Penn 100 Years Ago...

As we enter the 21st century, this is a good time to look back at the last turn of the century, and thanks to the University Archives it is possible to do that. Penn was a very different place 100 years ago. The campus was a fraction of its current size, as were the faculty, staff and student body. The Provost was the chief executive of the University; no one held the title of President until 1923. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. The campus was in a period of great growth and construction. The administration was crying out for a larger endowment. Penn professors were being appointed to important national posts. Here, then, is Almanac's glimpse back at Penn as it entered the 20th century, just as Provost Harrison predicted in 1900.


 "There may be an historical value in making now a record of these facts, so that our successors in administration one hundred years hence may have a basis of comparison."

--Provost Charles Custis Harrison in the Provost's Annual Report 1899-1900

A Picture of Penn at the Previous Turn of the Century


Special Events of the Year 1899-1900

  • Penn Press published The Philadelphia Negro by W.E.B. DuBois in 1899, one of its first book publications. (The Penn Press was incorporated in March 1890.)
  • The University Museum opened on Dec. 28, 1899. It was called The Free Museum of Science and Art. Mrs. William Pepper, widow of the previous provost, gave $50,000 as endowment. The University's archaeological collections had previously been housed in the Library (now the Fisher Fine Arts Library), but were outgrowing their space as new discoveries were made. The Graduate School also formed a new Archaeology and Ethnology group.
  • The cornerstone was laid for the Memorial Tower and Gateway on Feb. 13, 1900 to honor Pennsylvania men who served in the Spanish-American War. This tower, at 37th and Spruce, was part of the University's new dormitories, which could house 350 students during the 1899-1900 school year. (This increased to 525 the following year when the tower and other buildings were completed.) Still planned were a chapel, a dining Hall and additional dorm space to house a total of 1,000 students. The Quad can now house 1,545 students, and the entire College House system can house 6,264 students.
  • The new Law School Building was dedicated on February 21-22, 1900. Prior to that, law classes had been held in Old City.
  • The University purchased the "Foulke and Long property" between 33rd & 34th streets bounded on the south by Locust Street for $112,500. This added 110,000 square feet and several buildings to the University. A Physical Laboratory was planned for the western half of the property.


Academic Changes in the College

  • The College was working on preparing students better for Medical School, making it possible to perhaps be a senior in the college and a first-year medical student at the same time.
  • The College abolished its courses in Finance and Economy, and started a new four-year course entitled, "The Course in Commerce and Industry." As stated in the Provost's Report, "Business and business life are regarded not as an occupation-as a means of securing a livelihood-but as a profession with duties that reach beyond self; with principles that must be mastered if those duties are to be adequately performed, and with auxiliary sciences or disciplines that cannot be ignored."
  • The College began a system of Faculty Advisors for students. Their job was to help guide students in their choices of courses to take.

 Penn Facts and Figures
1899-1900 1999-2000
Total students 2673 21855
Total faculty 260* 3,942**
Undergraduate tuition $150-$200/year $24,230/year
Campus size 55 acres, 29 buildings 260 acres, 134 buildings***

* This number includes professors, lecturers and instructors

** This number includes standing and associated faculty

***excluding New Bolton, fraternities, sororities, commercial buildings and hospitals

  • The cash receipts between September 1, 1899, and August 31, 1900, from donations from all sources for University purposes were $531,154.39. Total receipts from tuition that year were $323,120.60.
  • Board and lodging for students cost $185-$250 for 37 weeks. Students were estimated to spend between $10 and $50 per year for textbooks.
  • In 1899-1900, 1,858 of the students were from Pennsylvania, 815 from other states and US territories and 92 from other countries, including 20 from Canada, 9 from Australia, 8 from Germany, 7 from New Zealand, 5 from England and 4 from Nicaragua. The University published a booklet in Spanish that year to try to encourage more students from Latin America to come to Penn.
  • Approximately 371 of the total 2,673 students were women. Of those, 262 were taking Courses for Teachers. (The Courses for Teachers were late afternoon and Saturday classes designed for school teachers. Originally, courses were only given in English and history, but the program had grown to include all subjects offered at the University. Degrees were not offered in this program until 1906).
  • In the Department of Law, only 38% of the students were college graduates.
  • In Veterinary Medicine, more than half of the students were graduates of either colleges or high schools, meaning that almost half of the students had never graduated from high school.
  • Penn had its greatest period of building and expansion under Harrison's tenure as Provost (1894-1910). By 1913, the University had grown to 117 acres.



Click on Map to see larger version.

(Map courtesy of Universty Archives)

 Above: An 1899 map of the Penn campus. Note that the new Law building on Chestnut Street is not included on the map since the map ends at Walnut Street.


Forgotten Physical Features

  • A Vivarium was established in 1898 to allow students of zoology and biology to observe living animals. It was the first Vivarium ever connected with an educational institution. It contained aquatic tanks and several areas for small animals, including small quadrupeds, frogs, land tortoises, birds and microscopic animals.

During the 1899-1900 school year, the Vivarium established a salt water aquatic tank. The water for the tank was pumped from the sea by a tugboat and transferred from the Delaware River wharf to the building by means of sprinkling carts. That year, the Vivarium also received several gifts, including a hive of bees, a monkey from the Philippines, Chinese goldfish, and other small animals.

In 1910, the Zoological Laboratories building (now Leidy Laboratories) was built. It was connected to the Vivarium, and in fact the rear wing of the Vivarium was incorporated into the new building. The Vivarium itself seems to have disappeared in the first half of the century.

  • Now known as the Bio Pond, the Botanic Garden, which was established in 1894, has not disappeared completely, but it has been reduced in size and scope. In 1906 it had 11 greenhouses with 1,350 species and varieties of plants, a physiological plant laboratory, and 4 acres of surrounding ground with about 1,600 species of plants as well as lily and lotus ponds.
  • As seen in the photo below, College Hall originally had a clock tower at each end. The towers were removed in 1914 and 1929.

Above: A 1904 view of College Hall with its clock towers. It was built in 1871-72, and was designed by Thomas W. Richards, who became Penn's first professor of architecture in 1874.


1900 Wish Lists

  • University: A University alumni association. (There had been recent growth of regional alumni associations).
  • Graduate School: To institute a group covering the subjects of Jurisprudence and Political Science.
  • Department of Law: To institute a Master of Laws program.
  • (The above two were slated to begin, but were halted by the death of the person in the Department of Law who was to be responsible for them.)
  • Department of Medicine: Money for research; a Medical Fellowship which would allow holders to be totally devoted to research; a course in tropical diseases. The department also wanted the State to: a) contribute to the maintenance of sound educational institutions and well-equipped hospitals; and b) exact a high degree of efficiency before conferring upon a candidate a license to practice medicine
  • Department of Dentistry: An increase in admissions standards to bring them in line with the College, Department of Law and Department of Medicine; more laboratory instructors
  • Department of Veterinary Medicine: Endowment or direct contributions for support so that the undivided time and energy of the members of the faculty may be employed in the department.
  • Library: An endowment (fixed income) to provide for its annual requirements. (The total income from investments that year was $1,500; they wanted it to be $15,000). Those requirements were: good administration with capable experts in each branch; and regular addition of every book needed by students and teachers in all fields of instruction at the University. Also, they wanted to maintain and increase the Publication Fund to add books, pamphlets, theses, periodicals, etc.
  • Hospital: More clinical material (patients) for the medical students; an increase in the endowment of free beds and gifts for current expenses.
  • College: Endowment to cover its deficit. The reason there was a deficit, according to Dean of the College Faculty Josiah H. Penniman, " student in a College of grade similar to ours can be charged for tuition a sum equal to his share of the cost of providing the courses of instruction."
  • Department of Philosophy: Adequate endowment to add instruction in subjects not being covered and to relieve overburdened teachers.

 This sketch appeared in the Philadelphia Times on December 21, 1899. Daniel Baugh, who presided over the evening presentation, was the President of the Board of Managers of the Department of Archaeology and Palaeontology.


Honors & Other Things

  • During that year, Assistant Professor Emory R. Johnson was a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission, and was selected by President McKinley to study and report on the prospective economic results of the opening of such a canal. (The canal, of course, was opened, and the U.S. has just returned it to Panama.)
  • As stated in the Provost's Report: "When the question of the good government of our recently acquired territory came up, the President appointed Assistant Professor L.S. Rowe one of the Commissioners to prepare a code of laws for Porto [sic] Rico, and Professor M.G. Brumbaugh Commissioner of Education for that island."
  • A Women's Club was formed that year for women students in the College, the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Law. The goals of the club were the development of University spirit, the promotion of athletics for women and lecture courses by prominent educators.



Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 16, January 11, 2000

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