionalization within a specific institutional setting have never been pre­sented. Similarly, the often invoked  pairs “amateur” and “professional” or “insider” and “outsider” to distinguish faculty of the “old regime” and the “revolutionary” era have never been defined with any precision, nor rendered in a quantitative form. The purpose of the present essay is to address these questions of specifica­tion, definition, and quantification, and, by so doing, to examine critically the validity of the revolutionary interpretation of Amer­ican academic professionalization.8

This will be done through an investigation of the origins, inherited  social status, education, career patterns, self-images, and institutional perceptions of the 179 men who comprised the Harvard faculty at five points spanning the nineteenth century-only one of the quantitative case studies that must be undertaken before any comprehensive interpretation of the origins and course of academic professionalization can be defended. Limited as it is, however, this study challenges the applicability of the prevailing inter­ pretation.

As conceived here, professionalization is a process, a movement along a scale which has as its extremities the types “amateur” and ”professional.” In the academic context, the former possesses none of,  the latter  all of  the following  characteristics: (1) certifiable training and standing in a recognized academic specialty; (2) considerable experience in a probationary capacity as a teacher-scholar; (3) employment by an academic institution in which he offers specialized instruction;  (4) commitment  to publishing the results of research for the scrutiny, edification, and approbation  of fellow specialists at other institutions; (5) belief in the scholarly function and reputation  among fellow specialists as primary,  the teaching function and particular institutional connection as secondary.9


8. The quantifying scheme underlying  this essay is presented in Appendix A.

9· The literature on the sociology of professions is, of course, voluminous. For present purposes I found the following particularly helpful: Bernard Barber, “Some Problems in the Sociology of the Professions,” The Professions in America, Kenneth Lynn, ed. (Cam­ bridge, 1965), pp. 15-34; Talcott Parsons, “The Professions and Social Structure,” Essays in Sociological Theory,  revised edition  (New  York, 1954), pp. 34-49; Talcott  Parsons,


An “outsider”  is an academic whose connections with his employing institution are neither personal nor inherently permanent (the hallmarks of an “insider”)  but impersonal and, potentially at least, transient. Ideally, the outsider has no ties with the institution other than those which are a function of his present career aspirations; was not born near the institution nor raised within its religious persuasion; and had neither his formal education nor teaching experience confined to it. Finally, his occupational and social contacts extend beyond those that are a consequence of his  present employment. The professional and the outsider are obviously related types, but, as will be demonstrated, they are not synonymous; nor are they always positively coupled.10

The  most practical considerations in selecting the nineteenth­-century Harvard faculty for detailed examination are the unparalleled richness of the Harvard University archives, not only in pres­idential papers and other administrative documents but in private manuscript collections of individual professors, and the fact that Harvard’s history, unlike that of Cornell or Johns Hopkins, spanned the entire nineteenth century. A more theoretical consideration involves this case study’s utility beyond its immediate descriptive purposes. The Harvard faculty was chosen not for its representativeness but for its prominence among nineteenth-century  American faculties, and even, after the retrenchment at Johns Hopkins in the early 189o’s, its preeminence. Whether its claims were superior to those of Columbia or Chicago or Yale, the general public-and not a few aspiring academics at those institutions-conceded them to be. For them the Harvard faculty was the pinnacle of the Amer-



“The Professions,” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, XII (New York, 1968),

536-546; Wilbert  E. Moore, The Professions: Roles and Rules (New York, 1970). Among the writings of historians, I benefited from Monte  A. Calvert,  The Mechanical Engineer in America, 1830-191o: Professional Cultures in Conflict (Baltimore, 1967); Daniel H. Cal­ houn, Professional Lives in America: Structure and Aspiration 175o-1850 (Cambridge, 1965);

W. J. Reader, Professional Men: The Rise of the Professional Classes in Nineteenth-Century

England (London, 1966).

10. Parsons, Essays in Sociological  Theory, pp. 4o-42; Alvin W.  Gouldner,  “Cosmopolitans and Locals: Toward  an Analysis of Latent Social Roles,” Administrative Science Quarterly, II (1957-1958), 281-306, 444-479; Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure (New York, 1968), pp. 441-474.



ican academic world at the dose of the nineteenth century, much as for Talcott Parsons, in his recent study of The American University, it is the prototype  for  university faculties of the twentieth century.11

No one, then or since, ever accused Harvard’s twenty-first presi­dent, Charles William Eliot, of being a “typical” academic executive. Both Hugh Hawkins, his most recent biographer, and Laurence Veysey agree that he was “easily the most commanding figure among all late nineteenth-century university presidents.” He also held his office, from 1869 to 1909, far longer than Cornell’s Andrew Dickson White,  Hopkins’ Daniel Coit Gilman, Columbia’s F. A. P. Barnard, or Chicago’s William Rainey Harper.  Accordingly, any reassessment of the role of presidential initiative in nineteenth­ century faculty professionalization might well begin with him.12

The thesis presented here is that during the course of the nineteenth century the Harvard faculty was transformed in two fundamental ways. First, in its credentials and outlook, it became more professional. Second, though less decisively and at a differing rate, it became more universalistic-that is, the faculty came to be less dominated by those members whose claims to consideration were only their particularistic connections with Harvard and more by members whose claims were independent of any institutional af­filiation. It never completely stopped mattering  “Who is he?”; it simply came to matter much more “What has he done?” This distinction, absent in the 182o’s and adumbrated in the 184o’s, was operative at Harvard long before 1869.

Contrary  to the currently received opinion, Eliot’s early presidency witnessed a slowing of the trends toward  professionalism and universalism. Even after 1879, when he abandoned his initial non-professional appointments criteria, he did so less because of a personal change of values than because of his need to deal with four considerations over which he had little control and only belatedly


11. Harvard’s standing among academics elsewhere in the 189o’s can be inferred from the decisions of prominent academics to go there despite personal reservations about doing so. See Bliss Perry, And Gladly Teach (Boston, 1935), p. 242.

12. Hawkins, Between Harvard and America, p. vi; review of Hawkins by Laurence R. Veysey in Journal of American History, 6o (September 1973), 478-480.



understood: (1) the existence of an oversupply of would-be Har­vard  professors; (2) pressing financial exigencies which  obliged him to exploit this academic buyers’ market; (3) the competitive threat posed by Johns Hopkins; (4) pressure from his own faculty members with extra-institutional standing to have Harvard adopt a strictly professional and universalistic appointment policy.

During  the 188o’s, now with enthusiastic presidential backing,  professionalization and universalization again proceeded apace. By 1892 control of the Harvard faculty had shifted from  the locally rooted, non-specialized, institutionally loyal “academic gentlemen” to the somewhat more socially heterogeneous, highly specialized, intensely competitive professional academics on the faculty. This had been no surprise coup, and, if a revolution, it was at least two generations in the making.


The fabled “Augustan Age” of Harvard College, usually seen as extending  from  the beginning  of John  Thornton Kirk­ land’s  presidency in 1810 to the end of Josiah Quincy’s  in 1845, peaked in 1821. In that year enrollments reached 286, twice the number at Kirkland’s inauguration, and allowed Harvard  to displace Yale as the largest college in the country. It was also the richest. A ten-year grant of $10,000 by the Massachusetts General Court in 1814 combined with an upsurge in private benefactions from Boston merchants flush with wartime profits seemed to put the institution on sounder financial footing than at any time since its founding. It was in this bullish atmosphere that the normally cautious Harvard Corporation  authorized a major building program, established a law school, and acquired permanent quarters for its heretofore nomadic medical school. It also created four new college professorships, three of which Kirkland used to attract Eu­ropean-trained scholars to the Harvard faculty.1


1. Samuel Eliot Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard (Cambridge, 1936), pp. 195-222; Josiah Quincy, History of Harvard University  (Cambridge, 1840), II, 344-353·More crit-


The first such appointee, Edward Everett, had spent four years studying in Germany and England on a Harvard stipend. While at Gottingen he prepared for Kirkland’s signature an article for the North  American Review,  in which  Harvard  was characterized as about to become “adequate to all the uses of a university in a large sense,” that is, “after the most approved establishments of the kind in Europe.” Presumably all it lacked was his presence. Once back in Cambridge,  however,  the Eliot Professor of Greek Literature began having second thoughts, not only about Harvard but American academic life generally. “From  the first week of my return,” he acknowledged in 1821,

I saw that our University-as good, I doubt not, as the state of society
admits­ would furnish little scope for the communications of the higher
parts of ancient literature, and that a good grammatical driller, which
I can not consent to be, is wanted.


Although he remained on the faculty another three years, Everett spent most of that time in pursuit of alternative employment.2

Kirkland’s two other European-trained  appointees found  their academic  repatriation  equally  disillusioning.  George  Ticknor, Smith Professor of Modem  Languages, sizing up the Cambridge situation upon his return in 1819, decided to reside in Boston, as far removed from the undergraduate clamor and parietal chores of the resident faculty as possible. From his side of the Charles River he felt free to criticize the operation of Harvard with the detachment  of an outsider, which he remained throughout  his fifteen years on the faculty.3



ical renderings of the Kirkland administration  are in Morison, “The  Great Rebellion in Harvard  College and the Resignation of President Kirkland,”  Colonial Society of Mas­ sachusetts, Publications, 27 (1928), 54-112; Robert A. McCaughey,  josiah Quincy 1772-

1864: The Last Federalist (Cambridge, 1974), pp. 132-143.

2.John  Thornton Kirkland  [actually written  by Edward  Everett],  “Literary  Institu­ tions-University,” North American Review, 7 (1818), 27o-278; Everett to Joseph Story, April13, 1821, in Paul Frothingham, Edward Everett: Orator and Statesman (Boston, 1925), p. 71. See also Cynthia Stokes Brown,  “The American Discovery of the German Uni­ versity: Four Students at Gottingen, 1815-1822” (unpub. PhD diss.,Johns Hopkins Uni­ versity, 1964).

3. David B. Tyack, George Ticknor  and the Boston Brahmins (Cambridge,  1967), pp.



Joseph Green Cogswell, after four years of study in Europe, returned to Harvard in 1821 as librarian and professor of geology. While in England he had anonymously written some very critical remarks about the level of American higher education, but, like Everett, he believed that his own involvement in it would raise the level significantly. Two  years after joining the faculty he quit to open a private school. “I can not persuade myself,” he informed Kirkland upon resigning, “that  the opportunities  I have enjoyed are turned to good account in devoting my life to labours, which might as well be performed by any shop boy.”4

Their exasperation with Harvard went beyond that of scholars unable to get on with  their own  work  because of rambunctious students or burdensome and uninspiring teaching responsibilities. Everett, after all, did not discard his professorship in 1824 for a seat in Congress because Washington  offered more opportunities “for the communications of the higher parts of ancient literature”; he went seeking the prestige and visibility not to be had as a professor in Cambridge. “His ambition is inordinate, and his means of grat­ifying it are abundant,”  an acquaintance said of Everett in 1820, ”and where will he rest?” Clearly not at Harvard. ”I find the whole pursuit, and the duties it brings with it,” he confessed three years before resigning his professorship, “not  respectable enough in the estimation they bring with them and lead too much into contact with some little men and many little things.”5

Everett’s  “little  men,”  the ten professors, five instructors, and one “permanent  tutor” who comprised the 1821 Harvard faculty, shared strikingly similar backgrounds. They were also strikingly unrepresentative of American society in the 182o’s. Fifteen of sixteen were born in New  England,  thirteen in Massachusetts, ten within  walking  distance of  Boston-Cambridge.  Conspicuously


4. Joseph Green Cogswell], “On the Means of Education, and the State of Learning,

in the United States of America,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 4 (1819), sso; Cogs­

well to Kirkland, October  21, 1822, Harvard College Papers, X, 40, Harvard University

Archives (hereafter referred to as HUA).

Ann Gilman Storrow,  Boston, to Jared Sparks, Apri12o, 1820, in Frances B. Elan­

shard, ed., “Letters  of Ann Gilman Storrow  to Jared Sparks,”  Smith College Studies in History, 6 (1921), 197; Everett to Story, April13, 1821.


more provincial than Harvard students in 1821, a fifth of whom came from the South, they were even more urban in their origins than  their  relatively urbanized fellow  New  Englanders.  Not  a single professor had been raised on a farm.6

Where less than two percent of the American work force in the 182o’s was so designated, the fathers of at least half the Harvard faculty members had been professionally employed. Five profes­sors were sons of ministers, while the fathers of two other profes­sors were, respectively, a naval architect and a lawyer. Only one professor, the son of a rural minister, experienced anything re­sembling subsistence living as a child; seven of his colleagues came from decidedly comfortable circumstances.7

All but one of the ten professors and all the instructors had graduated from Harvard. Not surprisingly then, given the theological leanings of the college in the early nineteenth century, all but two were Unitarians. The exceptions were both Episcopalian converts. Surely then it was not his colleagues’ origins that Everett-born within sight of both Boston and Cambridge, the son of a moderately prosperous minister, a Harvard graduate, a Unitarian who would later join the Episcopal Church-found objectionable.8

Nor was Everett set apart by his academic credentials. Even by standards of fifty years later, the credentials of the 1821 Harvard faculty were impressive. Four professors had spent a total of fifteen years studying in Europe, two acquiring PhDs in the process. Four professors had completed divinity studies and four others had studied for the bar; only one lacked formal training beyond the AB. Of the five instructors, three were concurrently enrolled at the divinity school, one at the law school.9


6. A typology of the nineteenth-century Harvard faculty is presented in Appendix B; faculty rosters and assigned indices are presented in Appendix C; overall biographical and professional data of the 1821 faculty are presented in Appendix D, along with comparisons with  subsequent  nineteenth-century Harvard  faculties. Sources  of  information, unless specified, are those cited in Appendix C.

7. P. K. Whelpton, “Occupational Groups in the United  States, 182o-192o,”Journal of the American Statistical Association, 21 (1926), 335-343.

8. Frothingham, Everett, p. 71.

9. As Table X indicates, the percentage  (13 percent) of Harvard  faculty members in 1821 with PhDs is the same as in 1869.


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Yet if all this training spoke highly of the Harvard faculty’s learning, its timing and largely non-academic character suggest something else. All four  professors who  had studied abroad had done so only after abortive attempts at careers in the ministry, law, and business. Two  had begun their specialized studies subsequent to being made professors. As Ticknor, traveling in Europe at the time, acknowledged upon receipt of Kirkland’s offer of the Smith Professorship in Modem Languages, “here is at once a new subject of study proposed to me, to which I have paid no attention since I have been here.”lO

In addition to Ticknor, two other professors had started out to become lawyers, another had been a minister for seventeen years, two  others had reconciled themselves to places on  the Harvard faculty after failing health obliged them to abandon earlier career plans. Of Harvard’s ten professors in 1821, only three were teaching at the time of their appointments; five had never taught before. It would thus appear that only two had initially considered a Har­vard professorship, or any academic position, as a career objective, and one of these hedged by securing a preaching license.11

The non-academic career orientation of the five instructors was even more  pronounced. None  remained at Harvard  or  took up college teaching permanently. Two  became ministers, one each a lawyer, high school principal, civil engineer. Although  two  retained their instructorships for six years and expressed interest in permanent  appointments,  one had meanwhile obtained  a pulpit and declined to relinquish it in order to be considered for a professorship. The other instructor formally petitioned the Corporation for retention, but Kirkland’s remarks on his behalf, that “he had from choice prepared himself for this occupation,” reflects the singularity of such a choice. Even then one member of the Corporation argued that the would-be professor “had not attended to the sci-



10. Tyack, Ticknor, p. 62.

11. In addition to Channing and Cogswell  (who had practiced law), Frisbie had been obliged, because of failing eyesight, “to  relinquish his ambition” and to tum to academic life (DAB, VII, 35-36).


McCaughey : Harvard  University  1821-1892            251


ences from any particular taste for them, he had prepared himself for the ministry but could not obtain a call.”12

What then were they all doing on the Harvard faculty? It seems dear  that Everett and Cogswell were simply passing through. A position at Harvard served them as a way station between careers, in much the same way it served the five instructors as a stopover between the end of schooling and the beginning of careers. Both groups used Harvard to perform the kinds of functions Erik Erikson ascribes to the medieval monastery in Young Man Luther­ those of a “psychosocial moratorium.” In a similar way, Ticknor’s affiliation with Harvard functioned as a blind behind which Boston society, with what Tocqueville called its “prejudice against those who  do nothing,” allowed him to carry on his non-productive aesthetic enterprises. Upon reaching an age-forty-four-when such pretenses to useful employment  were no longer  necessary, Ticknor  promptly  resigned.13

If the spur of fame propelling an Everett from the ministry, through scholarship, and ultimately into politics made the Harvard faculty at best a temporary  and unsatisfying respite, earlier self-acknowledged failure could reconcile one to it as a permanent refuge. Professor John Snelling Popkin is a case in point. Graduating from  Harvard  in  1792, Popkin  remained  as an instructor  long enough to complete divinity studies and receive a call from Boston’s prestigious Federal Street Church. The demands of the position, however, soon proved the shy bachelor’s undoing. Only weeks after his installation he confided to a friend: “I wilt in the meridian sun.” Five unhappy years later, at his congregation’s urging, he resigned. “I can not conceal the mortification that I suffer,” he said on departing, “when I consider my ministry with you has proved such a disappointment.”14

Popkin spent the next twelve years ministering to a rural parish


12. Nathaniel Bowditch,  “College  History,”  p. 75, HUA.

13. Erik H. Erikson,  Young  Man  Luther  (New  York,  1958), pp. 1oo-104, 132-133; Alexis de Tocqueville,Joumey  to America, ed.J. P. Mayer  (New Haven, 1960), p. 203; Tyack,  Ticknor, pp. 126-128.

14. Cornelius C. Felton, ed., A Memorial of the Rev.john Snelling Popkin, D.D. (Cambridge, 1852); Cambridge Chronicle, April16, 1852.


until, in 1815, Kirkland invited him to return to Harvard as professor of Greek. There  he remained for eighteen years, forcing students, as one later and unappreciatively recalled, “to  wade through Homer as if the Iliad were a bog.” Neither an accomplished scholar nor  an inspired teacher, Popkin  took  his parietal duties seriously, lived in college rooms, and seldom ventured outside the Yard. “If he failed of distinction,” his eulogist said at his death, “he at least attained peace. He was free from the tyranny of restless ambition.”15

For others, Harvard was home. Sidney Willard, Hancock Professor of Hebrew, and Levi Hedge, professor of logic, were both sons of Harvard-trained  ministers. In addition, Willard’s  father, Joseph, had been president of Harvard  (1781-1804),  and Hedge had married the granddaughter of another Harvard president, Edward  Holyoke  (1737-1769). Upon  graduating in 1798, Willard stayed in Cambridge pursuing divinity studies and serving as college librarian while waiting for a faculty opening. Appointed Hancock Professor in 1806, he served in that capacity for twenty­ six years. Hedge showed even more patience, or less ambition, by spending fifteen years as a Harvard instructor before being made professor of logic in 1810, a position he held for a further twenty years.16

Unlike Everett or Cogswell, Willard and Hedge knew Harvard too intimately ever to magnify  the nature of  their  professorial duties. It was Willard  who  defended the Harvard  faculty when Cogswell had chastised them for their lack of scholarly productivity. “Rather  than leading a life of ease,” he wrote approvingly of his  colleagues in 1819, “they are generally employed with their classes to the exclusion of any great literary undertakings to which their choice might lead them.” Having never himself pursued scholarship while satisfying the  day-to-day  responsibilities of a Harvard  professor in the 182o’s, Willard  was quite incapable of




15. James Freeman Clarke, Autobiography, ed. Edward  Everett  Hale (Boston, 1891), pp. 36-37; GeorgeS. Hillard, North American Review, 75 (1852), 474.

16. DAB,  VIII, 499, XX, 239-240.


McCaughey : Harvard  University 1821-1892           253


empathizing with  those of his colleagues who found  them to be almost mutually exclusive.17

Like Popkin’s Greek and Hedge’s philosophy, Willard’s Hebrew was scarcely better than that of many bookish  New  England clergymen, and worse than that of some. Not surprisingly, all three championed the fixed curriculum and the recitation system, where the professor acted as scorekeeper rather than teacher, and would later successfully sabotage Ticknor’s  efforts to introduce  a more flexible curriculum and a lecture system. Both reforms threatened to reveal the thinness of their specialized knowledge and the limits of their teaching skills. Not  that they ever pretended  to possess either in any quantity. If called upon to define their calling, they all would have responded modestly and accurately, as Willard did, “the permanent instruction of youth.”18

Others saw them as they saw themselves. As evidenced by their rebelliousness and indifference to academic censure, Harvard students regarded their professors as deserving little intellectual respect and no social deference. Boston’s intellectual elite, though taking a proprietary interest in Harvard affairs, did not think highly of the academic calling or those who responded to it. Several accomplished members, including the mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch and the linguist John Pickering, repeatedly turned down Harvard  professorships. They  knew,  as  the  English  naturalist Thomas  Nuttall  was to  discover after “vegetating” for  several years as a Harvard instructor in the 1820’s, that in Cambridge “doing nothing for science” was almost an occupational imperative.19

The  Harvard  Corporation  alternately ignored  and patronized its “employees.” Ticknor’s ideas about reforming Harvard seemed to have won a respectful hearing from Corporation  Fellows precisely because he was not a member  of the  resident faculty  but rather an active member of Boston society. In 1824, when the resident faculty followed Everett’s lead in petitioning the Corpora-



17. Sidney Willard, “State ofLearning in the United States,” North American Review, 10  (1819), 240-269.

18. Willard,  Memories of Youth and Manhood  (Boston, 1855),  I, 326.

19. Jeanette R. Graustein, Thomas Nuttall, Naturalist (Cambridge, 1967),  p. 207.



tion for a greater voice in the management of the college, the governing board’s spokesman, John Lowell, instructed the professors to “stick to the pleasant duties of the classroom” and leave the college’s management to those with more “opportunities of knowing the world.”20

The only member of the 1821 faculty who perceived Harvard as something other than a moratorium, a refuge, or a home was William Dandridge Peck, Massachusetts Professor of Natural History. After graduating from  Harvard  in 1782, and a short apprentice­ ship in a Boston countinghouse, Peck had removed himself to a farm in Kittery, Maine. There for twenty years he devoted him­ self to the study of natural history and to his researches into insect and aquatic life. A study of the canker worm published in 1795 and a 1799 monograph,  Natural History of the Slug Worm,  established his reputation as an economic entomologist  and brought  him to the attention of Boston’s many amateur natural historians. By 1805 they had raised $30,000 to create a chair of natural history at Harvard and invited Peck to occupy it. Overcoming  his initial reluctance to abandon the solitude of Maine, Peck was persuaded to accept the chair and, after three years of studying similar establishments in Europe, the directorship of Harvard’s new botanical garden.21

     The unique stipulations of his professorship, which limited his teaching to a series of lectures  for seniors, permitted Peck to apply himself to continued research and publication projects during his fourteen years as Massachusetts Professor. Seeing himself as primarily a scientist and only incidentally a teacher, with an extra­ institutional audience of peers to be reached through  his writing, he regarded Harvard as a base of operations, or a professional perch. The  connection,  however  belatedly entered  into,  proved  to  be permanent;  unlike even Popkin and Willard,  both of whom  retired voluntarily while in good health, Peck stayed on in Cambridge



20. Edward  Everett  et al., “Memorial of the Resident Instructors, May  31,  1824,” Overseers Records, VII (1825), 102-162, HUA; Uohn Lowell], Remarks on the Memorial of the Officers of Harvard College  (Boston, 1824).

21. DAB, XIV, 383-384.


McCaughey : Harvard  University 1821-1892             255


as long as life permitted. And because the connection was supportive of his career aspirations, it was, unlike Everett’s,  Cogswell’s, and Ticknor’s, positive. Neither dependent upon the daily routine of the classroom and parietal responsibilities for his purpose in life nor wedded to the particular institution and protective of it, he looked upon Harvard impersonally. He remained aloof from its inner politics except where they might impinge upon his researches or  his outside scientific ties. Without   even  the semblance of  a teaching apprenticeship, Peck was as close as anyone in Augustan Harvard to being a professional academic.22


22. Josiah Quincy, History of Harvard University  (Cambridge, 1840), II, 292, 329; Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, X  (1823), 161-170.











The last years of the Kirkland administration and the decade that followed strained the limited resources of Harvard  and its faculty. Enrollments began dropping  after 1821, the state sub­sidy ran out in 1824, and student disturbances regularly rocked the college. Kirkland resigned in 1828, but the financial distress and disciplinary problems he left behind persisted well into the presi­dency of his successor, Josiah Quincy. A full-scale student rebellion in 1834, ultimately contained only through  resort to grand jury indictments, disrupted academic life for weeks, nearly cost Quincy his job, and further  eroded public confidence in the institution. The Harvard graduating class of 1836 was the smallest in fifty years, and smaller than at Yale, Union, Princeton, and Dartmouth.1

A retrenchment policy announced by the Corporation  in 1827, after three years of growing deficits, effected economies at the faculty’s  expense. Two  professorships were  consolidated, one  left vacant, and two others eliminated following the requested resig­ nations of the incumbents. The professors who remained had their salaries cut (Ticknor’s by half),  teaching loads increased, and pa-


1. Bowditch,  “College  History,” pp. 68-70; McCaughey,  Quincy, pp. 179-181.



rietal responsibilities extended to include nightly bed checks of the undergraduates. The  research perquisites enjoyed  by Peck were denied his replacement, Thomas Nuttall, and Ticknor’s exemption from conducting recitations was not given to his successor, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Only with the stabilization of the college finances, which followed  the restoration of student order  and a modest upturn in enrollments in the late 183o’s, did the Corpora­ tion ease its ban on new appointments. But even then, with  the creation of three new professorships between 1838 and 1843, the faculty Quincy left behind in 1845 was smaller-by one professor than that of 1821.2

The 1845 Harvard faculty compared  unfavorably with  that of 1821 in more than numbers. While a majority of its fifteen members were  New  Englanders,  most of them  did not  come  from around Boston, the region’s economic and cultural hub. Accompanying this recruitment from outside Boston was a marked decline in the proportion  of professors’ fathers in the professions. Where  there had been five ministers’ sons and no farmers’ sons among  the 1821 professoriate, there were no ministers’ sons and three farmers’ sons in 1845. In 1821 the fathers of four professors were college graduates; in 1845, there was only one professorial son of a college graduate.3

Four of the nine professors in 1845 came from financial circumstances that can be described as modest or poor, and none had enjoyed childhoods as materially comfortable as Ticknor’s. Perhaps one other comparison will suffice to support the argument that between 1821 and 1845 a significant decline in the inherited social status of Harvard professors occurred. Whereas all the interim oc­cupations of the 1821 professors had been in the professions or business, four of the 1845 professors had been obliged to earn their keep immediately upon graduating as schoolteachers. With less to offer in salaries, in institutional prestige, in time off for  private


2. Carl Johnson,  Longfellow at Harvard (Eugene, Ore., 1944), p. 8; Graustein, Nuttall, p. 292; alterations in the size and rank structure are indicated in Appendix D, Table I.

3. There were two carryovers from  the 1821 faculty, Professor Edward  T. Channing and “permanent tutor” Francis Sales. Appendix D, Tables II, III, IV, provides relevant comparisons with 1821 faculty.


McCaughey : Harvard  University 1821-1892             257


study, Quincy had been obliged to look beyond the sons of Boston’s professional class to fill his depleted faculty ranks. Indeed his dependence upon Europeans to fill most of the non-professional positions, despite explicit misgivings about  their morals, suggests the seriousness of his recruitment problem.4

Not surprisingly then, the academic credentials of the faculty in 1845 were less impressive than those of the 1821 faculty. Aside from the professor of Latin, Charles Beck, a German emigre, only two professors had studied in Europe. Two others had no formal training beyond their Harvard  ABs. Yet both, along with  a divinity school graduate, became Harvard professors before they were twenty-seven. Their combined prior teaching experience totaled eight years, or half that of Levi Hedge in 1810 when he was made a professor. “Our practice is to give the different professorships away to young men,” a visitor to Boston in the 183o’s was told,

in order to induce them to devote themselves to the branch they are to
teach. Our country is as yet too young for old professors; and, besides,
they are too poorly paid to induce first rate men to devote themselves to
the business of lecturing…. We consider professors as secondary men.5


The humbler origins, poorer credentials, diminished (if possible) public standing, and reduced prior experience which characterized Harvard professors in 1845 would seem to support the Hofstadter thesis that a “great  retrogression”  occurred in American higher education during  the Jacksonian era. Other  characteristics, how­ ever, suggest a different, considerably more progressive interpretation of the era. Both the post-appointment career patterns of the 1845 professors and the perceptions of several individual professors indicate that the declining social status was not matched by the incumbent’s declining appreciation of a place on the Harvard faculty. Indeed,  the  two  factors appear  to have  been  inversely related. While  all four  instructors in 1845, like their 1821 counterparts,



4· Determination of financial circumstances was facilitated by the availability of Cam­ bridge tax lists in Town and County Taxes Assessed in Town if Cambridge for the Year 1839 (Cambridge, 1839). On  Quincy’s  misgivings about Europeans,  Quincy  to Charles W. Upham, June 21, 1834,]osiah  Quincy  Papers, HUA.

s. Francis].  Grund,  Aristocracy in America, II (London, 1839), 34-35.



viewed Harvard as a way station and were soon off to non-academic callings, no 1845 professor so viewed his institutional connection. Whereas five 1821 professors voluntarily resigned their positions well short of retirement age, three in order to take up other pursuits, only two 1845 professors retired early, and only one in order to pursue other occupational interests.6

The single instance was that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who, following a second marriage in 1843 that made him fiancially independent, grew increasingly weary of academic life. In 1854, aged forty-seven, he resigned. Unlike Everett or Cogswell or Ticknor, however, Longfellow had started out to become a college professor. Before coming to Harvard in 1836 he had taught at Bowdoin for six years and invested another six years in European study. Moreover, during his eighteen years on the Harvard facu1ty as Smith Professor he never allowed his teaching and administrative  responsibilities to  permit  more  than  two  years  to lapse between publications. Having made his reputation as a poet while at Harvard,  he left when  Quincy’s  successors in  the late 184o’s and early 185o’s insisted upon his taking on more teaching duties than he wished.7

If Harvard served Longfellow as a longtime but not permanent professional perch, it continued to serve others as a refuge. Charles Beck, professor of Latin, had been destined for the Lutheran ministry in his native Germany, when, after his ordination in 1822 and receipt of a PhD in theology a year later from Tubingen, he had to abandon these plans and, under threat of imprisonment for his involvement in the Burschenschafi movement, emigrate to the United States. After six years of school-teaching in western Massachusetts and New York, Beck gratefully accepted an instructorship at Har­ vard in 1831. A year later he became professor of Latin,  a position he was to hold for twenty years. Like other refugees on the facu1ty he was personally appreciative more than professionally exploitative of his position, but unlike most of them he did not accept Har­vard as he found it. As early as 1833 he tried to introduce a graduate


6. Hofstadter and Metzger,  Academic Freedom, pp. 209-221.

7·Johnson,  Longfellow, pp.  26–61.



program in classical studies and throughout his years on the faculty tried to provide the institution with at least a modicum  of Teutonic academic rigor.8

The previous occupations of Jared  Sparks, McLean Professor of History, would suggest that he too had come to the Harvard faculty in flight from  the larger world. Following graduation from the Harvard divinity school in 1818, Sparks went to Baltimore to become that city’s only Unitarian minister. Four years later he re­signed from the ministry and returned to Boston, where he became an editor and eventually owner of the North American Review. In 1830, after deciding to devote full time to the study of American history, he sold the Review. Fruits of this decision began appearing four years later with the publication of the first of twelve volumes of Writings of George Washington.9

In 1836 Sparks was offered, but declined, the Alford Professor­ship of Moral Philosophy at Harvard. He did so, he told Quincy quite candidly, because philosophy “was less allied to my inter­ests” than history. A year earlier he had expressed interest in accepting  a professorship at the newly  founded  New  York  University, but only if it were in history. Surely such a scruple would not have occurred  to someone in search of an academic refuge. Prior to accepting the McLean Professorship in 1838, the first chair of history established in the United States, Sparks received specific assurances from Quincy that his historical researches and writing took precedence over his other responsibilities. In addition to having  the residency requirement  waived  (to permit  extended  research trips), he insisted that his teaching be limited to history, and that it be in the form of lectures rather  than recitation sections. However  “retrograde” Longfellow  found  Sparks as a Harvard president, he demonstrated by the conditions he exacted upon join-



8. DAB, II, 113-114; William  Newell,  The Christian Citizen: A Discourse Occasioned by the Death of Charles Beck, LL.D. (Cambridge, 1866). Beck’s efforts to create a graduate seminar at Harvard are described in Richard]. Storr, The Beginnings of Graduate Education in America (Chicago, 1953), pp. 25-28.

Herbert  Baxter  Adams, The Life and Writings  of Jared Sparks (Boston, 1893), II,

365-368; DAB, XVII, 430-434.


260                  Perspectives in American  History


ing the faculty that there was more than a touch of the academic professional in him.

Cornelius C. Felton and Joseph Lovering, on the other hand, fit neatly into the Harvard-as-home category. Both Felton, appointed professor of Greek in 1832 at twenty-six, and Lovering, made Hollis Professor ofPhysics in 1838 at twenty-five, were local prod­ucts, Harvard graduates, Unitarians. Neither had specialized training to commend him to his particular professorship, unless Lovering’s three years in the divinity school constituted preparation for the oldest scientific chair in America. Felton was to spend thirty­ one years on the Harvard faculty, not for the opportunities such a position provided for scholarship but because, as was said of him, “he liked academic life, its regular tasks, its tranquil uniformity.” In 1860 he proved his affection for Harvard by accepting its presidency; within two years, as he had prophesied, the responsibilities of the office literally killed him. Like Felton, Lovering was to spend his entire adult life at Harvard and, like Felton, “produced,  it ap­pears, no books.” 11

Benjamin Peirce, with his local origins, kinship ties (his father had been college librarian), Harvard AB, Unitarianism, and permanent appointment at twenty-four, would seem of a piece with Felton and Lovering. But in his perception of himself and Harvard he was not. Despite the lack of any advanced training (except that received informally from Bowditch while an undergraduate) or a scientific degree, Peirce saw himself first and foremost as a mathematical astronomer. His connection with the Harvard faculty, though it was to last forty-nine years, remained subordinate to this self-image. Unlike Felton, who exhausted his energies in Harvard classrooms and then as president, Peirce cultivated an international reputation through frequent publications, participation in scientific



10. Adams, Sparks, II, 372-374.

11. GeorgeS. Hillard, “Memoir of Cornelius Conway Felton, LL.D.,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 10 (1868), 352-368; “Cornelius  Felton,” DAB, VI, 317-

318; Morison,  Three Centuries, p. 263; ‘Joseph Lovering,” DAB, XI, 442-443; B. 0.

Peirce, “Joseph Lovering,” National Academy of Science, Biographical Memoirs, 6 (1909),



organizations and government  projects, and not a little scientific politicking. 12

After Ticknor, despairing of ever reforming the curriculum, resigned in 1835, Peirce emerged as the faculty’s most effective lobbyist for a voluntary, or elective system. His reasons for doing so were scarcely altruistic. Rather than a system where students chose their subjects, he envisioned one where instructors would no longer be required to deal with students who were either not interested in or not equal to the particular subject. “May  it not be forgotten,” he reminded Quincy  in 1835, just before converting  him to the elective system, “that  mathematics is a far more difficult department  than  almost any  other.”  Unlike  Lovering,  a notoriously “easy teacher,” Peirce, as one of his  duller students later recalled, had “little respect for pupils who had not a genius for mathematics and paid little respect to them.”13

Quincy’s appointment of Peirce in 1843 to the new Perkins Pro­fessorship of Astronomy, a chair connected with the Harvard Astronomical  Observatory  that opened a year later, effectively removed  him from  the undergraduate  classroom. He remained at Harvard until his retirement in 1879, working  away at his researches, doing consultation work for the government, and maintaining an active correspondence with scientists here and abroad. He also regularly gave advice, usually unsolicited and often unwelcome, to each succeeding president on how to transform Har­vard into “a real university.”

Not only does Peirce’s career link the university aspirations first seriously articulated at Harvard  in the1840’s and their realization a generation later, it is prototypical of a combination which was to be well represented in that university’s faculty: the professional insider. When, as in the 185o’s, his insistence upon the primacy of research and the necessity of an elective system brought him into disfavor with Harvard presidents and thereby endangered his own exemption from elementary instruc-


12. Moses King, ed., Benjamin  Peirce: A Memorial Collection (Cambridge, 1881);  Sven R. Peterson, “Benjamin Peirce: Mathematician and Philosopher,” journal of the History  of Ideas, 16  (1955), 89, 112.

13. McCaughey,  Quincy, pp. 172-178; assessment of Peirce as undergraduate  teacher in George F. Hoar, Autobiography of Seventy Years (New York, 1903),  I, 99-100.


Perspectives in American  History


tion, he was quite prepared to seek employment elsewhere. Institutional loyalty is not, as Peirce’s lack of it suggests, a hallmark of a professional academic.14

If Longfellow, Sparks, and Peirce each possessed some of the traits of a professional academic, Asa Gray possessed nearly all of them. He also, as they did not, epitomized the outsider. Drawn to Harvard by its promise to support his scientific pursuits, he found the connection supportive, and stayed. Raised in upstate New York, a Presbyterian, with a degree from an upstate medical school, Gray had never set foot in Cambridge prior to 1842, the year he was offered the new Fisher Professorship of Natural History. As indicated by his election five years earlier to the Boston Society of Natural History, however, his reputation had preceded him. 15

At thirty-two,  with  three years’ experience at the Lyceum of Natural History in New York, a year’s study in Europe, author­ ship of Elements of Botany (1837), co-authorship of a two-volume Flora of North  America (1838-1839), and a pending professorship at the University of Michigan, Gray overwhelmed  the several local aspirants for the professorship. Quincy acknowledged the importance of his ongoing research by assuring him that, like Sparks, he could confine his attention “to  the branch in which you have al­ ready attained such eminence and celebrity.” Gray, in turn, gave as his reason for accepting Quincy’s offer that it “would  place me in such favorable circumstances for the prosecution of my favorite science.” And so it did. Throughout his thirty-six years at Harvard he carried on extensive researches, acquired an international  reputation, and enjoyed the respect and professional acknowledge­ment of the world’s leading scientists, including Charles Darwin.16

The establishment of the McLean, Fisher, and Perkins Professor­ ships indicates the direction in which Harvard was pointed at the close of Quincy’s presidency in 1845. Just as the introduction of the


14. Storr, Graduate Education, pp. 67-68; Benjamin Peirce, Working Plan for the Foun­dation of a University   ([Cambridge], 1856).

15. Dupree, Asa Gray, pp. 1-114.

16. Ibid., pp. 110-111,239-249. For description of Gray’s principal local competition for the Fisher professorship, see Edward Harris, “Memoir of Thaddeus William  Harris, M.D.,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 19  (1882), 313-322.



elective system sought to legitimize the idea of specialization for students and instructors alike, the new professorships institution­alized the idea of research as an appropriate, indeed highly valued, academic concern. Moreover, they did so in such a way as not to be undone, as the elective system was, by Quincy’s immediate successors. But perhaps most important of all, they provided positions at Harvard well before the Civil War for ambitious scholars who had fashioned academic lives that transcended not only the class­ room but Harvard.







The assessment of Harvard’s standing between 1845 and 1869 offered by Henry  Adams in his Education is succinct, if not wholly  accurate. “No  one,”  he wrote,  “took  Harvard  College seriously.” Despite its growth and relative prosperity during these years, the college seemed to most contemporary observers-and to historians since-characterized by curricular backsliding and executive incompetence. Presidents Edward Everett (1846-1849), back for another stopover between diplomatic posts, and Jared Sparks (185o-1853) merited their reputations as academic reactionaries by their  dismantling  of  the  elective system and  opposition  to  the Peirce-led university wing of the faculty. Similarly, whatever reforms Presidents James Walker  (1853-186o), Cornelius C. Felton (186o-1862), and Thomas Hill (1862-1868) privately urged, none possessed the vigor nor enjoyed sufficient tenure to see them implemented.1

Yet changes taking place within the faculty during these years fundamentally altered its character and determined its future composition. Faculty members came to take themselves seriously. Professional qualifications acquired increasing importance; those who had them began to insist that they be made prerequisites for permanent membership in the faculty, while those without them were


1. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (Boston, 1918), p. 54;
Morison,  Three

Centuries, pp. 275-301.


made to feel their lack. Concurrently,  membership in the faculty began to lose its image among educated Bostonians as a marginal, if selfless and occasionally satisfying, occupation and to take on the appearance of an intellectually legitimate, even competitive,  profession. Finally, it is the period during which a career pattern that would later become normative for would-be Harvard professors is first seen with any regularity.2

Two developments discernible at mid-century, though both external to Harvard, stimulated these changes within its faculty. One was a growing interest on the part of American college graduates in continuing their formal education abroad, principally in Germany. In the generation after 1815, when Everett and Ticknor had set out for what Cogswell called “the  holy land of the scholar,” fewer than one hundred  Americans are known  to have matriculated at Germany’s  three leading  universities; during  the 185o’s nearly three hundred did so. At Gottingen,  at least twenty-seven Americans attended courses between 1847 and 1857, while more than three hundred studied at the University of Heidelberg before 1870.3

This academic exodus can be explained in part by the favorable publicity that German universities received from critics of American colleges, of whom there were many in the 184o’s. Other possible contributing  factors were the waning of the anti-intellectualism and cultural isolationism often associated with the Jacksonian era; the declining appeal for studiously inclined college graduates of careers in the ministry or law, the first because of a growing skepticism about  organized  religion,  the second because of  the legal profession’s increasing subordination to business; and simply the coming of age of a generation of Americans financially able



2. Preston C. Combs, “Harvard College, 1846-1869: An Age of Transition” (unpub. honors thesis, Harvard College, 1950), HUA. While the most detailed study of Harvard during this period, Combs does not focus on the faculty.

3. Daniel B. Shumway, “Gottingen’s American Students,”  The  American-German Re­view  (1937), pp. 21-24; William  W.  Goodwin,  “Remarks  on the American Colony  at Gottingen,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 12 {1897-1899), 366-372;]ohn T. Krumpelman, “The American Students at Heidelberg  University 183o-187o,” ]ahr­ buchfur Amerikastudien, 14 (1969), 167-184.



and psychologically disposed to defer career decisions by extending their formal education. During  the Civil War,  studying  abroad also offered an alternative to fighting.4

Whatever  the reasons, the fact that hundreds of Americans began availing themselves of the training provided by German uni­versities twenty years prior to the development of graduate programs in the United States had a profound  impact on American academic life. For many professors of the third quarter of the nineteenth century, Germany had been the place where they first ex­perienced the excitement of independent  research and,  prospectively at least, enjoyed the social prestige that went with member­ ship in a privileged professorial class. They,  in tum,  became the models which some of their students chose to emulate.5

In 1851 President Sparks appointed  the twenty-eight-year-old George Martin Lane as professor of  Latin,  the twenty-six-year-old Frances J. Child as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric, and the twenty­ four-year-old Josiah P. Cooke as Erving Professor of Chemistry. Not only their youth but their local ties-all three were from Massachusetts (Child and Cooke were Bostonians), Harvard graduates, and  Unitarians-were reminiscent of Quincy’s  appointments  of the early 183o’s. But unlike Felton and Lovering, Sparks’ appointees had all studied in Europe immediately prior to their appointments. Lane had a PhD in classics from Gottingen;  Child spent a year at Berlin studying philology and then another at Gottingen, where he too acquired a PhD; Cooke worked and studied for two years in several French chemical laboratories. Nor are they to be confused with  Harvard’s  first batch of European-trained  profes­ sors, Everett, Ticknor, and Cogswell. Unlike them, Lane, Child, and Cooke had gone directly from college into academic life, first as instructors and  then as graduate students. They  were also to enjoy permanent careers in their professorships.6


4· Shumway’s  figures for Gottingen  during  the Civil War  suggest no falling off of American students.

5. Jurgen Herbst, The German Historical School in American Scholarship: A Study in theTransfer of Culture (Ithaca, 1965), pp. 1-52.

6. “George  Martin  Lane,” DAB, X,  573-574; “Francis  J. Child,” DAB, IV, 66-67;”Josiah P. Cooke,” DAB, IV, 387-388.



The second mid-century  development affecting the Harvard faculty, symbolized by the founding  of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science two  years later,  was the emergence of  a self-conscious American scientific estate. “As the gentleman amateur had been the prototype of the man of science in the eighteenth century,” George Daniels has written  in reference to the 184o’s, “the  trained spe­cialist-the professional whose sole source of support was his scientific employment-had come  to  be the  new  type.”  Robert  V. Bruce has further  estimated that nearly half of the two hundred most  prominent  American  scientists of  the 185o’s were  faculty members, which would suggest that the impact of the professional scientist on American academic life was being felt prior to the Civil War.?

This was clearly the case at Harvard, where the professionaliza­tion of science took institutional form in 1847 with the founding of the Lawrence Scientific School. Its initial staffing, principally by Louis Agassiz and Eben  Norton  Horsford,  promptly  raised the proportion  of scientists on the Harvard  faculty as well as that of professional outsiders. Neither Agassiz, a Swiss who became professor of geology and zoology in 1847 after being in the United States for a year, nor the New Yorker Horsford, made Rumford Professor on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts that same year, had attended or taught at Harvard prior to his appointment. Both brought with them, however, impeccable credentials. The forty-one-year-old  Agassiz had a PhD from Munich, fourteen years’ teaching experience at the University of Neuchatel, and an international  standing as an ichthyologist  and student  of glacial formations. Horsford,  at twenty-nine,  a graduate of Union College, came with the enthusiastic backing of Justus Liebig, the world­ famous agricultural chemist under whom  he had studied for two years at the University of Giessen.8


7· George H. Daniels, American Science in the Age of Jackson (New York, 1968), p. 34; Robert  V. Bruce,  “A  Statistical Profile  of American  Scientists, 1846-1876”  (unpub. paper, Table  12, p. 36).

8. Edward  Lurie, Louis Agassiz: A Life in Science (Chicago, 1960). On  Norton, see Margaret Rossiter, “Justus Liebig and the Americans: A Study in the Transit of Science,


A subsequent Lawrence Scientific School professorship did go to a Harvard graduate and Bostonian, Henry L. Eustis. Eustis’ local ties counted far less with his future colleagues, however, than his scientific reputation acquired as an officer in the United States En­gineering Corps and as an instructor at West Point, the country’s most distinguished engineering school.9

By the early 186o’s Agassiz, Horsford, to some extent Eustis, and Peirce, who agreed with Agassiz on few matters so completely as on the need to adopt professional and universalistic criteria for Harvard  appointments,  had  successfully asserted  their  claim  to  a decisive role in the making of scientific appointments. Both Presidents Felton and Hill deferred to them. The most famous instance of this occurred in 1863 when they nominated as Horsford’s successor Wolcott  Gibbs. A New  Yorker, Columbia  graduate, and like Horsford a student of Liebig’s  at Giessen, Gibbs had been professor of chemistry at the College of the City of New York for fourteen years. During  those years he participated in an informal network of America’s leading scientists, Agassiz and Peirce prominent among  them, known  to its members as the Scientific Lazzaroni. By 1863, as a result of his accomplishments as a research chemist and the publicity given them by the Lazzaroni, he had acquired a national, if not international, reputation.10

Even Gibbs’ principal local competitor  for the Rumford chair, a  twenty-nine-year-old  assistant professor of chemistry, Charles William Eliot, acknowledged him to be “undoubtedly the first chemist in the country.” Against these credentials and the deter­ mined backing of Agassiz and Peirce, Eliot’s Harvard connections (his father had been a member of the Corporation)  and nine years’ service on the faculty counted for little. What did count, and decisively against him, was his lack of European training and his un-


184o-188o”  (unpub.  PhD  diss., Yale University,  1971). Between  1845 and 1869 the percentage of Harvard professorships in the sciences increased from 33 percent to 56 per­ cent; during Eliot’s administration it leveled off at around  40 percent.

9· “Henry  L. Eustis,” DAB, VI, 192-193; “Oliver  Wolcott  Gibbs,” DAB, VII, 251-252.

10. On Lazzaroni, see Lurie, Agassiz, pp. 182-184, 323-331, and, from  perspective of an outsider, Dupree,  Asa Gray, pp. 225-226.



tested capacities as a research chemist. The chair went to Gibbs, the professional outsider, and Eliot, the insider, was obliged to resign. 11

After the furor attending  the Gibbs appointment,  the appoint­ment two years later of Josiah Dwight Whitney as Sturgis-Hooper Professor of Geology proved to be anti-climactic. A Yale graduate with extensive European  training and ten years’ field experience conducting several state geological surveys, Whitney  quietly took his place alongside the growing  number  of outside professionals on the Harvard faculty. His appointment  conformed to the standards that had led to Gibbs’ appointment and obliged Eliot to leave Harvard, and thereby strengthened those standards. 12

This is not to say that during the 185o’s and 186o’s Harvard altogether abandoned local considerations and made appointments to the faculty strictly on the basis of specialized training and schol­arly reputation. The professional qualifications of Francis Bowen, appointed  Alford  Professor of Moral  Philosophy  in 1853, and, three years later, of Henry Torrey, appointed McLean Professor of History,  offer evidence to the contrary.  Both  were Bostonians, Unitarians, Harvard graduates (as was Torrey’s  father), and one­ time Harvard instructors who returned to Cambridge in their for­ties after several false starts at careers in Boston. The Corporation chose Bowen as Alford Professor after his earlier appointment, in 1850, as McLean Professor had been vetoed by the then Democrat­ ic-controlled Board of Overseers. Neither appointment  was in consequence of Bowen’s specialized knowledge or advanced train­ing; both reflected the Corporation’s endorsement of his outspoken Whiggish politics. Similarly, Torrey’s reputation as a historian was negligible, certainly less substantial than that of his predecessor in the McLean Professorship, Sparks. Nor  did his reputation  grow during the thirty years that he remained on the faculty. “He published no great works on History or any other subject,” a colleague



11. On  Gibbs-Eliot  affair, see Henry James, Charles William Eliot (Boston, 1930),  I, 102-114, and, for a more favorable view of Eliot’s credentials, Hawkins, Between Harvard and America, pp. 25-27.

12. “Josiah Dwight Whitney,” DAB, XX, 161-163; E. T. Brewster, Life and Letters ofJosiah Dwight Whitney (New York, 1909).



later summed up Torrey’s  academic career, “and he gave no lec­tures.”13

The appointment  of James Russell Lowell as Longfellow’s successor in 1855 suggests Harvard’s  continuing  attractiveness-and accessibility-to those seeking refuge. After  his wife’s  death  in 1853, related difficulties in resuming writing, and despair over the course of political events in the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lowell did not hesitate when the Harvard offer came. He was particularly pleased, he told friends, that “the place has sought me, not I, it.” At the time of his  acceptance of Harvard’s only chair in modern  languages, he knew neither German nor Spanish, a fact that the Corporation  was prepared to overlook, particularly after he assured them that he “learned tongues with ease” and that a few months in Europe would rectify the deficiency. He never did learn German. Nor, once remarried and writing again, did he ever really settle in at Harvard, though he maintained his connection for more than twenty years. Unlike his fellow faculty members who identi­fied themselves to the 1870 census taker as “college  professor,” Lowell listed himself as “poet.”14

The case of the classicist William W. Goodwin suggests, how­ever, that the application of professional standards in the 18 so’s and 186o’s was not limited to the sciences. Like Child and Lane, though three years after them, Goodwin had proceeded to Gottingen following graduation from Harvard. PhD in hand, he returned to Cambridge and applied for a place on the faculty. But unlike Child and Lane, who were made professors, Goodwin had to settle for an instructorship. Fortuitously, the Eliot Professorship became available in 1860 with Felton’s election to the presidency and cut his apprenticeship to four  years. Would-be  Harvard  professors had


13. “Francis Bowen,” DAB, II, 503-504;  Daniel Walker  Howe,  The  Unitarian Con­ science (Cambridge, 1970), p. 309; autobiographical note in March 17, 1881, Moses King Papers, HUA;  William W. Goodwin, “Henry Torrey,” Massachusetts Historical Soci­ ety, Proceedings, 29 (1894), 197-210, 205.

14. Martin Duberman, James Russell Lowell (Boston, 1966),  pp. 152-182; Charles W.Eliot, “James Russell Lowell,”  A Late Harvest (Boston, 1924),  pp.  22-37;   Population Schedules of Ninth  Census of the United  States (1870),  Wards  1 and 2, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, vol. 12 (238-467), National Archives Microfilm Pub­ lications, reel no. 623.



been stymied before because they lacked credentials or patience, but Goodwin possessed both. More important, for present purposes, he needed both.15

Those junior faculty members who lacked Goodwin’s  credentials were obliged to be even more patient. Neither Ephraim W. Gurney nor James Mill Peirce had contemplated academic careers while students at Harvard. After graduating in 1852, Gurney studied for the Unitarian ministry, then ran a private school in Boston, eventually became an editor  of the North American Review, and finally, in 1857, joined the Harvard faculty as a Latin instructor. Peirce had, upon his graduation in 1853, taken a mathematics instructorship at Harvard, but primarily to subsidize his law school training and then the training he received in the divinity school. In 1859 he resigned from  the faculty and spent the next two years preaching in various Unitarian pulpits and traveling in Europe. Deciding against the ministry, he returned to Harvard in 1861 as an assistant professor of mathematics.16

Both  men valued their Harvard  affiliation for personal rather than professional reasons. Gurney, who taught Latin, philosophy, and history during his academic career, laid claim to neither a specialty nor any scholarly reputation. An engaging personality and an able administrator, he was “singularly lacking in the impulse to publication.”James Mill Peirce, unlike his father, Benjamin, or his brother  Charles  Sanders,  the  philosopher  of  pragmatism,  was thought by friends “neither quite profound enough nor sufficiently energetic” ever to become a serious scholar. Not that he tried. “A dilletante,” a colleague later described Peirce, a man who “loved poetry, and the theatre, and music, and good cheer.” Not until the summer of 1869, did Gurney at forty, and Peirce at  thirty-five, acquire permanent places on the Harvard faculty. Even then they owed their professorships to the fact that President-elect Eliot valued their friendship and their demonstrated  institutional loyalty




15. “William W. Goodwin,” DAB, VII, 411-413.

16. “Ephraim W. Gurney,” DAB, VIII, 57-58; Boston Daily Advertiser, September 15,1886; “James Mill Peirce,” DAB, XIV, 405-406.



and was prepared to overlook any lack of professional credentials.17

The willingness of Peirce and Gurney to subject themselves to the uncertainties of long  apprenticeships reflects the increased value attached to a permanent place on the Harvard faculty. No longer, as in the early thirties, were professorships for an instructor’s asking, or, as in the early 185o’s, for a young PhD’s  asking. Despite the doubling of the number of Harvard professorships between 1845 and 1869, acquiring one had become a more exacting, certainly more protracted process. The median age at appointment of an 1845 professor was twenty-eight;  of an 1869 professor, thirty-six. But 1869 professors were not simply older at appointment,  they were more experienced. Three of the nine-member 1845 professoriate acquired professorships without  prior teaching experience, either at Harvard  or another  college, while only one professor of the eighteen-member 1869 professoriate had done so. Similarly, while no 1845 professor had served on the Harvard faculty in a non-professorial capacity for more than three years, half the 1869 professors had done so.18

A comparison of the geographical and social origins of the 1845 and 1869 faculties further supports the conclusion that the value assigned to a permanent place on the Harvard faculty had appreciated substantially in the intervening  years. The  proportion  of 1869 faculty members from  the Boston-Cambridge area, for ex­ample, had risen sharply from that of 1845 (from 20 to 32%), which suggests that Harvard presidents were fining it less necessary to go far afield in search of faculty members. Correspondingly,  the proportion  of foreign-born  faculty members dropped back to its 1821 level (6%), or less than one-third  the level attained in 1845. Most faculty members, professors and non-professors, were sons of professionals or businessmen-yet another indication that the rel­ative status slide discernible between 1831 and 1845 had been re-


17. On Gurney’s relations with Eliot, see Charles W. Eliot, “Remarks,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 57 (1923), 7; on Peirce as a dilettante, see Barrett Wendell, “Recollections of Harvard  1872-1917”  (unpub. notes, p. 37, Barrett Wendell  Papers), HUA.

18. Lowell was the only professor without  prior academic experience. See Appendix D, Table XII.



versed and that the 1869 Harvard  faculty came from socially respectable and financially comfortable backgrounds.19

Indeed, they were as a group decidedly well heeled. Many, if not most, of the professors had inherited money from their parents: in the instances of Gibbs, Lowell, and Nathaniel S. Shaler, the newly appointed professor of paleontology, a great deal of money. Only Lovering  and Evangelinus A. Sophocles, professor of Greek,  a bachelor living in college rooms, appear to have been obliged to make do on their professorial salaries of $3,000  (about four times what an average Cambridge wage earner made in 1875). Lovering also appears to have had the dubious distinction of being the only professor in the 186o’s whose wife maintained a household without live-in servants.20

For those not born to wealth, there was a good chance of marrying it. “It’s  quite the fashion for our rich girls,” a Bostonian  reported in the 183o’s,” to buy themselves a professor.” Ticknor’s mar­riage in 1821 had enabled him to alter his lifestyle from  that of mere comfort  to “unpretending  elegance,” while Everett’s  marriage in 1824, Sparks’ in 1839, Longfellow’s second in 1843, and Felton’s in 1846 raised them above their previous financial and, at least in Felton’s case, social levels. Among  the 1869 professors, Gray, Agassiz, Gurney, and Child, the son of a sailmaker “born  in low circumstances,” had their academic careers subsidized by their marriages into prosperous Boston families.2 1



19. Appendix D, Tables II-VII. Based on the occupational patterns for 1850, the fathers of Harvard  professors in 1869 were fifteen times as likely to be in the professions as the American  working  population  overall. See Whelpton, “Occupational Groups  in  the United States,” pp. 335-343; and United States Bureau of the Census, A Century of Pop­ulation Growth from the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, ed. W. S. Rossiter (Washington,  D.C., 1909),  p. 143.

20. Nathaniel S. Shaler, Autobiography (Boston, 1909), p. 10. Financial data were also extracted from 1870 federal census tracts, cited in note 14, 1870 and 1880 Cambridge Tax Lists, Cambridge  Public Library. Comparison  of average Cambridge  salary ($750.00) with Harvard  professor’s salary ($4,000)  based on 1875 Massachusetts Census (Boston, 1876),  p. 366.

21. Grund,  American Aristocracy, II, 38;  reference to  Child’s  background  in “Lord Acton’s American Diaries,” Fortnightly Review, 6o (1921), 929. Gurney’s wife, whom he married in 1868, was Ellen Sturgis Hooper,  a sister of Marian, Henry  Adams’ ill-fated wife. Ellen’s net worth  in 1870 was listed at $175,000.



Although young Henry James still doubted “the existence of any really satisfactory society” in the Cambridge  of the 186o’s, it had come a long way from  the pinched 183o’s when Mrs. Quincy’s soirees had highlighted the social calendar. Childless, the Gurneys employed four live-in servants, principally to help with the considerable entertaining  in their Fayerweather Street home. Those residing in “Professors Row”  on  Kirkland  Street also did  their share in providing social diversions, as did Professor Lowell out at his estate, Elmwood,  the property  taxes on which consumed half his academic salary. Unlike the 182o’s when Ticknor  insisted on living in Boston and Kirkland and Everett were sneaking over at every opportunity,  Harvard professors in the 186o’s seemed to prefer their side of the Charles. To cross over was, of course, to risk immersion in the incoming  tide of Irish. Harvard’s  acting president,  Andrew  P. Peabody,  in his Annual  Report for 1868-1869, neatly summed up the situation: “the  present incumbents … are not wholly dependent on their revenues, and, so long as they can command resources sufficient for their support, are not inclined to seek employment  elsewhere.”22

If financial independence was common among those known  to have held permanent positions on the 1869 Harvard faculty, it was not a sufficient qualification. However decided an edge wealth gave a would-be professor, both in paying for advanced training and in providing support during increasingly common and protracted but ill-paying  apprenticeships as junior  faculty members,  it was the training and the experience gained during the apprenticeship that were the necessary qualifications. Both took time as well as money to acquire. Accordingly, the likelihood of acquiring both was in large part determined by how soon into adulthood a would-be professor had decided upon an academic career. No longer was it likely that such a decision could be put off until after a professorial



22. Henry James,  quoted  in Virginia  Harlow,  Thomas  Sergeant Perry: A Biography (Durham,  N.C.,  1950),  p. 281. On  Cambridge just prior to Eliot’s presidency, Charles Eliot Norton, “Reminiscences of Old Cambridge,” Cambridge Historical Society, Pub­ lications, I (1905-1906), 11-23; Andrew P. Peabody, President’s Annual Report, 1868-1869 (Cambridge, 1869),  p. 20.



appointment, or even after several false starts at other occupations. The personal commitment to an academic career had to be made early,  as it had  been by a majority of the 1869 professors, if the lengthening list of prerequisites  for  such a career were  to be ac­ quired.23

This same, almost necessarily positive attitude toward academic life can be found  in the 1869 junior  faculty.  Older,  more  experi­enced, more likely to have studied in Europe,  and less likely to be concurrently enrolled in the divinity or law schools than their 1845 counterparts, they did not automatically view the jobs they filled as stopovers between college and non-academic careers. For a majority of them, instructorships were testing grounds  for and stepping­ stones to  professorships,  if not  at Harvard  then  somewhere  else. Four  of the eighteen  eventually  acquired  Harvard  professorships and  two  others  became  professors  at  other  colleges.  Of  the  re­maining  seven, four  left academic life only  after having  been de­nied permanent places at Harvard. The queues had begun to form.24

Without acknowledging it, probably  without knowing it, Har­vard presidents in the late 1850’s and 186o’s operated in an academic buyers’  market. In such a situation,  where  demand  for  positions exceeds supply,  the qualifications  of those chosen to fill the posi­tions are likely to be increased. Harvard, during  the second half of the nineteenth  century,  was to bear out this impersonal condition of  the  marketplace. Those  candidates  with  specialized  training, teaching experience, and established scholarly reputations regularly beat out  those who  lacked one or more  of these qualifications.






23. For comparative professionalization, see Appendix C, Table I, for pre-appointment occupational background and specialized training of professors, see Appendix D, Tables VIII-X.

24. Between 1845 and 1869 the median age at appointment had increased from  28 to36, the average years of experience at appointment from 2 to s. See Appendix D, TablesXI and XII. Among the junior faculty, Cutler, Greenough, Nash, and Paine all eventually became Harvard  professors; Appleton  became a professor at Swarthmore, Sharples at Boston Dental College; Dexter, Hill, Jennison, and Perry all were obliged to resign from the faculty.


McCaughey       Harvard  University 1821-1892         275






The paradox is that Charles W. Eliot began his presidency of Harvard in 1869 with the conviction that he faced a shortage of would-be professors. During the summer prior to his formal installation in October,  he sought advice from  friends on how  to “make the calling of professor more attractive to ambitious young men.” The doubts expressed by one correspondent, Yale’s George N. Brush, mirrored his own:


. . . in the best colleges in the country the salaries of the professors are from one-half to three-quarters of the amount necessary to support a family in a respectable manner…. This being the case how is it possible that our colleges can secure first class men for professors? A few enthusiasts heartily devoted to the “Institution”  will probably always be found  but I imagine “meat  but three times a week,” as you expressed it, will cause these few to grow “beautifully less.”1


Eliot conveyed an equally bearish estimate of the academic market in his Inaugural  Address. Shortly after explicitly denying  the applicability of “the so-called law of supply and demand”  to the administration of a university, he invoked it in defending the Cor­p oration’s recent announcement of higher faculty salaries. The increase from $3,000, which already made Harvard  professors the highest paid academics in the country,  to $4,000 was necessary, Eliot argued, because “the supply of highly educated teachers is so limited.” He presumably had in mind Brush’s remarks about the appointment  procedures then operative: “Our first question then in selecting a professor must be ‘has he capital enough to eke out the living which his salary does not give him?’ “2

Though conventional, Eliot’s assessment of the academic market is surprising in view of his own recent experience. Having settled on an academic career prior to his graduation  from  Harvard in 1853, he joined the faculty a year later as a mathematics instructor.


1. George N. Brush, New Haven, to C. W. Eliot, June 29, 1869, Box 66, Eliot Papers, HUA  (hereafter designated as EP).

2. Eliot’s Inaugural Address reprinted in Nathan Pusey, ed., A Turning Point in HigherEducation (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 19, 21; Brush to Eliot, June 29, 1869, EP.



Like most junior faculty, he occasionally grumbled about his treat­ment. In 1857 he expressed disappointment at the Corporation’s decision not to promote him to a professorship. Instead, they made him Harvard’s  first assistant professor, a rank which implied his value to the College but also foreshadowed his redundancy. It carried half the salary of a professorship and none of its security.3

“I generally experience a slight disgust at recitations at the be­ginning  of a term,”  Eliot wrote  in 1860  to his cousin, Charles Eliot Norton.  In this same letter, frequently cited as proof of the unattractiveness of antebellum academic life, he complained of be­ing obliged to devote the bulk of his teaching to elementary mathematics rather than to chemistry, “the science in which I am most interested, and in which I work  during leisure hours.”  Nor were the financial rewards all that they might be. “Sometimes too,” he admitted,  “the  smallness of college pay grinds me,  particularly when I see other young fellows getting twice as much pay for less work of inferior quality.” Yet these excerpts do not convey Eliot’s attitude toward academic life, or even a full rendering of his obser­vations to Norton. “Lest you should think from these remarks that I have some reason to complain of my lot,” he concluded his letter,

“I may as well state distinctly that I don’t know any person in the world who is happier than I am, or who has such good reason to be.”4

After having been denied a permanent place at Harvard in 1863, Eliot spent the next two years looking for another academic position. Relatives and friends urged him to go into business, if only for the sake of his family. “As to changing my profession,” he told Brush in reference to these pressures, “I happen to like chemistry.” Finally, in 1865, after a trip to Europe where he tried to acquire the research experience he knew he must have if he were to stay in chemistry, and the refusal of an offer to become superintendent of a Lowell textile mill, he snapped up a far less lucrative offer of a professorship at the newly opened Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


3·James, Eliot, I, 67-88.

4· Eliot, Cambridge,  to Charles Eliot Norton, September 18, 1860, Norton Papers,Houghton Library, Harvard University; cited by Hofstadter, “The Revolution in Higher Education,” p. 284.



Whatever else can be said of Eliot’s own academic career, it was hardly suggestive of a shortage of professors.5

Once installed, Harvard’s  twenty-first  president found  his in­tention to improve faculty salaries at variance with other commitments. One, his announced intention to reinstate the elective system, required an immediate expansion of the faculty. A second commitment  was to husband the limited resources at his disposal. The Corporation,  fearing that the tuition increase (from $100  to $150)  which underwrote  the salary increase would reduce enrollments, regularly impressed upon Eliot the necessity of fiscal prudence. The obligation to expand the faculty coupled with the need to do it as cheaply as possible dictated that the bulk of the hiring be done in the lower ranks, where salaries were lower and contractual commitments  temporary. This last consideration also related to a third commitment  of Eliot’s: that in his haste and inexperience he would not make permanent appointments that he might later regret but could not undo. “To  see everyday the evil fruit of a bad appointment,” he acknowledged in his Inaugural Address, “must be the cruelest of official torments.”6

All three commitments-to expansion, economy, and caution­ are statistically reflected in Eliot’s early appointments. During the first six years of his presidency the faculty expanded at an annual rate of thirteen percent; by 1878 it had doubled in size. While the number  of permanent  positions increased by only a quarter,  the temporary  positions quadrupled. As early as 1872  the traditional numerical preponderance of professors over non-professors ended, and by 1878, the 1869 ratio of three professors to two non-profes­ sors had been reversed. The implications of this change, except the obvious economic ones, seem not to have been given much thought at the time.7

If, as Eliot assumed, prospective Harvard faculty members were already in short supply, the demands he was making on the aca-



5. Eliot to Brush, June  26, 1863, Brush Papers, Yale University  Archives; Hawkins,Between Harvard and America, pp. 27-36.

6. Pusey, ed., A Tuming  Point, pp. 27-28.

7· For comparisons of size and rank structure, see Appendix D, Table I.



demic market could only be met by lowering selection standards. He was unable to provide salaries sufficient for a family man to “live in the modest but comfortable way appropriate to a scholar’s pursuits” and unwilling to offer (as Quincy had not been) these­ security of a permanent position instead. Accordingly, he accepted as inescapable the impossibility of demanding either extensive experience or scholarly credentials of prospective faculty members. Nor, once hired, could he expect them to contribute much to what he called “the patrimony of  knowledge.”In a defensive tone remi­niscent of Willard fifty years earlier, Eliot anticipated the charge of scholarly non-productivity against his future faculty in his inau­ gural address by promising that “if they invent little themselves, they will do something towards defending, interpreting, or diffusing the contributions of others. Nevertheless,” he insisted, ”the prime business of American professors must be regular and assid­uous class teachings.”8

The early 187o’s did in fact witness a slowing down, probably a reversal, of the trend toward  the professionalization of the Harvard faculty. This was less the result of a shortage of candidates with professional credentials than of Eliot’s implicit belief that pro­ fessional credentials were not all that important.  His own belated efforts to acquire them in Europe in 1864 had been halfhearted, at best, as was his commitment to research. The kind of professor he described in his Inaugural Address was precisely the kind of professor he would have been-that is, had Agassiz and Peirce not had their way back in 1863. As president, easily persuaded that even if he wanted to professionalize the faculty further the market reali­ties precluded the possibility, he proceeded to make appointments based on his own  personal criteria, the most important  of which was his determination  to have trusted friends on the faculty.9


8. Pusey, ed., A Turning Point, p. 21.

The suggestion that an actual reversal took place during the first half of the 1870’s is supported  quantitatively  by a comparison of the professional index of Eliot’s inherited professors (.62) and that of his ftrst six professorial appointees (.57). See Appendix C. The “amateur” character of Eliot’s first appointees is also noted by Robert L. Church,  “The Development of the Social Sciences at Harvard  University,  1869-1900”  (unpub.  PhD diss., Harvard  University, 1965), HUA.



Eliot’s support as president-elect of Gurney’s and Peirce’s claims to professorships was not an isolated gesture to two men he had known since childhood, but the beginning of a new appointments pattern.  Four  of his first six professorial appointments  went  to longtime friends. Ferdinand Bocher, appointed professor of mod­ern languages in 1870, had been a colleague of Eliot’s both at Harvard and MIT; Charles F. Dunbar, appointed professor of political economy in 1871, had been an undergraduate contemporary  and a close friend thereafter; Adams S. Hill, appointed assistant professor of English in 1872 and Boylston Professor four  years later, had been a Harvard  classmate; Charles Eliot Norton,  appointed  professor of fine arts in 1875, was a cousin.1°

Of  the four  only Bocher had taught  previously. Dunbar  and Hill were journalists and Norton had avoided all remunerative endeavor since abandoning  a business career in the 1850s. Bocher had been schooled and Norton had traveled extensively in Europe, but neither had pursued graduate study there. Dunbar had no for­mal training in political economy  prior  to his appointment,  nor had Hill in English. The latter proceeded directly from his desk at the New York Tribune to a Harvard classroom. All but Bocher enjoyed independent financial means, and all but he stood in obvious need of new occupational outlets. Personal rather than professional considerations prompted  the offer of places at Harvard  and personal rather  than professional considerations prompted  their ac­ ceptance.11

Eliot’s junior appointments  during  the early 187o’s reflected a similar indifference to professional credentials and a primary reli­ance on locally known Harvard graduates. The 1870 appointment of Henry Adams to teach medieval history, a subject about which he was “utterly  and grossly ignorant,” was by no means atypical.


10. In addition  to DAB entries, see, on Dunbar,  “Tributes,” Massachusetts Historical Society,  Proceedings, 13  (1901), 428-443; on Norton, Kermit  Vanderbilt,  Charles Eliot Norton: Apostle of Culture in a Democracy  (Cambridge, 1959);  on Becher’s  personal re­ lations with Eliot, see Bocher, Cambridge,  to Eliot, May 11, 1892, Box 81, EP.

11. On Hill’s financial independence and desire for “the  less strenuous life of college teaching,” E. W. Gurney,  Cambridge,  to C. E. Norton, September 16, 1867,  Norton Papers; Wendell,  “Recollections,” p. 71.



Gurney,  as dean, was virtually  the only  faculty member  with whom Eliot discussed appointments. He had heard of Adams’ disillusionment with journalism and recommended the appointment. Not that either he or Eliot expected Adams to stay long. “Henry Adams comes here next week and is likely to be offered an Assistant Professorship,” Gurney informed E. L. Godkin, another journalist whom  Eliot  was trying  to interest in a full professorship. “He would take it, however, only as a steppingstone in another career.” 12

Like Adams, his contemporary  William Everett was a wealthy Harvard graduate and a member of a politically distinguished Boston family who found himself adrift in post-Civil  War  America. In the fall of 1869, approaching thirty and still jobless, he wrote from England to Eliot of his recent efforts “to think over my somewhat desultory life, and plan out better places for its future course.” Except  for  “throwing myself into  the  Unitarian  ministry,”  the only fate he could contemplate was a place on the Harvard faculty. “I feel I can instruct boys,” he assured Eliot, although “I am doubt­ful about older students. . . . Still, I would  accept, I think, any honorable post at the college.” Having inquired specifically about an assistant professorship in history or elocution, he was offered an instructorship in Latin. He took it.13

Despite  Adams’ willingness to  take an assistant professorship and Everett’s  acceptance of an instructorship, Eliot clung to the notion that he was confronted with a growing scarcity of would­ be academics. “Your  difficulties will arise,” he warned  the Uni­ versity of Minnesota’s new president in 1870, “not  in laying out a broad and even magnificent plan of operations, but in getting good teachers, paying them enough to live on, and keeping up their enthusiasm.”In 1873 he was still complaining that “only the very few who have no sympathy with the common eagerness to get money,


12. Adams, Education, pp. 293-313; Adams’ academic interlude is described in ErnestSamuels, The Young Henry Adams (Cambridge, 1948), pp. 208-298  (Gurney quotation, p. 204); J. Laurence Laughlin, “Some Recollections of Henry Adams,” Scribner’s Magazine, 69  (1921), 576-585.

13. William A. Everett, Nuremberg, to Eliot, August 3, 1869, Edinburgh, September 26, 1869, Box 66, EP. Everett eventually left Harvard in 1877 to become headmaster of a boys’ school.


McCaughey : Harvard University 1821-1892                    281


and no lively desire for the enjoyments which money now-a-days procures, will devote themselves to the pursuits of the scholar or the war of science.” 14

Yet as Eliot himself acknowledged in his annual report for 1873-1874, Harvard did not lack for refugees from the Gilded Age, even when it could offer them only the lowest faculty positions. “The tutors and instructors now in service,” he wrote,  “are persons of considerable age and standing, who had long and thorough  preparation for their work.” Noting how these positions traditionally devolved upon law and divinity students, “whose  knowledge of the subjects they taught was scarcely better than their students,” Eliot declared “that period is past. The college can now command in its tutorships and instructorships the services of accomplished teachers, or men of special and elaborate training in the subjects which they profess.”1S

Not  that Eliot always selected such highly qualified candidates, as his 1874 appointment  of Silas MacVane as an instructor of political economy  indicated. MacVane’s principal recommendation came from the headmaster of the boys’ school where he had been teaching in the year since his graduation from Harvard; in it he was described as “methodical,  clear, accurate, and thorough  … patient, prudent,  and dignified.” Reading between the lines, however, it is quite clear that the headmaster had decided that Mac­ Vane, less than a success at teaching young boys, ought to try teaching older ones. Writing  on his own behalf, MacVane professed his willingness “to serve to the utmost of my ability any way the Col­lege can make use of me,” but nonetheless cited his special qualifi­cations to teach political economy:  “I read  French and German with ease, so that all the best sources are open to me.” With  this dazzling display of credentials, MacVane began his thirty-nine­ year membership in the Harvard faculty.16


14. Eliot to President Folwell, March 19, 1870, Letter Press vol. 89; same to [English benefactor], January 10, 1873, Box 67, EP.

15. Annual Report of President of Harvard College [1873-1874] (Cambridge, 1874), pp.6-7.

16. W. C., Collar, Roxbury, to Eliot, September 1, 1874; S.M. MacVane, Cambridge,to Eliot, August 31, 1874, Box 68, EP. Such appointments  were not limited to the social


More often, however, faculty vacancies were being filled by applicants like Clement L. Smith, an 1863 Swarthmore graduate who had studied classical philology in Germany for two years before assuming a teaching position at Haverford. A professor at Swarthmore in 1870, he applied to Eliot for an assistant professorship, ingenuously acknowledging  that “I  would  give up much  for  a place at Cambridge, for the sake of its associations, for the sake of its grand advantages for study, for the pleasure of its literary society.” When informed that only an instructorship was available, Smith came anyway.17

One of the unanticipated consequences of expanding the faculty principally in its bottom  ranks was the creation of a large pool of known  and experienced candidates for the occasional openings at the top. Ambitious academics on other campuses saw that it was to their advantage, at least in the 187o’s, to become part of that pool if they hoped  to win consideration for a Harvard  professorship. Like Smith, the botanist George L. Goodale abandoned a professorship elsewhere for an instructorship in Cambridge. After three years on the Bowdoin  faculty, he confessed to Gray in 1870 that ”study by one’s self is unsatisfactory” and agreed to take whatever position was available at Harvard. In trading the security of Bow­doin for the intellectual stimulation of Harvard, Goodale, of course, was gambling on eventually having  both. The  gamble paid off. When Gray announced in 1873 his intention to give up lecturing, Goodale was there to fill in. Five years later, upon Gray’s retire­ ment, he took over the direction of the botanical garden and ac quired a professorship in the process.18

Another local source of faculty, only slowly recognized as such, was Harvard’s  fledgling graduate department.  Preoccupied with



sciences. “Though his mathematical  knowledge  never went beyond  the point which a man specifically interested in classics needed to reach in order  to get a Harvard  AB,” Charles J. White was appointed assistant professor of mathematics in 1870.Julian Lowell Coolidge,  “Mathematics,” in Samuel Eliot  Morison,  ed.,  The  Development of Harvard University (Cambridge, 1930),  p. 251.

17. Clement L. Smith, Haverford,  to Eliot, December 2, 8, 18, 22, 1869, Box 66, EP.See also Clement L. Smith Papers, HUA.

18. “George L. Goodale,” DAB, VII, 378-379; Dupree,  Asa Gray, pp. 35o-351.


Preoccupied with reestablishing the elective system in the College and reorganizing the law and medical schools, Eliot paid little attention to graduate studies during  the early years of his administration.  Supervision of the department,  as it was designated from its establishment in 1872 until its reorganization in 1891 as the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, devolved upon Professor James M. Peirce and a few other interested members of the facu1ty. Nonetheless, as early as 1876 Eliot picked one of its first graduates, the mathematician William  M. Byerly, then teaching at Cornell,  to fill an assistant professorship. Four years later the physicist John Trowbridge, who as an assistant professor shared with Byerly the distinction of being Harvard’s first PhDs, became the first of them to be named to a Harvard  professorship.19

The professionalism instilled by European  graduate study was apparently present in the domestic variety as well. Of the twenty­ six recipients of Harvard PhDs between 1873 and 1879, only seven subsequently took  up non-academic careers. Eight  became pro­ fessors at Harvard, four more served there as junior appointees, and seven others acquired professorships elsewhere. Some of these early graduate  students undoubtedly  entered the program,  as one ac­ knowledged, “partly  by lack of physical vigor and partly by uncertainty as to what I wished to do,” but most of those who completed their degrees did so to improve  their chances of securing academic employment.  The increasing presence of these career­-minded graduate students had, by tl1e end of Eliot’s first decade as president, eased considerably his doubts about the willingness of young Americans to enter academic life.20

Indeed, by 1878 Eliot’s doubts on this score appear to have all but vanished. “In Harvard College,” he informed an applicant for a teaching position:



19. “William E. Byerly,” DAB, Supplement, I, 145-146. On the graduate school’s de­ velopment,  see Charles H. Haskins, “The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences,” in Morison, ed., The Development of Harvard University, pp. 451-462.

20. Robert L. Grant, Fourscore: An Autobiography (Boston, 1934),  p. 81. The career­line analysis of Harvard  PhDs is part of the author’s  forthcoming study of American­ trained PhDs  (1861-1900).



there are now  teaching 22 professors, 15 assistant professors, 12 instructors, and six tutors. The assistant professors are men from 30 to 40 years old, and are quite as good scholars and teachers, on the average, as the professors. The instructors and tutors are all persons oflearning and experience. They are not young  men just out of college, they are from 25 to 40 years old; many of them are married; all but five of them have made special study of the subject they teach in Europe as well as here, and those five have given abundant evidence of fitness.

What Eliot did not mention was that he could take little credit for bringing these men to Cambridge. He had not sought them out: they had presented themselves, credentials and all, for his taking.21

If the unexpected ease with which Eliot filled his expanding faculty ranks during  the early 187o’s permitted  him to take a more positive view of his buyer’s-position in the academic market­ place, the equally unexpected financial crisis he confronted during the late 187o’s made such a view mandatory. Harvard’s economic difficulties, although exacerbated by the Panic of 1873 and the sub­sequent depression, had as their proximate cause the failure of en­rollments to keep pace with faculty growth.  Even before the full impact of the Panic was felt, Eliot had expanded the faculty at twice the rate of enrollment increases. In 1875, with 845 students enrolled, he flatly predicted that “in five years there will be 1,000 students here.” During  those years enrollments actually dropped  slightly, while the faculty expanded by another third. Harvard’s  expenditures in 1877 exceeded income, something that had not happened since the Civil War.  Three years later the annual deficit reached $35,000, ”the largest,” its somewhat chastened president acknowl­edged, “the college has ever incurred.”22

Deficits during the late 187o’s would have been even greater but for Eliot’s reassessment of the financial needs of his faculty. After 1873, without retracting earlier statements about the inadequacy of faculty salaries, he became ominously silent about the need to raise them; by 1877 he was publicly discussing the prospect of lowering


21. Eliot toW. W. Oliver, May 20, 1878, Letter Press vol. 90, EP.

22. C. F. Dunbar, “President  Eliot’s Administration,” Harvard Graduates Magazine, 2 (1892-1894), 466; Seymour Harris, The Economics of Harvard (New York, 1970), p. 125; Annual Report of the President and Treasurer of Harvard College [188o-1881], p. 41.



them. He simply ignored those faculty members who complained, as one did in 1874, that while Cambridge  tradesmen were “sen­sible of the honor  of the associations with  the University,”  they would not accept it “in payment of accounts.”23

Once accepting frugality as an institutional necessity, Eliot raised it to the level of a personal virtue. There had been a hint of this disposition in his inaugural address, when, referring to students, he declared that “the  poverty of scholars is of inestimable worth  in this money-getting  nation.” Beginning in 1874 he offered the same advantages to his faculty by shaving the announced $4,000 salaries for professors by $1,500 during the first year in rank, $1,000 the second. The appointment of Charles Eliot Norton in 1875 was un­ doubtedly expedited by his professed willingness to accept a salary of $2,000. At least one junior faculty member, correctly sizing up the situation in the late 1870’s, concluded that his chances for promotion were enhanced by making known to Eliot that he had out­side income and would not haggle over salary.24

When,  in 1878, a wealthy  overseer, Colonel Henry Lee, proposed to launch a fund for the relief of individual instances of fac ulty financial embarrassment, Eliot vetoed the idea. Any new revenues, he insisted, were to go toward adding new faculty members, not enriching the old. This was precisely what happened. Between 1876 and 1880, while the faculty increased by twenty members, the annual outlay for faculty salaries remained constant. Eliot accomplished this feat by making a still higher proportion of the new ap­ pointments  at  the instructorship  and assistantship level, and  by adopting an academic variant on the industrial “stretchout.”25

Adams S. Hill assumed in 1872, when he accepted an assistant professorship, that at the end of its five-year term  he would  be


23. F. W. Lister, Cambridge,  to Eliot, November  23, 1874, Box 68, EP.

24. Pusey, ed., A Turning Point, p. 16. For illustrations of Eliot’s growing parsimony in dealing with faculty members, see Eliot, Cambridge,  to Nathaniel Shaler,July 11, 1874, Box 67, and W. E. Byerly, Orange,  N.J., to Eliot, August 18, 1876, Box 69, EP.Junior faculty’s assessment in Ephraim  Emerton,  “Personal  Recollections of Charles William Eliot,” Harvard Graduates Magazine, 32 (1923-1924), 345·

25.John T. Morse, Memoir of Colonel Henry Lee (Boston, 1905), pp. 125-126; figures from Treasurer’s Reports for 1875-1876, 1879-188o; see also Harris, Economics of Harvard,pp. 220, 222-223.



offered a full professorship. In fact, the offer came a year before his term expired. Similarly, when  Clement  Smith accepted a three­ year instructorship in 1870 he assumed he would be made an assistant  professor in 1873. He was. Upon  completing  his five-year term as assistant professor, however,  Smith received not  the full professorship he had expected but only the offer of a second five­ year term as an assistant professor. And when Silas MacVane completed his three-year instructorship in political economy in 1878, instead of an assistant professorship he found himself saddled with another instructorship, this time in history.26

There  were, of course, complaints. “The  Corporation  will, I trust, pardon me for saying that I feel deep regret and disappoint­ment,”  Charles J. White,  a forty-year-old  assistant professor of mathematics, wrote in 1879 when informed that the Corporation was prepared to offer him a third term as assistant professor, but not “that  permanency of position which, as far as I know, no one who had been an assistant professor for ten years has hitherto failed to receive.” Having unburdened himself, White  then quietly re­ sumed his duties as an assistant professor. To complain too much, as he and Eliot both knew, was to invite displacement by one of the several mathematics instructors lower down  on the Harvard lad­der.27

By the close of his first presidential decade Eliot had developed a considerable facility for playing junior faculty members off against one another. “Yes, we like your work,” he told Ephraim Emerton, a history instructor who inquired ofhis  permanent prospects after six years on the faculty, “but  you are one of three young men in your department, all doing well. We cannot promote you all, and



26. By the end of the 187o’s Eliot came to assume that assistant professorships were for two five-year terms. Of the thirteen assistant professors in 188o, all but two eventually became professors, but all but two had to serve at least two terms as an assistant professor. See Appendix D, Table XII.

27. Charles}. White,  Cambridge,  to Eliot, July 16, 188o, Box 260, EP. White  waited until1885 to be made a full professor, and then, in 1893, was involuntarily retired because his “mode of teaching [was] of a kind not the most useful to the University at its present stage of development” (Eliot to White,  December  8, 1893, Box 75, EP). He was then sixty-four  years old.



we cannot discriminate among you. If you have a good opening elsewhere, you had better go.”  When  thus confronted,  or, as in Emerton’s  case, eventually offered a professorship but with  only half its normal salary, most faculty members reasoned that “of course there was nothing to do but accept.” That is, until “a good opening elsewhere” materialized.28

Prior  to 1879 there is little to suggest that Eliot discriminated between faculty members actively engaged in research and those who were not. One of the former recalled having scrutinized him during the 187o’s “as carefully as a man whose hopes depended on it could watch, for any signs of this active sympathy with scholarly endeavor,” only to be continually disappointed. “I have seen cases of intellectual depression and almost ruin produced here,” he added bitterly, “by  this policy of indifference.” When, in 1877, the then Assistant Professor of Physiology and Psychology William James failed to secure Eliot’s permission to terminate instruction in physiology on the grounds that it interfered with his research work in psychology, he too concluded that the president cared little what his faculty did outside the classroom, if anything.29

If Eliot’s initial attitude toward the scholarly effort ofhis faculty was one of indifference, it changed abruptly in 1879, and for one essential reason: his belated discovery of what was happening in Baltimore. Although he had been a party to the earliest discussions about using half of the $7,ooo,ooo Johns Hopkins estate to establish a university there, he had expected that little significant would come of it, certainly nothing  which could directly affect Harvard. His dealings with the Johns Hopkins trustees and President-elect Daniel Coit Gilman, whom  he himself had recommended  for the posi­tion, gave him no hint of their intention to establish an institution almost totally devoted  to graduate training and faculty research. One of the trustees assured him in 1874 that “our Board favor Har­ vard as the type at which we should aim our future development;



28. Ephraim  Emerton,  Cambridge,  to Eliot, May 17, 1881, Box 70, EP.

29. Ibid.; William James, Cambridge,  to Daniel Coit Gihnan, April23, 1877, reprinted in Jackson I. Cope, “William James’s Correspondence  with Daniel Coit Gihnan, 1877-1881,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 12 (1951), 613-614.



though we are wise enough to admit that for the present we must adopt ourselves to the less developed character of the field in which our operations will lie.” Eliot regarded such expressions of institu­tional deference as only appropriate. “To  build a university,” he reminded those attending Gilman’s inauguration in 1876, “needs not years but generations.” Yet three years later he was to find it necessary to bring “the  oldest university in the country” into at least partial conformity  with  that to which he patronizingly  re­ferred as “the youngest.”30

It was not Eliot but his faculty who first took Johns Hopkins seriously. Gilman’s practice of inviting scholars from other institu­tions to Baltimore  to deliver lectures in their specialties quickly exposed several of Harvard’s  active researchers to the intellectual excitement of the new university. Professor Francis J. Child and Assistant Professor John Trowbridge returned from visits in 1877 and 1879 “with  such glowing accounts of everything” as to generate considerable curiosity and not a little envy among their Cam­ bridge colleagues.3 1

Child, Gibbs, Lane, and Goodwin  all received formal offers of professorships at Hopkins-and all gave serious thought  to acceptance. Rather than wait around Cambridge for an imminent offer of an instructorship, the zoologist William Keith Brooks, upon taking his PhD at Harvard in 1875, accepted a fellowship at Johns Hopkins, where he remained for the rest of his brilliant scientific career. When William James found Eliot unresponsive to his changing research interests in 1877, he promptly initiated a corre­ spondence with  Gilman. While  it never led to the definite offer which James appeared ready to accept, it continued into the early




30. Reverdy Johnson, Jr., Baltimore,  to Eliot, May 13, 1874, Box 68, EP. On Eliot’s dealings with  the  Hopkins  organizers  and  misconceptions about  their  intentions,  see Hugh  Hawkins,  “Three Presidents Testify,”  American Quarterly, 11  (1959), 99-119. Eliot’s remarks printed in Addresses at the Inauguration of Daniel C. Gilman as President of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Feburary 22, 1876 (Baltimore, 1876).

31. References to these trips in Emerton  to Eliot, May 17, 1881, cited above; E. W. Gurney, Beverly Farms, to Eliot, September 26, 1881, Box 70, EP; and William James, Heidelberg,  to Gilman, July 18, 1880, Cope,  “Correspondence,” p. 624.



188o’s. By then Eliot had been alerted to the presence of this new and very selective buyer in the academic marketplace.32

If Harvard was to meet the Hopkins challenge, two things were required of its president. First, he could no longer take the scholars on his own faculty for granted. Child’s visit to Johns Hopkins and the offer that followed produced what ten years of complaints had not: relief from undergraduate theme-correcting  and time off for research.The impact was even more explicit in the instance of Assis­tant Professor of Botany William G. Farlow, who, as the Corporation minutes of April 4, 1879, state, was promoted  to a full pro­ fessorship “on  the occasion ofhis  being invited to a professorship in the Johns Hopkins University.”  Similarly, Gilman’s interest in Trowbridge secured him his professorship from a heretofore unyielding Eliot. Finally, James’ protracted correspondence with Gil­ man, which lent credibility to his telling Eliot he did not intend “to subside upon my situation here,” extracted the promise of “at the earliest vacancy a full professorship with its full salary.”33

Catering to its own was not enough; Harvard had also to begin bidding against Johns Hopkins for outside scholars as well. By 1879 it was painfully evident that the Hopkins graduate program, though younger  than  Harvard’s,  was  more  flourishing  and  far  better known. This was due, it was thought in Cambridge, to the favorable national publicity attending Gilman’s ongoing efforts to bring world-renowned scholars to Baltimore. Such publicity not only cast a shadow over Harvard’s graduate program, but it also threat­ened to undermine Eliot’s recent efforts to expand undergraduate enrollments by attracting a national clientele. Here again, what­ ever his personal views about the propriety of competing for schol-





32. Hawkins, Pioneer, pp. 47-53; Edwin  G. Conklin,  “William Keith Brooks,” Na­ tional Academy of Science, Memoirs, 7 (1909), 23-88;James  to Gilman, January 18, 1879, April 3, 1881, Cope, “Correspondence,” pp. 62<HS22, 625-626.

33. Hawkins, Pioneer, p. 53; Memorandum, dated Apri14, 1879, entitled “Agreement between Corporation and Ass’t Professor W. G. Farlow,” Official Papers, Box 260 (1879 folder),  EP; James to Eliot,  April 25, 1881, Box  26o, EP; James to Gilman,  April  3, 1881, Cope, “Correspondence,” p. 625.



ars, Eliot, saw no choice but to take up the Johns Hopkins’ chal­lenge. Gilman’s criteria perforce became his own.34

The 1880 appointments of Frederick DeForest Allen as professor of classical philology and Charles Rockwell Lanman as professor of Sanskrit constitute the first salvos in Eliot’s counteroffensive. Whereas  Gilman, given the newness of Johns  Hopkins, had no alternative to recruiting outsiders for his faculty, Eliot had the option-which he regularly exercised throughout  the 187o’s-of de­pending on inside recruitment. Harvard chose to pursue a policy that Johns Hopkins could not avoid. Neither Allen nor Lanman had attended Harvard; neither was personally known in the tight Cambridge-Boston  circle from  which Eliot had drawn  most of his previous appointees. A Congregationalist  and the son of an Oberlin professor, Allen had, after graduating from Oberlin, spent two years studying in Germany. Following receipt of a PhD from Leipzig in 1870 he returned to the United States, where he held a succession of teaching positions. At the time of his offer from Har­ vard, Allen held the chair of Greek at Yale. He accepted only after receiving assurances from Eliot that in Cambridge,  unlike New Haven, he would not be obliged to deal with undergraduates.35

Though six years younger than Allen, Lanman was fully as professionally oriented-and no less an outsider. An 1870 graduate of Yale, he remained there until 1873 working with its renowned Sanskritist, William D. Whitney, and acquiring a PhD. Thereafter he invested three further years of study and translating in Germany, principally at Tiibingen, where he worked with Whitney’s  mentor, Rudolph Roth. “I am anxious and ambitious to get a good start in my profession,” he wrote  to his mother  from Germany,  “so that I can make a good stand in it. But there are so many striving for the best places now-a-days that I often dread a failure because I


34· Harvard was not to match Hopkins’ annual output  of PhDs until 1899; by 1900 it had  produced  272 doctorates  to Hopkins’  542· Eliot’s  recruiting  trips out  West  also helped to alert him to the growing  national reputation  of Hopkins.

35. “Frederic  DeForest Allen,”  DAB, I, 189-190. Prior  to coming  permanently  to Harvard, Allen had taught at Oberlin, the University of East Tennessee, and the University of Cincinnati. He also served briefly as a Harvard  tutor in 1873-1874, thus making him  perhaps the first “called back” professorial appointee.


McCaughey : Harvard University 1821-1892                   291


feel so much will be expected of me. However, I will do my best.”36

In 1876 Lanman received two offers, a $1,500 Yale instructor­ ship and a $500 Johns Hopkins fellowship. The higher salary and any college loyalties notwithstanding, he chose Johns Hopkins.To have taken theYale position, he explained to his incredulous family, would have meant “putting  my nose to the grindstone and having to teach so many hours a week elementary branches, that I shall have no time nor strength for original investigation.”  Four years later, comfortably ensconced in Baltimore, another decision which pitted personal considerations against professional aspirations was thrust upon him when Eliot, whom he had never met, offered him a professorship at Harvard. Gilman offered to match the Harvard salary but not  the offer of a professorship. Lanman appealed to Whitney  for advice. “Mr. Gilman is, I should think, a better man to work  under  than Mr. Eliot,”  Whitney  replied, “but  C(am­ bridge] is, of course, the wider and more conspicuous field.” Lan­man wired Eliot his acceptance.37

Despite the appointments of Allen and Lanman and the promotions of Farlow and Trowbridge, the overall character of the 1880 professoriate differed only marginally from that of 1869. In terms of professional eminence, Eliot’s eleven appointees collectively failed to bring to Harvard what it had lost with the retirements of Agassiz, Gray, and Peirce. Indeed, if the Johns Hopkins-induced 1880 appointments are excluded, the typical professor in that year was less professional than his 1869 counterpart  on at least three counts: (1) he was less likely to have a PhD; (2) although older, he had less teaching experience, both prior to and subsequent to his professorial appointment;  (3) he was more likely to have started out in a non-academic or non-scientific occupation.38



36. Charles R. Lanman,  “Autobiographical Note,” Harvard Crimson,  February  24.1925; Lanman, Berlin, to mother, January  2, 1874, Lanman Papers, HUA.

37· Lanman, Leipzig, toW. D. Whitney, May 4, 1876; Lanman, Leipzig, to aunt, May21, 1876; W.  D. Whitney, New  Haven,  to Lanman, Apriltt, 1880, Lanman Papers. HUA. Lanman’s negotiations with Eliot and Gilman in 1880 are detailed in his diary, also part of the Lanman Papers, HUA.

38. Eliot’s eight pre-1880 professorial appointees had an only marginally higher pro­-fessional index than the eighteen professors he inherited  in 1869 (.64 to .62). None  of


292                       Perspectives in American History


Nor  was the Harvard  professoriate  in 188o any less provincial than it had been in 1869. Proportionally more of its members came from  the Boston-Cambridge area, fewer from  outside  New  Eng­ land, and only one from Europe, as against two in 1869. The likelihood of a professor’s having attended Harvard  as an undergraduate was only slightly less, and more than two out of three had done so. Although somewhat  less ascertainable,  religious affiliation data suggest a continuing preponderance of Unitarians with, in keeping with a shift within Boston’s professional ranks, a growing incidence of Episcopalians. Clearly the 187o’s had not witnessed the elimina­tion  at Harvard  of the amateur  insider. On  the contrary, he had enjoyed  a  temporary reprieve  from  his  more  professional col­leagues’ judgment against him, a judgment which  Eliot,  in 1880, was about  to carry out.39

It was in  the  lower  ranks,  where  Eliot’s  personal  preferences counted  for less, that  professionalization had made  the most  sig­ nificant  gains during  the 187o’s. Harvard’s thirteen  assistant professors in 1880, for example, were not only more professional than junior  faculty members  in 1869, they were also more  professional than their senior colleagues in 1880. William  Byerly in mathemat­ ics as well as Clement  Smith  and John  W.  White in classics had career  patterns  and  self-perceptions  which  made  them  as much professional outsiders  as Allen and Lanman.  Those  assistant pro­ fessors who  had local connections, like William James, George H. Palmer  in  philosophy,  the  chemists  Henry  Hill  and  Charles  L. Jackson, were no less professional for being insiders. They were, in outlook, far closer to Benjamin  Peirce than to James  Mill Peirce. Even among  the instructors, young  men like the physicist Edward L. Mark from Michigan and the economist James L. Laughlin from Ohio manifested commitments  to academic careers and possessed credentials superior to all but a handful of professors.40

these had PhDs; five were thirty-eight  or older at the time of their appointments,  yet four had less than five years’ previous teaching experience; four had started out in non­ academic careers. For comparisons, see Appendix C, Table I, Appendix D, Tables VIII, X, XI, XII.

39· The outsider index of Eliot’s eight pre-t88o apointees is slightly lower  (.40 to .42)than that ofhis inherited professors. See also Appendix D, Tables II-VII.




Family backgrounds  of professors as well as junior  faculty in 1880 were much as they had been in 1869, that is, unrepresentative of either the social or economic realities of late  nineteenth-century America. The growing  incidence of non-New Englanders in the lower ranks was not paralleled by an increase in faculty members drawn from outside the decidedly prosperous and distinctly urban middle class. There had been a decline in the percentage of profes­sors whose fathers were professionally employed, but an increase in the percentage whose fathers were businessmen. Accordingly, the likelihood of a professor’s having a father who was a college graduate was somewhat less in 188o than it had been in 1869, but the likelihood of his father’s being in a position to start him off with a measure of financial security was greater in 1880. Seven of Eliot’s eleven professorial appointees on the 1880 faculty came from conspicuously wealthy  backgrounds,  while an eighth,  Trowbridge, the son of a bankrupt businessman, became wealthy as an assistant professor in the approved way-by marrying a rich widow.41

In the lower ranks, too, the likelihood of outside financial support  persisted. Instructors like Thomas  S. Perry,  whose mother matched his salary with an annual contribution,  and Louis Dyer, who had no need of income beyond that inherited from his father, appear to have been less exceptional than Henry  B. Hill, whose need to “moonlight” to make ends meet was sufficiently singular to elicit comment  from  colleagues. Despite his stated intention, Eliot had not eliminated the financial barriers to academic life in Cambridge  or diversified the class composition of those who en-


40. The increase in the professional index of the junior faculty between 1869 and 188o (.43 to .68) is about six times the gain experienced in the senior faculty (.62 to .68). See Appendix  C, Table I.

41. Whereas  40  percent  of  the 1880  Harvard  professoriate came from  professional families, only 3.1 percent of the male working  population  (in 1850) was so designated occupationally  (United States Bureau of the Census, A Century of Population Growth, p.

143).  Father’s occupation for junior faculty, as with all other  information  about  those who  did not remain at Harvard,  was harder  to come by. What  information has been found,  however,  suggests that  there was no significant class difference separating  the junior and senior faculty in the nineteenth century.



joyed it during the 187o’s. And to the extent that either was to occur in the 188o’s, this was not the result of a conscious decision to democratize the Harvard faculty, but an incidental by-product  of his belated decision to get on with professionalizing it.42


42. Harlow, Perry, p. 38; “Louis Dyer,” DAB, V, 582-583; C. L.Jackson, “Henry B.Hill,” National Academy of Science, Memoirs, 5 (1907), 255-266.







If the Allen-Lanman appointments in t88o did not significantly alter the overall character of the Harvard  faculty  or  mark  a radical departure in its history, they nonetheless reflected the fact that Eliot had changed his mind about what constituted the crucial criteria in selecting faculty members. This change was important, not because it initiated the process of professionalization, but be­ cause it made the acceleration of that process a conscious presidential objective. Six weeks after receiving Lanman’s acceptance of a Harvard professorship, Eliot dispatched him to Europe in search of profes­ sors “of  really first class reputation” who  might be persuaded to come to Harvard. Lanman recommended a brilliant, thirty-year­ old philologist at the University ofJena, Eduard Sievers, and Eliot promptly offered him Harvard’s chair in German literature, which was about to fall vacant. Inquiries were simultaneously being made to determine the availability of either William Robertson-Smith, a Biblical scholar at the University of Aberdeen, or AdolfHarnack, a historian then at Giessen, for the newly created Winn Professor­ ship in Ecclesiastical History.1

Despite Eliot’s assurances as to Harvard’s  preeminence among American universities, its solvency, and the minimal instructional responsibilities attached to the Winn  Professorship, neither Smith nor Harnack proved interested in coming to Cambridge.

1. Charles R. Lanman, Jena, to Eliot, July 19, 188o; W. Robertson-Smith, Cairo,  to Eliot, March 10, 188o; Andrew  D. White,  Berlin, to Eliot, October  21, 188o, Box 69, EP.


Sievers also eventually turned Eliot down,  but irrevocably only after six years of correspondence and his appointment to a prestigious professorship at Tubingen. Nonetheless, these efforts made in the early 188o’s to attract foreign luminaries, in the face of uncertain finances and  a surplus of experienced junior  faculty members,  attest to Eliot’s acceptance of the academic market’s qualitative distinctions and international dimensions. When Robertson-Smith told him of his decision not to come to Harvard,  Eliot asked him to suggest someone who might. “I am clear that there is no suitable candidate in this country.  A learned German would  suit us well,” he suggested, before proceeding to reveal a lingering Harvard  animus seen earlier in Quincy, “if he were also-as is not always the case­  – a man of character and a gentleman.”2

It did not take junior faculty members long to grasp the implications of Eliot’s recruiting efforts abroad. The thirty-six-year-old George A. Bartlett had served quietly and diligently in the German department since 1872, first as an instructor, then, since 1875, as an assistant professor and acting head of the department. The ongoing efforts to import Sievers, six years his junior, to fill Harvard’s only German  professorship understandably disappointed Bartlett;  but what moved him to protest was a statement widely attributed  to Eliot  that, even if Sievers declined the professorship, it “would never be given to any but a German.” “Unless I could be promoted at once,” he notified the Corporation  on March 5, 1881, “I should withdraw  from the struggle where I have given the best working years of my life without hope of adequate reward.”3

Whereas Bartlett’s references to Eliot’s recent outside appointments had been indirect, those of his departmental colleague Wil­liam Cook could hardly have been more blunt. “They  were,” he told Eliot in a letter which he also sent to several acquaintances on the Board of Overseers, “in the highest degree a discouragement to junior instructors who had taught … successfully and faithfully


2. Eliot, Cambridge,  to Smith, February 25, April19, 1880, Letter Press vol. 90, EP.

3. George Bardett, Cambridge,  to Eliot, March 15, 1881, Box 70, EP; biographical in­ formation  on Bardett,  Harvard Graduates Magazine,  17 (1908-1909), 475;  Charles  H. Grandgent,  “The Modern  Languages,” in Morrison,  ed., Development of Harvard Uni­ versity, pp. 73, 82.



for years, and regarded promotion as their due whenever the fman­ cial situation of the college improved.” Cook, after serving in the Civil War  and studying chemistry in Europe,  had been teaching German at Harvard since 1873. Having done so for several years without any salary, but while maintaining an active social life, he was less concerned with the financial implications of Eliot’s deci­sion to look outside the German department for its next professor than with  its bearing upon his personal status and permanence. “The salary of a tutor is $1,000 a year, the sum paid an entry clerk or a sergeant of police, but the clerk hopes to become bookeeper and the sergeant, captain,” he reminded Eliot. “As a matter of fact, junior instructors here do not hope any longer, and are beginning to say to one another it is time to look for a position elsewhere.”4

Cook  then proceeded, here for the benefit of the overseers, to charge Eliot with duplicity in changing the criteria for promotion without first informing the junior faculty. “Unless the College, on engaging a new teacher,” he insisted,

tells him outright, that-even if he turns out capable of imparting a
remarkably large amount of information to a remarkably large number
of students in a remarkably short time,-when the next grade above his
becomes vacant, an attempt  will be made to find somewhere in Europe
or America somebody still more remarkable to fill the vacancy,-unless it
tells him this, it is bound to promote him.


Eliot, Cook conceded, indisputably had “the right to give such notice. The only question is,” he asked, “can a College which gives such notice or acts on such a principle … hope to secure competent teachers in the lower grades?” Some members of the Harvard com-­ munity,  it seems, still had not reckoned with  the realities of the academic market.s

Bartlett despairingly and Cook defiantly spoke for those junior faculty members who, in Cook’s words, believed “it is the duty of every member of the faculty, first to teach and only second to publish what shall increase the sum of human knowledge  in his spe-


4· William Cook, Cambridge,  to Eliot, February 28, 1881, EP; information on Cook in Boston Transcript, August 28, 1886.

5.. Cook  to Eliot, February 28, 1881.



cialty.”  Ephraim  Emerton,  a  thirty-year-old   history  instructor with a PhD from Leipzig, belonged to a quite different contingent: those junior faculty members who accepted research and publishing as primary academic functions but had been kept from pursuing either by heavy teaching loads and by the lack of sufficient in­ stitutional incentives. “The  bitterness which undoubtedly  existed at the time of the calling of distinguished gentlemen from  other colleges, was caused,” he told Eliot, “not  principally by the fact that they came from other colleges but that the government  [Cor­poration] seemed to be offering rewards for the kind of work which it had failed to encourage itsel£” The result was, Emerton  concluded, that he and his colleagues “felt themselves shut in by a circle of indifference from which there was no escape.”6

Despite these rumblings of discontent heard throughout the spring  of 1881,  Eliot was clearly less interested in placating his junior faculty than in adding potential celebrities to their ranks. Thomas Craig, a twenty-six-year-old mathematician and member of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, commanded  his closest attention.  But  Craig,  armed  with  a standing  offer from Johns Hopkins where he had been a Fellow and had earned a PhD in 1878, proved to be a daunting prospect. Before considering an assistant professorship at Harvard, he demanded the following as­ surances: “time for original work”; as he had just married and was therefore  unable to avail himself of one of Eliot’s  proffered and presumably prosperous “University misses,” a salary sufficient to support  a family; promotion  to full professor not  to be depen­ dent upon his achieving seniority in the mathematics department but upon achieving distinction as a mathematician.  Eliot offered the stipulated assurances of time for research and promotion  not tied to seniority, as well as a starting salary of $2,000,  $500 more than assistant professors and at least one full professor were then getting.7

“I have given the matter careful consideration and compared the advantages offered at the JHU and Harvard,” Craig  replied on


6. Ephraim Emerton,  Cambridge,  to Eliot, May 17, 1881, Box 70, EP.

7· Thomas Craig, Washington, to Eliot, Apri117, 25, 1881, Box 70, EP.



April 28, 1881, “and have decided to accept the position offered me at Baltimore.” He cited the greater opportunities for graduate in­ struction and a higher salary as specific factors prompting his deci­ sion, and then concluded his dealings with  the president of Harvard University by informing  him that “with  what light I have for comparison of the two universities it seems clearly in my interest to remain in connection with the Johns Hopkins.” Eliot took the rejection personally, not least because he believed that one of his own senior faculty members, Gibbs, had frightened Craig off. Although another six years were to pass before he was able to hire a Johns Hopkins professor, Eliot came away from the Craig epi­sode more determined than ever that Harvard surpass Johns Hopkins as “an intellectual power in the country.”8

Easier said than done. Gilman had enjoyed two advantages in building up his faculty: he had started from scratch, and, at least in the early years, was able to make appointments without  undue concern about  the attendant  costs. The  Harvard  faculty  of  the 188o’s, in contrast, consisted of several professors whom Eliot had inherited when he took office in 1869 as well as-and these were in many instances even more embarrassing in terms of scholarly standing-friends whom he had appointed in the 187o’s. Nor was the Corporation, still concerned about deficits, willing  to allow Eliot to renew the faculty growth  rate of the 187o’s or to reverse the declining ratio of professorial to non-professorial positions.9

Paradoxically, the dearth of permanent  slots, either for junior faculty or distinguished outsiders, reflected the success of two of Eliot’s reforms implemented during the 187o’s. The reintroduction of the elective system had made teaching a far less repetitive chore, while the elimination of faculty responsibility for maintaining student discipline had made a professor’s life in Cambridge occu-


8. Craig to Eliot, April28, 1881; Eliot, Cambridge,  to Wolcott Gibbs, May 2, 188o, Letter Press vol. 90, EP. The Hopkins  professor hired away in 1887 was the classicist John H. Wright (Wright,  Baltimore,  to Eliot, January  6, 1887, Box 262, EP).

9. The annual growth rate of the Harvard faculty in the 188o’s (5.6 percent) was about half that of the 187o’s  (11 percent);  correspondingly,  the student-faculty  ratio,  which dropped  during  the 187o’s, increased during  the 188o’s. See Harris,  The  Economics of Harvard, pp. 125-127.



pationally more enjoyable than it had been. Both reforms also served, however,  to make superfluous those professors who  had justified their employment  by providing rudimentary instruction and serving as policemen. The most that such old timers could now offer the faculty was their places on it.10

Yet such professors, like the sixty-nine-year-old  Francis Bowen and the sixty-seven-year-old  Henry Torrey,  showed little inclination to make way for younger,  more professionally oriented scholars. Others, like the seventy-six-year-old Evangelinus Apos­ tolides Sophocles and the sixty-eight-year-old Joseph Lovering, lacked the financial resources to retire, even had they wanted  to. Both expected to die in their places, and nearly did. The Harvard professoriate had not only grown  larger during the 187o’s, it had grown  older as well. In 1869 the typical Harvard  professor was fifty; in 1879, fifty-nine. Even after the four professorial appointments made in t88o, all to men in their mid-thirties  or younger, the average professor’s age was fifty-three.11

Once he perceived that these senior professors were not so much faithful servants of the college as obstacles to the further  professionalization of the faculty, Eliot was not long in devising a program through which they could be encouraged to hasten their de­ parture.  In 1881 he called upon  the Corporation and individual Harvard benefactors to establish a faculty retirement fund. Such a fund  would  enable him, “without inflicting hardship, to relieve from active duty officers whose powers are impaired.” The involuntary vacating of professorships would in tum “make promotions more rapid than they can be in the absence of such a system.” Although the Harvard Retirement Fund did not become operational until the 189o’s, its impetus, like the idea that Harvard professors upon  reaching sixty-five should  be prepared  to  relinquish their


10. It was only in 1883 that the elective system at Harvard  was extended to the freshman year, the point it had reached under Quincy in 1845! For a detailed description of the system’s history, see Annual Report of the President [1883-1884]  (Cambridge, 1885),  pp.5-24.

11. It was Bowen’s  lingering which delayed William James’ promotion, and Lovering’s  that of Trowbridge.


300                        Perspectives in American  History


professorships, is to  be found  in the early 188o’s and in Eliot’s growing impatience with time as a professionalizing agent.12

Junior  faculty who  could not  meet  the new  criteria were,  of course, more easily disposable. On June 27, 1881, upon receipt of a petition “from Mr. Thomas S. Perry for a permanent appointment in the English Dep’t,” Eliot promptly responded by informing the thirty-six-year-old  instructor that “the  Corporation  do not think it expedient to give any appointment in that Department.” Perry, an 1866 graduate of Harvard,  had, when not touring  Europe or helping to edit the North American Review, taught there since 1868. In 1874 he married into the Cabot family, thereby consolidating his already considerable social position and assuring his financial independence. He was, in short, precisely the kind of “academic gentleman” Eliot had initially depended upon to staff his faculty, and whom  he now,  in 1881, found  wanting  in professionalism. This Perry clearly was, as he indicated to a friend when his fate at Harvard still seemed in doubt. “The amusing thing is,” he wrote, “that  I don’t  care one cent for promotion; all I ask for is steady work.” 13

Neither a petition to the Corporation signed by dozens of prominent alumni and several overseers nor  another  signed by more than one hundred  undergraduates attesting to his teaching competence could save Perry. Others soon followed. Howard M. Ticknor, a well-connected, fiancially independent, dilettantish elocution instructor, was told in 1882 that his fourth year on the faculty, despite his desire to stay on, was to be his last. William  Cook, Eliot’s irascible correspondent  of 1881, having, as he phrased it, put “teaching  before the desire to advance my reputation  in the College world,” received notice in 1883 that the Corporation  did not believe it “in the interest of the College or the German Depart­ ment to renew his appointment.” Indeed, so regularly did the axe fall during the early 188o’s that at least one instructor, even before


12. Draft  of Harvard  Retirement  Annuities Plan, November 25, 1879, Box 69, EP; Corporation Records, XIII  (November 29, 188o), 3o-32, HUA; subscription paper on retirement  allowances, June 15, 1881, Box 70, EP.

13. Thomas S. Perry, Cambridge, to Eliot, June 27, 1881, Box 260, EP; CorporationsRecords, XIII Gune 27, 1881), 75; Perry letter quoted in Harlow,  Perry, p. 43.



his first year was out,  confessed to Eliot that he was “perfectly aware of my shortcomings” and anticipated the inevitable by offering to resign.14

Most went quietly, but not all. Asked to submit his resignation after seven years on the faculty, Frederick Lutz, assistant professor of German, did so only after informing Eliot of his “feeling that I have been cruelly wronged.” Others, like George Bartlett, managed to hang on but at a heavy psychic cost. Whereas in 1880 he had asserted his right to a professorship, citing service and seniority as his qualifications, five years later he was reduced to begging for special dispensation. “It is a cause of deep mortification to me that I have not made such a name for myself or won such distinction in scholarship and work  as would  entitle me to the highest honor within your gift. At the same time,” he persisted, leaving all pride behind, “I should be obliged to look upon my life as a failure if, at the age of forty-two, and after thirteen years of teaching I may not receive a permanent appointment and the accompanying title.” Eliot kept Bartlett on as an assistant professor for six more years, until, in 1891, he made him  Harvard’s  first associate professor, thereby providing him with permanence without  compromising the standards of the rank of full professor. 15

Occasionally during  the 188o’s a non-professionally oriented junior faculty member managed to survive by making himself in­dispensable as an administrator. Cambridge legend has it that Silas MacVane’s appointment as McLean Professor of History in 1886 was a reward for his solving the problem of schedule conflicts by devising examination groups. Perhaps more representative, cer­tainly more verifiable, is the instance of LeBaron Briggs. Upon graduating from Harvard in 1875, Briggs, raised in Cambridge as the son of a Unitarian minister, went to Germany to pursue graduate studies in Greek. Once in Leipzig, however, he found himself


14. Memorials to Corporation, May 31, October 13, 1881, Box 260, EP; H. M. Tick­ nor, Cambridge,  to Eliot, March 19, 1882; William  Cook,  Beach Bluff, to Eliot, Sep­ tember 9, 1883, Box 71, EP; Barrett Wendell, Cambridge,  to Corporation,Jnne 8, 1881, Corporation Records, XIII, 70, HUA.

15. Frederick Lutz, Cambridge,  to Eliot, September 15, 1885, Box 261; George Bart­lett, Cambridge,  to Eliot, December 15, 1885, Box 73, EP.



unable to complete  the requirements for a PhD  and decided to return to Harvard as an instructor and student in its graduate pro­gram. But rather than get on with his degree, he devoted his energies to teaching and to becoming a sympathetic listener to under­ graduate woes. In 1881 he was denied reappointment. 16

Two years later, still without his PhD in Greek but now possessed of an MA in English, Briggs rejoined the faculty as an English instructor.  In 1885 he was given charge of English 5, by then the only course required of all undergraduates. His duties from  then on became those of an administrator-counselor  rather than scholar-teacher, a distinction which Eliot institutionalized in 1890 by appointing Briggs Dean of Harvard  College. A year later he became a full professor. Nonetheless, until the mid-189o’s, when administrative posts proliferated, with sharply increased enrollments and growing disinclination on the part of professors to perform “housekeeping chores,” they provided only occasional and seldom permanent ref­uge from the rigors of Harvard’s  up-or-out  policy, a policy fully operative in the 188o’s.

     When undecided about a junior faculty member-and not under the pressure of an outside offer-Eliot stalled. Determined  not to act precipitately and still trying  to economize, he now  felt the added responsibility to see that a faculty member’s  scholarly potential was being realized before committing  a permanent  place to him. At the same time the uncertainties of their situation left junior faculty anxious to know just what their prospects were. “I look forward  to being married,”  Albert Bushnell Hart, a thirty­ one-year-old history instructor, informed Eliot in 1885, “as soon as tenure and income will warrant it.” Hart, a Harvard graduate from  Pennsylvania, had been teaching since 1882 on an annual­ appointment  basis. His credentials (Freiburg PhD) were excellent,



16. Rollo W. Brown,  Dean Briggs (New York, 1926), pp. 42-47; Charles H. Grand­ gent, “The Modem  Languages,” in Morison,  ed.,  Development of Harvard University, pp. 75-77-

17. Brown, Briggs, pp. 49-167. On senior faculty’s growing irritation with what Jamescalled “household  chores,” James to Eliot, July  3, 1S91, Box So, EP; C. L. Jackson to Eliot, November  10, 1S91, Box So, August 10, 1892, Box 260, EP.



his ambition transparent, his scholarly reputation yet to be established. Nor was he the only historian aspiring to a professorship at Harvard; Assistant Professors Edward Channing and Ernest Young had credentials (Harvard PhDs) and ambitions equal to Hart’s, and both had more teaching experience. Accordingly, when Hart asked if he could expect a salary increase, Eliot answered in the letter’s margin, “I think not”; to the query, “am I worth more than a one­ year term?” came the equally cryptic response, “Not yet.” 18

A universally acknowledged “go-getter” with an independent income, Hart stuck it out, though he postponed marriage for four years and was made to wait twelve more before being made a pro­fessor. Others in his predicament, but lacking comparable material or psychological resources, could not. Briggs described the life of his fellow instructors during the t88o’s as “anxious and exhaust­ing,” while Bartlett pictured that of his  fellow assistant professors as one of”continued expectancy and lack of stability,” which left them “insecure in their position and disappointed in their works.” Breakdowns were common. Adolph Cohn, an assistant professor of French who was subsequently let go, attributed his 1888 nervous collapse to overwork and efforts “to stay here permanently, a ques­tion on which I have had of late very grave doubt.” Nor did the pressure always let up with  the securing of tenure. After eleven anxious years Ernest Young became a professor of history in 1887. The next year he committed suicide. “The cause of death,” the Boston Transcript reported, “was insanity produced by overwork.”19

Financial problems compounded the anxieties of a long and un­ certain apprenticeship. Henry  Hill’s moonlighting  at the Massachusetts Board of Health during his ten years as an assistant pro-



18. Albert  B. Hart,  Cambridge,  to  Eliot,  March  23, 1885, Box  73; Samuel EliotMorison, “Edward Channing: A Memoir,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 64 (1931-1932), 25o-284. By the 188o’s Eliot had taken to calling instructorships “interesting experiments” (to Charles Gross, April24, 1888, Letter Press vol. 90) and assistantships as “training places … not to be held for any long period”  (to Arthur M. Corney, May 30, 1889, Letter Press vol. 90, EP).

19. Briggs to Eliot, April19, 1884, Box 72; Bartlett to Eliot, December 15, 1885, Box 73; Adolph Cohn to Eliot, November 14, 1888, Box 76, EP; Boston Transcript, March 5, 1888.



fessor-colleagues delicately  referred  to his mindless job  (testing milk) as “applied chemistry”-damaged his health and delayed his work  on  the  chemistry  of organic  compounds. Josiah  Royce,  a Johns  Hopkins-trained philosopher  who passed up a professorship in his native  California  for  a temporary place at Harvard to  be “nearer the heart of the Weltgeist,” kept his family together during the 188o’s by loans from a brother-in-law and literary hack work. “A  bumblebee-a benevolent monster  of  pure  intelligence,  zig­ zagging, ranging,  and uncatchable,” he worked and worried himself into a nervous collapse in 1888, from which he was a full year in recovering.20

Eliot did little  to mitigate  these occupational anxieties. On  the contrary, he apparently considered  them  functional,  and yet  an­other  mechanism  for screening out the dilettantes. His practice  of pairing  off assistant professors, with  the understanding that  only one  could  be kept  on,  is suggestive  of  the  value  he  placed  on intra-departmental competition. Though slower in adopting professional criteria than Gilman,  Eliot was better equipped  psychologically  to impose  them. It always distressed Gilman,  whose relations with  his junior  faculty and even many  graduate  students were  avuncular,  to inform anyone  that  he could  not  stay  on  at Johns Hopkins. Not so with Eliot. Self-contained, with few friends and no intimates  beyond  his immediate family,  Harvard’s presi­dent dealt with his faculty on a strictly impersonal  basis. He played no favorites, as indicated by the fact that neither of his  two personal secretaries in the 188o’s, each of whom was drawn  from  the junior faculty,  was promoted. His dismissal notice  to one  of them,  W. B. S. Clymer, with whom he had enjoyed almost daily contact for three years, is a fair sample of the genre:

The Corporation  … fully appreciate your industry, fidelity, and zeal,
and your general good influence with the students, but they think it
their duty to seek for the permanent staff of the English Department
a man of greater nat­ural gifts in literature and criticism.21



20.Jackson, “Hill,” NAS Memoirs, 5 (1907), 255-266;]osiah Royce, Berkeley, to Wil­ liam James, January 14, 1879, in John Clendenning, ed., The Letters of josiah Royce (Chi­ cago, 1970), p. 67. Royce described his breakdown in letter to Daniel Coit  Gilman, February 9, 1888, Letters, p. 211; his precarious financial situation is detailed in James to Eliot March 21, 1889, Box 76, EP.



If Eliot felt that personal sentiments should not enter into his judgments  about  faculty  members,  he  also believed  that  they should not enter into faculty members’ judgments  about him or Harvard.  Since the 182o’s, if not  before, there had been faculty members in Cambridge whose overriding loyalty was to their professional careers; in the 188o’s it became presidential policy to encourage such institutional” disloyalty.” When, in 1886, an instructor of physics, Edwin Hall, tried to assure Eliot that the outside offers he had been receiving were not solicited, he was told that to be on the lookout for a professorship elsewhere was “perfectly fair to Harvard.” Eliot  did advise Hall, however,  against accepting anything  “less than a professorship” or going  to “an  institution which is embarrassed fiancially, or in bad hands, and requires only elementary work and a large variety of that.” Besides consistently and publicly asserting the irrelevancy of institutional loyalty (particularly to “the College” in contradistinction to “the University”), Eliot increasingly regarded any fulsome expression of such loyalty as unseemly, certainly unprofessional.22

Another cause of the declining identification of the faculty with Harvard College was the presence during the 188o’s of large numbers of junior faculty whose institutional contact with Harvard began as graduate students or instructors rather than as undergraduates. Graduate fellowships, reluctantly introduced  in the 1870’s and limited to Harvard graduates, were, with faculty prodding and the success of the Johns Hopkins fellowships, greatly expanded in the 188o’s with the specific objective of getting “the graduates of other colleges to come to us.” Of the forty-six PhDs awarded by Har-


21. Eliot toW. B.S. Clymer, May 5,1889, Letter Press vol. 90, EP; his letter to Laugh­ lin, November  15, 1887, was equally impersonal. Laughlin, following  his dismissal, suf­ fered a breakdown. Upon  recovering, however, he went on to a distinguished academic career at Cornell and Chicago. See Alfred Bememann,]. Laurence Laughlin: Chapters in the Career of an Economist (Washington,  D.C., 1940).

22. Hall to Eliot, June 6; Eliot to Hall, June 7, 1886, Box 74, EP. The inverse relation­ ship of professionalization and institutional  loyalty  is described, in the context  of the early 1900’s at Yale, in Henry Seidel Canby, Alma Mater: The Gothic Age of the American College (New York, 1936), p. 150.



vard between 1885 and 1892, nineteen (41%) went to non-Har­ vard College graduates. For them Harvard  could never be, as it was for  one  Harvard  graduate on the faculty, “a  place where I had settled my relations with men and things”; it was, instead, as for another faculty member who first knew Harvard as a graduate student, a place to acquire the necessary credentials and perhaps an assistantship while “he  turned  to the death notices in  Science to learn of a position that might be open.”23

Younger faculty members who happened to be graduates of Harvard College made little of the fact. In 1881 William Cook, a Yale alumnus, condemned Eliot’s plans to enlarge the graduate program  because “it is building an addition with money that belongs to the repair fund of the main edifice”; seven years later Channing and Hart-both graduates of the College-described the graduate program to Eliot as Harvard’s raison d’etre. Both supported contraction  of  the  undergraduate  program  to  three  years, ex pansion of graduate offerings, and the addition of effectiveness as a graduate instructor as a prerequisite for promotion. Both correctly assumed that it was the research-related teaching they did in the graduate  program  that would  help to assure them  a reputation among peers in the American Historical Association (founded in 1884), a reputation that counted far more-not only at other uni­versities but with Eliot-than any local esteem acquired as an ef­ fective instructor of undergraduates. Perhaps it should also be noted that, according to Samuel Eliot Morison, it was Channing, an insider by every index, who first suggested that “the College ought to be suppressed or moved out into the country where it would not interfere with the proper work of the University.”24


23. Eliot’s initial skepticism about scholarships appears in his 1875-1876 Annual Report(Cambridge, 1877), pp. 12-18;James M. Peirce, Cambridge,  to E. W. Hooper,June 11, 1887, Box 262, Official Papers, EP; Barrett Wendell,  contrasting himself with William James, who consciously thought of himself (he had attended Lawrence Scientific School rather than the College) as “a stranger,” “Harvard Recollections,” pp. 32-33; Oscar Rid­ dle, “Charles  B. Davenport,” National  Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, 25 (1947). 79·

24. Channing  to Eliot,  August  17, 1888; Hart  to  Eliot, January  3, 1888, Box  76;Morison, “Channing,” p. 276. For a similar rendering of Hart, see Carol F. Baird, “Al­ bert Bushnell Hart: The Rise of the Professional Historian,” in Paul Buck, ed.,  Soda[ Sdences at Harvard 186o–1gzo (Cambridge, 1965), pp. 129-174.


In addition to the graduate program,  the professionally ambi­tious junior faculty member identified closely with his particular department,  where his future would be largely decided. Administratively, departments  had existed at Harvard  since the 182o’s; but not until the 186o’s, and only then in the sciences, did their members exercise an important voice in the determination of their membership. Even this tentative advance toward departmental autonomy was checked during the 1870’s, when Eliot regularly made appointments  without  consulting senior members of the department concerned. Once having adopted professional criteria, how­ever, Eliot found it necessary to seek the advice of faculty members with standing in the particular discipline in which the appointment was to be made. After soliciting such advice, which Eliot later acknowledged his faculty had been “anxious to give,” he was then in some measure obliged to follow it. Similarly, in making junior appointments, he became increasingly dependent upon those faculty members who worked with graduate students, were aware of the most recent scholarly developments, and who were themselves participants in the discipline-building process. Eliot retained throughout  his presidency a veto  over all appointments,  but in practice accepted the notion that, with professional academics no less than with thieves, it takes one to know one.25

Paradoxically, the most convincing proof of the emergence of departmental  autonomy  in the area of appointments  was the re­tention,  against Eliot’s wishes, of the two  most outspoken anti- professionals on the Harvard faculty in the late nineteenth century, Barrett Wendell and George Santayana. Wendell, after a half- hearted attempt  to practice law, had joined the faculty in t88o. Nine years later, inquiring about his permanent prospects, he was told by Eliot that, given his preference for “keeping in the swim socially” to pursuing “scholarly and literary distinction,”  his retention was very unlikely.26


25. Eliot, “Remarks,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 57 (1923), 6. Eliot did, however, as late as 1888, keep his negotiations for a professor of German secret from the department’s senior members  (Eliot to B. I. Wheeler,  March 7, 1888, Letter  Press vol. 90, EP).                                             ·

26. Eliot to Wendell, August 10, 1889, Box 77, EP.


“He  had never studied Anglo-Saxon, he knew no German, he had never studied for the degree of Doctor ofPhilosophy,” a colleague said of Wendell during these years, “but  he knew English Literature.”  However  much  this last may have weighed among members of the English Department, many of whom valued Wendell  precisely because he was devoted  to teaching the basic courses they chose to avoid, in Eliot’s mind it only partially
com­pensated for his lack of professional credentials, and not in the least for his drinking with undergraduates and complaining to alumni that the college was being neglected. In 1889, when Wendell casu­ally mentioned  an offer he had received from  MIT, Eliot urged him to accept.27

Though born of Spanish parents, Santayana was, like Wendell, a Boston-reared graduate of Harvard College. Unlike Wendell, who was eight years his junior, he had studied abroad and had received a PhD from Harvard. Not that either mattered to him. His graduate­ student career consisted of two years on a Harvard traveling fellowship which permitted  the discovery that he “was wholly incapable of taking a Doctor’s degree in Germany.” As he explained to his graduate advisor, William James, he much preferred “being a supercilious and Epicurean maggot” to getting on with his “dull thesis on Lotze.” Back in Cambridge in 1888, he entered the grad­uate school, finished his dissertation, and, in 1889, joined the faculty as a philosophy instructor. Teaching, however, was for him “an  expedient rather than a chosen profession.” As he acknowl­ edged later, he had no intention of becoming a professor in more than name. “What I wanted,” he later acknowledged in his autobiography, “was to go on being a student, and especially to be a travelling student.”  Eliot sensed as much. In 1891 he informed James, “we  must try to find Santayana a good place.”28



27. William Lyon Phelps, Autobiography (New York, 1939), p. 252; Eliot to Wendell, August 10, 1889, Box 77, EP.

28. George Santayana, Dresden, to Henry Ward Abbott, August 27, 1886; Santayana, Avila, Spain, to William James, August 7, 1888, in Daniel Cory,  ed., Letters of George Santayana (New York, 1955), pp. 32-33; George Santayana, Persons and Places: The Back­ ground of My Life (New  York, 1944), pp. 189, 250, and The Middle Span (New  York, 1945), pp. 7, 153; Eliot to James, April 5, 1892, Official Papers, EP.



Yet both Wendell  and Santayana were permitted  to stay on. Eliot obliged each to wait eighteen years, while he harried them about their idiosyncrasies and stinted their salaries, before conced­ing them professorships. Santayana’s explanation for Wendell’s being “swallowed” holds equally well for himself:

It was long very much in doubt. With time, however, Wendell had become
a familiar figure, an object of universal smiles and affection; and when the
of­ficial guillotine was ready to fall, public sentiment couldn’t allow it. Indeed,
in what remained of the old-fashioned College, Wendell’s was useful work.29


Wendell, appointed professor in 1898, remained at Harvard until his retirement in 1917. He subsequently became an overseer. But Santayana, as if to prove his departmental backers wrong and Eliot right, resigned his professorship in 1912, only five years after he acquired it. He was then forty-eight years of age. “Although  fond of books and of young men,” he later explained, “I was never altogether fit to be a professor.”3o

That they were anachronisms, even in the 188o’s, neither Wendell nor Santayana would have attempted to deny. “We were on the same side of the barricade,” Santayana wrote, the implication being  that  they were  outnumbered  but  not  alone. Among  the senior faculty there was Charles Eliot Norton to share their ”common affection for Harvard-for the College, not the University,” to advocate what Laurence Veysey has called “liberal culture” as opposed to a utilitarian or research-oriented educational ideal, to decry specialization generally. Occasionally, too, they could count on such oldtimers as William W. Goodwin and Francis Bowen to support them in their criticism of the elective system and their de­fense of the four-year AB. But even William James, who would support Santayana’s case all through the 189o’s and personally liked Wendell,  identified far more often with Eliot and those faculty members whom Santayana contemptuously likened to “an anonymous concourse of coral insects, each secreting one cell, and leaving that fossil legacy to enlarge the earth.”31


29. Santayana, Middle Span, pp. 171-172.

30. Santayana, Persons and Places, p. 189.

31. Santayana, Middle Span, pp. 162, 171; Cory, ed., Letters, p. 75; Veysey, The Emer­gence of the American University, pp. 18o-251.



It was James, after all, who  enjoyed contrasting  himself – “a stranger to Harvard College”- with Wendell, whom he described as being “completely  at home.”  Moreover, his subsequent pique with “the PhD Octopus” notwithstanding, it was James who persuaded Eliot to appoint Hugo Miinsterberg, the German psychologist whom  Santayana viewed as the apotheosis of academic careerism. Worst of all, James thought his success in keeping “those Chicago devils” from getting Miinsterberg “the best stroke I ever did for the University.” William D. Peck, in a Harvard faculty of 1821 dominated by Popkins and Willards, or Benjamin Peirce, in a Harvard faculty of 1845 heavily populated by Feltons and Loverings, was probably no more “out  of place” than Wendell or Santayana in a Harvard  faculty whose tone was set by the Jameses and Miinsterbergs.32

Nor did they require Miinsterberg’s arrival in 1892 to remind them of the irreversible changes that had been taking place in the Harvard faculty since Wendell’s appointment in 1880. During the intervening  twelve years it had expanded by slightly more than half and become decidedly more pyramidal in structure. The thirty- six professors comprised less than a third, while the fifty-six instructors and assistants accounted for more than half its member­ship. Still all male, all white,  overwhelmingly  Anglo-Saxon  in ancestry, Protestant in religion, and comfortably  middle-class in social origin, the character of the Harvard professoriate had none­theless changed in several significant ways: (1) it was less dominated by New Englanders (more than a third now came from out­ side the region); (2) proportionally fewer, though still a majority, had attended Harvard College; (3) proportionally fewer could be identified as Unitarians or as having close kinship ties with Harvard; (4) only a handful had their total academic experience cir cumscribed by Harvard. In sum, an 1892 Harvard  professor was




32. Wendell, “Recollections,” pp. 32-33; William James, “PhD Octopus, “Memories and Studies (New  York, 1917), pp. 329-347; James to Miinsterberg, May 3, 1892, William James Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University; James to E.W., Hooper, April 30, 1892, Official Papers, EP.


more of an outsider than his predecessor, if still retaining some of the marginal advantages of an insider.33

More pronounced are the professional differences between the 188o and 1892 senior faculties. Whereas in 188o about one in two professors had PhDs or had pursued specialized studies in Europe prior to their permanent appointments, in 1892 the ratio had risen to two in three. This greater investment in advanced training was accompanied by a greater likelihood of extended academic apprenticeships as well as a diminished likelihood of non-academically oriented advanced training (e.g., for the ministry or law) and prior non-academic occupational experience.34

Despite his having embarked on an academic career at an earlier age than his counterpart in 1880, the typical professor in 1892 had acquired his permanent  appointment  at roughly  the same age­ thirty-seven. The reason for this was that he had been obliged to serve a considerably longer  apprenticeship. In 1892, more  than two-thirds  of the Harvard professors had taught in a junior capacity for seven or more years; in 1880 this had been true of only two-fifths of the professors. Like their predecessors, however,
Har­vard professors of 1892 were not inclined to give up their professorships short of retirement age. None, in fact, did so.35

That they all also stayed on in Cambridge, rather than take aca­ demic positions elsewhere in the expanding university world, deserves comment.  Those who had the opportunity  to move, and there were many, did not generally remain for the reasons attributed to the philosopher George Herbert Palmer on rejecting a lucrative offer from  the University  of Chicago in 1892-that he had “a tabby cat fondness for the College Yard and will never be happy away from it.”


33· Appendix D, Tables I-VII.  Although  the evidence is impressionistic, there does seem to be a growing  proportion of younger  faculty members  wholly  dependent  on their academic salaries, a development  that could be explained  by the growing  avail­ability of graduate fellowships. Several junior faculty, in addition to their responsibilities at Harvard,  taught elsewhere “of  necessity” in the 1890’s (F. C. de Sumichrast, Cambridge,  to Eliot, April 17, 1892, Box 81, EP).

34· Appendix D, Tables VII-X.

35. Ibid., Tables XI and XII. Several professors, among  them Charles J. White  and Bennett  H. Nash, were told to resign in 1893 (Eliot to White,  December  8, 1893, to Nash, December 7, 1893, Letter Press vol. 90, EP).


 More typical was the reason Palmer himself gave to Eliot in informing him of his decision to stay: “Harvard  represents more fully my ideals. It must, I think, for another generation or two set the standard by which highest American training will be tried.” His decision was rendered a bit easier when Eliot proved to be willing to make “individual  arrangements” with him and the other  professors whom  Chicago’s  President William  R. Harper had “taken  up to the top of the mountain  and shown  the kingdom.”  Not institutional loyalty but hardheaded, if cautious and perhaps shortsighted,  professionalism kept Harvard  professors at Harvard.36

A comparison of the 1880 and 1892 junior faculties tells the same story: a declining proportion  of institutional insiders and an in­ creasing incidence of professionalism, among insiders and outsiders alike. Careerism was more rife among the assistant professors and instructors than among the older and more secure professors, many of whom  could at least recall the gentlemanly amateurism of an earlier Harvard. Relatively few vestiges remained in 1892, even in the humanities, where one would have thought that professional­ism had made fewer inroads. For every Santayana in philosophy there was a Royce, who defmed his calling as “the creation of the national mind” (a long way from Willard’s “permanent instructor of youth”) and who was prepared to invoke his credentials when his views were disputed by other philosophers who lacked them. For every Wendell in English there was a William Lyon Phelps, who divided his spare time between looking for a permanent position back at Yale and presiding over the Harvard Graduate Club, a nationally affiliated organization of graduate students committed to the integrity  of the earned PhD and the professional advance­ ment of those who  had earned it. For every Bartlett in German there was a Hans von Jagemann, who knew that his professorship would come only after he “distinguished himself as a scholar.”37


36. Charles F. Dunbar, Cambridge,  to Eliot, March 30, 1892; George Herbert Palmer, Cambridge, to Eliot, March 16, 1892; C. K. Adams, Ithaca, to Eliot, January 13, 1892, Box  81, EP. In point of fact, Palmer may well have been the first, certainly a highly adept, practitioner of the art of the counter-offer. See, for example, his masterful letter to Eliot announcing his withdrawal from “all movements  tending to transfer me to Baltimore” (May 19, 1886, Box 74, EP). Little of this side comes through  George Herbert Palmer, The Autobiography of a Philosopher  (Boston, 1930).



By 1880, the sciences had already gone completely over to professional criteria so that, a dozen years later, instructors like Theodore W.  Richards in chemistry, Wallace Sabine in physics, and Maxime Bocher in mathematics differed from the Jacksons, Trowbridges, and Hills of 1880 not so much in kind as in numbers. Richards, Sabine, and Bocher stayed on in Cambridge, acquired professorships, and made Harvard their permanent base of oper­ ations, but many of those who did not, like the zoologist Charles B. Davenport and the botanist Herbert Richards, went on to distinguish themselves elsewhere. John  C. Wait,  an engineering instructor in 1892 also stayed, despite the offer of a professorship and a higher salary at the University of Pennsylvania. “I have deter­mined to remain at Harvard,” he told Eliot after visiting Philadelphia. “I do this with somewhat selfish motives and with the feeling and determination that it is best for me.”38

The same degree of professional commitment also characterized Harvard graduate students completing their degrees. Of the thirteen recipients of Harvard PhDs during the 1892-1893  academic year, eleven made careers in academic life, although only two, the Egyptologist George A. Reisner and the archeologist Charles Peabody, did so at Harvard. For the others it was off to what one of them called “the primeval intellectual jungles,” places like Austin, Texas, where the classicist William J. Battle spread the gospel of professionalism. “It seems to me that I can foresee, just ahead, a pe­riod of great advance in University work proper in this country,”



37.Josiah Royce, “Present Ideals of American University Life,” Scribner’s Magazine, 10 (1891), 387; Phelps, Autobiography, pp. 264-265; [R. E. Park et al.], The Graduate Club of Harvard University: Its History, Constitution, and Roll of Members (Cambridge, 1898), copy in HUA; vonJagemann to Eliot, March 10, 1889, Box 77, EP. Once back in New Haven, Phelps proceeded to become something of a dilettante himself. Royce’s credentialism was unattractively displayed in his 1886 controversy with Francis E. Abbott, detailed in Clendenning, ed., Letters of Josiah Royce, pp. 29-32.

38. “Theodore W. Richards,” DAB, XV, 556-559; Edwin H. Hall, “Wallace Sabine,” National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, 21 (1927), 1-19;  William F. Os­ good,  “Maxime  Bocher,”  DAB, II, 401; Riddle, “Davenport,” pp. 75-110; Wait  to Eliot, August 19, 27, 1892,Box83,EP.


another 1892 PhD, William H. Carruth, wrote to Eliot from the University ofKansas. Apparently those who were just entering the graduate program at Harvard shared this bullish prognosis; Royce, in 1891, called public attention to “the increase of the numbers, of the hopefulness, and of the academic ambitions of graduate students here at Cambridge.”39

“The great need of the University if we look to its future useful­ness,” Eliot had told the Corporation back in 1886, “is to make the career of the University teacher more attractive to men of capacity and ambition.” By 1892 Harvard abounded with capable and ambitious men, as even Santayana was prepared to acknowledge:

Many of the young professors …are no longer the sort of persons that
might as well have been clergymen or schoolmasters: they have rather
the type of mind of a doctor, an engineer, or a social reformer; the
wide awake young man who can do most things better than old people,
and who knows it.


Though  a bit harsh, this was essentially an accurate characterization of the new breed of academic that had evolved during  the nineteenth century at Harvard, dominated its faculty at the close of the century, and dominates it still. Viewed from the perspective of the 182o’s it was Edward Everett come again, this time to stay.40

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