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University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Old University of Chicago Records 1856-1890

© 2008 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary

Title:

Old University of Chicago. Records

Dates:

1856-1890

Size:

9 linear feet (13 boxes)

Repository:

Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.

Abstract:

The first University of Chicago, a Baptist school, was incorporated in 1857 on land donated by Senator Stephen A. Douglas. The University closed in 1886 due to financial difficulties. The records contain records of the Board of Trustees, and faculty, matriculation records, catalogs, student publications, and other historical materials, including two scrapbooks.

Information on Use

Access

The collection is open for research.

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Citation

When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Old University of Chicago. Records, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Historical Note

The institution known as the Old University of Chicago was originally established as the University of Chicago in 1856 on a ten-acre tract of land donated by Senator Stephen A. Douglas. A Baptist school, the University was constantly plagued by financial difficulties and was forced to close in 1886. At its final meeting in 1890, the Board of Trustees changed the name of the institution to the Old University of Chicago so that the new Baptist school being organized as a completely separate legal entity might be called the University of Chicago.

Douglas had first offered the property at Cottage Grove Avenue and Thirty-Fifth Street to the Presbyterian Church for a university, but when they failed to raise the $100,000 he had stipulated, he conveyed the site to a group of Baptists. While the charter required that a majority of the members of the Board of Trustees be Baptists, the school was nondenominational in character, applying no religious test to either faculty or students. Its name notwithstanding, the university was primarily collegiate and vocational in nature with two hundred to five hundred students enrolled annually in preparatory, collegiate, law, and medical schools.

The new institution began almost immediately to encounter financial difficulties. Douglas' connection with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, regarded as a betrayal of the anti-slavery cause, proved a liability in fundraising, and the financial panic of 1857 rendered most of the initial subscriptions worthless. Nonetheless, the trustees proceeded with construction projects beyond the school's means, and debt mounted rapidly. The president, J. C. Burroughs, and the trustees succeeded in securing new subscriptions, but just as it seemed that the institution might reach solid financial ground, the Chicago fire of 1871, followed by the panic of 1873 and the fire of 1874 plunged it into financial peril once more.

Administratively, the university's situation was equally chaotic and disagreements over fundraising, financial management, and faculty appointments escalated into open strife among the trustees. President Burroughs and his most vocal opponent, trustee W. W. Everts, were persuaded to resign, but the trustees created for Burroughs the post of chancellor and made him responsible for the school's financial affairs. Conflicts among the trustees, the president, and the chancellor continued, with administrators arriving and departing in rapid succession.

Union Mutual Life Insurance Company, the university's chief creditor, brought suit in 1881 to foreclose the mortgage on the university's property that it held. In January 1885, the court found in favor of the company. The trustee's hope of redeeming the property proved illusory: the university closed in the autumn of 1886 and the main building was razed in 1890.

Scope Note

The records of the Old University of Chicago have been divided into five series, corresponding in general to the parts of the institution that generated them:

Series I: Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees, governing body of the university, was a self-perpetuating corporation of approximately forty members. Most of the trustees were Chicagoans, and the charter required that at least one-half be Baptists. The Board's authority was financial and administrative. Responsibility for most decisions was delegated to the eight- to twelve-member executive committee that met with greater frequency than the Board. A standing committee on finance and ad hoc committees (on resolutions and on eulogy, for example) met as necessary.

The extant records of the trustees include the minutes of their meetings (1856-90), which often incorporate detailed financial statements and copies of significant correspondence. Some of the trustees' resolutions and reports to the Board from subcommittees are extant in their original form. The Board's financial records include subscription lists, correspondence relating to payment or default of pledged contributions, and correspondence and legal documents pertaining to donated properties, as well as letters of quitclaim from some of the Old University's creditors at the time the new school was being organized. Materials regarding the buildings and grounds include some of the architect's specifications for the construction of Douglas Hall (1863). Minutes of the executive committee comprise a separate volume.

Series II: Faculty. The faculty of ten to fifteen professors and tutors met regularly under the chairmanship of the president to make decisions regarding instructional policy and student discipline. Minutes of these meetings exist for the years 1872-86. The lack of presidential papers, as such, in the collection is probably due to the fact that the president tended to act collegially with the executive committee of the Board of Trustees in financial and administrative decisions and with the faculty in academic affairs.

Series III. Registrar. One of the faculty members generally served as registrar. Matriculation records kept by the registrar (1866-86), as well as university catalogues (1859-84, 1886), are among the records.

Series IV. Student Affairs. Records of student affairs include incomplete runs of the student publication, Index Universitatis, and its successor, The Volante, invitations and programs for commencement and class day exercises, and programs and records of the student literary societies, especially the Athenaeum Literary Society. Alumni directories and alumni reunion programs are also included in this series.

Series V. Historical Materials. Among the miscellaneous materials in the records are: a history of the university (ca. 1889) by W. W. Everts, trustee; two scrapbooks (1856-66, 1876-90) compiled by Edward Goodman, Chicago newspaper publisher and trustee of the second university, consisting primarily of newspaper clippings concerning the university, along with some memorabilia; a checklist of pre-fire publications of the university, compiled by Douglas McMurtrie; and a file of newspaper clippings concerning the university, 1875.

The Records of the Old University of Chicago remaining in the custody of the institution's last secretary, O. W. Barrett, at the time of his death (1893) were deposited with Thomas W. Goodspeed, secretary of the new university. These records form the core of the present collection in the University Archives. They have been supplemented over the years by donations of material from alumni, as well as from former faculty members and trustees.

Other resources on the Old University of Chicago in the University Archives include: The Papers of the Baptist Theological Union (1865-1924) and of the Baptist Union Theological Seminary (1867-1892); photographs (faculty, students, buildings) in the archival photographic files; a student term paper, "The Architecture of the First University of Chicago," (1948), by Peter H. Selz, typescript, 13 pp.; a student term paper, "The Old University of Chicago," (1941), by Arthur A. Azlein, typescript, 71 pp.; and "History of the First University of Chicago, 1856-1886," written by an alumnus, C. H. Koenitzer, ca. 1927-28, typescript with sketches and photographs, 85 pp.

Related Resources

The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:

http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/spcl/select.html

Subject Headings

INVENTORY

Series I: Board of Trustees

Box 1

Minutes, 1856-90 (1 vol.)

Box 2   Folder 1

Minutes, April 7 & 8, 1874, October 12 & 19, 1885

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Box 2   Folder 2

Founding documents, 1857

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Box 2   Folder 3

Resolutions, 1874, 1886

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Box 2   Folder 4

Reports to the Board, 1859-1885

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Box 2   Folder 5

Miscellaneous internal correspondence

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Box 2   Folder 6

Executive Committee minutes, 1856-65, 1874-82 (1 vol.)

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View digitized documents, part 2.

Box 2   Folder 7

Construction and maintenance

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Box 2   Folder 8

Stewards' and matrons' contracts

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Box 2   Folder 9

Financial reports to the Board, 1869, 1874, 1875, 1885

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View digitized documents, part 2.

Box 2   Folder 10

Fundraising appeals

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Box 2   Folder 11

Subscription lists and pledges, 1857-1885

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View digitized documents, part 2.

Box 2   Folder 12

Colgate bequest to University & Baptist Theological Seminary, 1869-1872

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Box 2   Folder 13

Payment/default on subscriptions: correspondence

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Box 2   Folder 14

Uncollectible subscription coupons

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Box 3   Folder 1

Titles to donated property

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View digitized documents, part 2.

View digitized documents, part 3.

Box 3   Folder 2

Correspondence re: donated property

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Box 3   Folder 3

Transcript of Record, Mary Hill v. University of Chicago, 1867

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View digitized documents, part 2.

Box 3   Folder 4

Bills

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Box 3   Folder 5

Letters of quitclaim from creditors, 1889-90

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Box 3   Folder 6

Addresses and Appeals in Behalf of the University of Chicago, 1867

Box 3   Folder 7

Miscellaneous manuscript material: speech notes, correspondence, and schedule

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Box 3   Folder 8

In the United States Circuit Court, Northern District of Illinois: The Union Mutual Life Insurance Co. vs. the University of Chicago;bill to foreclose, Pleadings and Abstract of Testimony, 1884

Box 3   Folder 9

In the United States Circuit Court, Northern District of Illinois: The Union Mutual Life Insurance Co. vs. the University of Chicago;bill to foreclose, Argument for Complainant, 1884

Series II: Faculty

Box 3   Folder 10

Minutes, 1872-1886

Series III: Registrar

Box 4

Matriculation records, 1866-1886

Volume also includes executive committee minutes, October, 1860, through June, 1865

Box 4a

University catalogues, 1859-1884 (1 vol.)

Box 4a

University catalogues, 1859-1887 (1 vol.)

Box 4b

University catalogues, 1859-1884, 1886 (1 vol.)

Box 5   Folder 1

University catalogue, 1859-1860

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Box 5   Folder 2

University catalogue, 1860-1861

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Box 5   Folder 3

University catalogue, 1861-1862

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Box 5   Folder 4

University catalogue, 1864-1865

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Box 5   Folder 5

University catalogue, 1865-1866

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Box 5   Folder 6

University catalogue, 1866-1867

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Box 5   Folder 7

University catalogue, 1867-1868

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Box 5   Folder 8

University catalogue, 1868-1869

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Box 5   Folder 9

University catalogue, 1869-1870

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Box 5   Folder 10

University catalogue, 1870-1871

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Box 5   Folder 11

University catalogue, 1871-1872

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Box 5   Folder 12

University catalogue, 1873-1874

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Box 5   Folder 13

University catalogue, 1874-1875

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Box 5   Folder 14

University catalogue, 1875-1876

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Box 5   Folder 15

University catalogue, 1876-1877

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Box 5   Folder 16

University catalogue, 1877-1878

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Box 5   Folder 17

University catalogue, 1878-1879

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Box 5   Folder 18

University catalogue, 1879-1880

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Box 5   Folder 19

University catalogue, 1880-1881

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Box 5   Folder 20

University catalogue, 1882-1883

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Box 5   Folder 21

University catalogue, 1883-1884

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Series IV: Student Affairs

Box 6   Folder 1

Circulars

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Box 6   Folder 2

INDEX UNIVERSITATIS, vol. 1 [sic] (1869) (1 vol.)

Box 6   Folder 3

INDEX UNIVERSITATIS, April, 1868; vol.1, no.6 (June 1869); vol. 2, no. 1 (January, 1870)

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View digitized documents, part 2.

View digitized documents, part 3.

Box 6   Folder 4

Commencement invitations, 1869-1885

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Box 6   Folder 5

Commencement programs, 1861-1869, 1875-1886

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Box 6   Folder 6

Class day exercises: invitations and programs, 1862-1884

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Box 6   Folder 7

Miscellaneous Invitations and programs

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Box 7   Folder 1

INDEX UNIVERSITATIS, vol. 1, nos. 1-4 (March, 1862; April, 1863; April, 1866; June, 1867)

Box 7   Folder 2

THE VOLANTE, April 1883 - December 1884

Box 7   Folder 3

THE VOLANTE, October 1880 - September 1882

Box 7   Folder 4

THE VOLANTE, October 1872 - May 1879

Box 7   Folder 5

THE VOLANTE, September 1884 - April 1885

Box 7   Folder 6

Literary societies, publications: THE ZETA PSI, vol. 1, no. 1 (June, 1886)

Box 8

THE VOLANTE, vol. 1-7 (1872-78)

Box 9   Folder 1

Athenaeum Literary Society records, 1882-1886: constitution and by-laws, membership lists, minutes

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View digitized documents, part 2.

Box 9   Folder 2

Literary societies, programs

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Box 9   Folder 3

Directories, reunion programs, alumni materials

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Series V. Miscellaneous Historical Material

Box 9   Folder 4

W. W. Everts, "History of the University of Chicago," (ca. 1889), typescript, 22 pages

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Box 9   Folder 5

Historical notes by J. O. Brayman re: donation of the site

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Box 9   Folder 6

"Advance Checklist of Publications of the University of Chicago, 1859-1871," compiled by Douglas McMurtrie, (1938), 7 pages

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Box 9   Folder 7

Scrapbook of Edward Goodman, 1856-1866

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View digitized documents, part 2.

View digitized documents, part 3.

Box 9   Folder 8

Scrapbook of Edward Goodman, 1876-1890

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Box 9   Folder 9

Newspaper clippings, 1875

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View digitized documents, part 2.

View digitized documents, part 3.

Box 9   Folder 10

Newspaper clippings, twentieth century

Box 10   Folder 1

"The Sleeper," sheet music, 1836

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Box 11

Old University of Chicago Ledger, 1862-1863