Light on the hill: A history of Tufts College, 1852-1952

Miller, Russell


Bibliographical Note
ONLY TWO HISTORIES OF TUFTS have been written, neither since it became a university in 1955. In 1952, then-President Leonard Carmichael assembled a brief pictorial history in recognition of the centennial of the chartering of the institution. The other had been published in 1896, as a labor of love by the Class of 1897. From time immemorial, classes about to leave their Alma Mater have left something to remind incoming classes, and posterity, of their existence. Instead of donating a section of fence, a bell, a plaque, a bench, or the like, the Class of 1897 prepared, in their junior year, a history of their college. Bound in the school colors of brown and blue, and with an impressive 382 pages, their offering, on closer examination, is found to consist of only eighty-eight pages of narrative. The bulk of the book is devoted to alumni directories, reproductions of the course of study at the time, and the usual lists of faculty, Trustees, and miscellaneous statistical information. In spite of certain deficiencies, however, the 1896 history is generally accurate as far as it goes and has served as a handy reference volume for almost three-quarters of a century. The biographical sketches of the faculty up to that date and the information on the oldest fraternities are still of special value and have been drawn upon in the present work.
Since 1958, the writer has served as organizer of the archives of the University as well as its historian. He has thus had an unusual opportunity to become acquainted with the materials available. The collections of the Universalist Historical Society, located on the Tufts campus, have also been of great value. By good fortune, much of the personal correspondence of the early presidents has survived and is located in the Tufts Archives. The most valuable single primary sources for nineteenth-century Universalism are the
weekly newspapers published by the denomination. From their columns can be pieced together a surprisingly complete story of most aspects of Universalist history in the United States. The leading newspaper was the Trumpet and Universalist Magazine which under variant titles was published from 1819 until it was merged with the Universalist after the Civil War. In the issues of the 1850's and 1860's can be found almost a week-to-week account of the origin and progress of Tufts, for it was established procedure to reprint most of the proceedings of Trustee meetings and even lists of library acquisitions in its columns. There were many other lesser-known Universalist papers, such as the Gospel Banner and the Christian Ambassador, but all newspapers followed the widely encouraged practice of copying from each other. The writer has had access to a complete file of the Trumpet and its predecessors and successors and has used it extensively for background and illustrative material, especially for the two chapters covering the period prior to the chartering of the institution.
The files of both the official records of the Corporation and of its constituent parts, and of student publications, are unusually complete. The most useful records have been the following (1) Trustees of Tufts College - minutes of the full Board and of its Executive Committee, and supporting documents and correspondence in the secretaries' files; (2) faculty minutes, official papers and supporting documents, and the secretaries' files; (3) the presidents' annual reports to the Trustees (when made in writing - printed, 1873-1917, mimeographed and on microfilm, 1932 to date); (4) presidential correspondence; (5) catalogues and other official publications and reports of the University; (6) files of student and alumni publications (including complete sets of the literary magazine, the campus newspaper, yearbooks, and the alumni magazine); (7) miscellaneous publications, press releases, scrapbooks, correspondence, and other memorabilia that form a vital part of any college archives. The bulk of the University Archives are housed in the central library. In the winter of 1963-64 the major records of the University were microfilmed for safekeeping, and sufficient copies were made to assure the preservation of documents vital to the history of the institution.
  • Light on the Hill, the history of Tufts College, was published to coincide with the centennial of the institution in 1952. A second volume was published in 1986. This edition was created from the 1966 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume I.
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