A Few Well Selected Books

The Early Curriculum at Haverford, 1833-1845

In the first place, then, we do not aim so much to make brilliant scholars of our pupils, as to turn out well instructed, serious, reflecting, and useful men.

--From the "Address of the Board of Managers
to the Friends of the Institution
," 1833

As the contents of the early collection suggest, the school’s founders sought to cultivate excellence in Haverford’s students both academically and morally. Their curriculum, outlined out in 1833 in “The Address of the managers of the Haverford School, to the Friends of the Institution,” focused on three areas: classical languages and literature, English literature and “Mental and Moral Science”, and mathematics and the natural sciences. The founders believed that by learning these subjects collectively students would acquire discipline, soundness of mind, and clarity of expression.

One teacher was engaged for each subject area. The selectors of the first library books, John Gummere and Daniel B. Smith, took charge of the natural and moral sciences, respectively, covering between them the fields of mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, English literature, philosophy, and religious instruction. Classical languages and literature became the responsibility of Joseph Thomas, a young man at the beginning of what would become a distinguished career in philology.

Compared with today's students, these three instructors and Superintendent Samuel Hilles exercised a great deal of control over the lives of their young scholars. Their schedules, leisure activities, and even their pleasure reading were also designed to be "serious, reflecting, and useful." Surviving archival materials, such as a delightful student-authored school history titled "Annals of Haverford College" and Haverford's first gradebook, indicate that the strict rules and regulations of the school were not universally obeyed.