Tennessee in 1923

19 Jan

When you teach history, people tend to give you old stuff. It’s cool. I like old stuff. It’s just something that I have noticed. A few months ago, a friend gifted me with the 1923 version of The University of Tennessee Record, the catalog for the 1923-1924 academic year. It was a fitting gift. It’s historic. It’s academic. It’s from the university whose teams I have supported since I was a kid.

Looking through old books is always interesting. It’s fun to see how different things used to be. Recently, I wrote about a compilation of United States history from the 1870s and the strange subjects that were found within it. This book also provides some interesting tidbits.

The calendar looks similar to the calendar that my university uses. It shows when classes begin and end. Commencement, the goal for everyone, is held in the morning. It’s on Wednesday morning, which seems like a weird day to have it. However, there is one major difference between the calendar then and the calendar now. They had the day off on George Washington’s Birthday! I don’t know why they would do that. After all, he was only the Father of the Nation.

Remember me?

Remember me?

A few pages later, it lists the different colleges and schools within the university. I found the College of Liberal Arts interesting because that is the one that I teach in. They have all of the usual suspects – College of Engineering, College of Agriculture, School of Education, School of Home Economics. Wait, what? The School of Home Economics? Yep, that really existed. Somewhere in the book, there is a paragraph talking about how the University of Tennessee welcomes female students. I guess this is where they planned on sticking them.

To get a degree in Home Economics, a student had to take some general electives and 16 Home Economics classes. It doesn’t specify what those classes are about, but I can imagine.

I don't know the year, but this is a canning class at UT.

I don’t know the year, but this is a canning class at UT.

Today, the university has an agriculture extension program that places an agricultural agent in each Tennessee county to assist the farmers in that area. The university also did that in 1923, but it also sent out a home demonstration agent. In my county, the agriculture agent was E.F. Arnold, and the home demonstration agent was Miss M.S. Henderson.

The section titled “General Information” is, as would be expected, full of information. It turns out that students were required to attend chapel and were expected to go to church. That would really go over well at a public university these days. The next paragraph, call “Christian Activities”, covers the importance of Christian groups on campus. That’s alright. There are Christian groups on campus right now. However, there are also other groups for the religious and non-religious.

As a fan of the University of Tennessee athletics programs, I wanted to know what was happening in 1923. Today, the athletic department, to the chagrin of many academic types, is the most famous part of the university. It generates publicity and millions of dollars. Back then, it generated two paragraphs in the Record.

The first paragraph begins as follows, “Athletics are encouraged in so far as they do not conflict seriously with the academic work.” That is quaint. It goes on to say that the university is a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Conference.

S-I-C!!! S-I-C!!!

The second paragraph thanks W.S. Shields and others for purchasing land for a new physical education field. It would be named Shields-Watkins field. It looked like this.Shields Watkins

Now, it looks like this.

I'm in there somewhere.

I’m in there somewhere.

As written earlier, I was interested in the College of Liberal Arts, but I was specifically interested in the History Department. Within it, I found three faculty members – James D. Hoskins, who also served as the Dean of the University; Phillip May Hamer; and, Marguerite Bartlett Hamer. I assume that they were married. Three faculty members. That’s how many we have at my small, private university.

There are other interesting aspects of The University of Tennessee Record, but it’s getting late. Like other books from the past, it provides an insight to what the world was like in 1923 and how different (and how similar) it is to our time.

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