The 1901 yearbook

8/16 UPDATE: This piece has been syndicated at The War Eagle Reader.

I won an auction earlier this week for one of Auburn’s 1901 yearbooks. (You know I collect these, right? Here are the covers of more than 100 years of history. You can see the inner details from a few select years, too.)

There were two annuals in 1901, the traditional Glomerata, which was then all of five years old, and this one, The Chrysalis:


No one in this book would recognize the place today. From their point of view, only Samford Hall, Langdon Hall, the University Chapel and Hargis Hall remain. One of the advertisers in the back of the book would be familiar to modern eyes, and nowhere inside is there a reference to Tigers or War Eagle. Auburn, A.P.I. and the Orange and Blue are used interchangeably as the names of the place and collective people.

But why were there two yearbooks? The editors of The Chrysalis explained that the independent students were being shut out by the Greeks. Because they were organized, the seven fraternities, making up about a third of the student body, felt they could dictate terms. (Read the complete argument and rationale for the Chrysalis.)

The Chrysalis complains that each fraternity got a member on the Glomerata’s editorial board, and the non-fraternity students were represented by only one person. This led to the best sentence, and the worst rationale ever, to explain the purpose of something like a yearbook.

“The non-fraternity men demanded equal representation on the Advisory Board, which they should have had, for eight of the eleven players on the Varsity Foot-ball Team belonged to their number …”


(The football team, by the way, went undefeated that year. Auburn hosted “the Nashville boys” and defeated them in a cold rain, 28-0. They traveled next to Birmingham to face a Knoxville team that was “the strongest team we played.” After the game people that stayed in Auburn received a telegram “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Auburn won 23-0. Up next were “the Tuscaloosa boys,” as Auburn and Alabama (the yearbook didn’t use their name) met in Montgomery. Auburn thrashed ‘Bama, 53-5. But that game wasn’t the finale as it is today. Back then Georgia was still the biggest game of the year. In this, just the seventh meeting of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Auburn whipped Georgia 44-0. A capacity crowd of 3,500, watched the game, according to the yearbook.)

The dispute between the fraternities and independents raged and, ultimately, a panel of professors stepped in to arbitrate. Those three professors decided the Glomerata’s editorial board should be more evenly divided. But that didn’t happen.

“(T)his time, as usual, they were offered ONE and told that they did not deserve more – this was not accepted, and it was decided to publish a non-fraternity annual.”


And so there they are, the editors of the non-fraternity book. The Chrysalis was published for only the one year. How the dispute was resolved in 1902 remains a mystery to me. I don’t yet have that edition in my collection.

Here’s the sophomore class of 1901. How young:


I collect these because they look great on the shelf and they are stuffed with history. There’s a great history lesson of the university in this book, too, written by Professor O.D. Smith, who taught English and mathematics. Soon after writing this history he would find himself serving as the interim president. Today Smith Hall is named in his honor. (You can read his full accounting here.) Here’s a lengthy excerpt:

The Alabama Polytechnic Institute and A. & M. College was one among the last of the land grant colleges established under the act of congress passed in 1862, known as the Morrill Act. Owing to the confusion and demoralization incident to the reconstruction period, the donation of land script granted by the act was not accepted by the State Legislature until December 26, 1868. The amount of land allotted to the state was 240,000 acres. A Board of Commissioners was appointed to receive and sell the land script and invest the proceeds in Alabama bonds. The amount of bonds ultimately purchased was $353,000.

A striking commentary upon the unsavory financial operations of that period is, that over three years elapsed before the sale and investment was completed. A still more remarkable fact is, that not a trace of a record exists of these large transactions. During this period, a large part of the fund was misappropriated to the use of the state and came dangerously near being lost in the wrecked finances of the state.

By an act of the Legislature approved February 26, 1872, by Gov. R. B. Lindsey, the offer of the grounds and building of the East Alabama Male College, made by the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, was accepted and the A. & M. College was located at Auburn


The first session of the college was thus inaugurated March 25, 1872. A provision was made that the senior class of the old college should complete their course and graduate at the usual time, and should be recognized as Alumni of the A. & M. college. The usual commencement was held in June, and this class received their diplomas, but it was provided that the session should continue through the summer and close the 30th of October. The theory seemed to have been that the summer was especially adapted to the acquisition of Agricultural knowledge. One experiment was enough. It was never repeated. During this year, owing to the bankrupt condition of the state Treasury, the college received but a small part of its interest. The close of the session found it burdened with debt, which necessitated a reduction of the faculty, and a reorganization of its work …

The college reopened Jan 1st, 1873. This was really the beginning of the first session of the independent existence of the college, and the class of 1873 was the first class to graduate at a commencement held exclusively under the auspices of the new college.

It is well to mention that the number of students matriculated that year was 103, and of that number only 47 were in the college classes. From such a small beginning, the college has risen to its present numbers, when its graduating class for the present year is twenty per cent larger than the entire number of college students the first year of its existence.

The location of the college was fortunate. Auburn had been famous as an educational center, and the seat of much wealth, refinement and culture. The Methodist church had established in 1858 an excellent classical college, officered by some of the ablest educators in the south. The college, its buildings, equipment, patronage and good will, were all conveyed to the state. According to the records, the most zealous and effective workers in securing this transfer to the state were the present treasurer, E.T. Glenn, Esq., and the first president of the Board of Trustees, the Hon. W. H. Barnes.

Under the first charter of the College, the Board of Trustees was a self perpetuating body, electing their successors whenever a vacancy occurred, with the exception of the Governor and the Superintendent of Education, ex-officio members. The change made by the present constitution providing for their appointment is of doubtful advantage, as it opens the way for partisan political influence, than which nothing can be more disastrous to an institution for higher education.


Naturally at first the institution encountered serious difficulties. It was an experiment, and it had to meet both jealousy and prejudice. There was much ill concealed skepticism as to the practicability of combining mental discipline and intellectual culture with practical training in the arts and sciences. The financial resources were limited to the interest on the bonds paid for some years in depreciated currency which the college was compelled to dispose of at as much as 25 per cent discount. In addition to this embarrassment, the college was burdened by a heavy debt incurred the first year, from the failure of the state to pay the interest on its bonds. And yet this decade was not an era of stagnation, its curriculum was extended, its faculty increased and new chairs established … The average attendance was 151 …

The second decade, the beginning of its period of development on scientific lines, was ushered in by the election of Dr. Wm. Le Roy Broun, president … The college was just beginning to move forward under the impulse of these new forces when the main building and all its contents were burned June 24, 1887. This seeming disaster proved a blessing in disguise. With the insurance on the old building and an appropriation of $50,000 by the state, the present Chemical Laboratory and main building were erected, giving much increased facilities for college work.

The laboratories destroyed by the fire were re-established, enlarged and better equipped, and the department of Biology was established in 1889. New energy and increased zeal seemed to be infused into every department and the growth of the college in patronage and in every direction was much greater in the five years succeeding the fire than in the five preceding years. The average annual attendance from 1882 to 1887 was 141, from 1887 to 1892 was 235, an increase of over seventy per cent.


The third decade has been characterized by growth and development in all the old departments, and by the addition of several new ones. Of these the most important were Pharmacy and Electrical Engineering … The shops of Mechanic Arts department have been greatly enlarged … A large three story building has been added as an annex to the Chemical Laboratory, which is devoted to the departments of Chemistry, Pharmacy and Mechanical Engineering. Three commodious buildings have been erected for the use of the department of Veterinary Science. Three large rooms in the main building and a separate dynamo building has been provided for the Electrical department. A separate State Chemical Laboratory has just been completed. One of the most important additions is the library, which has been created almost during this decade and under the management of its efficient librarian, Prof. C. S. Thach and the library committee, has become one of the best collections of books in the state. To sum up, there have erected nearly a dozen separate structures, some of them most handsome … The buildings and equipment are easily valued at $200,000 and yet the demand for more is urgent …

During this decade the annual average attendance has been 325. The enrollment for the present year has reached 412, of that number 341 are from Alabama, and 68 from thirteen other states and three from Cuba and Nicaragua.

Cadet Band

(T)he number of permanent instructors six, attached to the experiment station, not connected with the faculty of instruction, one associate chemist and four assistants – total 27. The present income approximates $58,000 … An institution is known by its graduates. These are its epistles read of all men; and by their career and success is to be judged the worth of the training given by their Alma Mater. Among the 579 graduates, the idlers can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Farmers, engineers, chemists, lawyers, physicians, ministers, teachers, business men are all included in the list: not less than 80 per cent of the entire number following employments closely related to the physical sciences, and other than the so-called learned professions. Not a few have achieved distinguished success. The profession of teaching has claimed a large number and the graduates of this institution are to be found in many of the important colleges and universities of the south.


Co-education cautiously attempted by the college has proved a success. The young women have demonstrated an ample ability to master the most difficult subjects of the curriculum and easily take rank among the first in their classes. There has been entire harmony in the relation of the two sexes …


In conclusion I would urge there is a great work yet to be accomplished in Alabama by this institution. What it has already accomplished is but vantage ground for still higher achievement. It is to be hoped that the Alabama Polytechnic will do its full share in the great work of leading the state to higher and better things. And this it will do, as year by year, with the guidance of able trustees and a competent faculty, and with the earnest support of its alumni, and the sympathy of all good citizens it strives towards the full accomplishment of the ideal of its founders in sending forth class after class of young men who are once scholars and trained specialists, public spirited citizens and technical experts; young men of broad intelligence and sound morality who are able and willing to address themselves to any of the practical problems of life.

Remember: You can see all of my covers here and details of a few books here. Also, there’s the complete argument and rationale for the Chrysalis and Professor Smith’s full historical account here. That one is lengthy, and probably only of interest to serious Auburn enthusiasts.

And now, the last of the pictures that I scanned from the book. Just because.

The pastoral turn of the 20th century setting of Auburn, Ala. I think this is from perhaps the belfry of Samford Hall, looking into town. What do you think?


Here’s a street view. The book does not say which street. Maybe it wasn’t even named yet. I’m guessing it is the modern College Street.


And, finally, a page of ads from the back of the book. This page features the only business name recognizable to contemporary students:


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