Early Yale College, 1701-1861: A Timeline

                                               Yale College, 1701-1861: A Time Line

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1700 Connecticut an English colony of 30,000 people, in 33 towns; nearly all religious dissenters from the Church of England. Most of its clergy trained at Harvard; most dissatisfied with Harvard’s liberal leanings.  
1701 Ten ministers (9 Harvard grads) secure charter from Connecticut General Assembly to establish a “Collegiate School,   locale as yet undecided. Some public funds appropriated.  
1701 School opened in Saybrook, alternating with Killingworth;  Rev. Abraham Pierson  (HC 1678) of Killingworth its first rector.  
1708 Saybrook Platform commits Connecticut churches to Presbyterian structure, whereby local parishes allow some oversight from colony-wide lay board.  
1714 Samuel Johnson graduates from Yale; stays on as a tutor  
1717 School settled in New Haven at urging of its minister John Davenport and town provision of land.  
1718 English merchant Elihu Yale becomes major donor at urging of Cotton Mather.  
1719 Timothy Cutler (HC 1701) becomes second rector  
1722 Rector Cutler announces his conversion to Anglicanism;  fired in fall and departs with some of his protégés, including tutor Samuel Johnson. Both travel to England to be ordained in Church of England.  
1726 Rev. Elisha Williams (HC 1711) becomes 3rd rector; stays at helm until 1739  
1740 Rev. Thomas Clapp (HC 1722) named 4th rector. Strongly opposes the “Great Awakening,” a movement among some Protestants to enliven religious observances with more emotional appeals.  
  Among sympathizers to this movement are ministers Jonathan Edwards  (Yale 1720)  and   James Davenport (Yale 1737), the son of a Yale founder, as well some Yale undergraduates, including David Brainerd.
Davenport, a settled minister in Sothold, on Long Island,  openly condemned Yale and the New Haven minister for opposing itinerant ministers such as Great Awakener Gilbert Tennent ; Edwards defended student Brainerd’s complaint about his tutor as ‘having no more grace than a chair.”
 
1743 Davenport reenacted the “Bonfire of the Vanities,” during which he burned many books and some of his clothing in the streets of New London. Davenport’s earlier friends withdraw their support.  
     
1745 New charter secured from Connecticut by Clapp changes his title from rector to president;  Samuel Johnson challenges charter for proscribing Anglican attendance and Clap backs down.  
     
1750 Connecticut Hall under construction; opened in 1753  
1753 President Clap creates a church on campus to which Yaleys expected to attend; dissatisfied with New Haven church and its minister. Town-Gown
     
1766 Clap resigns  as president following student walkout;  Napthali Daggett (Yale     ) as acting president for next nine years.  
1766 Yale abandons earlier practice of ranking class members by the public prominence of their families.  
     
Early 1770s Yale graduates, students and faculty generally supportive of the resistance movement against British authority  
1775 September – Scheduled commencement cancelled; not held again until 1781.  
1776 Xx  Yale graduates signers of Declaration of Independence. 1 in 5 Yale graduates saw service in Revolutionary War.  
1778 Ezra Stiles (Yale    ) becomes 5th president of Yale; serves until death in 1795  
     
1779 British fleet raid New Haven; disrupt college activities  
     
1792 President Stiles assures Yale of public support from legislature for Union Hall by having charter changed to have 8 ex officio members on Corporation, but with ministerial members still in majority.  
1795 President Stiles died; succeeded by Timothy Dwight (Yale 1769)  
1802 Yale experiences its first student revival; surge in interest in missionary work abroad and out West.  
1802 Benjamin Silliman (Yale 1796) joins faculty as Professor of Chemistry; dominant force in Yale science for next half-century.  
1806 Riot on streets of New Haven as Yale students and sailors clash. Town-Gown
1817 Jeremiah Day (Yale 1795), a professor of mathematics, succeeds Dwight as Yale’s 7th president. To serve for three decades. Yale then America’s most successful college.  10 faculty; 275 students; effective fundraising  
     
1827 Connecticut Assembly critical of Yale for its classical curriculum  
1828 Yale faculty respond with “Faculty Report of 1828” defending the classical curriculum and its long-term utility.  
1830 Yale launches a successful fund drive which brings $100,000 to the College. Operates in the black for next 20 years.  
1830 Student rebelliousness leads to expulsion of 43 of College’s 96 sophomores.  
1841 Yale students clash with New Haven firemen. Students attack firehouse and destroy equipment. New haven mob threatens to burn the College. Town-gown
1846 President Day retires but stays as member of Yale Corporation. Theodore Dwight Woolsey  (Yale 1820) elected Yale’s 8th president. Stays in office for quarter-century, until 1871.  
1846 August — Yale creates a graduate professorship in agricultural chemistry and an undergraduate professorship of chemistry for the College with gift of $5000 from industrialist Joseph E. Sheffield. John Pitkin Norton named to first; Benjamin Silliman, Jr., (Yale 1837) to the second.  
1847 Yael organizes a scientific course  separate from and parallel to the College course, that eventuates into the Sheffield Scientific School  
1852 John A. Porter (Yale 1842) succeeds Norton as Graduate Professor of Chemistry. Was Sheffield’s son-in-law.  
1858 Yale student shoots a New Haven fireman. Guns barred at Yale thereafter..  
1861 As Sheffield’s donation passes  $100,000, Yale establishes the Sheffield Scientific School.  
1861 Yale authorizes awarding of the PhD to students who stay beyond their AB and pursue original work. The first American institution to do so; hoped to stem flow of Yale graduates to German universities.  
     

 

Last updated; December 20, 2013
ram31@columbia.edu

 

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