1866: Laying of the Cornerstone of College Hall


"In accordance with a time-honored custom, we propose to deposit in this most eastern corner of the center building a corner-stone, containing a receptacle, to be tightly enclosed, in which we live, to the end that when, centuries hence, these massive walls shall be demolished or rebuilt, the antiquarian who with eager curiosity shall explore our work, shall find something to add to that chain of facts by which men instinctively love to trace the progress of the ages. . . No one living can predict, except with the eye of faith, that future which shall become the present before the tokens which we now deposit are removed."

With these words of President Edward Parrish, the gathering of subscribers, board members and Friends witnessed the laying of the cornerstone of the new College Building of Swarthmore College.


"This occasion marks another step toward the organization of Swarthmore College, with a full corps of professors and teachers, and complete facilities for imparting sound and liberal learning, and it may be though appropriate that a concise statement should be given of the educational views which have influenced its originators.

1. We aim to educate the sexes together, each wing of our building will be separately allotted to one or the other, the collecting-room, dining-room, library and class-rooms are for their joint occupancy.

2. We shall propose a high grade of intellectual attainment for those who seek our diploma.

3. The relative importance to be attached in our College to the three main departments of Mathematics, Language, and Science has already been somewhat discussed a month those interested in its establishment." . . .

..."Yet I trust none of us will be disposed to undervalue those abstract studies which are so remarkable adapted to train the reasoning powers, nor language, the study of which, as a means of mental discipline, has been so long esteemed, and the importance of which, as an aid to the appreciation and expression of great truths, none will dispute.

It is a false idea of education which limits it to any one class of studies or degrades it to a mere utilitarian basis. Nothing is deserving the name which does not enlarge man's nature and fit him for the enjoyment of elevating thoughts and ideas out of the range of business. And yet there is no honorable pursuit in life for which a man is not better fitted by that accumulation of knowledge, that power of classifying facts and ideas and of deducing principles from them, which it is the object of a liberal education to impart.

We claim a higher mission for Swarthmore College than that of fitting men and women for business-it should fit them for life, with all its possibilities."...

(The Address of President Edward Parrish, 1866)

"The importance of this occasion, as inaugurating a work of such magnitude, and the feeling that it can only prosper through the favor of Omnipotence, led the company assembled to appropriate a few moments to solemn silence, during which, though no voice was raised, many hearts were drawn into earnest prayer that the Divine blessing may rest upon Swarthmore College, not only during its incipient stages, but throughout all the future that may be before it."

President Edward Parrish, 1866

"I see in this work the inception of a movement which is to prove, what has never yet been fully proven, although tried to some extent, that it is feasible and desirable to give to woman equal educational facilities with man, not in the earlier stages of education merely, but to carry them together, pari passu, to the heights of literature and science, and to prepare them alike to use to the best advantage, to themselves and the world, the talents with which they are endowed.

" How appropriate that the movement should take place among Friends, who recognize more fully than others the equality of the sexes, and among whom it is not considered 'a shame for a woman to speak in the church.'" He goes on to describe the feeling about women's education in Boston until 1780, when " it was not deemed necessary to give girls the benefit of public school instruction till 1780, that from 1780 until 1820 they were allowed to occupy in the grammar schools the vacant seats of the boys in summer only, and that until 1852 no high school for girls was established here (Boston), except one which lived for but two years. . . . "

"It must not be allowed to make one-sided men and women, cultivating only such faculties as are already, perhaps, too prominent, and need repression instead of cultivation; but its course of studies should be so arranged as to provide a broad and generous culture for all, whatever their career in life may be destined to be."

From Edward H. Magill, Boston

"I trust that the institution will be founded on the immutable principles of truth and love, and that it will be a blessing to the youth of our Society, and others who may share in its benefits, not only in our day, but in future generations."

". . .we should bear in mind that the treasures of literature and science are far more valuable and enduring, for in these are contained the elements of all improvement in the arts that minister to individual comfort or national greatness."

" It is the purpose of our higher schools and colleges to place within the reach of the student the stores of knowledge accumulated by the wise and good of former ages, and to assist in developing the intellectual powers and moral principles."

" In executing this great trust, the teacher of youth should ever remember that the development of the intellect, though highly important, is of far less value than the cultivation of moral excellence, and that the benign principles of christianity can alone secure happiness here and prepare the soul for eternal felicity hereafter."

From Samuel M. Janney, of Loudon County, Virginia


Text prepared by Beth Bartle
Last update: 5/31/02