In the fall of 1835, Cyrus Richards was 27 years old and had been hired that summer as the fourth principal of Kimball Union. At that time, the Academy was prosperous with a growing enrollment for an academic year of three terms, one of them being held in the summer. Many students were unable, either financially or because their help was needed at home, to complete a full year of study; some came for one or two terms only. The catalogue (shown above) lists the students’ names who attended over the year making it impossible to know how many were here each term. However, we do know that in Richards’ first year, there were 123 men listed in the Classical Department with 23 of them having “having fitted for college last year.” The English Department lists 74 men, but twenty-five women are listed separately under the heading Ladies Department and presumably studied English as five of them have asterisks after their names to indicate that they had studied in the Classical Department.
From the following list of textbooks it appears that the English Department included everything but Latin and Greek: “Porter’s Rhetorical Reader; Smith’s English Grammar; Malte Brun’s Geography, Goodrich’s History of the United States; Adam’s New Arithmetic; Hitchcock’s Book-keeping; Day’s Algebra, Playfair’s Euclid; Flint’s Surveying; Blake’s Astronomy or Geography of the Heavens; Comstock’s Natural Philosophy; Comstock’s Chemistry; Mrs. Lincoln’s Botany; Watts on the Mind; Abercrombie’s Intellectual Philosophy; Abercrombie’s Moral Philosophy; Webster’s Dictionary.”
In the Classical Department, they studied: “Adam’s Latin Grammar; Jacob’s Latin Reader; Viri Romae; New Latin Tutor; Folsom’s Cicero; Anthon’s Sallust; Cooper’s Virgil; Ainsworth’s Latin Dictionary; Adams’ Roman Antiquities; Fisk’s Greek Grammar; Goodrich’s Greek Lessons; Jacobs’ Greek Reader; Greek Testament; Fisk’s Greek Exercises; Cleaveland’s Greek Antiquities; Donnegan’s Greek Lexicon.”
The tuition, to be paid in advance, was based on each department and the number of terms attended by a student. The classical students paid $12 per year or for the fall and spring terms, $4.25 each and $3.50 for the summer term. The English students paid $9 per year or for fall and spring, $3.25 each, summer $2.50. Besides their tuition, students paid for their “Board, in families, including Room-rent and Washing, $1.50; in Clubs, &c. varying from 75 cents to $1.25; Library free of charge.”
It’s hard to imagine where all these students found lodging in Meriden; fortunately many local people were happy to earn a few extra dollars and opened their homes to them. That year at least 35 different boarding locations were found. From our collection of student letters we know that some fared better than others in the choice and amount of food they were served. Horace Wood, class of 1833, boarded a half mile from the school and wrote home that he was served the following: “… 18 Tuesday evening, we had this morning for breakfast roasted potatoes & butter, for dinner wheat & butter, for supper & warm Indian cak & butter 19 Wednesday, for breakfast we had boiled potatoes & butter, for dinner bread & butter, & for supper warm cake & milk….” Some students were able to form clubs where they prepared their own meals and fared a little better. The greatest number of students, 28 men and five women, boarded at the Temperance House, a hotel built c. 1818 by John Bryant on the site of the present Dexter Richards Hall. The Kimball Mansion, home to Hannah Kimball, housed 14 men and KUA’s own Academy Hall (the Second Academy) was home, on the second floor, to 9 men.
That year there were 12 trustees of whom eight were ministers. Many years later, Richards described the school as having an excellent reputation in 1836, but he had felt that it was important “to make immediate and material changes … particularly to raise the standard of preparation for college, so as to put the institution abreast of the best fitting schools in New England.” He felt that many of the trustees and ministers used their influence of “patronage and vicinity” and “seemed not to be aware that the literary world had moved since they fitted for college, some twenty-five or thirty years before.” He did conclude that his effort was sustained by the “more progressive element found in the Board … among the ministers and in the community.” The first of the far reaching changes for KUA came through Hannah Kimball’s bequest of $10,000 for a separate Female Seminary. Women had attended KUA from the opening day, but they didn’t enjoy all the same privileges as men. Hannah, who had been a teacher before marriage, had shared her husband’s dream of founding an Academy; it is not surprising that a few years after Richards’ appointment as principal, she set about to further this same dream for women.
Next Time: Hannah Kimball: the corner stone for her Female Seminary was laid on May 8, 1839.