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An addition to the rear of the Observatory was completed.

Recent curriculum changes appeared to bring to an end a long Vassar tradition, the “trig ceremonies” which marked the mid-year liberation of the sophomore class from trigonometry, the conclusion of the mathematics requirement. The custom of presenting an original play in honor of the sophomore’s escape was observed by a presentation called “Ye Last Dayes of Vassalem Wytchcraft,” in which Trigonometry was burned at the stake.

The annual celebration of George Washington’s birthday was, according to The New York Times, rendered much more somber by the fact that the students were allowed no holiday from classes. “At the evening dinner the entire line of senior tables was in mourning for the memory of George Washington, which seemed to have died out in the hearts of the college authorities. The seniors marched in, dressed in black and white, chanting a funeral dirge, appropriate to the occasion. A colonial ball was held in the evening.”

The ballroom of the Brunswick Hotel in New York City was “illuminated with hundreds of small electric light, with red, white, and blue shades” for the annual luncheon meeting of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC). Some 200 alumnae attending the meeting heard President Taylor cite three recent major accomplishments. “We have advanced the entrance qualification, we have broadened the curriculum, and we have established a number of graduate scholarships.”

In addition to these accomplishments, he pointed to a serious lack. “In various ways,” he said, “we have received pecuniary aid, but the $100,000 for a recitation hall and the $100,000 for a residence hall I have as yet heard nothing about. During the last year we have turned away scores of students, simply because there was no place to house them. We cannot hope to bring the number of students at Vassar up to 500 if we do not provide accommodations for them.”

A decision to discontinue the recently established capability to offer the Ph.D. degree was made, he said, “not because Vassar could not give as thorough a course as her sister colleges, but because she could not give the best. I believe that that degree should be given only by the universities, the colleges that are equipped in every direction.” The New York Times

“In view of the great interest in athletic games which is prevalent in the College,” the students petitioned the faculty for permission to organize their teams and clubs into an athletic association.

“The founding of the Athletic Association marked the beginning of the period in which athletics have become organized sports!”

Vassar Miscellany, Oct. 1915.

The Wake Robin Club was founded under leadership of Professor Mary W. Whitney ’68. Students studied the birds of Dutchess County and made a yearly pilgrimage to Slabsides, the home of naturalist John Burroughs, near West Park, New York. A frequent visitor to Vassar, Burroughs served as advisor and mentor to the club for the next two decades.

In 1982, the Vassar Library acquired Burroughs’s manuscript journals, 53 notebooks compiled by the great naturalist between 1876 and 1921, the year of his death.

Vassar students were among the first to take up a new sport, battle ball, devised the previous summer by the director of Harvard’s gymnasium, Dr. D. A. Sargent, who described it as a combination of bowling, baseball, cricket, football, handball and tennis. Played on a field 50’ by 25’ (or any larger field of similar proportions) and by two teams of five players (or of any equal number on each side up to 20) the game involved stretched cords, three pairs of Indian clubs or bowling pins on the two goal lines and a leather ball weighing two pounds. The game could be played for any pre-agreed period, and a judge watched for fouls—apparently only one possibility, stepping across the field’s centerline—and kept each side’s score according to a complex scoring system.

“Gymnasium directors who value competitive exercise,” The New York Times suggested, “will welcome battle ball for reason of its very simplicity…. The entire separation of the opposing sides, excluding all roughness, and the lighter character of the game make it more suitable than basket ball for women.” Although the sport never caught on, it was a feature of the first women’s field day, held at Vassar later in the year.

An exhibit of various items from the early days of the college, presented by the Society of Granddaughters of the College, was a novel feature at the 30th Founder’s Day celebration. Awakened by the sophomores’ chanting of three cheers for Matthew Vassar, the college celebrated with literary exercises, songs and a promenade concert in the evening.

Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory Mary W. Whitney ’68 spoke, in her address, of the founders of the college—Matthew Vassar, Founding President John Raymond, Maria Mitchell and Hannah Lyman, the first lady principal—all of whom she had known.

The New York Times

The New York Times confirmed President Taylor’s warning at the alumnae association meeting in February. Under the headline “Vassar is Overcrowded,” the newspaper reported that with more than 230 applications for the fall and no prospects of new residential space, Vassar would be able to house no more than 100 new students on campus.

College authorities planned on a long-term lease of the Windsor Hotel, renovation of its plumbing and heating and connecting it to the trolley line.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris S. Reynolds of Poughkeepsie and President and Mrs. Taylor held a reception at the Reynolds’s home on Washington Street for the senior class and the visiting crew teams from Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania. The New York Times reported that 96 seniors and some 40 crew men attended.

“The Pennsylvania men wore their college colors, but in some mysterious way they changed owners, and when they left the Vassar girls were wearing them.”

President Taylor drew the baccalaureate sermon for the Class of 1895 from Proverbs xxix, 18, “Where there is no vision the people perish,” telling the class that idealism is the only reality. Tracing the power of vision in science, philosophy, education, art, literature and religion, he rejected the notion that cultures and nations mature and inevitably decline, claiming instead that this happens only through the loss of high ideals.

In conclusion, he urged the class to find a unity in life through a strong personality and to be led in all ways by the vision that lies within that personality.

The New York Times

In addition to commencement guests, a large number of Poughkeepsie residents attended the last commencement concert to be directed by Professor E. M. Bowman, who had announced his resignation at an earlier date. Half of the program was given by seniors, and the remainder was performed by students of the former school of music who were finishing their studies.

Professor Bowman was succeeded by George Coleman Gow, who was professor of music until his retirement in 1932.

In perfect June weather, Class Day was held entirely out of doors for the first time. A platform and an amphitheater of seats were set up in the northeast corner of Main Building, where the ivy-covered walls shaded the audience, served as a sounding board for the speakers and provided an attractive contrast to the light gowns of the assembled seniors. Class president Juliette Greer ’95 introduced the class historian, Anne Laziere Crawford ’95, whose “spicy history” was “enlivened with class songs.” The Glee Club offered a musical interlude, and after the class prophecy envisioned by Anna Jeannette Graham ’95, the assembly moved to the class tree, where Ida Poppenheim ’95 gave the senior charge and passed Matthew Vassar’s spade to Susanna Chamberlain ’96, who delivered the junior response.

Some 200 alumnae reunited for Class Day. The toasts at their luncheon included that of the president of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College to “The Students and Society.” Professor Abby Leach ’85 toasted “The Progress of the College,” and “President Taylor” was hailed by Mary V. Clark ’93.

At their annual meeting, the trustees granted President Taylor a six-month leave of absence, during which he planned to travel abroad. They also authorized the seeking the funding, $100,000, for a new residence hall, to be ready, if possible, in the fall.

The New York Times

The trustees also commissioned a residence to be built for President Taylor on the campus. The President’s House, designed by New York City architects Rossiter & Wright, was completed in late 1895. Built with funds bequeathed by John Guy Vassar, charter trustee and nephew of the Founder, the house marked Taylor’s first decade of service to the college. One of his priorities during that time was housing that would allow faculty members with families to live elsewhere than in Main Building, and the new home allowed him the same opportunity.

In addition to the appointment of Professor George Gow, from Smith College, to succeed Dr. Bowman as director of the music department, the trustees announced the appointment of Laura Johnson Wylie ’77, who had received her Ph.D from Yale in 1894, as assistant in English. She and Gertrude Buck, appointed in 1897, introduced in their teaching the idea that the arts must be experienced in order to be known; for the first time students of English practiced creative writing—poetry, narrative, description—as well as exposition and criticism. At the basis of Miss Wylie’s teaching was her belief that literature is essentially social in nature and function.

President Taylor opened the college’s 27th Commencement with an invocation, and several senior addresses followed. Laura Brownell ’95 spoke on “Mars,” Grace Alden Beard ’95 inspected “One Factor of the Labor Problem,” Elizabeth Boyd ’95 revealed “A Few Items to the Credit of Bacteria” and Anna Adele Monsch ’95 discussed “Degeneration.” Elizabeth Updegraff ’95 balanced “Individualism and Societism,” and Katherine Campbell Reilly ’95 explored “The Foundations of a Free Press.”

The “youngest member of the senior class and the finest musician,” according to The New York Times, Rose Gruening ’95 graciously offered an encore after playing Frédéric Chopin’s Berceuse, Opus 57, and President Taylor conferred the bachelor’s degree on 100 members of the Class of 1895. The program noted that the second degree in arts, the master’s, had been conferred on Sophia D. Storke ’70 the previous November.

In his closing remarks, President Taylor again made the case for a new recitation hall. He said that of the 250 applications for admission in the fall, room for no more than 75 new students could be found and that, if the $100,000 needed for a new recitation hall were secured, the trustees would construct another residence hall of equal value.

The New York Times

James Renwick, Jr., the architect of Vassar’s Main Building, died at the age of 77.

The College announced that it had bought the Vassar Hospital Farm, 200 acres adjacent to the college property on the west side of Hooker Avenue, for $14,500 and that the site would be used for a new plan for disposing of the College’s sewage, called intermittent filtration. A few days earlier, the Town of Poughkeepsie had given the College six months to build a sewer, at the probable cost of $40,000, to take its sewage to the Hudson River. Heretofore, it had been dumped in the Casperkill, which ran through the College grounds.

The new plan, which proved to be only a bit less expensive but was far more sanitary, had been urged on the board by the new alumna trustee, Ellen Swallow Richards ’70, a preeminent water scientist and head instructor at the MIT laboratory for women, which Richards called her laboratory for “sanitary chemistry.”

As it began a new academic year, the college was again filled beyond its capacity. In four years, the entering class had nearly doubled, from 120 in 1891 to over 200, of whom about 80 could be accommodated on campus. The renovated Windsor Hotel was to be home for another 80, along with a matron and several teachers, and some 40 other freshmen were housed in homes near the college.

No funding for a new recitation hall or a new residence hall was yet in sight.

The New York Times

The eminent actor Joseph Jefferson, famous among many other roles for his portrayal over many years of Rip Van Winkle, lectured under the auspices of Philaletheis, the student dramatic society. “He was a very interesting speaker—most of what he said being in the line of reminiscence.”

MS letter by a member of the Class of 1897

In the evening some 300 Vassar students were among the audience of 3,000 for Jefferson’s double bill, Boucicault’s Cricket on the Hearth, and J. M. Morton’s farce, Lend Me Five Shillings. As an expression of their appreciation, the students presented the actor with “a huge bunch of white chrysanthemums, with the letter V in the center, formed of yellow chrysanthemums.

“The flowers were tied with wide yellow ribbon to which was attached a card inscribed: ‘For Mr. Joseph Jefferson, from his Class of ’97 and his Class-to-be ’99.’” Jefferson broke with his customs of receiving no flowers and making no curtain speeches: “I never felt so like a prima donna in all my life. As you have honored me so by this brilliant audience and this magnificent reception, allow me…to say that I can never forget your kindness and am very thankful and exceedingly grateful to you for it.”

The New York Times

The next year Jefferson visited Vassar again “to see his friends the Vassar girls.”

In spite of “unpropitious weather” the first woman’s field day in America was held in “the oval in the garden” which had been laid out for the track events, under the supervision of Professor J. L. Moore. Events included the hundred yard dash, the running broad jump, the running high jump and the 220 yard dash. “All this time the rain had dripped down slowly but surely. Even the cartridges for the starter’s pistol grew so damp that they would not go off.”

The Field Day was not open to outsiders. ’97 won the banner presented by the Athletic Association to the class with the most points in the track events. They also won the basketball game in the afternoon. “That meant another banner, and ’97 was filled with joy!”

Poughkeepsie Eagle, Nov. 11, 1895.

The Years