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

Miller, Russell


Expanded enrollment and the rapid growth of the sciences and particularly engineering in the late 1880's and early 1890's made additions to the physical plant essential. It appeared that never in the history of Tufts (or of any other college, for that matter) did the provision of buildings quite catch up to the need for


them. President Capen in 1875 had called for more academic facilities and had seen Goddard Chapel, Goddard Gymnasium, and Barnum Museum rise in the 1880's. He had not called for more dormitory space, but that was needed before his administration was ten years old. In 1886 the Executive Committee was authorized "to erect a dormitory on the lot of land between the houses occupied by Dr. Sawyer and Prof. Dolbear" on Professors Row. The proposed dormitory was built, but not on the site specified. Instead, it was erected behind the Goddard Gymnasium. The new building, of red brick and undistinguished architecture, was intended to house twenty-four students and was named Dean Hall two months after it was opened in the fall of 1887, in memory of Oliver Dean, Tufts benefactor and president of the first Board of Trustees. It served its purpose faithfully until it was razed in 1963 to make way for an enlargement of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Dean Hall had proved inadequate by 1893, and so the decision was made to remodel the interior of East Hall and increase the number of rooms by moving the dining hall to another location. The new Commons Building was constructed at the corner


of College and Boston Avenues and was to provide rooms for students as well as the dining room and space for two or three stores. It was here that the Tufts Post Office was located as well as sundry other concessions intended to meet student needs. The building, named in 1904 for James Otis Curtis, Medford shipbuilder and Tufts Trustee from 1856 to 1890, was completed in 1894.

The two most urgent needs for strictly academic buildings in the 1890's existed in chemistry and engineering. Chemistry had expanded to such an extent even by the mid-1880's that the entire first floor of Ballou Hall, with the exception of one room occupied by the Department of Latin, had been turned over to chemistry. The chemistry laboratory had been enlarged sufficiently in the summer of 1890 to accommodate forty-three students, but no more space was available; the "absolute limits" had been reached. There was no other solution than "to erect a temporary structure of wood for a chemistry laboratory." The Executive Committee set a ceiling of $5,000 on construction costs, and the building was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1894. Erected east of Curtis Hall and conveniently close to the engineering school for those taking


chemistry, it was already so inadequate in 1906 that a Board of Visitors made it a special topic of concern.
The president in 1907 called the attention of the Trustees to the fact that the building had served its intended temporary life, that it was in general disrepair, and that a replacement should be built close to Goddard Gymnasium at the earliest possible moment.[1]  The "earliest possible moment" was longer than anyone anticipated. The Pearson Memorial Chemistry Laboratory was not completed and dedicated until 1923 and was built a considerable distance from the site originally suggested. In the intervening years the College made the best use it could of its "temporary" building, patched it up constantly, and after 1923 continued to use it for other than science purposes. It was the Music House for many years (until the Cohen Arts Center was provided in 1955) and, because of its location only a few feet from the tracks of the then-busy Boston and Maine Railroad, made a somewhat less than ideal headquarters for musical activities. After serving miscellaneous functions, the old chemistry laboratory became the


Research Building in 1963. It was still a multiple-purpose structure in the mid-1960's, seventy years after it had been erected and sixty years after it had supposedly outlived the purpose for which it had been constructed.

The Engineering Department faced the same housing crisis as did chemistry. Ballou Hall toward the end of the nineteenth century was jammed from attic to basement with engineering equipment. Beginning in 1892-93, the engineering curricula (civil and electrical) were extended from three to four years, which increased the number of students in residence accordingly. The introduction of the mechanical engineering course in 1894-95 also aggravated the problem. President Capen urged the Trustees to provide a separate building for the Engineering Department. Facilities on the Hill were so limited and so taxed that the College made arrangements both in 1891-92 and 1892-93 with Rindge Technical High School in Cambridge to offer some of the elementary engineering courses. This setup was "extremely inconvenient" because of the distance from the College. The opportunity to provide "the industrial and technical training now assuming so much importance in education," and at the same time offer many much-needed facilities to the engineering students and afford "some slight relief," came with the settling of the estate of Henry Bromfield Pearson. In anticipation of the Pearson bequest, the College charter was amended in 1890 to authorize the Trustees "to establish and maintain a preparatory school."

Henry Bromfield Pearson had been born in 1795 and had died at his residence in Boston in 1867. He was the son of Rev. Eliphalet Pearson, LL.D., the first preceptor of Phillips Academy in Andover and for twenty years Professor of Oriental Languages and English Literature at Harvard. His mother, Sarah Bromfield Pearson, came from a prosperous mercantile family in Massachusetts. Much of his life was spent at the Bromfield mansion at Harvard, Massachusetts, which had been the home of his parents and of his grandfather, Colonel Henry Bromfield.[2]  By good fortune, Rev. A. A. Miner was the executor and trustee of the Pearson estate. He had undoubtedly been instrumental in persuading


Pearson to add a codicil to his original will which not only made the College the recipient of part of his estate but included provisions that could be adapted to the special needs of the College.

Pearson was a strong believer in the efficacy of education for both sexes. His original will had provided for the creation of "The Bromfield and Pearson High School for Girls," to be located in the village of Harvard. The school was to be named in memory of three individuals: an uncle, Henry Bromfield; a cousin, John Bromfield; and his father, Rev. Dr. Eliphalet Pearson.[3]  The original will was most explicit and detailed as to the type of instruction, regimen, and discipline to be provided in the school, and the reasons he gave therefore shed interesting light on the educational philosophies and practices of mid-nineteenth-century America. As knowledge of the Creator and His works was "the great end for which an institution of learning should be founded," Pearson specified that school exercises each day "should be opened by the reading of some portion of the Gospels of the New Testament, to be followed in every instance by the singing of a hymn from a collection of poetry of a liberal and devotional spirit, and closed by an affectionate and solemn reading of the Lord's Prayer, in which the pupils should have the privilege of uniting when considered desirable. At the end of the day, an anthem in harmony with the opening services, accompanied by the organ shall be sung. ... At all times the preceptors and teachers in this School should impress upon the pupils committed to their care the principles of piety, virtue and morality, and by their exemplary conduct and judicious counsels, endeavor to persuade them to love and seek after those religious and moral excellencies of character, upon which more than all things else their happiness and usefulness in life will depend."

The College inherited various changes in Pearson's will which were to have an important effect on the future of the proposed school. "The Bromfield and Pearson High School" was to be coeducational, with the expectation that the boys were "to be fitted for college." However, Pearson stressed the point that the original


plan had been for a girls' school, and that the boys were being allowed "in hopes that the girls may derive benefit from the connection." Therefore, the girls were "in no respect to be excluded from or deprived of any of the advantages of education" they would have received under the original plan. It was further ordered "that the boys shall in no cases exceed the girls in number."

The most important provision in the codicil was that the school was to become a part of the assets of Tufts College. The trustee under Pearson's will was directed, after obtaining suitable land and buildings, to turn them over to the Trustees of Tufts College. Any residue of the trust established for this purpose was to be set apart and invested, the income to be used for maintaining and equipping the school. The sum of $10,000 was established as the maximum to be expended for construction of the school, which was to provide facilities for approximately 100 pupils. The College Trustees were given the eventual responsibility of appointing "the principal teacher in said school" as well as administering and governing it. The staff of the school (both "male and female") was to be appointed by the principal, subject to the approval of the Trustees.

The first step to make the Bromfield-Pearson School a reality was taken in the spring of 1893 with the sale by the College of a parcel of land east of College Avenue to the trustee of the Pearson estate. The land was "sold" for $16,000 and this amount was immediately turned over to the Pearson estate "to aid in the erection of the Pearson School." This piece of bookkeeping was accomplished in order to further "certain interests of the College" which would "be thereby promoted." It also enabled the College to retain the approximately $65,000 of the Pearson estate virtually intact and at the same time provide for the possibility that construction of the building would cost more than Pearson had originally envisaged. By the summer of 1893 construction was well under way, and Gardner C. Anthony of Rhode Island had accepted the headship of the new school, with the understanding that he would also hold a professorship in the College without salary and would be dependent for his compensation on the proceeds of the school. Both the construction of the building and the negotiations with Anthony were initiated by Miner, as trustee of the Pearson estate. A careful reading of the will, however, disclosed that the


choice of a head for the school devolved upon the Tufts Trustees, for the authority of the trustee under the Pearson estate ended as soon as the building was completed and turned over to the College. In addition, several matters of interpretation of the amended will left the Trustees in some doubt as to their responsibilities. Most important, the Trustees were determined, if possible, to turn the new school into a technical institution without violating the provisions of the will. So they petitioned the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts for a series of rulings based on a six-point proposal and obtained what they desired.

The new institution was to be a secondary school, "to be open with equal privileges to young people of either sex," although the Court agreed that "neither girls nor boys shall be excluded from the advantages of education therein by reason of the excess in said school of either number." Compensation for the teachers was to be provided from tuition fees, or any other sources considered appropriate by the Trustees. Instruction was to be given "in elementary mathematics, ancient and modern languages, theoretical and practical science, mechanical and other drawings, music or other branches of study, literary or scientific, useful or ornamental, from time to time taught in the higher seminaries in the Commonwealth." The emphasis on scientific subjects and the vagueness about other areas was consonant with the plan approved by the Court, which ruled that the will and codicil, "constructed together," gave the College authority to operate the school so as to "substantially accord with the desires of the testator . . . which desires concerning such instruction, discipline and conduct are suggestive but not controlling upon the judgment and discretion of said Trustees of Tufts College." No doubt was left in the public's mind as to the purpose of the new school, for less than three months after its opening it was being referred to by President Capen as "The Bromfield-Pearson Technical School," in which "all the drawing and shop-work of the engineering courses will be given. ... In addition to this, there will be courses preparatory alike to the engineering department, and to the various technical employments." [4] 

The intent of the Trustees in establishing the new school may have been clear, but the organization and administration of


it were another matter. What should be its relation to the College? Should there be both a dean and a principal? What kind of financial arrangements were to be made? The College had never before faced the problem of including a secondary school under its wing, and certainly not one with such a frankly vocational objective. A special Trustee committee appointed in the spring of 1893 to draw up plans for the new school were still divided over certain matters when decisions were finally made in October. The committee agreed that the school was a separate institution; but, because it was under the management of the Trustees, was located on the Hill, and "the condition exists that there will be more or less interchange of instruction between the School and the College," the relations between the two would, by their very nature, be close. It was the degree of integration that was in question. Trustees Miner and Robinson, the minority, argued that a dean should be appointed who would serve as the "principal teacher" for three years, receive and expend all fees, nominate staff members, and in general be totally responsible for the administration of the school, operating through a Trustee committee. The majority of the special committee, however, felt that the relationship of the two institutions should be closer; that because the Pearson will provided for a principal, the president of the College should serve in that capacity (without extra compensation); and that if the Trustees wished to appoint a dean he should be under the supervision of the president, as well as subject to the Trustees. If the dean should be made responsible for the finances of the school, it should be for one year only, on an experimental basis. The entire committee agreed that the dean should also hold a position in the College (without extra stipend) and that reciprocal enrollment privileges should be allowed students, with a financial adjustment at the end of each academic year.

Anthony was duly employed as Professor of Technical Drawing in the College (without compensation) in the fall of 1893 and served as ad hoc dean of the Bromfield-Pearson School until February 1894, while President Capen served as principal. But less than three months of experience indicated that administrative adjustments were needed. Anthony, who had actually taken over his responsibilities in July so that the school could be opened in October, found himself deluged with students from the College.


By December 1893 he was teaching as well as supervising eighty-six men in the Department of Drawing nineteen hours a week, with only seven hours of assistance from the Engineering Department. In addition, sixty-five students in engineering descended on him to do shopwork. The fourteen entering Bromfield students, to be the sole source of his income at a fee of $30 per quarter, brought him less than $1,700, out of which he was to pay all the expenses of the school. He contended that it would be "disastrous" to the interest of the school if an attempt were made to separate the two institutions. Further, a decrease in salary as compared to his employment before he came to Tufts, besides his unexpected teaching and administrative burdens, made him reluctant to continue unless the Trustees assumed complete operation of and responsibility for the school and employed a dean to act for the Trustees. The Trustees saw the predicament and promptly made new arrangements. The conduct of the school was assumed by the Trustees; Anthony was made dean, but was no longer responsible for the school's income and liabilities, and was to receive a salary as teacher in Bromfield-Pearson, with additional remuneration for the deanship. The latter was to be paid out of school revenue. The by-laws of the Trustees were amended to provide a five-man Trustee committee, including the president of the College, to have ultimate responsibility for the school, to act as a liaison body between the dean and the Trustees, and to submit periodic reports. Although reference was made to a principal for the school, no separate appointment was made to this post. The president of the College continued to hold his honorific office and made, through the Trustees, the necessary staff appointments in the school. All diplomas were to be signed by the dean and the secretary of the Trustees. The original staff included Frank T. Daniels, Instructor in Drawing; William H. Detwyler, Tutor in French; George H. Furbish, Teacher of Woodwork and Foundry Work; and Frank G. Wren, Tutor in Mathematics.

The Bromfield-Pearson High School was housed in a substantial three-story red brick building that presided in lonely splendor over a dense growth of bushes through which students made a path down from College Avenue. Although not yet finished inside, and far from completely equipped, the building was opened for use in October 1893. None of the upper flooring was laid, and much of


the plastering remained to be done. The shops were not ready for use until the beginning of the second term, and preparations required working nights and Sundays in January 1894. When completed, facilities were provided for classes of fourteen to eighteen students in carpentry, pattern-making, forging, and foundry and machine work. The drafting rooms, which could accommodate over fifty students, were on the third floor, separated from the noise and vibration of the shops; light was provided by large skylights. A very busy dean presided over this establishment. By January 1894 he was responsible for the work of 172 students from the College and for direct teaching of about thirty hours per week. He described his position as "not an enviable one."

President Capen felt assured that the school would "be successful from the start" and that it would "fill an important place in our educational scheme." The facts seem to bear this out. At the outset, two programs were offered: a preparatory course for those qualified by previous education and maturity to enter the Engineering Department after one year of additional preparation; and a special engineering course for those able, for financial or other reasons, to devote only two years to formal instruction, and whose previous preparation was insufficient to enable them to enter the College. It was "not the object of the school to produce expert engineers or skilled draughtsmen, but to give such direction to the thought and afford such training in theory and practice as is requisite to every successful engineer." Unlike the College proper, the Bromfield-Pearson School followed the quarter system when it opened, and hence operated during most of the summer.

Before the school opened, a manual training course had been advertised, but it was abandoned in favor of a one-year preparatory course which it was thought would not only simplify administration and decrease expenses but open up "a unique and important field in preparatory work." The preparatory course, spread over four quarters, consisted of "academic" algebra, plane and solid geometry, arithmetic, French, English, and freehand drawing, with mechanical drawing elective for the first two quarters and required the third quarter; during the fourth quarter, trigonometry could be substituted for mechanical drawing. Sufficient instruction was given in mathematics, English, and French to enable the students to pass the College's entrance examinations. Properly prepared


students could also pursue some of the basic College courses and thereby shorten their engineering program if admitted to Tufts.

The special engineering course was more intensive than the preparatory course and included mechanics, machine drawing, advanced algebra, spherical and descriptive geometry, differential and integral calculus, and three quarters of elective shopwork in the second year. The program was so arranged that students completing the first year or first part of the second year of this curriculum could be transferred to the College course without completing the two-year course. This was made easier by the fact that school and College students attended the same classes in most instances. Beginning in 1894-95, students in the second year of the special courses were allowed to elect College classes in either physics or chemistry.

Admission to courses in either program was in effect left up to the individual instructor, who could accept certificates from other schools or employ written or oral examinations. No diplomas or degrees were conferred, but Certificates of Proficiency were issued upon completion of either program. There was considerable interchange of students between the school and the College from the very beginning. Instruction in drawing and shopwork for all members of the Engineering Department brought part of the College to the school. In addition, engineering instructors promptly referred to the school those students considered deficient in basic engineering subjects. Before the end of the first year of operation, eight Bromfield-Pearson students were attending classes in the College, and three from the College had transferred to the school. Almost all of the students enrolled in elementary French in the preparatory course in 1893-94 expected to enroll in the College the following year. Many College facilities, including the gymnasium, the library, and various lecture series, were open to Bromfield-Pearson pupils. Dean Anthony, reviewing the work of the first year, felt confident that new educational ground was being broken, for the school was not simply "a new department in the College, but rather a new departure in preparatory and technical education." Most certainly, the school had departed markedly from the path that Henry Bromfield Pearson had originally marked out for it.

The Bromfield-Pearson School continued to exist into the


1960's although it enrolled in any one year only a handful of students.[5]  It was officially listed in the 1960's as an institution "associated with the College of Engineering" intended to meet the needs of "a restricted group of young men who have spent a considerable time in practical work of an engineering character." The school maintained Henry Bromfield Pearson's original intent that it be a preparatory school, for enrollment in the school was for two terms only, and those who met the prescribed conditions were accepted by the College of Engineering as sophomores in regular standing at the end of the second term.[6]  The close relationship between Bromfield-Pearson and Tufts existing at a later day had already been recognized in 1895 when the Trustees agreed that there was no need to keep separate accounts "in view of the commingling, and in many respects the identity, of interests between the school and the College." Historically, the school served a useful purpose by providing "a fitting school for the College," by furnishing desperately needed facilities for the engineering school in a period of rapid growth, and by enabling competent students who might otherwise have been lost to the College to make up deficiencies.

The Bromfield-Pearson School gave "some slight relief" to the housing problems of the engineering school, as President Capen had expressed it, but they were far from solved. In 1899, laboratory equipment for mechanical engineering was housed in two rooms in the cellar of Ballou Hall. They were badly lighted, without ventilation, and unheated, and in wet weather water frequently percolated through the foundation walls and settled in pools on the floor to such a degree that students were obliged to stand on boards or to wear boots. There was concern lest the whole mechanical engineering curriculum introduced only five years earlier might have to be abandoned if adequate staff, equipment, and space were not provided. There had been one glimmer of hope in 1894 when Mrs. Rebecca T. Robinson had offered $40,000 to erect a building


"for giving technical training in engineering," to be known as the "Robinson Scientific School." The committee to whom the proposal was referred was hesitant to accept the gift because of the commitments it would entail. Such a sum was not considered adequate to construct an engineering building, the Trustees were in no position to contribute out of the College's strained resources, and the building would mean an estimated extra expense of $4,000 annually. They were also reluctant to accept an offer that might involve the establishment of another separate school. Mrs. Robinson's intention was to superintend personally the erection of "a building which would be worthy of the memory of her husband."[7]  The Trustees agreed to construct the building, but were so dilatory that Mrs. Robinson's son (and attorney), Sumner Robinson, who had been elected a Trustee in 1892, warned that she was becoming impatient, and the College might receive nothing if construction were not started. Nothing was done during her lifetime, and in 1899 the needs of the engineering school were so urgent that an inquiry was made of her heirs to see if the offer was still open. By good fortune it was, and the Trustees agreed to spend $37,500 for a building. Neither the architect's fees nor the cost of a heating system were originally included. After the building was completed, makeshift heating was to be provided from the Bromfield-Pearson School.

The denizens of both Robinson and Bromfield-Pearson must have lived a Spartan life when using the two buildings, for the boiler in the latter was too small to service both buildings simultaneously and steam heat had to be furnished first to one and then to the other. The new building, although wired for electricity when constructed, was not connected at first with a commercial power line, and gas was piped into all rooms to furnish what artificial light existed. These somewhat primitive arrangements were not due to faulty planning or an attempt to reduce expenditures to zero, but to the fact that for some years a central heating and power plant for the campus had been hoped for, provided that


the necessary $25,000 could be found. In the 1890's, the electrical engineering students received a goodly taste of practical experience and the satisfaction of knowing that they were contributing to the needs of the College, for their department until 1899 furnished light for both the library (Middle Hall) and Goddard Chapel.[8]  The students of the Class of 1896 designed and partly constructed a 150-light dynamo capable of servicing the entire Bromfield-Pearson School. When Robinson Hall was completed, the Trustees appropriated a small sum to construct a temporary heating plant for the two buildings which was also to serve "for furnishing the necessary power to be used in said buildings for purposes of instruction." Fortunately, a gift to the College of about $8,000 from Ephraim Howe made possible something less modest than had been originally planned. Because the frame and stuccoed structure that was built in 1901 was to serve a double purpose, it was named the Howe Memorial Laboratory. The storage batteries and other equipment crowding Ballou Hall were moved to the new structure near the engineering buildings, and by 1904 an addition had been built to


house the forge and foundry equipment originally located in Bromfield-Pearson. The "temporary" Howe Memorial Laboratory served many a heating, lighting, and instructional purpose until it was dismantled in the winter of 1960 when Anderson Hall, the new addition to the engineering complex, was completed.

As the Engineering Department grew from a handful of students and faculty occupying various corners of the then-unnamed College Edifice in the 1870's and 1880's to a school with over 100 students in new quarters in Robinson Hall, the Bromfield-Pearson Building, and the Howe Memorial Laboratory, there was a noticeable tendency for it to drift away from the so-called "academic" department. Matters concerning engineering coming before the general faculty were increasingly turned over to those teaching in the department. At first (in 1894) they comprised a standing "Committee on Engineers," but major policy decisions, including curricular concerns, were determined by the whole faculty. A school of engineering was formally created in 1898, with a dean (Gardner C. Anthony) and administrative board drawn from the engineering faculty.[9]  The board was to formulate policies with the advice of the faculty of the college of letters on all matters affecting candidates for the Bachelor of Science degree in engineering excepting the conduct and dismissal of students. These remained under the control of the faculty of letters until 1903. The engineering faculty obtained even more autonomy over its own immediate concerns when the Faculty of Arts and Sciences was created in the fall of 1902 and the engineering faculty became a constituent body. Thereafter, only engineering matters having to do with administration affecting more than one of the Associated Faculties came before the parent group.

Simultaneously, course by course, the engineering students were separated from their fellow students in liberal arts. Part of this tendency to go separate ways was prompted by the growth of enrollment and the increase in the size of classes which necessitated division into sections. Part was due to the heightened awareness that the professional needs of the engineering students were different from those in the liberal arts curricula. The first separation


occurred in the basic mathematics courses, in which separate sections were created for "academic" and engineering students. Then came the division of the classes in French, and in 1903 the sections in the basic English course were likewise separated. The Department of Economics, created in 1902-3, started its career by segregating the engineers enrolled in Political Economy. Some liaison was briefly retained with the English Department, for much of the written work of the engineering upperclassmen was submitted to it for criticism. However, the engineering students were assigned their own English instructor, Professor Samuel C. Earle. As a member of the engineering faculty he attempted to impress on his students the importance of literate communication in general and in technical subjects in particular.[10]  All the courses in French and German for freshman engineers were transferred to the jurisdiction of the engineering school Department of English in 1912-13. Dean Anthony justified this segregation of courses by insisting that the maximum cooperation and coordination was "rarely, if ever, accomplished between schools having very divergent methods and ideals." It appeared that liberal arts and engineering were two quite different species.

The only prescribed courses shared by the liberal arts and engineering students in 1903 had been the elementary courses in physics, chemistry, and German. President Capen was perturbed because it appeared that the engineering students were being trained in a narrower and narrower sense, and that the department was turning into a quasi-independent professional school. Dean Anthony also recognized this trend and told the Tufts College Club of Boston that he believed it "to be contrary to the desires of those who are entrusted with the administration of the department, and against the best judgment of the alumni." Yet Tufts was not alone, and over the years Dean Anthony changed his own viewpoint. The engineering school was being caught up in a nation-wide inclination to separate liberal arts and professional education. While on one hand there was pressure to reduce the time required for the


A.B. degree, engineering education was veering in the opposite direction. Because of the steadily rising standard of academic expectations and increased degree requirements it was becoming more and more difficult for the engineering student to complete the prescribed work in four years.

Dean Anthony had no simple or magic solution to offer, but he did suggest that the "academic" man needed to be led "to appreciate the educational value of technical subjects." One alternative discussed and tried briefly before the First World War was a combined liberal arts and technical program leading to the simultaneous award of the A.B. and B.S. degrees after five years. The experiment itself lasted only five years (1904 to 1909). In order to obtain both degrees the student had to offer a unit of credit in solid geometry for admission and choose engineering as his major department at the end of the freshman year. English, foreign languages, physics, and mathematics comprised the program of the first year, with history and philosophy intermixed with mathematics, shopwork, and drawing in the second year. The last three years of the sequence corresponded to the specific course in engineering elected by the student. Dean Anthony was never enthusiastic about the combined program and did not mourn its departure. It had appealed to too few students and was discontinued because it failed to provide for a unified technical training such as he had in mind. If there was to be any coordination or articulation, he thought it should be within the Engineering Department itself. The combined liberal arts-engineering degree program reappeared in substantially the same form approximately half a century later, and with the same appeal to only a small number of students.

Many aspects of the history of the engineering school from 1900 to the First World War bore a disturbing resemblance to the careers of the medical and dental schools. Enrollments increased beyond a realistic capacity to handle them; endowment, which was called for periodically after 1890, never materialized, and tuition became completely inadequate to finance the school even though it was raised more than once; the engineering profession grew so rapidly that almost without exception there were more requests for graduates of the school than could possibly be furnished; the faculty and other academic resources were so badly strained that


morale dropped to the danger point and President Hamilton, for one, had to make plea after plea to the Trustees for assistance.[11] 

Statistics told their own story. One of the most spectacular increases in enrollment in the College's history occurred in the Engineering Department. There were twenty students enrolled in engineering in 1887-88; a decade later, there were seventy-one. Enrollment in electrical engineering alone by 1894 had "nearly submerged" the Physics Department. In 1902-3 Dean Anthony argued that accommodations were adequate for a total engineering student body of 150. Yet in 1904 there were 187 enrolled. By constant rearrangement of offices, laboratories, and classrooms, student capacity was somehow increased, but the department had become so understaffed by 1905-6 that there was talk of abandoning the requirement of senior theses because most of them called for the construction of machinery or equipment for which there was no room. Serious consideration was given to abandoning the chemical engineering program, even though overflow quarters for lectures had been temporarily provided in Curtis Hall.

Both a special Trustee committee and the engineering faculty agreed that the best way to hold down the snowballing enrollment was to raise standards of admission. This was accomplished in part in 1907 by providing that all candidates for the Bachelor of Science in Engineering had to offer the same subjects for admission as the A.B. candidates except advanced work in an ancient language. The minimum graduation requirement for engineers was made ten credit hours greater than for A.B. candidates. The faculty also cut drastically the number of students allowed to be admitted with "conditions" of various sorts. The changes had some of the effect desired, for the faculty was both adequate and reasonably balanced in 1908 for the first time in many years, and the threat of faculty resignations was averted by salary increases ranging from $200 to $400. The increments were made possible by a vigorous and successful campaign by Professor Hooper to collect $1,700 from engineering alumni to tide the school over a serious crisis. Even with stricter entrance requirements, the sophomore class was so large in 1908-9 that a special summer school course in surveying was offered


to relieve the congestion in the regular term. The summer school was also offered in 1910 but had to be abandoned because of "limited income and insufficient teaching force."

Annual engineering enrollment until the First World War continued to be maintained slightly beyond the maximum of 200 that Dean Anthony thought the accommodations would allow by then. The hopes for a smaller student body after 1916 were counterbalanced by the departure of many of the faculty for military service. Even in 1915-16, academic housing was in such short supply that classes had to be held in the evening, and the once-sacred noon hour had to be desecrated with instructional activities. One English section had to meet in the pattern shop, and another recitation met in the hydraulic laboratory. As Dean Anthony stated the problem, "such arrangements are not conducive to the most efficient work and emphasize our great need of buildings and equipment if any further growth of the school is to be permitted." Turning a college into a university by expanding professional schools was no small matter.

The story of the Tufts Engineering School was not all grim and crisis-ridden between 1900 and 1916. The increased offerings after 1890 gave a great impetus to the growth of the department and helped heighten its reputation as an excellent training facility. Between 1893 and 1913, 430 engineering degrees were granted, representing over 80 per cent of the total awarded since 1869. Seventy per cent of the engineering alumni were engaged in the profession for which they were trained. Civil and electrical engineering led the list, and a respectable portion of the total graduate body were in positions of influence and responsibility in business and industry.

The engineering faculty were especially active in professional affairs and made a conscious effort to keep abreast (or ahead) of what other institutions were doing. In 1907 the custom was started of making an annual appointment from the faculty to serve as a "visiting delegate" to other schools. Tours covered the Middle West as well as the Atlantic seaboard, and the engineering school became through this channel "more widely known than by any other agency save that of its alumni." One by-product of these institutional visits was the election of several members of the engineering faculty to important posts in engineering organizations.


One became chairman of the Boston Section of Electrical Engineers and two others held high offices (including the presidency) of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education. Dean Anthony served on a joint committee of the Society and the Carnegie Foundation to make a nation-wide study of technical education comparable to the studies made or contemplated in the fields of medical and dental education. Professor Earle served on the Society's Committee on the Standardization of Engineering Nomenclature. It was on the initiative of another member of the engineering faculty that joint meetings were held in 1910 of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers and the engineering societies at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tufts, to coordinate the interests of the profession and the schools. Cooperation between practicing engineers and technical school undergraduates was also fostered by engineering competitions, in many of which Tufts students excelled.

The curriculum of the engineering school was under continuous scrutiny by the faculty, and several studies were made of ways to improve technical education. Until 1909-10, the subjects of instruction during the first year were common to all four branches of engineering offered by the school, and consisted of English, a modern foreign language (French or German), drawing, mechanic arts, mathematics, and physics. The civil engineering course proved so popular that an optional curriculum was established, beginning in 1910-11, in structural engineering, although still leading to the degree in civil engineering. The entire curriculum reflected a large amount of prescription. A total of 140 credits was required for graduation, and the schedule was considered a demanding one, at least by the students. In 1905 the engineering faculty received a petition from virtually the whole student body requesting a longer period in which to take final examinations, "and in no case be required to take more than one examination during the same day." The faculty delayed their decision for a semester, but acquiesced. A curriculum common to all specialties was extended to two years in 1910-11 and included chemistry in the sophomore year. It was this requirement that placed such an unusual strain on the laboratory facilities in that subject and evoked the reiterated pleas for a new chemistry building.

As the First World War became imminent, the engineering


school launched the most comprehensive inventory of itself it had ever undertaken. Standards of scholarship, the curriculum, and the whole matter of the responsibility of the school to the community were among the topics reviewed by eight committees. The exigencies of war and the fundamental nature of the changes and policies considered in the self-study delayed the new program until after 1918, but there seemed to be little doubt that the Tufts Engineering School was making a substantial contribution both academically and professionally.


[1] The underpinnings had sunk so that the floors were badly out of level, the heating system was almost worn out, and the plumbing was in danger of total collapse at any time.

[2] The mansion, built in 1733, had been purchased by the family in 1765 and was considered a showplace; it eventually came into H. B. Pearson's possession but was destroyed by fire in 1854.

[3] For biographical data about the Bromfield family see the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 25 (1871), pp. 334-335; Vol. 26 (1872), pp. 37-43, 141-143. The information about Pearson's plans was derived from extracts from his will.

[4] "The Making of a College," To-Day, Vol. 1 (January 1894), p. 40.

[5] The peak of enrollment had been twenty, in 1903-4; of these, fifteen entered the engineering school.

[6] The authorization for a one-year college preparatory course was given in 1894, but the two-year program remained officially available until 1904. The latter was abandoned when Dean Anthony pointed out that most of the students were qualified to transfer to the engineering school before the two years had elapsed.

[7] Charles Robinson, who died in 1890, had been elected a Trustee in 1857 and after the death of Israel Washburn in 1883 had served as president of that body. He was a prominent attorney and served as legal adviser to the College (without charge) for many years; he was also counsel for several benefactors of the institution.

[8] These were connected to the lines of the Somerville Light Company in 1899.

[9] However, it continued to be called interchangeably a "Department" in the official records until 1908.

[10] The Tufts policy of teaching English to engineers was so successful that in 1913 the English Department of the engineering school was asked to recommend candidates for five positions in engineering schools outside of New England.

[11] Tuition was increased to $150 beginning September 1906, over Dean Anthony's protest. It was raised again (to $175) in 1912-13.

  • 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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