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1. ONE

University's First Century

Thomas Jefferson's version of a great university founded
on educational principles never before applied on this
continent became a reality when the University of Virginia
opened its doors in 1825. He had struggled toward this end
for almost half a century and had surmounted tremendous
personal, political, and financial obstacles.

With his many-sided genius, Jefferson had not only created
an institution that was unique but had also provided it with a
classical group of buildings that has evoked the admiration of
the world. The Rotunda, modeled after the Roman Pantheon,
stands majestically at the head of the rectangular Lawn, a
lovely stretch of green bordered by towering trees. GrecoRoman
pavilions and colonnades, with variances inspired by
the great Italian architect Palladio, furnish an enchanting ensemble.
If Jefferson were to return to earth, he would find
his stunning "academical village" almost exactly as it was in
his day.

Massachusetts-born historian Herbert Baxter Adams has
termed the founding of this center of learning "the noblest
work of Jefferson's life." Jefferson himself chose it as one of
only three achievements that he wanted cited on his tomb, the
others being his authorship of the Declaration of Independence
and of the Virginia statute for religious freedom.

The University of Virginia quickly became the most admired
institution of higher education in the southern states,
and so remained throughout the nineteenth century. Innovations


Page 2
included a faculty composed mainly of professors
brought over from Europe, complete rejection of any organized
religion or theological dogma, a curriculum divided into
separate schools and offering courses in mathematics, sciences,
and modern languages, and a novel elective system.
The first degree was conferred in 1828. A successful student
who was not seeking a degree received a certificate of graduation
in the school or schools whose requirements he had completed.
No honorary degrees have ever been conferred.

The staggering problems that the founder confronted in
establishing the institution were compounded, soon after it
opened, by the riotous behavior of the students. These scions
of the southern aristocracy behaved like hooligans and almost
tore the place down, a fact that grieved and disappointed Jefferson
profoundly and actually reduced him to tears.

The situation that Jefferson encountered as he strove to
bring the university into existence was graphically described
by C. Waller Barrett in his Founder's Day address at the university
in 1973. Barrett pointed to the founder's "personal
woes, his desperate financial problems, physical disabilities
and heartbreaking family circumstances," and added that the
"Father of the University of Virginia," as he referred to himself
in the epitaph he composed, "had to purchase the land, to
plan the grounds and buildings, to supervise the construction,
to direct the engagement of professors, to devise the curriculum,
and finally to act as chief executive officer and also as
secretary, taking notes, writing the minutes, and compiling voluminous
reports for the authorities in Richmond." In the
words of an early historian of the University: "The thousand
and one matters that college presidents and boards of trustees
usually leave to professional architects and skilled labor, were
thought out and carefully specified" by the master of Monticello.

The university had its beginnings in the Albemarle Academy,
a classical school that had existed on paper since just
after the turn of the nineteenth century but never got into
actual operation. In 1814 Jefferson was chosen a trustee, and
he suggested that the school be expanded into an institution
of higher learning to be called Central College. The General
Assembly gave its approval. A Board of Visitors for Central
College was named; it included not only Jefferson but President


Page 3
James Monroe and former President James Madison.
Also on the board were Joseph Carrington Cabell and John
Hartwell Cocke, two of the remarkable men of that era without
whose aid the University of Virginia might never have
come into being. Cabell had entered the General Assembly at
the instigation of Jefferson and proved indefatigable in his
support of the latter's educational program. Like Jefferson, he
suffered at times from poor health, but he refused to lessen
his efforts. Cocke was the owner of Bremo, his family's ancestral
estate on the James River. His work in supervising the
building of the Rotunda, Lawn, and Ranges during Jefferson's
lifetime and after his death was vitally important. Cocke was
one of the most independent-minded men of his generation,
a staunch and outspoken foe of slavery and of dueling as well
as a pioneer advocate of abolishing alcoholic beverages. Pilgrims
along the James in the county of Fluvanna have long
noted his "temperance fountain" at Bremo near the river

Central College was carefully planned by Jefferson, its curriculum
outlined, its buildings designed. The cornerstone of
the first structure, Pavilion VII on the Lawn, today's Colonnade
Club, was laid in 1817, with Jefferson, Madison, and
Monroe in attendance.

Next came a bitter fight in the General Assembly by Cabell
and other spokesmen for Jefferson to establish a state university,
a move that was opposed by William and Mary alumni.
The college at Williamsburg had retrogressed markedly since
the pre-Revolutionary era and was described as "a decaying
institution." The bill to establish the university was finally
passed in 1818, but without specific designation of a site. A
board of twenty-four commissioners was to decide this question.
Lexington, Staunton, and Charlottesville contended for
the honor.

Jefferson and Madison were among the commissioners, and
Jefferson, who was chosen chairman, was anxious to have the
university located at Charlottesville. The group met in August
at Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge, with instructions not only
to choose a site but to plan the buildings and recommend the
courses to be taught, the number and kind of professorships,
and the administrative structure.

Since Central College buildings were already being constructed


Page 4
at Charlottesville, its claims carried particular weight.
Elaborate plans for the college had been drawn by Jefferson,
and, as noted, the cornerstone for the first building had been
laid. Washington College at Lexington made a determined effort
to win the contest, but its advocates could not quite
counter the arguments on behalf of Central College, especially
that it was obviously nearer the population center of the

The commissioners accordingly voted in favor of Charlottesville,
and their findings were conveyed to the state legislature.
Elements of that body continued to battle for another
location or to fight the whole idea of establishing a university.
But the University of Virginia's partisans finally won out, and
the institution was officially chartered Jan. 25, 1819. Jefferson's
great dream was on the way to realization.

A Literary Fund had been created by the General Assembly
in 1810, and more than a million dollars had accumulated.
The income was set aside for educational purposes, with
$45,000 designated annually for the schooling of poor children
and $15,000 for the establishment and support of a state
university. This $15,000 was now available. Such a sum was, of
course, far greater in purchasing power at that time, although
completely inadequate for the founding of a university. In addition,
over $40,000 had been raised toward the establishment
of Central College, which was prepared to dedicate this sum
to the new institution.

Plans for Central College were modified and expanded to
take account of the needs of a comprehensive university. Jefferson
was named rector, and he set about outlining the various
departments and courses and designing the additional
buildings. For the last-named task he obtained the advice of
two eminent architects, Benjamin H. Latrobe and Dr. William
Thornton, but in most respects the entire enterprise was virtually
a one-man operation. Here was exemplified once more
the versatility of Thomas Jefferson, who was able almost
singlehandedly to bring into being this institution embodying
novel and far-reaching educational and architectural concepts.

He spent countless hours on the grounds of the fledgling
university, and when he was not there in person he often
watched construction of the buildings from Monticello through

No Page Number

1. William Wertenbaker, fellow student of Edgar Allan Poe and
university librarian for over half a century.


Page 6
a spyglass. Special attention was given to the raising of the
serpentine walls, which he had doubtless seen in English gardens
and which Charles Fenton Mercer had on his estate near

A loan of $180,000 from the Literary Fund made possible
the erection of the pavilions, hotels, and student rooms along
the Lawn and Ranges. Completion of the Rotunda was financed
by a $50,000 appropriation of the General Assembly,
which also forgave the abovementioned loan. The Rotunda
was only partially finished in 1824, when the Revolutionary
hero the marquis de Lafayette was entertained there at an
elaborate dinner. It was completed not long thereafter.

The ensemble that then greeted the eye was termed by
Boston-born George Ticknor, a Harvard professor renowned
as a scholar and author on both sides of the Atlantic, as "a
mass of buildings more beautiful than anything architectural
in New England, and more appropriate to a university than
are to be found, perhaps in the world." Stanford White, the
noted New York architect who restored the Rotunda after the
fire of 1895, called the university's original structures the
"most perfect and exquisite group of collegiate buildings in
the world." And Dr. Ernst Beutler, director of the Goethe Museum
in Frankfurt, Germany, wrote, following a visit to this
country around the middle of the twentieth century: "Of the
university towns, those that fascinated me the most were the
ones which combine an atmosphere of learning with a natural
setting: Princeton, Ithaca, Madison, Bloomington, Ann Arbor,
and most beautiful of all, Charlottesville."

The university finally opened its doors in March 1825 after
various delays. The entering class numbered only about 40
students, a figure that would rise to 116 by the end of the
year—far fewer than had been expected. Efforts to obtain several
distinguished Americans for the faculty had failed, and
Francis Walker Gilmer, a young native of Albemarle whom
Jefferson termed "the best-educated subject we have raised
since the Revolution," had been sent to England and Scotland
to round up a teaching staff. He managed to engage five talented
young men and to get them across the ocean in time for
classes to begin.

They were George Long, who would occupy the chair of
ancient languages, and Thomas H. Key, mathematics, both


Page 7
from Cambridge University; Robley Dunglison, with a wide
reputation as a writer on medical subjects, who would instruct
in medicine; Charles Bonnycastle, son of a noted mathematician,
to occupy the chair of natural philosophy; and George
Blaettermann, a German living in England, modern languages.
John P. Emmet, a native of Ireland and nephew of the
famous Irish patriot Robert Emmet, was brought from
Charleston, S.C., to give courses in natural philosophy.

Dr. Robley Dunglison was "the first full-time professor of
medicine in an American university," and a novel feature of
his contract, unheard of at the time in America, was the restriction
of his practice outside the university to consultation,
Dr. Wilhelm Moll, director of the university's health sciences
laboratory, wrote in the Virginia Medical Monthly. Another innovation
under Dunglison was his decision to issue medical
diplomas in English rather than Latin so that they "may be
intelligible to everyone."

Seven of the eight chairs had been filled when the university
opened in 1825, only that of law being vacant. It was felt that
law and moral philosophy, or ethics, ought to be taught by
Americans. The brilliant and versatile William Wirt, then attorney
general of the United States and chief prosecutor of
Aaron Burr at his trial for treason in 1807, was offered the
professorship of law, along with the presidency of the university.
Jefferson had not contemplated electing anyone president
of the institution, since he preferred a chairman of the faculty,
but in order to get Wirt it was felt necessary to offer him the
two positions. He declined, and the university continued to
operate for the rest of the century with a rotating chairman of
the faculty. During that period it was the only college or university
of stature in the United States that functioned under
this system.

When Wirt was found to be unavailable, John T. Lomax, a
well-known Fredericksburg attorney, was chosen professor of
law. The chair of moral philosophy was tendered to George
Tucker, member of Congress and distinguished author in the
field of both fiction and finance. Tucker, decidedly the eldest,
was named the first chairman.

It has frequently been stated that Jefferson was unwilling to
allow the law students even to study the doctrines of the hated
Federalists and that no textbooks setting forth those doctrines


Page 8
were allowed. Such was, indeed, Jefferson's desire, but at the
instigation of Madison the plan was modified for the better.
The Federalist Papers were accordingly included. Also there
was no restriction on the use of additional books.

Jefferson invited all the students in the university to dine
with him in small groups on his mountaintop. One who entered
about a year after the institution opened, and remained
only about ten months, was Edgar Allan Poe, who is presumed
to have sat at Jefferson's table. Poe's record as a student was by
no means as lurid as is commonly supposed. Although he incurred
heavy gambling debts, in part because his foster father,
John Allan, refused to furnish him with enough funds to meet
his minimum expenses, the amount of his drinking, then and
later, is authoritatively stated to have been exaggerated. He
made an excellent scholastic record at the university and was
not in trouble at any time with the authorities, in contrast to
the riotous behavior of many others enrolled there.

Jefferson had worked out a plan for student self-government
for he believed that young men from the best families
could be counted on to govern themselves and remain reasonably
well-behaved. He was promptly disillusioned. It was
an age when youth was in rebellion against authority, in both
North and South. Riots on college campuses were frequent,
and the institution at Charlottesville was no exception.

Many of the young men there apparently had been accustomed
at home to carrying firearms and to drinking and gambling.
Given almost complete freedom at the university, they
soon became disorderly. Several times during that first summer
there were "vicious irregularities," as Jefferson phrased it,
and then in the early autumn almost unbelievable rowdyism

"Down with the European professors!" was the cry of a
crowd of masked students gathered on the Lawn after dark.
Professors Emmet and Tucker went to investigate the uproar.
Emmet seized hold of a counterpane in which one student had
wrapped himself, whereupon another student threw a brick
at him. Tucker was attacked with a cane, and vulgar abuse was
hurled at the two professors amid loud and derisive howls. As
if this were not enough, sixty-five students signed a resolution
next day sharply assailing Emmet and Tucker for daring to lay


Page 9
hands on the bedraped student! Not surprisingly, the faculty
announced that if effective policing were not put into effect at
once, they would all resign.

On Jefferson's recommendation, the Board of Visitors accordingly
adopted extremely strict regulations, and the students
most seriously involved in the riot were expelled. The
visitors ordered every student to retire to his room at 9 o'clock
each night and to rise with the dawn and eat breakfast by candlelight.
All had to wear an officially prescribed dull gray uniform.
Gambling, smoking, and drinking were forbidden, and
students were required to deposit all their funds with the
proctor, who could dole out small sums according to his

These draconian rules were deeply resented, but things remained
relatively quiet until 1831, when another riot occurred.
Then in 1836 still worse disorder broke out. Many
windows in the pavilions were smashed with stones and sticks,
there was much firing of muskets under the arcades, and the
uneasy professors armed themselves and fled with their families
to the upper floors. Two years later, in another outburst,
the pavilion of Prof. William Barton Rogers was attacked,
many windows were broken, and the door was battered down.
The following year Prof. Gessner Harrison, chairman of the
faculty, was assaulted by two students and horsewhipped while
at least one hundred other students looked on and did nothing
to stop the outrage.

But the climactic atrocity occurred in 1840. Two students
were firing shots and making an uproar on the Lawn, and
John A. G. Davis, chairman of the faculty and professor of
law, came out of his residence in Pavilion X to investigate. One
of the youths was masked; Davis approached him and tried to
remove the mask in order to identify him. The youth, Joseph
E. Semmes of Georgia, drew a pistol and shot Davis, wounding
him fatally. Semmes was apprehended, and while awaiting
trial was released on $25,000 bail. He disappeared and is said
to have committed suicide.

The murder of the faculty's admired chairman sent shock
waves throughout the state and beyond. It had the effect of
bringing the university students at least temporarily to their
senses, and while there were other disorders, the number of


Page 10
such episodes tended to diminish with the years. Moreover,
the Honor System was introduced in 1842, and its success was
in part due to the new and more serious mood.

Henry St. George Tucker, a distinguished judge, was appointed
professor of law to succeed the slain Davis. Judge
Tucker soon became aware of the rankling resentment engendered
by the uniform and early rising regulations, which were
still in effect. He took a leading role in obtaining revocation of
the obnoxious rules. He also noted the atmosphere of suspicion
surrounding examinations, during which faculty members
watched the young men closely to prevent cheating.
Tucker accordingly recommended that each student be required
to sign a statement that he had received no assistance.
This was done, and the declaration was expanded later to include
a pledge that no assistance had been given to anyone
else. Members of the faculty continued to keep watch in the
examination room, but this surveillance was lifted gradually.
After the Civil War the Honor System as it is known today
came into being, with the students in full control and without
faculty supervision or participation.

At both ends of the two Ranges, and in the middle of each,
was a structure called a "hotel," larger than the adjacent rooms
for students. In these buildings, which are used today for
other purposes, the students had their meals. During the first
half-dozen years after the university opened, the food is said
to have been satisfactory, but then came fervent complaints
that the menus were lacking in variety and the cooking execrable.
The boys vented their ire by throwing rolls at each
other in the dining room and engaging in other forms of disorder.
The hotelkeepers, for their part, stated that their
charge for the meals, fixed by the university, was so low that
they could not afford any better fare. In 1849 the General
Assembly decreed that meals for students should be free of
charge and paid for by the state, but this legislation was repealed
seven years later.

Until 1857, when a small infirmary was built, there were no
facilities for caring for ill students, and the ailing undergraduate
had to "tough it out" in his room, with only an occasional
visit from a physician and such care as a black servant could
give. A typhoid epidemic broke out in 1829, and a score of
students came down with the malady and several died. The

No Page Number

2. Gen. John Hartwell Cocke, one of Jefferson's coadjutors in
launching the university. From an 1850 daguerreotype.


Page 12
university closed for over two months. Another typhoid outbreak
in the 1850s took twenty lives, and still another in 1875
took five more.

The excessive amount of drinking and accompanying rowdyism
in this and other colleges in that era of wide-open taverns
was disturbing. Several faculty members at the university
joined with John H. Cocke of Bremo, who favored universal
prohibition, in founding a temperance society and launching
a temperance movement. Episcopalians were foremost in this
antebellum attempt to reduce the consumption of alcohol.
John A. G. Davis was one of the leaders, as was John B. Minor,
who succeeded Judge Tucker as professor of law at the session
of 1845-46. William Wertenbaker, the university's librarian
for more than half a century, was an ardent participant in the
movement. So was William Holmes McGuffey, nationally
known for his McGuffey readers, who joined the faculty in
1845 and remained until his death in 1873. William Barton
Rogers, later the principal founder and first president of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was another strong

The foes of inebriety succeeded during the middle fifties in
constructing Temperance Hall at what is now "the Corner," as
a symbol of their determination. Meetings of the temperance
forces, both faculty and students, were held there.

The Jefferson Society, the only such organization in the institution
tracing its origins back to 1825, was devoted to oratorical
pursuits. Yet its elections in the antebellum era were
accompanied by "such turbulence as to degrade the reputation
of the University," the faculty declared. The man chosen
student orator for the 1858 finals received four challenges to
duels the night of the balloting and two more the next day.

The Washington Literary Society was established ten years
after the Jefferson Society. However, the university authorities
forbade both organizations to hold celebrations on the birthdays
of Washington and Jefferson, respectively, apparently for
fear that political controversy would thereby be aroused.

Although the university had been founded on the principle
of complete separation of church and state, it was not intended
that all religion be discouraged. On the contrary, Jefferson
set aside a room in the Rotunda for religious services,


Page 13
and in 1832 the students initiated a movement, with approval
of the faculty and visitors, to raise funds for the employment
of a chaplain. Within two years the effort was successful, and
the chaplaincy was made permanent. The occupant of the
post was elected annually by the faculty, with the Episcopalians,
Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists furnishing the
chaplain in rotation. While it was deemed improper for him
to have an official connection with the institution (his salary
was paid with private funds), the abovementioned room in the
Rotunda was used by him as a chapel. In 1855 a parsonage
was erected below the south end of the Lawn.

No clergyman was employed on the university faculty in the
early years, for Thomas Jefferson was firmly opposed to any
such direct denominational relationship. It was not until the
Reverend William Holmes McGuffey, a Presbyterian, joined
the teaching staff in 1845 as professor of moral philosophy
that this principle was breached. The presence on the faculty
of "Old Guff," as he was called by the students, tended to
counteract the impression that the university was an "infidel

A religious milestone was reached in 1858 when the Young
Men's Christian Association was founded. The Reverend Dabney
Carr Harrison, the beloved university chaplain who would
die soon afterward in the Civil War, is credited with the major
share of responsibility for the success of this endeavor. The
University of Virginia YMCA appears to be the oldest college
"Y" in the world. This is disputed by the University of Michigan,
which founded a students' Christian Association a few
months before the organization at Charlottesville was established.
But the Michigan association declined to become a
branch of the YMCA, so it would seem that Virginia's claim is

The first degree offered at the university was that of Doctor
of Medicine, granted as early as 1828. In 1831 the Master of
Arts was made available. It required completion of the schools
of mathematics, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, ancient
languages, and chemistry. Two modern languages were added
to this list in 1833. It was a rigidly prescribed curriculum and
in total conflict with Jefferson's elective system. In 1840 the
Bachelor of Laws degree was offered, and in 1848 the Bachelor


Page 14
of Arts. However, the B.A. was not a prerequisite to the
M.A., which was widely regarded as among the nation's top
academic awards until the end of the nineteenth century.

An examination in English grammar and spelling had to be
passed before graduation could take place in any of the
schools. However, no courses in English composition or English
literature were provided until shortly before the Civil
War, in accordance with the prevailing practice in many preparatory
schools and colleges. There was great concentration
on Latin and Greek literature, as well as on the literatures of
France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. But the works of such English
writers as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton seem to
have been completely ignored in the classes at the university,
along with those of all American writers. The works of some
of them were available in the library. Many of the students
were deeply devoted to the poetry of Lord Byron, while the
poems of Thomas Campbell and Thomas Moore also had
loyal partisans. Although Sir Walter Scott enjoyed great popularity
at the period, he appears not to have had a comparable
group of admirers at the university.

Recognizing the dearth of instruction in English composition,
a group of students launched a magazine in 1838 called
The Collegian. It lasted for only four years, but in 1849 the
University Magazine performed a similar function. It would
continue to appear down the years to the present, under a
variety of names.

A professor, in the beginning, received a free residence in
one of the Lawn pavilions and a salary of $1,500, plus a $25
fee for each of his students. Some classes were large, and those
teachers enjoyed substantial incomes from fees, while others
with smaller classes were not so well situated. This caused unhappiness,
and in 1850 the fee system was finally abandoned
in favor of a flat annual salary of $3,000 for all.

There were other problems with the professors, in addition
to those involving compensation. For example, the Germanborn
Blaettermann was arbitrary, temperamental, and apparently
endowed with a Prussian personality. He engaged in
heated altercations with his students, and his lectures were interrupted
by loud noises emanating from various parts of the
classroom. On one occasion, Blaettermann knocked a student's
hat off, and the latter punched the professor repeatedly.


Page 15
Blaettermann's relations with his wife were equally hectic and
unconventional, for he was given to cowhiding her both in
private and in public. Blaettermann was finally dismissed by
unanimous vote of the Visitors.

His place was filled by Charles Kraitsir, a Hungarian, who,
like Blaettermann, was a wizard with modern languages. But
Kraitsir's lectures were unpopular, his fees fell off in consequence,
and he was unhappy; at the same time, his colleagues
on the faculty were disappointed with his performance as a
teacher. On top of all else, his wife, a powerful woman, was in
the habit of beating him and turning him out of the house in
the middle of the night. Kraitsir was dropped from the faculty.
He complained: "The Board of Visitors . . . was hard to
please. They kicked Dr. Blaettermann out because he had
whipped his wife, and they have kicked me out because I have
been whipped by my wife. What did they really want?"

A more fortunate acquisition for the teaching staff was that
of the brilliant Basil L. Gildersleeve, who joined the faculty as
professor of Greek in 1856 and became one of the great scholars
in that language. He was also widely recognized as the author
of Latin grammars and readers. The swarthy, heavily
bearded Gildersleeve served in the Confederate army, was severely
wounded, and limped for the rest of his life. Although
he returned to the university after the war, he joined the faculty
of the newly formed John Hopkins University in 1876,
where he made an international reputation.

Gildersleeve had succeeded Gessner Harrison as professor
of Greek at the university. Harrison, who joined the teaching
staff at age twenty-one as professor of both Latin and Greek,
taught only Latin after the coming of Gildersleeve. He, too,
was a noted classical scholar and was chosen chairman of the
faculty five times. Upon his retirement, the faculty in a formal
resolution said that he had "done more than any other man
for the cause of education and sound learning in his native
state." Harrison was extremely devout, and he and his brother,
as students, declined Thomas Jefferson's invitation to Sunday
dinner at Monticello on the ground that it would be a desecration
of the Sabbath.

A picturesque addition to the university faculty was Maximilian
Rudolph Schele de Vere, who succeeded Kraitsir as
professor of modern languages and remained for more than


Page 16
fifty years. He was born in a castle in Sweden and moved to
south Germany, where his father commanded a fortress near
the Polish border. "Old Schele" was in the diplomatic service
before coming to America. His knowledge of half a dozen languages
was astonishing and his capacity as an instructor exceptional.
As he strolled the Lawn with his silk hat in winter
and his expensive straw in summer, he set the fashion for students
and faculty alike.

Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson, with a spectacular
record in the Mexican war, was an applicant for the chair of
mathematics at the university in the mid-nineteenth century.
The chair had become vacant with the retirement of Prof. Edward
H. Courtenay, who had served as faculty chairman and
was a much admired teacher. Albert Taylor Bledsoe, whose
record as a mathematician was much more impressive than
Jackson's, received the appointment. Bledsoe was said to have
found the answer to a mathematical problem of Archimedes
that nobody else had been able to solve. After seven years on
the university faculty he entered the Confederate service and
was appointed assistant secretary of war. Following the surrender
at Appomattox he devoted his undoubtedly great talents
to fighting again the cause of the South in a weary round
of books and magazine articles in which he took the ultrareactionary
position on every issue.

One of the most distinguished of all the faculty members at
the university was James Lawrence Cabell, who joined the staff
in 1837 as professor of anatomy and surgery, to remain until
his death in 1889. A nephew of Joseph C. Cabell, who rendered
such indispensable aid to Jefferson as a member of the
General Assembly, he revealed a great capacity for original
inquiry. Cabell was ahead of Charles Darwin in publishing a
work that recognized the theory of evolution, for his Testimony
to the Unity of Mankind
appeared several months before Darwin's
Origin of Species. He also anticipated by many years Hugo
de Vries's theory of mutations. Far-reaching as were these discoveries,
Cabell is honored even more for his pioneering work
in the field of public health. He was the organizer and first
president of the National Board of Health and also president
of the American Public Health Association.

The Davis family has had an almost continuous connection
with the university since 1830. In that year John A. G. Davis

No Page Number

3. Edgar Allan Poe's room as it looks today, with furniture of the period.


Page 18
was named professor of law. His son, John Staige Davis, was
extremely precocious and became a University of Virginia
Master of Arts at fifteen and a Doctor of Medicine at sixteen.
In 1847 young Davis joined the medical staff as a demonstrator
of anatomy under Dr. Cabell and remained there as a
beloved faculty member until his death in 1885. He was succeeded
on the medical faculty a few years later by his son,
another much admired John Staige Davis. The next of that
name, grandson of the original bearer, was graduated from
the medical school in the 1920s and became a prominent private
practitioner in New York. His son, John Staige Davis IV,
is now an able member of the medical faculty.

Another important teacher in the medical school before,
during, and after the Civil War was Socrates Maupin, whose
chair was chemistry and pharmacy. Highly respected, Maupin
served as chairman of the faculty from 1854 until the end of
the Civil War. He had great administrative ability, and the faculty
credited him with doing more than anyone else to keep
the university functioning during the war and immediately
thereafter. He was fatally injured in Lynchburg in 1871, when
a horse ran away and threw him out of the carriage in which
he was riding.

One of the extraordinary members of the university's teaching
staff was George Frederick Holmes, a British citizen
throughout his life, and an encyclopedic scholar. Holmes
joined the faculty in 1857, after serving as professor at Richmond
College and the College of William and Mary and as the
first president of the University of Mississippi, all before he
was thirty years old. Resigning from the last-named post, he
lived for nine years in southwest Virginia, farming and contributing
learned articles to leading periodicals. He was called
to occupy a new chair of history and literature at the University
of Virginia. For the first time, thanks to Holmes, students
at the University of Virginia were drilled in composition and
introduced to the beauties of English literature. "Daddy"
Holmes, as he was known in his latter years, remained on the
faculty until the 1890s, recognized as a prodigy of knowledge
in many fields.

In the early days of the university's history, about two-thirds
of the students were dropped at the end of their first year for


Page 19
failure to meet scholastic requirements or for flagrant violation
of the regulations. Approximately as many were usually
eliminated after the first session in the years immediately following
the Civil War.

The boys rightly resented the early-rising rules, which remained
in effect for nearly two decades, but disregard of these
requirements was less frequent than might be imagined. And
it is hardly surprising that the students' rooms along the Lawn
and Ranges were often in a disordered state, that the simple
furniture was knocked about, or that tobacco juice stained the
walls at times.

A black slave, hired by the hotelkeeper responsible for each
group of rooms, entered the apartment at about 6 A.M. daily,
bearing a pitcher of water, often at near-freezing temperatures.
He started the fire in the grate and cleaned the shoes.
After the student had dressed in great haste and hurried to
breakfast by candlelight in the nearby hotel, the slave made
up the beds, swept the floor, and carried out the ashes. In
winter he brought wood for the fireplace and in summer ice.
Candles were the only form of illumination in the rooms and
elsewhere until about 1838, when oil lamps came into vogue.

The dress of the students in those far off days was astonishing
by modern standards. Frock or swallowtail coats were the
prevailing mode, while "the more daring wore their calico
study gowns to lecture as well as to meals," said Frederick W.
Page, writing concerning the sartorial situation as of 1843.

Diversions were bucolic and uninspiring by today's criteria.
Classes lasted from 7:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., which left little time
for much else, especially since early rising and in-the-roomby-9
P.M. requirements continued until the mid-1840s. An
athletic instructor, with primitive facilities, taught boxing,
fencing, and quarter-staff, or single stick. Instruction was
given in two low structures with flat roofs adjoining the basement
of the Rotunda on the east and west. Intercollegiate
sports were, of course, unknown.

In the 1850s a Pole named J. E. D'Alfonce operated a gymnasium
for the students in which he put them through various
exercises on parallel bars, ladders, and ropes. Authority for
construction of a new gymnasium, at the modest cost of
$1,500, was granted in 1857 by the Board of Visitors. The


Page 20
edifice thus erected was termed by the student magazine "a
mere apology for a gymnasium."

Walks in the country on Sunday, the only free day, provided
one form of relaxation for the young men. Playing of musical
instruments was indulged in, but this was forbidden during
class hours and on Sunday. By special dispensation, the boys
were allowed to go to Charlottesville on the Sabbath, where
they could even attend parties. Neither horses nor dogs could
be kept by the students, nor were cockfights allowed, but the
last-named form of divertissement was sometimes engaged in
surreptitiously. Pitching quoits and the game of marbles had
numerous adherents, but quoits too was forbidden on Sunday.
Skating in winter on the pond near the site of the present
university chapel was enjoyed when the ice was sufficiently

It should be emphasized that bacchanalian revels were not
the regular order of the day or night and that these occurred
mainly on special occasions and at fairly wide intervals. In the
1850s those who were found to be transgressing heinously
were given the alternative of signing the pledge with the Temperance
Society or being expelled. Many chose the former option.

In the decade before the Civil War students were often
caught up in such religious activities as the Bible classes taught
by Professor McGuffey, and they also did missionary work in
the Ragged Mountains.

During the same period eleven Greek letter fraternities established
themselves at the university. Delta Kappa Epsilon,
founded in 1852, was the first; it had originated at Yale some
years before. The others were Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Kappa
Sigma, Beta Theta Pi, Chi Phi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Phi
Gamma Delta, Delta Psi, Theta Delta Chi, Delta Kappa, and
Kappa Alpha. The fraternities existed primarily for social
purposes and promotion of close ties between the members.
Various others established chapters in later years.

Dancing classes were provided by private instructors almost
throughout the university's antebellum existence, but no student
could take lessons more than three times a week lest they
interfere with his studies. Cotillions were held in the hall of
the Jefferson Society and also at the Eagle Tavern in town. As
relations with the professors improved, they gave balls for the


Page 21
students. Furthermore, each professor, as a gesture of good
will, provided an annual supper for the members of his

During the years when the obnoxious uniform and earlyrising
rules held sway, the boys couldn't even have "a little
chicken supper" in their rooms without permission from the
chairman of the faculty. But with the elimination of these restrictions,
it became possible for the students to have meals in
their quarters, provided there was no liquor.

An amusing extracurricular feature was the annual ceremony
on the Lawn held by what was named the "Ugly Club."
It involved selection of the "ugliest man" in the student body,
as well as the "prettiest man" and the "vainest man." The "ugliest
man" had to accept his prize of a $15 pair of boots with
an appropriately humorous speech.

"Laughing-Gas Day" was another yearly event on the Lawn.
The professor of chemistry provided the gas and administered
it to a previously selected victim. The latter thereupon
went into a series of extraordinary antics, laughing hysterically
and otherwise making a spectacle of himself. In fact, one
student was so overcome that he engaged in what was termed
improper behavior, and Laughing-Gas Day was discontinued.

The "dyke" and the "calathump" were forms of student diversion
during these years which continued into the era immediately
following the war. The dyke was a concerted effort
on the part of students to embarrass any fellow collegian who
was found to be en route to a rendezvous with his fair one. On
such occasions, all the noisemaking apparatus that could be
assembled, such as drums, horns, whistles, and coal scuttles
belabored with pokers, was brought into action. The shouting
and screeching crowd surrounded the young man and accompanied
him as far as his ladylove's door. If it was at night, the
participants in the dyke carried improvised torches. Often the
youth was required to make a few brief remarks to the assembled
multitude before he was permitted to enter the home
of his inamorata. At times the mob lay in wait until he
emerged, whereupon it greeted him again with raucous din
and ear-splitting cacophony.

A calathump was another form of frolic in the midnineteenth
century and after. It began innocently enough
with the formation of a college band known as the Calathumpians,


Page 22
who serenaded the professors on the Lawn. But a disorderly
element got control, and there was not only a great
deal of noise but in 1845 the Calathumpians launched a prolonged
disturbance during which they smashed blinds and
windows on the professors' pavilions and even damaged the
Rotunda. This particular riot was so violent that the university
authorities called out the militia, which calmed the situation,
at least temporarily.

The university's prestige was so impaired throughout Virginia
and beyond by these disorders, and the earlier murder
of Professor Davis, that a group of prominent alumni issued
a statement designed to put the situation at the institution in
perspective. They pointed to the training of innumerable
young men by the university, men who had taken positions of
leadership, and emphasized that it was not a place for educating
just the sons of the rich since many students were having
to work their way through. The alumni also protested the
small size of the annual state appropriation to the institution,
still only $15,000, and the low scale of professors' salaries.
They noted that one of their group, while a student at Harvard,
had witnessed an assault by his fellow collegians on a
regiment of militia. Evidently such behavior was by no means
limited to students at the University of Virginia.

By the session of 1846-47 things were more serene along
the Lawn and Ranges, and relations between the faculty and
the undergraduates were harmonious. Then in 1848-49 not
a single student was dismissed or suspended, and the conduct
of the young men was regarded as exceptionally good. Enrollment
was increasing rapidly and behavior of the undergraduates
seemed to improve in proportion. A few pranksters
climbed to the dome of the Rotunda in 1859 and remained
there for an hour, but no serious damage was done.

A notable event of this period was the jailing in 1852 of
John S. Mosby, a second-year student at the university, afterward
the famous Confederate partisan. Mosby shot a fellow
student in an altercation and was given a year in jail and a
$500 fine. He served some eight months, but there was doubt
that he had provoked the fight, and the wound he inflicted
was a slight one. Gov. Joseph Johnson accordingly pardoned

No Page Number

4. Gessner Harrison, chairman of the faculty, who was horsewhipped
by students in 1839.


Page 24
him and the General Assembly rescinded the fine. Mosby did
not return to the university but took up the practice of law.

The university's highest enrollment of the antebellum era,
and for many years thereafter, was 645, a figure reached during
the session of 1856-57. Practically all of these students
were from Virginia or other southern states. For various reasons
enrollment had more than quadrupled in ten years. Improved
behavior of the students gave the institution a better
reputation. The prosperity of the South during these years
enabled more parents to send their sons to college, and growing
animosity between the sections caused them to choose a
school below Mason and Dixon's line. Also, Charlottesville was
now accessible by rail. The extraordinary increase in enrollment
took place despite the fact that the university was one of
the country's most expensive centers of higher learning, even
more so than Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. The overall annual
cost of sending a student to Charlottesville in 1845 was estimated
at $332.

The increased matriculation at the university greatly overburdened
classrooms and other facilities. A committee accordingly
was appointed in 1850 to make recommendations. The
celebrated architect Robert Mills was retained, and he designed
an annex on the north side of the Rotunda, to include
lecture rooms, a large area for storage of apparatus, and a
public hall seating twelve hundred persons. It was conceded
by the architect that this structure would be out of harmony
with Jefferson's symmetrical design, but it was felt to be the
best solution for pressing problems. At the rear of the Rotunda
in 1850 was a portico, approached from the two sides
by long flights of stone steps. The steep bank below was covered
with Scotch broom. The portico was pulled down to
make way for the annex. Building operations were virtually
complete by 1853. Paul Balze's copy of Raphael's School of Athens
was purchased by alumni to adorn the wall behind the platform
in the public hall.

Erection of Dawson's Row just before the Civil War was
made possible by a bequest from Martin Dawson, a citizen of
Albemarle County, who left his farm to the university. Sale of
the property brought over $19,000, and this was used to construct
six modest boxlike structures for use as student dormitories.
They were known as Houses A, B, C, D, E, and F. Many


Page 25
years later the university found the money to add two columns
to the face of each, thus improving the row's appearance, and
to terrace the land in front and place a sidewalk there. Dawson's
Row was gradually torn down in the twentieth century to
make way for more essential facilities, including Clark Hall,
home for a time of the Law School. But it served a necessary
purpose over a long period.

Hostility between the North and the South was mounting in
the late 1850s, and the university faculty and students were
caught up in the rising tension. On the eve of the election of
1860, both the Washington and Jefferson societies voted overwhelmingly
that the southern states should secede if Lincoln
were elected. The students preferred Bell and Everett, the
Union Party candidates, in that election. A majority of the faculty
opposed secession at that time.

South Carolina withdrew from the Union in December, and
the students immediately formed two companies, the Sons of
Liberty and the Southern Guard, commanded by William
Tabb and Edward S. Hutter, respectively. They wore picturesque
uniforms and drilled on the Lawn and Carr's Hill. In
February a Confederate flag was put together and somehow
gotten to the roof of the Rotunda in the middle of the night
and lashed to the lightning rod. It caused a sensation next
morning as it floated in the breeze. This was said to have been
the first Confederate flag flown publicly in Virginia.

Events were moving with great rapidity, and many students
were leaving to offer their services to the Confederacy. On
Founder's Day, Apr. 13, a military parade was held on the
Lawn. While it was in progress, the fall of Fort Sumter was
announced. Four days later Virginia seceded, and the two student
companies joined two others from Charlottesville and
proceeded under orders to Harpers Ferry. The federal arsenal
there was the objective, but the Federals burned it before
their arrival. The students accordingly returned to their
classes. At Finals, 138 were graduated. Fifty graduates and
others then organized a company and left at once for Clifton
Forge to serve under Col. Henry A. Wise. Their service in the
mountains of what is now West Virginia was strenuous and
uncomfortable, and they were under fire at times, but they
suffered few casualties and were mustered out on their return


Page 26
in January 1862. It was felt that too much good officer material
was being wasted by being concentrated in the ranks of
this unit, and it was therefore decided that the young men
would disband and join military organizations from their
home communities.

No other units represented the university in the Confederate
forces thereafter, but some twenty-five hundred alumni
served in all branches, about 27 percent of the total body of
alumni. Approximately five hundred lost their lives. One faculty
member, Lewis Minor Coleman, professor of Latin, was
mortally wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Charles S.
Venable served on the staff of Gen. Robert E. Lee and joined
the faculty immediately after the war. As noted, Prof. Albert
Taylor Bledsoe was assistant secretary of war, and Prof. Basil
L. Gildersleeve served on Gen. John B. Gordon's staff. Prof.
John W. Mallet, an internationally famous chemist, devised the
method whereby the Confederacy's shrinking niter supply for
manufacturing explosives was replenished. It was done by collecting
urine daily in scores of communities and shipping it
to boiling vats, where the urea was extracted. This last was
sent posthaste to Augusta, Ga., where it was turned into gunpowder.

During the war the university managed to remain open, but
the only students were youths too young to serve or veterans
who had been severely wounded. Typical of the latter were
George L. Christian of Richmond, later a much respected
judge, who lost one entire foot and the heel of another at the
Bloody Angle, and W. C. Holmes of Mississippi, who was
badly crippled in his right arm. Holmes helped Christian to
walk and Christian helped Holmes to take notes in class. They
slept together on the floor of their almost bare room on one
of the blankets they had salvaged from the army, covering
themselves with the other.

Extreme austerity was also the rule with the members of the
faculty who were not in the field. They numbered no more
than eight at any one time, while the students totaled between
forty-six and sixty-six during the four years. All suffered together
the shortages of food and fuel. With the rapid decline
in the value of Confederate currency, the professors in
1864-65 were receiving an annual wage equivalent to $31.95

No Page Number

5. John A. G. Davis, chairman of the faculty, who was fatally
shot by a student in 1840.


Page 28
in gold. On top of all else, the university authorities made the
dormitories and the Rotunda available as temporary hospitals
for hundreds of Confederate wounded.

Arrival at the university of Sheridan's cavalry in March 1865
aroused fears that the buildings would be burned, a fate suffered
by the Virginia Military Institute the year before. Prof.
John B. Minor, with a white handkerchief tied to a walking
cane, headed a group of faculty members who stood near the
site of the present chapel to meet the Union troops. There was
intense relief when Gen. George A. Custer, commanding the
advance guard, courteously ordered that the property be
given every protection. No serious damage was done.

The surrender at Appomattox came the following month,
and the university authorities viewed prospects for the session
of 1865-66 with much concern. Scarcely any funds were
available and the physical plant was in dismal condition. But
enrollment in the fall was a surprising 258, and since the professors
were able once more to collect fees from their students,
they soon were in better fiscal shape than they had anticipated.
The following year enrollment leaped to 490.

But with the South impoverished, its economic system a
shambles and the slaves freed, it faced the formidable task of
rebuilding. Young men found the problem of earning a living
quite different from that which had confronted them before
the war. There was a greater demand for practical training in
such areas as the sciences and engineering. To meet this need,
civil engineering was added to the university curriculum in
1866, chemistry in 1867, and agriculture two years later.
Courses in geology were made available in 1879.

The high enrollment was short-lived, for it fell steadily until
1883, when it was only 298. The drop may be attributed, in
part, to the fact that many of the veterans who had returned
to college from the war had completed their education. Also,
there was a serious nationwide depression beginning in 1873.
Then, too, Dean William M. Thornton charged many years
later in his history of the Engineering School that "the sloth of
the executive officials" of the university was mainly responsible
for the skidding enrollment. "So indolent were they," he
wrote, "that they had not even circulated the printed catalogues
put into their hands, or made effectual use of the advertising
pages of the newspapers." After a change of administration


Page 29
the enrollment rose sharply. Also, the depression had

During the latter third of the nineteenth century no distinction
was made between first-year men and upperclassmen. In
the early 1900s just-matriculated students would be admonished
to wear hats and not frequent the Corner, but all were
on a plane of complete equality during the postbellum years.
They were also, for the most part, equal in poverty. The Phi
Kappa Psi fraternity, for example, tried in the late 1870s and
early 1880s to have a soirée, but the brothers could never find
a time during the three-year period "when everybody had a

There were notable orators at Finals during the era that
followed the war. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the speaker in
1876, Grover Cleveland in 1888, Henry W. Grady in 1889,
Henry Watterson in 1891, and Chauncey M. Depew in 1894.

Erection of the Brooks Museum in 1876 brought to the
Grounds a structure that has been controversial ever since.
The usual outraged observation has been that, as an example
of Victorian design, it is totally out of keeping architecturally
with Jefferson's classical concepts. But the Brooks Museum
won a prize for architectural excellence when it was built, and
modern architects have referred to it as an "expression appropriate
to its time and place," an example of the Second Empire
style then coming into vogue.

Among the new additions to the faculty immediately after
the close of hostilities was Col. William E. Peters, of Confederate
fame. When ordered to take part in the burning of
Chambersburg, Pa., in retaliation for burnings perpetrated by
the Union army in Virginia, he refused, on the ground that
he had not enlisted "to fight women and children." "You may
take my sword," he told his commanding officer—but he was
not disciplined. As professor of Latin, "Old Pete" concentrated
on grammar and syntax and was concerned scarcely at
all with the literary quality of the great Latin writers.

Prof. Thomas R. Price, another Confederate veteran, was
first given the chair of Greek, but he took over the teaching of
English when it was decided that instruction in the mother
tongue was being sadly neglected. Loved for his affectionate
and outgoing personality, Price was one of the nation's pioneers
in elucidating the beauties of the language. His reputation


Page 30
was such that he was called to a prestigious chair at Columbia

After serving with distinction on Robert E. Lee's staff, Lt.
Col. Charles S. Venable joined the faculty in 1865 as professor
of mathematics and continued in that post until his retirement
in 1896. He had graduated from Hampden-Sydney College at
age fifteen, served as an instructor at the college, and had
studied in Germany. At the university after the war he was
chairman of the faculty in 1870-73 and 1886-88. Highly respected
by all, "Old Ven" is regarded as chiefly responsible for
persuading the General Assembly to increase the university's
annual appropriation from $15,000 to $40,000. He also had
much to do with the establishment of new schools in astronomy,
biology and agriculture, applied chemistry, engineering,
and natural history and geology. His daughter Natalie married
Prof. Raleigh C. Minor.

Credit for the high position occupied by the University of
Virginia Law School today is due Raleigh Minor's father, John
B. Minor, more than any other man. He became the only professor
of law in 1845 at age thirty-two and continued there as
a teacher and writer on the law for half a century. Minor
raised the requirements for entrance and graduation soon
after joining the faculty. With a handful of other professors,
he continued to teach underage youths and wounded veterans
during the Civil War, and at the end of hostilities joined with
Prof. Socrates Maupin in borrowing, on their personal credit,
enough money to keep the struggling institution operating.
Minor was an authoritative writer on legal subjects, and his
Institutes of Common and Statute Law (1875-95) has long been
recognized as a standard work. "Old John B." was greatly venerated
by his students, and Minor Hall, the home of the Law
School erected in 1911, was named in his honor.

Prof. Noah K. Davis was another notable postbellum addition
to the faculty. He succeeded McGuffey in the chair of
moral philosophy and was a conspicuous and impressive figure
as he strolled the Lawn in his long, black frock coat and
high silk hat, his full beard flowing, his body bent forward, his
brow furrowed in deep thought.

Prof. Francis H. Smith, who had been appointed in 1853 to
succeed the eminent William Barton Rogers in the chair of


Page 31
natural philosophy, occupied that chair until the early years
of the twentieth century. "Frank" Smith was noted for the
eloquence, lucidity, and polish of his lectures and for the consideration
that he showed his students. Not for him the occasionally
sarcastic remarks of professorial colleagues in their
comments to floundering undergraduates. Voted several
times the most popular member of the faculty, Professor
Smith remained active as a teacher until 1908; he then lived
on for twenty more years on the Lawn until age ninety-eight,
the last lingering survivor of the ancien régime.

Although the war wiped out nearly all of Virginia's private
academies, others were established after Appomattox, and
they furnished the university with many of the foremost students
of that era. This was especially significant for the Honor
System, since these institutions introduced the youths to the
system as schoolboys. Hence when they came to Charlottesville
they were admirably trained to carry on the tradition.
The Episcopal High School at Alexandria had survived
through the war, while other important private schools, such
as McGuire's in Richmond, McCabe's in Petersburg, and
Woodberry Forest near Orange, were established after the
conflict. Graduates of these schools and of similar ones in Virginia
and other southern states furnished much of the student
leadership in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The university had only a few hundred matriculates in
those days, and the alumni of the private academies were influential
in setting the prevailing tone. It was not until the session
of 1899-1900 that the university enrollment of 645 in
1856-57 was surpassed, and then only barely.

During the first two decades after the Civil War, the B.A.
degree was not highly regarded, but the M.A. retained its
prestige. Requirements for the B.A. were so rigid that many
became discouraged, while the extremely difficult M.A. also
frightened away large numbers. In the seventies, the "length
of examinations" was fourteen hours, Dr. David M. R. Culbreth
wrote in his book of reminiscences concerning his student
days. For these and other reasons, three-fifths of the students
did not return after their first year. Numerous changes
were made in the requirements for the B.A. in the hope that


Page 32
it would be more attractive to students but without noticeable
effect. The Ph.D. was offered for the first time in 1880, with
specialization in two related fields required, and in 1885 the
first Ph.D. was awarded to Samuel M. Barton, in mathematics
and related subjects.

There were modifications in degree requirements during
the nineties. The old M.A., with perhaps the toughest work
schedule in the United States, was made less difficult in 1892.
It would now be necessary to take only four M.A. courses in
order to get the degree, whereas previously half a dozen, the
highest in each discipline, had been called for. Four years later
requirements for the Ph.D. were modified, and three years'
residence, a major and two minor subjects, plus a dissertation
were stipulated. Ph.D.'s were being awarded in greater numbers,
with eight conferred at the 1901 finals.

Grievously inadequate knowledge of the English language
on the part of undergraduates led the Board of Visitors in
1882 to establish a separate School of English Language and
Literature, with directives for thorough courses in the subject.
Prof. James M. Garnett was named to this chair, and the versatile
Professor Holmes was switched to teaching historical science.
Instruction in English received further emphasis when
another chair in this discipline was added in 1893, with Prof.
Charles W. Kent appointed to fill it. He edited texts of several
important American and English writers and was the first literary
editor of the Library of Southern Literature. "Chucky"
Kent, as he was affectionately known, married Eleanor Smith,
the daughter of Prof. Francis H. Smith.

The Schools of English, Romanic Languages, and Teutonic
Languages were reorganized in 1896 as the School of Modern
Languages. Prof. James A. Harrison headed the School of
Teutonic Languages, which offered courses in Anglo-Saxon,
Middle English, the history and philology of English, and the
language and literature of Germany. An able and creative student
of the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Harrison edited a
seventeen-volume edition of Poe's works, published in 1902,
and known as both the Virginia Edition and the Monticello
Edition. It is to this day the best and most complete edition of

William M. Thornton's appointment in 1875 to the engineering
faculty as adjunct professor of applied mathematics

No Page Number

6. Medal belonging to Gen. John H. Cocke, who led in building
Temperance Hall at the university in the 1850s.


Page 34
was a significant event. Thornton was teaching Greek at Davidson
College when he was prevailed upon to come to Charlottesville—another
example of the versatility of that generation
of scholars. He was instrumental in adding mechanical
engineering to the curriculum in 1891, under William H.
Echols; electrical engineering in 1897, under Lewis H. Holladay;
and chemical engineering in 1908, under Robert M.
Bird. Civil engineering had been taught at the university as
early as 1836. A brilliant man, Thornton served as chairman
of the faculty from 1888 to 1896, succeeding Charles S. Venable,
and was appointed the first dean of engineering in 1904,
at which time Richard H. Whitehead was named dean of
medicine and James M. Page dean of the college.

Two brothers, William C. and Walter D. Dabney, served
briefly on the medical and law faculties, respectively, in the
late eighties and nineties. William joined the medical faculty
in 1886, and Dr. Byrd S. Leavell, of the School of Medicine,
writes that "his intelligence, character, personality, energy, enthusiasm
and dedication marked him as a remarkable individual
of many talents." Dabney was the organizer and first
president of the State Medical Examining Board. He wrote
some fifty "highly important contributions to medical journals,"
according to Philip A. Bruce, and translated twice that
many articles from the German and French. He would travel
great distances to attend a patient even when certain that he
would receive no fee. Dabney died of typhoid fever at age
forty-five. His brother, Walter, was a leading member of the
Virginia House of Delegates, being chairman of two of its
most important committees. He served as solicitor to the State
Department under President Grover Cleveland before joining
the university's law faculty. Walter Dabney also died at the
height of his career.

Another addition to the faculty in the late nineteenth century
was Richard Heath Dabney, appointed adjunct professor
of history in 1889. Like several other members of the university
teaching staff who took the M.A. at the university, Dabney
had then studied in Germany, where he won his Ph.D. at Heidelberg,
multa cum laude. He remained on the University of
Virginia faculty for forty-nine years. In addition to teaching
all of the history for thirty-four years, he also provided the


Page 35
only courses in economics for nine of those years and served
as dean of the graduate school for eighteen years. Such a load
seems incredible today, but the university was so povertystricken
that various professors had to carry these heavy burdens
of work. This was a major factor in explaining their failure
to be more productive as scholars.

The university's poverty also caused Dr. Paul B. Barringer,
chairman of the faculty from 1896 to 1903, to urge the abolition
of the School of Engineering and its transfer to Blacksburg
where, he said, "excellent work [is] being done." The
suggestion was not adopted, but it generated considerable antagonism
toward the man who made it.

Barringer was a member of a prominent North Carolina
family whose father was a Confederate general and his grandfather
a general in the War of 1812. He was recommended
for a position on the university medical faculty by the famous
Dr. James L. Cabell, who asked that Barringer succeed him.
The young Tar Heel had established a course in premedical
training at Davidson College from which such well-equipped
men came to the university's Medical School that Cabell regarded
him as an excellent selection. He joined the faculty in
1888 and was chiefly responsible for construction of the University
Hospital in the face of opposition from those who objected
to a "pesthouse" on the Grounds. Work was begun,
nevertheless, but the foundation stood for more than a year
full of water and was derisively termed "Barringer's frog
pond." The first unit was finally finished in 1901 and the hospital
was able to accommodate twenty-five patients the following
year. Long afterward, when the hospital was much larger,
a new wing was named for Dr. Barringer.

Known as "Oom Paul," after Paul Kruger, president of the
Transvaal in the Boer War, Dr. Barringer resigned from the
faculty in 1907 to accept the presidency of Virginia Polytechnic
Institute. He remained in Blacksburg for six years but
gave up the presidency there when harassed from various directions
by politicians and subjected to petty criticism by
alumni. (See "The Rise and Fall of `Oom Paul,' " by Jenkins M.
Robertson, Virginia Tech Magazine, April-May 1979.) A favorite
at university alumni gatherings, where his jovial spirit and
ability as a raconteur made him a center of attention, Dr. Barringer


Page 36
spent his remaining years in retirement, the last fifteen
on Oakhurst Circle, Charlottesville.

With the defeat of the South in the Civil War and destruction
of its mode of life, careers in public office seemed less attractive
than previously. Hence the emphasis on oratory at the
university declined after the war, especially for members of
the Washington and Jefferson societies. But the main reason
why the societies languished, according to the university annual,
was "the craze for athletics."

A rudimentary game of baseball had been played informally
on the Grounds in the seventies, but it was not until
1889 that the baseball field was fenced in and admission
charged. An early variety of football also had been introduced
in the seventies, and Virginia's first intercollegiate game was
played in 1888. Six years later football had become the most
popular sport at the institution, although baseball had its ardent
following. In view of the 280-pound behemoths who
grace our gridirons today, it is interesting to reflect that the
heaviest man in the university in 1888 weighed 184 pounds,
according to Corks and Curls for that year. Running, jumping,
and wrestling had been introduced, as well as boat races on
the Rivanna River. Tennis was played as early as 1881. A General
Athletic Association was organized in 1892 to take charge
of all athletics. Land was purchased and a five-acre athletic
field was constructed behind the site of subsequently erected
Madison Hall. Then came the building of Fayerweather Gymnasium
in 1893 at a cost of $30,000, largest and most complete
gymnasium in the South.

The Virginia University Magazine was the sole postbellum
publication of the students until they brought out their first
annual in 1888 and gave it the unique name Corks and Curls
widely misinterpreted as signifying "wine and women." In that
era, to "cork" in class was to flunk, while to "curl" was to make
a high grade. The name Corks and Curls is said to have been
suggested either by Ernest M. Stires, a student who later became
Episcopal bishop of Long Island, or by J. H. C. Bagby,
the annual's first editor, later a distinguished member of the
Hampden-Sydney College faculty. College Topics, the school
newspaper, was founded in 1890.


Page 37

Since the end of the Civil War the university colors had been
silver gray and cardinal red, symbolizing the Confederate uniform
dyed in blood. With the intensification of the "athletic
craze," the view was expressed by student leaders that these
colors were inappropriate for athletic events and that the gray
was lacking in durability, especially on the football field. A
mass meeting of students was accordingly held in 1888 to consider
the adoption of a new set of colors. There was great difference
of opinion, and nobody seemed to have a clear idea
concerning the proper substitute. Suddenly an undergraduate
spied an orange and blue scarf around the neck of Allen
Potts, one of the university's star athletes, who had gotten it
on a boating expedition at Oxford University the previous
summer. The student pulled the scarf from Potts's neck and,
waving it to the assembled group called out, "How will this
do?" Orange and blue were promptly adopted as the university
colors and have so remained.

Next came the composition of the "The Good Old Song."
Edward H.  Craighill next hit, Jr., of Lynchburg is usually credited with
having composed it, but he wrote in the University of Virginia
for October 1922 that "no one man should be credited
with the authorship" of the first stanza. He said it appeared
in 1893 as the by-product of a bibulous welcome to a
victorious football team and was the joint production of several
students. A "wah-hoo-wah" yell, said to have been "borrowed
from Dartmouth College," was already in vogue at the
university, and this was incorporated into the song. The second
and third stanzas were written later—almost certainly by
previous hit Craighill next hit.

Relations between students and faculty in these years were
deferential, a far cry from the brick-throwing, cowhiding, and
shooting that characterized the institution's early days. True,
the boys had surreptitious nicknames for some of the professors,
such as "Dismal Jimmy" in the case of one such mentor—
"Gummy" was the sobriquet of another some forty years
later—but on the whole relations were altogether cordial.

The first of the ribbon societies came into being in 1878
when Eli Banana was organized. The society took its name
from the Japanese Order of Eli Banana, to which only citizens
of the highest rank were admitted. Eleven years later T.I.L.K.A.


Page 38
made its appearance, the name reportedly an acronym for
five mystical words, probably Hindu. These two societies,
purely social in nature, held soirées and sponsored dances.

Eli Banana was ordered disbanded in the nineties when its
soirées got completely out of hand. The organization was denounced
by the faculty as "a disgrace to the University," and
mention was made of "outrageous annoyance of ladies and
sick persons by drunken orgies prolonged far into the morning
of each recurring Easter Sunday, followed by annual disturbance
of the congregations of the Charlottesville churches
in the midst of Easter services." The Elis were allowed to begin
functioning again in 1897, on promises of better behavior.
Meanwhile the Tilkas had been capturing most of the student
offices. Then the Elis staged a comback and regained much of
their lost prestige. The two societies managed in several subsequent
years to elect their members to nearly all of the prestigious
student positions.

The coming of Uncle Tom's Cabin to Charlottesville's theater
on Main Street near the turn of the century was a decidedly
provocative event. This dramatization of Harriet Beecher
Stowe's novel, with its highly critical picture of the antebellum
South, led some of the university students to concoct a plan of
retaliation. A group of them attended the opening performance
and contented themselves with booing. But they "cased"
the play and discovered that when Eliza crossed the ice, she
was pursued by live bloodhounds. This gave them their opening.
The next night several of them came to the show with
pieces of meat to which strong strings were tied. When the
hounds bayed onto the stage, the boys, who were on the first
row, threw the meat in front of them. The dogs forgot all
about Eliza and made for the beef. Once they had gotten their
teeth into it they refused to let go, and the students yanked
them over the footlights. It was an easy matter to convey them
thence out into the street, where they were released and allowed
to chew to their hearts' content. They thereupon disappeared
and could not be found. It just about broke up the
show. The management protested to the university authorities,
but the latter were so amused at the ingenuity of the boys,
and so annoyed that such a play had been brought into the
South, that little if any punishment seems to have been meted

No Page Number

7. John B. Minor as a young man soon after joining the law


Page 40

The Rotunda fire of 1895 was a catastrophe of the first magnitude.
It not only gutted the Rotunda itself and completely
destroyed the Annex, but it threatened to spread to adjacent
structures on the Lawn.

The fire was discovered burning fiercely in the Annex on
Sunday morning, Oct. 27, and the alarm was broadcast by
"Uncle Henry" Martin, the university bellringer. He sounded
the tocsin more loudly and frantically than he had ever
sounded it before, and faculty and students came running. At
their head was Prof. William H. Echols, who had supervision
of buildings and grounds. "Reddy" Echols, a magnificently
masculine, broad-shouldered, red-haired man of about six
feet four, was utterly fearless. At considerable risk he tried,
without result, to check the flames raging through the Annex.
He then put together a hundred pounds of dynamite and attempted
to blast away the link between the Annex and the
Rotunda, to keep the fire from spreading. The effort failed,
and the only remaining hope lay in throwing dynamite from
the roof of the Rotunda onto the connecting link. Echols
mounted to the dome, carrying the explosives in a sack, and
hurled it down upon the connecting structure. The terrific
detonation was heard fifteen miles away, but it did not check
the leaping flames. The Rotunda was engulfed in a roaring
inferno. Much of its contents, including the Galt statue of Jefferson,
was removed by the faculty and students, but then the
roof fell in, and the building was left an empty shell. A fortunate
shift in the direction of the wind may have saved some of
the Lawn pavilions and dormitories from destruction.

The ruins were still smoldering when the faculty met that
afternoon and resolved, despite the disaster, to carry on the
work of the university. They praised the students unstintingly
for their courageous rescue of books and portraits, the Galt
statue, and other valuables. Classes would be held next day, as
usual, although many would be moved to new locations, since
the Rotunda's classrooms had been destroyed. Efforts were
got underway to raise funds for the restoration and for
needed new structures. Stanford White of New York was retained
as the architect.

White's plan called for closing the lower end of the Lawn
with three buildings—Cabell Hall, facing the Rotunda; a
physics building on the east, and a mechanical building across


Page 41
from it on the west. White also designed the president's house
on Carr's Hill and the Commons, or Refectory.

The pediment over the entrance to Cabell Hall presented a
problem. George Julian Zolnay, the Hungarian sculptor who
was executing it, needed some nude female models. No local
talent could be found until, as Anna Barringer relates it in her
delightful reminiscences in the Magazine of Albemarle County
"An official telephone call was made to `Aunt Mat,' the
Negro proprietress of the most respectable bordello in town
(occupants and clientele white). . . . Where and when they
posed is shrouded in mystery. . . . The Pediment was finished
in classic style."

In rebuilding the Rotunda, the architect decided not to restore
the great area under the dome exactly as it was before
the fire. Stanford White spoke of "the unquestionable fact
that it was only practical necessity [to obtain space for laboratories
and lecture halls] which forced Jefferson . . . to cut the
Rotunda into two stories, and that he would have planned the
interior as a simple, single and noble room had he been able
to do so." White persuaded the Board of Visitors that the
"single, domed room" was not only the "most practical but the
proper treatment of the interior." However, there appears to
be no documentary evidence that Jefferson ever wanted to
build the Rotunda with only one floor between the basement
and the dome. The faculty and alumni wanted to restore the
structure just as it had been before the fire, but White convinced
the Visitors that his plan was better and more authentic.
Three-quarters of a century later, when a more exacting
adaptive restoration of the Rotunda was carried out, the interior
was reconstructed as Jefferson built it originally.

The rebuilding also called for wings on the north front corresponding
to those on the south front and linked to them by
colonnades on both the western and eastern sides.

The Rotunda clock had been destroyed in the fire, and the
new one was given a bullet-resistant face, since its predecessor
had often been shot at by celebrating students.

The university's Gothic chapel was built in 1890, with the
entire cost of $30,000 raised by private subscription. Episcopalians
were more numerous in the student body at this period
than members of any other denomination, and this situation
continued for many years, but the chapel services were


Page 42
nondenominational. For a time, the university chaplain held
morning prayers daily in the chapel and prayer meetings
there on Friday and Sunday afternoons. In 1896 the chaplaincy
was discontinued, and guest clergymen were invited to
conduct services on Sunday.

The beginning of work in 1901 on twenty-one-acre Lambeth
Field, named for Dr. William A. Lambeth, often called
"the father of athletics at the University of Virginia," greatly
accelerated the development of football, baseball, and track.
And four years later Mrs. William E. Dodge of New York donated
funds for the construction of Madison Hall, thus providing
a suitable home for the YMCA.

The question whether proper management of the university's
affairs required the election of a president was much debated
in the nineties. Every other leading institution of higher learning
in the country was operating under this form of governance,
and more and more friends of the university were
coming to feel that it should follow suit and abandon the
chairman-of-the-faculty system. As early as 1845 the Society
of Alumni had advocated such a step, and similar sentiment
was rising half a century later. Most of the university faculty
were against the idea, but the Board of Visitors and the
alumni were backing the move, and College Topics endorsed it.

All this culminated in 1902 in the offer of the presidency of
the university to Woodrow Wilson, then a professor at Princeton,
but he declined. Two years later it was tendered to fortythree-year-old
Edwin Anderson Alderman, and he accepted.
Alderman was president of Tulane at the time and had held
the same office previously at the University of North Carolina.
A native of that state and a Ph.B. of the university at Chapel
Hill, Alderman had been a zealous and dedicated promoter of
the public schools throughout the South. While at Tulane he
wrote that he had stood for "the public schools as no other
university president had ever done in this region" and added
that "my reputation, whatever it is, comes out of this effort."
The New York Tribune aptly commented that his election as
president of the University of Virginia linked the university
"with the democratization of education."

Within a few years Alderman had won over the faculty, impressed

No Page Number

8. Basil L. Gildersleeve, famous classics professor.


Page 44
the alumni, obtained larger appropriations from the
General Assembly, increased the endowment, reorganized the
college, and laid the foundation for future development of
the professional schools. He was not without mannerisms, as
Dumas Malone, his biographer, has pointed out, but he was
endowed with personal charm and superlative gifts as an orator.
After accomplishing all this, he was found in 1912 to have
contracted tuberculosis, and from that time until his death in
1931 he was gravely handicapped.

The university entered a new era under Alderman. With
steadily increasing enrollment—it was 662 the year Alderman
took over—the number of students passed the 1,000 mark for
the first time in 1915-16, and of that number a growing percentage
came from the public schools. Ninety-one graduates
of Virginia's public high schools, one-third of all their male
graduates for the previous session, entered the university in
the fall of 1916. In the following year the number entering
from public schools exceeded that from private schools for
the first time. As had been the case from the beginning, the
vast majority of matriculates came from Virginia and other
southern states. This would begin changing in a few years,
with the Northeast contributing a greatly increased percentage,
and the proportion from the South falling drastically, as
the colleges and universities in that region expanded and improved.

A Department of Education was established by President
Alderman to further the cause of the public schools, and Peabody
Hall was built to serve as its headquarters. Also, as a part
of this process a summer school was instituted. On a different
level the Department of Graduate Studies was established.

The University of Virginia was elected to the Association of
American Universities soon after Alderman took over, the
first southern institution to achieve that distinction. In 1907
the university was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. The
Raven Society had been organized three years before in the
absence of such a chapter. In 1913-14 the university's library
totaled 80,000 volumes and was claimed to be the largest in
the South, although the Rotunda, where it was housed, was
ill-suited to the demands of a modern library. In the same year
the Law Department began publishing the Virginia Law Review,
the first periodical of its kind to appear below Mason and


Page 45
Dixon's Line. It ranked from the first with the top law journals
in the country.

As noted above, state appropriations to the university went
up under Alderman. He was able to announce in 1906 that
the General Assembly had raised the annual allotment to the
institution from $50,000 to $75,000, the first increase since
1880. By 1915 the figure had risen to about $100,000. During
Alderman's first decade, entrance requirements were tightened
in all departments, and the law course was extended
from two to three years. The university faculty numbered approximately
forty in 1904 and had doubled in size a decade

Enrolled students were falling by the wayside in astonishing
numbers. In the first ten years of the Alderman regime, only
1,145 of the 2,241 first-year men returned for the second
year. While this can be attributed, in part, to lack of scholastic
accomplishment, another factor was what President Henry
Louis Smith of Washington and Lee University called "the icebound
frigidity of the University of Virginia." It was the custom
for students to speak to students or others whom they
knew, but to no one else. Thus first-year men who came to the
institution with few acquaintances felt snubbed and unhappy.
Many did not return. Since at various other colleges and universities
it was the practice to greet all passersby, the lack of
similar civility at the university caused it to be termed snobbish.
Its defenders contended, in a controversy extending
over many years, that it was not snobbishness but simply a
long-established custom not to speak to persons with whom
one was not personally acquainted.

The year 1911 witnessed the demise of the Hot Feet, a student
organization whose annual public coronation of its
"king" was a piquant ceremonial. The coronation at the southern
end of East Range was preceded by a procession around
the Grounds, with the king at the head followed by the queen,
court poet, wizards, chancellor, archbishop, pages, musicians,
cupbearers, guards, jesters, and chamberlains. Ambassadors
from the Kingdoms of Dawson's Row and West Range, the
principality of Monroe Hill, and the independent republic
of Carr's Hill were present. After the formal induction of
the king into office, the public was invited to partake of
royal viands in the somewhat unkingly precincts of Randall


Page 46
Hall. All this came to an abrupt end when the Hot Feet behaved
in such cantankerous fashion as to draw down upon
themselves the wrath of the administration. One of their more
raucous nighttime performances consisted of removing the
stuffed animals, snakes, and other varmints from the Cabell
Hall basement, where they were stored, and stationing them
behind the professors' classroom desks and in front of their
residences on the Lawn. This assemblage, which included a
kangaroo, a tiger, an ostrich, a moose, boa constrictor, threetoed
emu, and other animals, fowls, and reptiles, greeted the
dumbfounded citizenry on Easter Sunday morning. On top of
this, some well-lubricated Hot Feet bulled their way into a student's
room, roughed him up, and carried off a beer stein. He
complained to President Alderman. Four of the miscreants
were expelled, four more were suspended for a year, and the
university administration proclaimed: "The Hot Feet Society
has been, on the whole, very detrimental to the University's
welfare, and it is, therefore, unanimously resolved that the
existence of the Hot Feet Society, and of all other organizations
which promote disorder in the University, shall be forbidden."

The Hot Feet had been disbanded for only a short time
when the IMP Society made its appearance. It had many of
the same members, but its carryings-on were more discreet,
and while it too crowned a king, the coronation was less of a
public spectacle. The IMPs are still in business at the university.

The Corner, rendezvous of students from time immemorial,
was undergoing an upgrading at this time. As an article
appearing in the Alumni News in 1913 had it, "The Corner, in
all the majesty of its unsightliness, is doomed." Temperance
Hall, erected before the Civil War as a symbol of the antebellum
drive for greater abstemiousness, was being pulled down.
Fraternity initiations had been held on its second floor after
the war, in the days before there were any fraternity houses.
Woodrow Wilson had been initiated there into Phi Kappa Psi.

In his book The Natural Bent Dr. Paul Barringer makes the
rather startling statement that the Temperance Union—formerly
the Temperance Society—with headquarters in the
building, "was one of the most popular institutions at the University"
in the latter part of the nineteenth century. "A young


Page 47
fellow who found himself drinking too much," writes Dr. Barringer,
"sent in his name, and in the presence of his fellow
reprobates, took the pledge for the rest of the session."

Drab Temperance Hall was being replaced in 1913 by a
more pleasing brick structure containing a post office, stores,
and rooms for various agencies. The hope was expressed in
the Alumni News that the other side of the street, which was
not under university control, would be improved by the owners
of the property there. The entire area was greatly upgraded
by the erection of the Senff Memorial Gateway at the
lower end of the "Long Walk," the gift of Mrs. Charles H.
Senff of New York in memory of her husband and as a tribute
to the Honor System. The "South Gate" at the other end of
Hospital Drive was also given by Mrs. Senff. Another improvement
on the Grounds at about this time was the planting of
formal gardens within the serpentine walls linking East Lawn
and East Range, where thickets of brambles had taken over.
And the area between West Lawn and West Range, in large
part a dumping ground for miscellaneous refuse, with dilapidated
small buildings and piles of loose bricks, was cleaned
up, leveled, and graded.

The term "campus," subsequently exorcised in favor of "the
Grounds," was used rather widely during the early 1900s.
Later it would be taboo.

At the turn of the century discussions by members of the
medical faculty with the students of what was termed "the social
evil" would have been unthinkable, but by 1913 annual
explorations of the subject were inaugurated. "The Cyprian
evil," the term used by Bruce in his history, could now be
brought halfway into the open. "The fight against venereal
disease [now] is regarded in the same light as the organized
fight against tuberculosis," College Topics observed.

The death of "Uncle Henry" Martin, the university's black
bellringer, was a sad event of the year 1915. The student
newspaper expressed the view that "he was known personally
to more alumni than any living man" and "is said to have
known by name . . . every student who resided here during
his long service as bell-ringer." Uncle Henry had been janitor
and bellringer from 1868 to 1909 and had been employed
around the University since 1847. He said he was born at
Monticello in 1826, the year Jefferson died, and that his parents


Page 48
were slaves there; his mother was "married to Mr. Jefferson's
body servant." Always nattily dressed, wearing a cravat
and stiff collar and a clean white apron, Uncle Henry was extremely
faithful and reliable in ringing the Rotunda bell. He
rang it until the fire of 1895, and thereafter tolled the chapel
bell with equal dedication.

Prof. C. Alphonso Smith interviewed Uncle Henry for Corks
and Curls
when the latter retired in his nineties (he lived to be
about ninety-nine). The delightful result is published in the
annual for 1914.

Yes sir, I was bell ringer at the University for fifty-three years, and
P'fessor, I been as true to that bell as to my God. . . . They don't
seem to pay much 'tention to the bell now, but I had to wake up the
cooks and the dormitory students. . . .

I can't read but I had fifteen children and I made 'em all learn to
read and write; not any more. Politeness beats learnin'. Politeness
ain't never sent a man to the penitentiary, but I know plenty o' colored
folks that went there 'cause they knowed too much . . .

This bell they got now, it sound just the same for a funeral as for
a game of football; but when I rang it everybody knew what I was
ringin' it for. There's that bell now. It don't seem to me to say
nothin'. It just hollers.

Uncle Henry had some recollections of the Civil War.
"Durin' the war," said he, "I nursed hundreds right there in
that Rotunda, and when I go in it now, I ain't studyin' 'bout
the books I see. No sir, I'm thinkin' on the soldiers that I seen
layin' on the floor. It didn't make no difference how much
they was sufferin', they didn't make no noise. No sir, they lay
right still, a-lookin' straight up at the ceilin'."

After Uncle Henry's retirement in 1909 his regular pay was
continued for the rest of his life. His death brought genuine
sorrow to the university community and to alumni everywhere.

A less dignified figure was "Uncle Peter" Briggs, born a
slave in 1828, and somewhat clownish in his behavior. Uncle
Peter died in 1912 after serving for many years as janitor and
gardener around the university. As Topics put it, "Two generations
of students remember the slight, under-sized figure with
its bowed legs, the cheerful laugh and Rebel yell, and buzzard
dance. . . . When the students heard that he was to be given a

No Page Number

9. Dr. John Staige Davis of the medical faculty, the first of that name.


Page 50
pauper's burial, they raised the money necessary to bear all
the expenses of interment."

English Prof. Alphonso Smith, who interviewed Uncle
Henry Martin, was one of the ablest lecturers in the university's
history. This fact undoubtedly explains, at least in part,
the invitation that he received to lecture at the University of
Berlin in 1910-11, where his courses were well received. He
had been dean of the Graduate School at the University of
North Carolina before coming to Charlottesville and was the
author of several important works in the field of American
literature. After seven years on the University of Virginia faculty,
where his English classes were among the most popular
in the institution, Dr. Smith accepted a call in 1917 to the
United States Naval Academy. Many who attended the academy
and the university still recall his enthralling and witty lectures.

The question whether to admit women to the university under
any conditions was raised in 1892 by the application of Miss
Caroline Preston Davis of University, Va., for permission to
take the examinations required during the ensuing session of
candidates for the B.A. degree in the School of Mathematics.
Miss Davis, apparently self-taught, was granted permission,
but it was on condition that she stand the tests elsewhere than
with the male students; if she passed, she would receive a certificate
of proficiency, not a degree. Her performance was excellent,
and she was awarded the certificate.

Miss Addis M. Meade of Boyce, Va., also applied in 1892 for
permission to register for the course in mathematics, but she
was only seventeen, and the faculty stated that "the law precludes
the registration of women under eighteen." No "law"
was cited. Miss Meade was allowed to register after her eighteenth
birthday. Her name is listed with those completing the
"M.A. course for mathematics in the Graduate School," 1894.

All this precipitated a debate as to whether the foregoing
was the proper method of handling applications from women
desirous of matriculating in the university. Both the faculty
and the Board of Visitors ended by voting in 1894 against
admitting women under any conditions, even those prescribed
for Miss Davis two years before. The faculty vote was


Page 51
twelve to four and the visitors were all but unanimous, only
one member dissenting.

Reasons given by the faculty majority for their stand, as
paraphrased by Bruce, included the contention that admission
of women to the university "would only serve to draw
them away from those excellencies which made that sex such
a power in the home." Furthermore, "under the arcades they
would be certain to grow boisterous, familiar and bold in manners,
and perhaps even rudely aggressive, under the influence
of an ambitious rivalry with the male collegians." And to quote
the report verbatim: "According to medical authority, the
strain on young women in severe competitive work (in the
higher schools of learning) does often physically unsex them,
and they afterwards fail in the demands of motherhood." The
faculty added: "Let us not be bullied into a false position by
the clamor of a noisy minority of the public, thereby breaking
irrevocably with and condemning the University's past. . . . It
would require supervision inconsistent with the Honor System
and the system of discipline."

The controversy was renewed in 1910 with the introduction
into the General Assembly of legislation looking to the establishment
of a coordinate college for women near the university.
The bill was defeated, but the following year it was
endorsed by forty-two of the forty-seven members of the
university faculty. Similar legislation was introduced at each
biennial session of the General Assembly until 1918, with
President Alderman and Armistead C. Gordon, rector, supporting
it as the only means of avoiding coeducation throughout
the institution. Alderman expressed his support of a
coordinate college, arguing that it "would assure economy of
force, unity of effort and a better understanding between the
men leaders and the women leaders in social effort." Mrs.
Mary Cooke Branch Munford appeared at many hearings
down the years as the principal woman advocate of admitting
women to the university to the maximum degree possible.
Murray M. McGuire was the spokesman for opposing alumni.
The Board of Visitors endorsed the plan for a coordinate college,
and in 1916 the Senate passed it; it lost in the House by
only two votes. The Reverend James Cannon, Jr., the prohibitionist
crusader who at that time was a dominant political


Page 52
force in Virginia and was principal of the Blackstone Female
Institute at Blackstone, Va., was credited with a large share in
the defeat of the measure. Cannon circularized every member
of the General Assembly against the bill, and spoke against it.
Finally the General Assembly decided to admit women to the
university's graduate and professional schools at the session of
1920-21, and to the College of William and Mary on the same
basis as men. The foregoing action would have been taken
somewhat sooner, had it not been for complications caused by
entry of the United States into World War I.

Male University of Virginia alumni have always occupied
prominent and influential positions in public life. For the period
1842-61 the institution produced thirteen U.S. senators
from various states, as well as two Speakers of the House of
Representatives and sixty-two other members of that body. At
the congressional session of 1903-4, chosen at random, the
university had six members of the Senate as against seven for
Yale, three for Harvard, and nine for Princeton, although Virginia's
enrollment was only 600 compared to 2,700 for Yale,
5,100 for Harvard, and 1,350 for Princeton. Virginia had
twenty-one members of the House in 1906 as against nineteen
for Yale and eleven for Harvard. Four years later the proportions
were approximately the same.

With the rapid rise in the popularity of athletics at the university
in the 1890s, several famous athletes emerged. Archibald
R. Hoxton, weighing only 137 pounds, was a bright star in
both football and baseball, Murray M. McGuire in baseball,
and Addison Greenway in football.

In contrast to these men, who were bona fide amateurs, the
1890s and early 1900s were marked, according to Bruce, by
the arrival at the university of "professional athletes in disguise"
who had "registered from every section of the country."
This was highly disturbing to President Alderman when he
took office in 1904, and he appointed an investigative committee,
headed by Professor Echols. It recommended a series
of stringent regulations that put a stop to the professionalism,
and a code governing athletics was adopted by the faculty in
1906. Control of athletics was vested in a faculty committee on
which Professors Lambeth and Lefevre were the dominating
factors for many years.

No Page Number

10. Dr. Walter Reed, conqueror of yellow fever.


Page 54

Professional football and baseball coaches were employed in
the nineties, but at the end of the decade it was decided to
adopt an alumni coaching system. This lasted for only two
years, after which professionals were again employed. In
1906-7 the alumni system was brought back, and under it the
Virginia teams were remarkably successful. One reason was
that intercollegiate athletics was in its infancy, and high pressure,
grossly commercialized athletic systems had not been developed.
Virginia has never gone in wholeheartedly for the
latter type of competition, with the result that, in recent decades,
university teams have been far less successful.

James A. Rector, the university's scintillating dash man in
the early 1900s, had done the hundred yards in 9.1 and 9.2
seconds—although neither time was officially recognized—
and was the fastest runner in the United States at short distances,
with an official clocking of 9.3. He was expected to win
the 100 meters at the 1908 Olympics in London. The night
before the race, the coach of the South African team asked
Rector to show H. Walker, South Africa's entry in the 100 meters,
how to make a "crouching start"—standard at the time in
America but unknown in South Africa. It was a strange request
from the coach of a rival athlete, but Rector, with consummate
sportsmanship, gave Walker careful instructions.
Next day Walker beat him by six inches for the Olympic gold

In football, Robert K. Gooch, afterward a longtime distinguished
member of the faculty, was one of the most brilliant
quarterbacks in the university's history, while halfback Eugene
N. (Buck) Mayer is the only University of Virginia player to be
chosen to Walter Camp's all-American team. In baseball Eppa
Rixey went straight from Virginia to the Philadelphia Phillies
and then to the Cincinnati Reds. Recognized as one of the top
left-handed pitchers in the history of the National League, he
was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The university community was shaken to its foundations in
1909 when Archer Christian, a greatly admired student, was
fatally injured in a football game at Georgetown University.
His body was brought from Washington to his Richmond
home, and services in St. Paul's Episcopal Church were attended
by delegations from the Virginia and Georgetown student
bodies. There was much agitation for abolition of football,


Page 55
but it all ended with mere changes in the rules to make
the game somewhat safer.

A memorable athletic event of the era took place in 1915,
when Virginia defeated Yale 10-0 in football, the first time
that a southern team had accomplished this feat. The same
University of Virginia eleven held Harvard to three field goals
with All-American Eddie Mahan in the Harvard backfield.
Norborne Berkeley, the 150-pound Virginia quarterback,
called these two masterful games. Eugene N. (Buck) Mayer
was a backfield star. The Boston press was high in praise of
the Virginia players who helped the Harvard men up from
the sod after tackling them.

Completion of the stadium on Lambeth Field in 1913 provided
a facility seating 8,000 persons, and baseball, football,
and track were thus accommodated for several decades. The
stadium cost $35,000.

The coming of Henry H. (Pop) Lannigan to the university's
athletic staff in 1905 was a milestone. As coach and trainer in
a number of sports for several decades Pop Lannigan was to
make a lasting contribution to athletics at Virginia. As College
expressed it in 1911: "With the exception of Dr. Lambeth,
Lannigan has done more for athletics at the University
of Virginia than any man ever connected with the department.
It was he who introduced basketball, not before practiced
here. He put track work on a different footing. He is the
life and spirit in every branch of athletics."

Alumni activities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries were limited in character. Without a class system, it
was difficult to bring the "old grads" together for any purpose,
and most reunions were desultory and sparsely attended affairs.
The Alumni Board of Trustees of the University of Virginia
Endowment Fund was organized for the purpose of receiving,
holding, investing, and disbursing the income from
gifts made by alumni and friends.

Dean James M. Page, general secretary of the Alumni Association,
sent invitations to alumni of the classes of 1905,
1895, 1890, and on back to 1840, to hold reunions at the 1910
finals. Some two hundred fifty attended, and it was the most
successful such gathering up to that time.

Then came the election of Lewis D. Crenshaw as alumni


Page 56
secretary on a full-time basis, and things began to happen.
Crenshaw, a man of superb ingenuity, complete dedication,
and driving energy, organized the alumni office more thoroughly
than it had ever been organized before. The Alumni
was founded. Crenshaw's class of 1908 held its fifth reunion
in 1913, and novel plans of the most varied sort were
devised to create interest. The Big Tent, a place of rendezvous
and good fellowship for Virginia men of all ages, made its
appearance between Minor Hall and Dawson's Row. Nearly
four hundred alumni attended the reunion, and it was pronounced
a complete success. Conduct of those in attendance
was said to have been exemplary. The following year nearly
four hundred alumni were again on hand.

But despite repeated appeals from Lewis Crenshaw for at
least a minimum of cooperation from alumni in carrying on
the routine business of the association, it was not forthcoming.
They were derelict in paying their dues and unwilling to answer
correspondence. In order to prepare food and other entertainment
for the various reunions, Crenshaw had to have
some sort of idea of the number to be expected, but fewer
than 15 percent of those who came let him know in advance,
despite countless requests that they do so. His office was operating
on the barest shoestring, and his own modest salary
was sometimes far in arrears.

In the absence of a class system, a Class Officers' Association
was formed, with Crenshaw as president, in order to promote
"class organization and class reunions in every possible way."
All this was largely in vain, given the lackadaisical attitude of
the average alumnus.

With the entry of the United States into World War I, all
alumni and other university activities were curtailed or drastically
altered. Crenshaw was rejected for military duty because
of physical disability and could have had a well-paying
government job, but he announced that he would open a bureau
in Paris for University of Virginia men in the service.
Funds were raised for the enterprise, and he sailed for

Again his imagination and ingenuity were manifest as he
fitted out the bureau in a manner to bring Virginia men on
leave from the trenches a maximum of comfort in a homelike
atmosphere. Pictures of the Lawn and Ranges adorned the


Page 57
walls, and files of College Topics and Corks and Curls were available.
University servicemen were able to get in touch with one
another through the bureau and to meet there for later relaxation
along the boulevards.

Crenshaw even translated "The Good Old Song" into
French. The opening line of this unique rendition was "La
belle chanson de `wah-hoo-wah.' "

Back at the University, the Alumni News noted that "the
alumni office has done its share of war work . . . by raising two
U.Va. Ambulance Sections for the U.S. Army, and by cooperating
with Dr. [William H.] Goodwin in the organization of the
U.Va. Base Hospital." Crenshaw had been the sparkplug in the
foregoing activities. Base Hospital 41, with Dr. Goodwin commanding,
reached Paris in July 1918 and went into operation
at nearby St. Denis. It made a splendid record.

A member of the university faculty was dismissed for making
a militantly pacifist speech at Sweet Briar College in November
1917. He was Leon R. Whipple, adjunct professor of
journalism, who was widely denounced in the press and assailed
without a dissenting voice by the faculty. President Alderman
recommended that his appointment be rescinded.
(French prof. Richard H. Wilson was absent from the city
when the faculty voted, and on his return he publicly defended
Whipple's right to hold and express unpopular views,
even though he himself disagreed with those views.) The
Board of Visitors, holding Whipple's pacifist utterances to be
"a gross abuse of freedom of speech," agreed unanimously
with Alderman, and the professor's appointment was terminated.
As a rule, Dumas Malone writes in his biography of
Alderman, the spiritual climate at the university "was one of
generous tolerance," but Whipple was deemed to have exceeded
all proper bounds. The American Association of University
Professors went on record officially during the war as
advocating dismissal of any professor guilty of such conduct
as Whipple's.

Enrollment at the university fell from 1,064 for the session
of 1916-17 to 761 and then to 536, despite the exhortation
from Gen. Leonard Wood, speaking for the Wilson administration,
that all college students stay in college until called. A
Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) was organized as
soon as we entered the war, and it was replaced later by the


Page 58
Students Army Training Corps (SATC). Physically fit students
eighteen years of age were automatically enrolled. The curriculum
was modified to include courses needed in wartime.
During the dreadful influenza epidemic in the fall of 1918 all
students wore white masks, in the hope of avoiding the deadly
pestilence. Many fell ill and some died, including able Prof.
William Harry Heck, who was lecturing on how to avoid the
flu. A truck drivers' school was organized and constructed at
the university on directions from the War Department and at
the university's expense.

With the arrival of the armistice, Nov. 11, 1918, there was
fervent rejoicing on both sides of the Atlantic. Robert P. Hamilton,
Jr., a university student who was serving in one of the
institution's ambulance units and was later a Rhodes Scholar,
was in Paris on that memorable day. He wrote his mother at
once, expressing his deep emotional involvement: "Paris on
November the eleventh, 1918, was the stage of such scenes as
occur once in the history of the world. They had no rehearsal
and they can have no repetition. Ten years out of the ordinary
life would have been a modest price of admission. For my part
I had rather die tomorrow with the precious memories of yesterday
thrilling my soul than live to seventy with that golden
date erased from my mind."

The most unforgettable scene of all, he said, was that night,
when Madame Chénal sang the "Marseillaise" from the balcony
of the Opera to a crowd that packed the huge square and
all adjacent streets. "Suddenly, dramatically," he wrote, "in the
very center of the balcony there stood forth the heroic figure
of France personified—a superb woman draped in the colors
of the nation's flag and crowned with the revolutionary cockade.
. . . Tears flowed unabashed and unashamed. . . . The
magnificent woman flung out her beautiful arms in a splendid
gesture, and not one but thirty thousand voices took up the
refrain, Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos battaillons! . . . It was irresistible—that
great, spontaneous, unforeseen roar and
surge of song."

On New Year's Eve Lewis Crenshaw was on the job with arrangements
for a "fumoir" (smoker) for Virginia men in a
Paris café. He announced it for 8 P.M., to continue "jusqu'au
moment où les vaches rentrent chez elles" ('til the cows come
home). On the menu was "de l'egg nogg véritable."

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11. Ruins of the Rotunda after the fire of 1895.


Page 60

The year 1919 marked the centennial of the university's
chartering. Hundreds of university servicemen were still overseas
that spring, and Crenshaw arranged a Founder's Day observance
for Apr. 12 and 13 in Paris. The program included
ceremonies on the site of the residence Thomas Jefferson occupied
as minister to France, a banquet that evening, and a
frolicsome boat trip on the Seine to St. Germain on Jefferson's
birthday. Nearly three hundred university alumni attended
the various events, "the largest reunion of the former students
of an American university ever held in Europe." A tablet
marking the site of Jefferson's dwelling, corner Rue de Berri
and the Champs-Elysées, was put in place later.

The American Expeditionary Force was being rapidly demobilized.
By the fall of 1919 large numbers of former students
were returning to the Lawn and Ranges to complete
their education. Some twenty-seven hundred University of
Virginia alumni and students had served in the armed forces,
and eighty had given their lives. Among the latter was James
Rogers McConnell, in his student days king of the Hot Feet
and editor of Corks and Curls. He enlisted in France's Lafayette
Escadrille before our entry into the war and was shot down by
the Germans over the battle lines in France. "Jim" McConnell
would have had it no other way. His mother, broken in health,
urged him to obtain his release from the French army, but he
replied, "If I knew I was to be killed within a minute, and I
was absolutely free to leave untouched, I would not do so."
Among his effects a letter written in anticipation of his fate,
was found. "Good luck to the rest of you," it read, "Vive la
France! My death is of no importance." His statue, by Gutzon
Borglum is one of the most notable monuments on the
Grounds. On it are the words "Soaring like an Eagle into New
Heavens of Valor and Devotion."

The University of Virginia's first hundred years was at an
end. The institution had survived its early throes when student
riots threatened to close the place down, and then had
passed successfully through two major wars. It was stronger
than ever as its second century dawned.