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Brochure for American Institute of Hebrew

William Rainey Harper, brochure for American Institute of Hebrew, Progressive Course, Lesson 6, 1882.


Shipping receipt for Berlin Collection

Wulkow & Cornelsen, shipping receipt for Berlin Collection books. May 23, 1892. Harper travelled to Europe in August 1891 to confer with scholars and promote the new University. While there he arranged for the purchase of the stock of the S. Calvary and Co. bookstore in Berlin, which in one stroke provided the resources for a first-class research library.

William Rainey Harper


Professor of Hebrew and the
Cognate Languages, Baptist
Union Theological Seminary
Professor and Head of the Department of Semitic Languages and Literatures 1892-1906
President 1891-1906

William Rainey Harper grew up in New Concord, Ohio, in a Scotch Covenanter family and community that valued education. He learned to read when he was three, entered college at ten, received a BA degree at fourteen and a PhD at eighteen. He also loved music, played the piano with the college president's daughter, and led the New Concord Silver Cornet Band.

In college, having mastered the usual Latin and Greek, he began learning Hebrew with a small class, and continued studying privately with a teacher in Zanesville, 18 miles away, for three years while working in his father's store. In 1872 his family sent him to Yale for advanced study.

Yale was the first American school to grant the PhD degree, in 1861, and had conferred only 35 before Harper graduated in 1875. Lacking the background of his older classmates, he nonetheless caught up with them and successfully completed his dissertation entitled, "A Comparative Study of the Prepositions in Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Gothic."

Hebrew remained Harper's first interest. After teaching classics at Masonic College in Macon, Tennessee, and Denison University in Granville, Ohio, he was offered a position teaching Hebrew at the Baptist Union Theological Seminary in Chicago. Still only 22, he was younger than many of the seminary students in his classes. In his first year, he not only taught a full schedule, but took classes to complete a BD degree, and in 1880 he received a full professorship.

I have a plan which is at the same time unique and comprehensive, which I am persuaded will revolutionize university study in this country.

William Rainey Harper

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