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Student Life in the Late 1800s

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 19th, 2013

In honor of the first day of class, today’s post showcases WVRHC collections of student materials from decades past.  One highlight of our collections is a diary of Everett Crittenden Smith, West Virginia University class of 1877, regarding his experiences as a WVU student in 1874 (A&M 5125).  He recorded his academic activities as well as his participation in a literary society, the military cadets, and the Methodist Episcopal Church.  While we do not have a diary entry from his first day of class, we do have his thoughts on the beginning of his second semester.  An excerpt from his entry of January 3, 1874 reads:

“Some persons may think that loafing is a fine business; but I think too much of a good thing is not much better than none at all.  This is Saturday.  School commences next Wednesday.  I might go to studying now, but, Pshaw! what is the use of studying when you don’t have to do so. –well there may be, (in fact I think there is,) a great deal of use in doing so, but I don’t do it.”

Want to learn more about E.C. Smith and his life at WVU 139 years ago?  Stop by the WVRHC, on the sixth floor of the Downtown Library Complex.

WVRHC also has photo albums from WVU student Leonard S. Hall, ca. 1895-1900 (A&M 5164).  Hall was a member of the class of 1900 and most likely a resident of Episcopal Hall.  The albums contain images of WVU campus, students, and the surrounding area.

This humorous group portrait shows the students and staff at Episcopal Hall, a dormitory sponsored by the Episcopal Church to house young men bound for ministry as well as other responsible University gentlemen.

Young man standing in his room at WVU

Interior photographs from this period are less common than portraits. This photo shows a student-athlete in his dorm room (probably in Episcopal Hall).

This photo shows the muddy, helmet-optional state of turn-of-the-century WVU football games

This photo shows the muddy, helmet-optional state of turn-of-the-century WVU football games.

To see more digitized images from Hall’s photo albums, click here.

Blog entry by Jane Metters.

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