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Connecticut Agricultural College - 1900
The campus in 1900 - at the center is Old Main. On the far left is Grove Cottage and between it and Old Main is Gold Hall. Grove and Gold are on the site of what is now Beach Hall. The other buildings are the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station (far right) and a chemistry laboratory. [See footnote.]

Dawn of a New Century

As 1899 was coming to a close, students and faculty in Storrs were still sensing some excitement about the new name of their college. It was founded in 1881 as Storrs Agricultural School and renamed in 1893 as Storrs Agricultural College. During the spring of 1899, that was changed to Connecticut Agricultural College.
[See note 1.]

There were 110 students enrolled in the fall of 1899 - 77 men and 33 women, and President George Flint had a faculty of 19 instructors.[See note 2.] About a dozen wooden structures comprised the CAC campus at that time -- including the Main Building, which had administrative offices, classrooms, laboratories, the library and rooms rented to faculty as living quarters. There were two dormitories: Gold Hall for men and Grove Cottage for women.
[See note 3.]

Class of 1899 Class of 1899

In December 1899 there was no mention in the student newspaper or other documents of a new century approaching. Final exams ended on December 20 and most students headed home for a 12 day vacation before the January 3 start of the winter term of 1900.
[See note 4.]

In the January 1900 issue of the student newspaper, The Lookout (Vol. 4 No. 6), editors led off the monthly "College Notes" column with - 'Hello! What century is this anyhow?' with no further comment about a new century.[See note 5]

Calendar purists can take note: many people in 1899 viewed 1900 as the last year of the 19th century. The first year of the new century would be 1901.

So, one year later, January, 1901, a member of the Class of 1901 wrote in The Lookout of how the new century was greeted in Connecticut. F. W. Pratt was visiting an uncle in Hartford during the break before the beginning of the winter term in early January:

"After supper on New Year's eve we went down to the City Hall where there was to be a big celebration,"he wrote. AThe whole front of the City Hall was covered with red, white, blue and green colored incandescent lights. Just above the street entrance there were two shields on each side of the door. On these shields there were incandescent lights so arranged as to form the figures '1900'.

"At ten minutes of twelve the Naval Reservists paraded up the street dragging behind them two Hotchkiss guns. These they took down State Street where they fired a salute of nine guns. Following the Naval Reservists came the City Guards and the Governor's Foot Guards. After the procession was over a band of Indians marched down the street to the Opera House where they were performing.

"At twelve o'clock the last figure '0' in '1900' was taken out and a '1' substituted in its place. The people began cheering, whistles blew and church bells rang to welcome in the new century.

"The Hartford Times got out an extra just at midnight, and this, so far as I known, has the honor of being the first paper to be published in the new century."
F.W. Pratt, 'O1.

In the same issue of The Lookout that January are several short essays by students about the new century -- including one by Walter F. Thorpe, a colleague of Pratt's in the senior class at CAC. Thorpe called the century just passed "one of the three greatest centuries that man ever has lived in.

"A glance at it shows that the people have made great progress. The electric car has taken the place of the horse car and stage coach. The railways have been extended, so that traffic between points far distant from each other can be carried on more easily.

"The telephone and telegraph have come into widespread use, and man has turned to good account many inventions."

Then, Thorpe makes some predictions - some prophetic, some off-the-mark - for the new 20th century, and how the world may look at the dawn of the 21st:

"In all probability before the close of the present century electricity will be used even by the farmers as the only means by wich (sic) the soil will be tilled and the crops harvested.

"Wireless telegraphy is one branch of electricity that will be fully developed before the end of this century.

"The automobile will be used instead of the family horse; and compressed air will be used to propel such machines.

"There will be a great evolution in the science of medicine and surgery. The x-rays already are coming into general use, and trained nurses are better aquainted with their work than ever before.

"This century will bring a marvelous musical development. The love for frivolous, will change to that for good music -- the people will require it.

"Wonderful progress in learning has been made in the past century; and this progress will increase with great rapidity, until the man without an education will find it hard even to get a living."

Another essay on the coming 20th century by another student, C. Foubert, takes a dimmer view of the world:

"We have almost retrograded a century; for when we consider that at the beginning of the century the cannon was booming in Europe for the cause of liberty, and that to-day it is booming to enslave free people, we must admit that in this respect we are less advanced at the end than were our forefathers at the beginning. The new century must correct and atone for this."

The dawn of the 20th century was not a good time for CAC -- the college was in the midst a controversy that began in 1898. Known as "The War of the Rebellion," it centered on Pres. George Flint's decision to make agricultural education secondary to classical education. It infuriated some faculty and set off heated exchanges in letters-to-the-editor in newspapers throughout the state. Even the New York Sun took note.

The battle ended in 1901 with Flint's forced resignation, but he won the war. Successor Rufus Stimson held the college together -- even bucking a campaign to move the college out of Storrs to either Norwich or New Haven. Stimson's modest changes paved the way for curriculum reforms in 1911 and 1914 by his successor, Charles L. Beach, president from 1908 to 1928.

Mark J. Roy
University Communications

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* The chemistry laboratory and experiment station were on the site of what is now the Charles Waring Building near Swan Lake (also known as the Duck Pond), which is just out of the picture to the right. The chemistry lab was destroyed by fire around 1910. The experiment station survived to the 1960s after being moved to a site across from what is now North Campus. It was torn down to make way for the Torrey Life Sciences Building.

1. The college would be CAC until 1933, when the name was changed to Connecticut State College. It became The University of Connecticut in 1939.

2. Enrollment of full-time undergraduate students at Storrs (there were no graduate students or regional campuses in 1900) is 11,411 for the fall of 1999, with 5,348 men and 6,063 women. Philip E. Austin has been president of UConn since 1996, and there are approximately 1,100 full-time faculty at Storrs.

3. Old Main was torn down in 1929 shortly after the opening of Beach Hall, which replaced it. Old Main was built in 1890. Gold Hall burned down in 1914, and Grove Cottage suffered the same fate in 1919. Gold Hall was named for Theodore Sedgwick Gold of West Cornwall, an early promoter of a Connecticut agricultural school and a member of the Board of Trustees from the founding of Storrs Agricultural School in 1881 to 1900. Gold lamented around 1900 that wood was being replaced by coal as a source of fuel, as "cutting firewood has been a source of income to students of limited means."

4.There were three semesters in the academic year - fall, winter and spring, until curriculum reforms in 1914.

5. The Lookout began publication in 1896 and in 1915 it became The Connecticut Campus. Today the student-run newspaper is known as The Daily Campus.