From Special Collections and Archives: College Catalogs

page image of 1839 R-MC Catalog indicating the Course of Study for the Preparatory Department and the Freshman Class
1839 R-MC Catalog indicating the Course of Study for the Preparatory Department and the Freshman Class

Since its earliest days in Boydton, the College has published a catalog outlining the course of study, listing the faculty, and including a wide range of information that has changed over the years.  The oldest original in the College Archives is from October 1839, although we have a photocopy of the 1836 catalog held at an archive elsewhere. The catalogs provide us an excellent overview of the changes in the curriculum over time, as well as a glimpse into student life.

The 1839 catalog is only 14 pages, compared to contemporary R-MC catalogs of over 200 pages. Included is a full list of the College’s trustees, faculty, alumni, and enrolled students. The student listing even indicates the dormitory room in which they lived! There is also a listing of the students in the College’s Preparatory Department, the course of study for the Preparatory Department and for each term of college level study, information on the school calendar, expenses, and other general information, such as a statement on the final page that the “College discipline is mild and parental, but it will not tolerate indolence or vice” and that “no idle, disorderly, or immoral student can be permitted to remain….”

The catalog page displayed above shows the rigor of the curriculum and the emphasis on a classical education. Freshman read Virgil, Cicero, and Livy, and studied mathematics and geography. The right hand column indicates the author or editor of the text used, so in addition to knowing the content of the course, we know the textbooks students used and we even have several student textbooks from this era in our collection!  Upperclassmen studied subjects including   astronomy, chemistry, calculus, logic, political economy, mineralogy, and more classical studies.

In addition to the President, Landon C. Garland who taught Pure and Mixed Mathematics, there were seven other faculty members, although the position of Professor of Moral and Mental Philosophy, which translates today into Religious Studies, was vacant. There were professors for Ancient Languages, English Literature, and Experimental Sciences as well as “tutors” in Mathematics and languages. The tutors were instructors rather than the modern definition of tutors. The final faculty member was the principal of the preparatory school.

Tuition was $35 for the entire year, and board was set at $8 per month. Other student expenses included firewood, lights, bedding and laundry, and a category labeled “incidental expenses” at $15 which included textbooks and purchasing furniture for their dorm rooms, as the College did not provide furniture. The catalog also cautions parents against providing too much pocket money, deeming it potentially hurtful!

Learn more about the history of Randolph-Macon College.

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