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A Brief History of Colby College

This Exhibit Contains 21 Items
1
N.W. view of Waterville College, ca. 1830

N.W. view of Waterville College, ca. 1830

Item 12573 info
Colby College Special Collections

Colby was originally chartered by the General Court of Massachusetts as the Maine Literary and Theological Institution in 1813. Its Theological Department opened in 1818 and the Literary Department followed in 1819.
In 1820 Colby was authorized by the First Legislature of Maine "to confer such degrees as are usually conferred by Universities."

An act of Legislature changed the name of the institution to Waterville College on February 5th, 1821. After a significant financial pledge by Gardner Colby at the end of the Civil War, the corporation became "The President and Trustees of Colby University" in 1867, and finally, "The President and Trustees of Colby College" in 1899.


2
Jeremiah Chaplin, Waterville Literary and Theological Institution

Jeremiah Chaplin, Waterville Literary and Theological Institution

Item 12580 info
Colby College Special Collections

Jeremiah Chaplin was the first president of the college. Chaplin was chosen as Professor of Divinity by the Board of Waterville College in early 1818.

In June the Chaplins and their children took the sloop "Hero" from Boston to Augusta and traveled up the Kennebec River to Waterville by longboat.

Mrs. Chaplin described the journey and reception in a famous journal entry written as a letter to a friend. She wrote, "It is to me a consolation that I have every reason to believe that to do good is the greatest of the objects Mr. Chaplin has in view in moving to Waterville. What the event will be we know not, but a reflection that the desire to be useful governed our conduct will support us amidst unkind reflections or adverse scenes."

Chaplin assumed presidency of the college in 1822 and served until 1833. He returned to the pastorate and died in 1841.


3
Old Colby College, (downtown) prior to 1950

Old Colby College, (downtown) prior to 1950

Item 12574 info
Colby College Special Collections

When the Chaplins arrived in Waterville in 1818, land along the Kennebec for the site of the college had not yet been cleared.

For the first year, classes were conducted in the Chaplins' rented house. It was not until 1820 that a subscription for building was undertaken, and the hall later called South College was erected in 1821.


4
 1833 Anti-Slavery Society of Waterville College petition

1833 Anti-Slavery Society of Waterville College petition

Item 12578 info
Colby College Special Collections

In 1833, inspired by William Lloyd Garrison's lecture in Waterville, Colby students founded an Anti-Slavery Society of Waterville College. On July 4th, 1833, students adopted the following:

Preamble

Believing that all men are born free and equal, and possess certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that in no case consistently with reason, religion, and the immutable principles of justice man can be the property of man:- we, the subscribers do hereby agree to form ourselves into a Society, and to be governed by the following...

The Constitution followed with thirteen articles, and was signed by thirty-two students. However, the faculty at the college did not ratify the formation of the society until 1858, only a few years before the Civil War began.


5
Civil War swords, ca. 1860

Civil War swords, ca. 1860

Item 12579 info
Colby College Special Collections

Colby graduates participated in the Civil War in large numbers. There were 86 commissioned officers, holding positions from Brigadier Generals to lieutenants, as well as chaplains and medical officers.

Colby owns numerous materials of Benjamin Butler, class of 1838, a general in the Civil War who went on to become a politician from Massachusetts. Special Collections also contains the diaries of Colonel Richard Cutts Shannon, papers of Major General Henry Clay Merriam, and correspondence and papers (1861-1891) of Brigadier General Charles Henry Smith.

Colby's Civil War memorial is a copy of the "Lion of Lucerne" statue and a plaque above it with the names of the 26 men who died. It is located in the street of Miller Library.


6
Richard Cutts Shannon, Colby 1862

Richard Cutts Shannon, Colby 1862

Item 12796 info
Colby College Special Collections

Richard Cutts Shannon, Colby class of 1862, wrote in his diary on September 19th, 1862, near Sharpsburgh, Maryland,

"Woke up this morning before daylight. Orders came from Gen. McClellan to advance skirmishers along the whole line. Did so at once and on our front met with no opposition. Our men occupied the woods where the enemy lay last night. We rode through the woods and some miles beyond. We found a large number of unburied dead both theirs and ours. There were several officers, a large number of muskets scattered around and every indication of complete demoralization...The battle field presented a sight beyond definition."


7
Shannon Hall with Observatory

Shannon Hall with Observatory

Item 12783 info
Colby College Special Collections

Despite its origins as a school for training ministers, Colby provided up-to-date study in the sciences, offering classes in electricity and magnetism in the 1820s and building the distinctive Shannon Observatory and Physical Laboratory in 1889.

Money for this building was given by Col. Richard Cutts Shannon (Colby 1862) to be a workplace for the physicist William Rogers, who agreed to come to Waterville from his position at Harvard.

The observatory was built to Rogers's specifications and included storage batteries and a generator, which supplied electric light to a few college buildings in the 1890s.


8
Memorial Hall, Colby College, old Waterville Campus

Memorial Hall, Colby College, old Waterville Campus

Item 13687 info
Colby College Special Collections

Memorial Hall was the building of most architectural note on the old campus. Built between 1867 and 1869, it was dedicated to the memory of men killed in the Civil War and housed the Civil War memorial marble plaque and copy of the sculpture "Lion of Lucerne."

Memorial Hall also served as library, as chapel, and as recitation hall. There is a tale of a student prank that once conveyed a cow to the top of the stone tower.


9
Mary Caffrey Low, Waterville, 1875

Mary Caffrey Low, Waterville, 1875

Item 13651 info
Colby College Special Collections

Colby's first female graduate was Mary Caffrey Low, Colby 1875.

She entered the college in 1871 as the only woman in her class. Four more women entered in 1873, but the women had no college-provided housing until 1885. In 1890, the women's division was voted to be a separate division of the college under President Albion Small.

Mary Low and other female graduates sent a letter of protest at this decision. Funding for the women's division was not fully supported by the college corporation until the late 1930s.


10
Adam Simpson Green, Colby College, 1887

Adam Simpson Green, Colby College, 1887

Item 12577 info
Colby College Special Collections

Adam Simpson Green, Colby 1887, was the first black student to graduate from Colby.

Marion Osborne, Colby 1900, was Colby's first black female graduate. She was the daughter of Samuel Osborne, Colby's longtime janitor, who was a former slave. Her brother Edward attended Colby in 1893-94 and was a star member of the baseball team. He left Colby after his first year.


11
Air Force trainees, Colby College, 1942

Air Force trainees, Colby College, 1942

Item 15264 info
Colby College Special Collections

A Colby Military Company was organized on April 4, 1917, shortly before President Wilson declared war. Congress lowered the draft age from 21 to 18 that summer. Undergraduate enrollment was greatly reduced that spring and the following year. 18 Colby men were killed in World War I.

During World War II enrollments fell again, with only 55 civilian men and 227 women in attendance in 1944. The Army Air Force flight training program on campus placed extra demands on housing, administration, and academics in 1943-44. 63 Colby men and women gave their lives in service of their country.

Two Colby graduates, Francis Rose and Gertrude Coombs Rose, were killed by the Japanese while doing missionary work in the Philippines. The flagpole on the new campus serves as a memorial to both wars' dead.


12
Old Campus, Colby College, c. 1920

Old Campus, Colby College, c. 1920

Item 12784 info
Colby College Special Collections

The construction of buildings on the old campus was of brick and wood. As the buildings aged, several suffered fires in the early 20th century.

There were fires in North College in December 1902 and December 1922, the latter killing four people. In 1928 there was a fire in the gymnasium. These were just a part of the troubles plaguing the old campus.


13
A locomotive steams past the old Colby campus, with Memorial Hall in the background.

A locomotive steams past the old Colby campus, with Memorial Hall in the background.

Item 12785 info
Colby College Special Collections

Although the college at one time owned land stretching from the Kennebec to the Messalonskee, financial troubles in the early 19th century forced the sale of so much of this acreage that by the late 1920s Colby was left hemmed in between the river and the railroad.

A survey of colleges in Maine by Columbia University found Colby's physical plant "meager, inadequate and poorly planned" and recommended that the college should be moved.

In the following year, Colby trustees voted that a new site should be found for the college, and several were considered. One possibility raised would have placed Colby on the outskirts of Augusta, but financial arrangements to secure the Mayflower Hill site in Waterville ultimately proved successful.


14
Earliest construction at Mayflower Hill campus

Earliest construction at Mayflower Hill campus

Item 12780 info
Colby College Special Collections

The move itself, however, was long delayed, progress being slowed by the Depression and the Second World War, as well as by the magnitude of the construction project, which first required building roads to transport materials and equipment to the site.


15
Lorimer Chapel

Lorimer Chapel

Item 12786 info
Colby College Special Collections

Lorimer Chapel was the first building on the new campus. It was set on the highest part of the hill designated for building at that time.

Funds for the chapel were donated by an editor of the Saturday Evening Post in memory of his father, who had been a pastor in Boston.

Lorimer Chapel was completed in 1948 and in 1949 received the German Walcker organ as a gift.

Renowned organist E. Power Biggs performed the first public concert in 1950.


16
Louise Coburn & Mary Low halls & Runnals Union, Colby College

Louise Coburn & Mary Low halls & Runnals Union, Colby College

Item 12790 info
Colby College Special Collections

Women students moved to the Hill first, and some classes were held in Runnals Union beginning in the fall of 1942.

Dean of Women Ninetta Runnals oversaw every detail of the plans for what were originally the women's dormitories, corresponding with colleagues at other colleges and comparing measurements of everything, down to closets as needed to accommodate "modern party dresses."


17
Miller Library, Colby College

Miller Library, Colby College

Item 12791 info
Colby College Special Collections

Miller Library was ready for partial use in the spring of 1947. During spring recess, 120,000 books were moved up from the old campus and most humanities classes began meeting there.

However, buses continued to transport students back and forth between the campuses until 1952.


18
Aerial view, Colby College, 1959

Aerial view, Colby College, 1959

Item 12792 info
Colby College Special Collections

The Lovejoy classroom building, named for graduate Elijah Parish Lovejoy, was not completed until early in 1959, and the Bixler Art and Music building was finished later the same year.


19
Student strike, Colby College, 1970

Student strike, Colby College, 1970

Item 12576 info
Colby College Special Collections

The 60s and 70s were decades that saw student social unrest as well as a large growth in the college's endowment.
Students participated in many demonstrations-for civil rights and later against the Vietnam War.

Black students occupied the Chapel seeking to increase black admissions and black studies programs. After a week they were served a legal injunction to leave the chapel.

Other students occupied the ROTC offices, and students participated in a nationwide student strike after the Kent State killings.

Throughout this period, students also sought more control over campus government, social life, and housing regulations.

There were also additions and experiments in the curriculum. Colby began its January Program (now known as Jan Plan) in 1962, established an East Asian studies major and the Senior Scholar program, and junior year abroad programs. The college became more aware of ecology, the environment, and diversity issues in its course offerings.


20
Groundbreaking, Student Center, Colby College, ca. 1986

Groundbreaking, Student Center, Colby College, ca. 1986

Item 14021 info
Colby College Special Collections

Colby's physical plant grew tremendously under President William Cotter. Additional dorms, new administrative and academic buildings, and additions to the arts and athletic complexes were constructed in the 80s and 90s.

Academically Colby sought to compete with its peer institutions among New England's small colleges. More major and minor programs were added along with more study abroad programs. Admissions became more diverse. Fraternities were disbanded in the early eighties and replaced by a commons system of residences.


21
Lion in the Library, Memorial Hall

Lion in the Library, Memorial Hall

Item 12782 info
Colby College Special Collections

Bibliography:

Marriner, Ernest Cummings. History of Colby College. Colby College Press, Waterville, Maine 1963.

Whittemore, Edwin Carey. Colby College 1820-1925, An Account of Its Beginnings, Progress and Service. Waterville, Maine, 1926.

Primary source materials from Special Collections, Miller Library, Colby College.


This Exhibit Contains 21 Items