Primary Creator: Saint Louis University. (1818-)
Extent: 38.0 Linear Feet. More info below.
The series arrangement begins hierarchically, with material relating to the administration of the University and to its departments taking precedence over that chronicling student activities and University "housekeeping." The final few series are arranged alphabetically by record format while the last series consists of non-Saint Louis University records that were discovered to be part of the same cache of records that had been in the St. Louis Room of Pius Library. The arrangement of and within subseries is alphabetical and/or chronological.
The 33 series are: 1. Consultors and Trustees; 2. Jesuitica; 3. Prefect Diaries; 4. Post-Graduate Course; 5. Medical-Dental Schools; 6. Library; 7. Museum; 8. Gonzaga Hall; 9. St. Francis Xavier (College) Church; 10. Student Compositions; 11. Commencement and Literary Exercises; 12. Organizations; 13. Dramatics; 14. Lousiana Purchase Exposition (World's Fair); 15. Meteorological Records; 16. National Defense (World War II); 17. Student Records; 18. Alumni Records; 19. Financial Records; 20. Real Estate; 21. Legal Documents; 22. Certificates; 23. Correspondence; 24. Diaries; 25. Ephemera; 26. Historical Accounts; 27. Letter Books; 28. Lists; 29. Notes; 30. Publications; 31. Reports; 32. Speeches; and 33. Non-Saint Louis University Historical Records.
The Saint Louis University Historical Records provide glimpses into the inner workings of the early University rather than a seamless history of its development and administration. Over the years much has apparently been lost, and the contents of this collection, sketchy though they may be, serves as our closest link to the past of Saint Louis University.
The collection contains items dating from as early as 1639 to as late as 1966, with the earliest material being nineteenth-century copies of rare originals and the most recent transmittal letters accompanying gifts from donors. The bulk of the material spans the mid-nineteenth to very early twentieth centuries.
The fragmented nature of the collection, as well as the difficulty in imposing modern bureaucratic constructs on laissez-faire nineteenth-century University officers, whose duties often overlapped and who were as involved in mundane housekeeping tasks as in long-range policy planning, necessitated arranging series into a hierarchy of University administration functions and divisions, followed by the activities of the University community, by housekeeping records, and finally by record format. These format series are arranged alphabetically. The collection concludes with a series of non-University historical records that were for some reason mixed in with University records of a similar timeframe. These pertain to other Catholic educational institutions both in St. Louis and elsewhere.
It should be remembered that during the early period covered by these records the distinctions among the University as an educational institution, St. Francis Xavier (College) Church as a parish, and the Jesuits as a religious community were not at all clear-cut. Two examples of this are encountered in the Jesuitica and Financial Records Series. The Jesuitica Series is composed mainly of records that document the Jesuits' lives in religion and in community, yet a subseries on teaching, made up of lecture notes and bibliographies prepared by Jesuits, illuminates not only the content and method of classroom instruction but also the way that Jesuits filtered this teaching through their particular world view. The Financial Records Series, too, contains many volumes that appear to cover indiscriminately the financial affairs of the school, the church, the Missouri Province, individual Jesuit residences, and the Jesuit fathers and brothers themselves. A similar situation exists in the case of the financial records subseries of the Jesuitica and St. Francis Xavier (College) Church Series.
The largest and one of the most interesting of the series is that entitled Organizations, which encompasses everything from student clubs and church sodalities to the Alumni Association, thus chronicling the extracurricular social, religious, and academic activities of students and other members of the University community.
The second largest series, Jesuitica, and the third largest, Financial Records, have been touched upon above. Among the remaining series, the Student Records Series gives the names and addresses of students, the classes to which they were assigned, information on their families and courses of study, and their grades for both academic work and conduct. It also includes lists of absentees and of those leaving school, with sometimes pithy comments about the circumstances of these occurrences.
Other series of particular interest include Prefect Diaries, which consists of journals kept by the University prefects of discipline, studies, and small boys. They detail daily life at the school among students, the chief focus, as well as their Jesuit mentors. The Student Compositions Series, supplemented by similar items in the two series entitled Commencement and Literary Exercises, and Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World's Fair), demonstrates the differing levels of proficiency of students in various fields of study. The Letter Books Series, made up of correspondence from parents and guardians, University agents, and fellow Jesuits to University officials, is a gold mine of gleanings in the sociocultural and political history that serves as the background for the financial, academic, and religious matters under discussion.
The latest history of the University is William B. Faherty's Better the Dream; Saint Louis: University and Community, 1818-1968, published by Saint Louis University in 1968. Faherty's bibliography is helpful and mentions two other lengthy histories of the school: Walter H. Hill's Historical Sketch of the St. Louis University; The Celebration of Its Fiftieth Anniversary or Golden Jubilee, on June 24, 1879 (St. Louis: Fox, 1879); and Memorial Volume of the Diamond Jubilee of St. Louis University, 1829-1904, published in 1904. The latter contains fascinating sketches of University presidents and alumni as well as accounts of student organizations such as the Philalethic Society and of the University departments.
A shorter history of the University was compiled by William H.W. Fanning and published as "Historical Sketch of the St. Louis University" in Vol. 4, No. 5 (mistakenly numbered No. 4) of the University Bulletin (December 1908). A brief history of the early Medical Department is contained in the Centennial Volume of the Saint Louis Medical Society under the title "Historical Sketch of the First Medical Department of St. Louis University, 1835-1856" by Louis C. Boisliniere Jr. (pages 63-66+).
A pictorial history of the University is Saint Louis University: 150 Years by Rita G. Adams, William C. Einspanier, and B.T. Lukaszewski, published around the same time as Faherty's book.
The University Catalogues and Bulletins also contain much contemporary information on courses of study, student organizations, and the lives of boarders and day students. These volumes include period photographs of the campus.
There appears to be no published chronology offering a thumbnail sketch of University history. Following is a list of significant dates in the University story.
1818--Louis William DuBourg, Bishop of Louisiana, founds St. Louis College, in reality an academy, or high school, of the day. The College of Arts and Sciences dates from this year.
1829--the Society of Jesus establishes a new Saint Louis College at 9th and Washington, subsuming the old academy.
1832--Saint Louis University is chartered, becoming the first university to be established west of the Mississippi River. The Graduate School dates from this year. The first student organization on campus, the speech club or Philalethic Society, is also set up.
1836--the first Medical Department is established, but lapses in 1840. It is revived in 1842 but severs its connection with the University in 1855.
1840--Bishop Rosati lays the cornerstone for the first St. Francis Xavier (College) Church at 9th and Christy.
1842--the Law School is founded, but classes end in 1847.
1884--Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia lays the cornerstone for the new St. Francis Xavier (College) Church at Grand and Lindell.
1888--the University moves from its old location at 9th and Washington to its present quarters at Grand and Lindell.
1889--the College of Philosophy and Letters is founded to prepare students for the Catholic priesthood.
1903--the University takes over Marion-Sims-Beaumont Medical College and forms the Saint Louis technology is founded. This year, too, Black students are admitted to the University, making it the first White school in the city at any level to allow Blacks to matriculate.
1946--Parks College affiliates with the University. The college opened in 1927.
1979--the School of Allied Health Professions is established.
1991--the School of Public Health is founded.
The Saint Louis University Historical Records contain the bulk of the general historical University material that was housed in the St. Louis Room of the Saint Louis University Archives since the 1950s. Aside from notations on the identity of the donors of several items, information on provenance is sketchy. These records were probably maintained by the Jesuit librarians in a room near the old library in DuBourg Hall until Pius XII Memorial Library was completed in 1959, at which time they were transferred to the Saint Louis Room.
This collection comprises records, manuscripts, ephemera, etc. produced during roughly the first century of the University community, which includes the school itself, St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, and the Jesuits responsible for them both. Along with the University Scrapbooks, this collection represents the preponderance of primary sources relating to the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of Saint Louis University.
Preferred Citation: Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections. Saint Louis University Historical Records (DOC REC 1)