1900s Footnotes

Graduating Seniors, 1908


Actual Reading, Revised Conclusions

The English curriculum was revised in 1905, after the University went from 4 terms a year to 2. Perhaps because they were written in a hurry, or perhaps because the door was open to a new, more direct style, the course descriptions in 1905 are more colloquial than usual—or more frank. They don’t rely on the usual catalog-speak. For example, for a course on the Development of the English Novel, the course description says: 

Lectures are given on the development of the novel and the actual reading of selected books of fiction is required.

This phrase is repeated for the Shakespeare course (“the actual reading of many of Shakespeare’s plays is required”) and for the course on the English essayists (“the actual reading and critical study of seventeenth and eighteenth century essays is required”). It disappears after 1905.

There is also a lovely formulation for students of how to best make use of textbooks and lectures over the course of a semester. This is from the course description for a required first-year Rhetoric course: “This subject is taught inductively and by lectures, in which conclusions are revised and corrected.”

Other notes

1.     The image above represents the last class to graduate from the Western University of Pennsylvania. In Spring 1909, students for the first time received their degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.

2.    The caption next to the image of Alexander Wellington Crawford reads:

His common or garden name is Shakespeare, and he looks the part. Believes that the future of the race depends on the morality of English literature and the efforts of Professor Corson, of Cornell. Advance agent for Ben Greet and darling of all the women’s clubs. As Shakespeare said, “Have I told you about Mrs. Crawford and I when we were in Europe?” In two brief years he has revolutionized the English department and greatly increased the number of courses in that branch.

3.    For more on George Gerwig and Willa Cather, see Peter M. Sullivan, “The Gerwig House,”Western Pennsylvania History, Summer 2003, 20-26.

Student Writing

In the decade of the 1900s, students continued to regularly publish essays, stories and poems in the Western University Courant.  Most likely these compositions were prepared as part of course work.  If not, they remain products of an education in the literary and rhetorical arts at the Western University of Pennyslvania.  Below are some examples:

"Thaddeus Stevens, a Pennsylvania Statesman," by John Coleman

"The City in History," by William Hart Lacey

"The Use of a College Education," by Alexander Black

The Political Optimism of the American People

"Nescius Aurae Fallacis," by J. Garfield Houston.

"Such is Woman," by A. A.

"A Mutual Mistake"