The Myth of Openness
Founded in 1857 at 35th St. and Cottage Grove by Baptists associated with Chicago's First Baptist Church, the original or Old University of Chicago never achieved a stable financial footing. Despite the aggressive efforts of its fifth and second-to-last president, Mr. Galusha Anderson, to raise money from philanthropists like John D. Rockefeller and Leland Stanford, the fledgling university found itself facing foreclosure in 1884.
Its history and financial straits are captured in great detail in the court testimony from the foreclosure proceedings. This document provides one of the only formal statements about the university's early policy with respect to women and African Americans.
Creating a myth that the university had always been open with respect to gender and race, President Anderson testified thus:
I am president of the university. . . I became president in February, 1878, and have been president a little over six years. The number of students, taking the preparatory, college, and law department, have numbered not far from three hundred a year...Not all students pay full tuition aside from scholarships; there is a law of the institution that the children of all Christian pastors shall be educated at half price, without respect to denomination. There has never been any distinction as to sex, nationality or religious belief, or political belief. We educate both sexes on the same footing precisely, and illustrate constantly the fifteenth amendment of the constitution of the United States as to color. Students come from all families, or any religious belief, or no religious belief.