The University of Chicago Centennial CataloguesThe University of Chicago FacultyLife on the QuadsThe University and the CityPresidents of the University of Chicago
The University and the City
A Centennial View of the
University of Chicago
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H. N. Higinbotham et al., subscription pledge, June 30, 1892.

H. N. Higinbotham et al., subscription pledge, June 30, 1892. Marshall Field's initiation of a $1,000,000 challenge campaign for the erection of University buildings prompted ready support from key Chicago businessmen.

A City Builds a University

The Promise of the New
In satisfying the terms of Rockefeller's matching gift within the one-year deadline, the leaders of the new University of Chicago had uncovered a remarkable level of civic support outside denominational bounds. The essential role of the non-Baptist Chicago business community was demonstrated in September 1890, when department store owner Marshall Field, who had given and sold parcels of land on which the University would stand, subscribed his name as one of the institution's six incorporators. The first University Board of Trustees included both Baptists and non-Baptists, among them Charles L. Hutchinson, Martin A. Ryerson, E. Nelson Blake, Ferdinand W. Peck, H. H. Kohlsaat, George C. Walker, Henry A. Rust, Andrew MacLeish, and Eli B. Felsenthal. The non-denominational character of the University received additional emphasis in 1890-91 when newly-elected president William R. Harper began recruiting an internationally trained and largely non-Baptist faculty selected on the basis of scholarly distinction.

A trip by Harper to Europe in the summer of 1891 produced another opportunity for Chicago donors to show their generosity. Learning that the entire stock of an long-established Berlin book dealer was available for sale, Harper submitted a purchase offer of $45,000 and returned to Chicago hoping that donors could be found to underwrite the cost. He was not disappointed. Nine Chicago businessmen including Hutchinson, Ryerson, Kohlsaat, Charles H. McCormick, and Charles R. Crane pledged the necessary amount, and the University immediately acquired one of the largest academic research collections in the country.

Encouraged by Harper's successes, John D. Rockefeller made a million-dollar gift to the University in late 1890. The next major gift came from Chicago in January 1891, an endowment from the estate of William B. Ogden for a graduate school of scientific research; Ogden had been the mayor of Chicago and for many years the chairman of the Old University board of trustees. Rockefeller provided an additional million dollars for University operations in February 1892, and his generosity prompted Marshall Field to say, "Now Chicago must put a million dollars into the buildings of the University".

Spurred by a $100,000 challenge gift from Field, a frenetic ninety-day campaign was launched. Money for critically needed University buildings was given by Martin Ryerson, George C. Walker, Silas Cobb, and Sidney Kent, and by a new pool of donors representing the women of Chicago: Mrs. Elizabeth Kelly, Mrs. Nancy A. Foster, Mrs. Jerome Beecher, Mrs. A. J. Snell, and members of the Chicago Woman's Club and Fortnightly Club. The campaign was a resounding success, and the University opened in October 1892 with the assurance that through the generosity of Chicago citizens, funds for the classrooms, residence halls, and laboratories essential to its academic work had been secured


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