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The General Collections



Starting Places
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College Catalogs
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Vassar Girls. University of Iowa Libraries, Special Collections Department, Iowa City, IA 52242-1420

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The Library's extensive holdings of nineteenth-century and twentieth-century college catalogs are an excellent example of a primary source that can be mined by scholars from many disciplines.

For education scholars, the benefits are obvious. They can easily trace curriculum variations (or compare and contrast women's and men's curricula), study regulations and requirements, or observe regional, class, and racial differences.

For the genealogist, these volumes give names of students and faculty with home addresses.

Sports historians can track alterations in physical-education requirements, team sports, or styles of gym suits.

Religious historians might follow shifts in compulsory church attendance and religious affiliation, or the size of church groups or choirs.

The wealth of detail on costs, classes, clothing, manners, required reading, visiting hours, buildings, and faculty is extraordinary. At Vassar, in its opening year, 1865, it was

“specially desired that the dress of students shall not be expensive . . . but rather such clothing as will not be injured by active sports and vigorous exertion.”

Each student was to bring thick boots, a waterproof cloak, and napkin rings. Annual tuition was a hefty $350, with oil painting or riding costing an additional $60.42 In addition to the 1865 Vassar catalog [full item], you can view online two catalogs of the Branch Normal College of the Arkansas Industrial University, for 1892 [full item] and 1893 [full item].

In 1903 students at the Girls Industrial College in Denton, Texas, could choose to study traditional academic subjects, domestic science (cookery or dairy work), commercial work (commercial law, stenography, bookkeeping), or domestic arts (dressmaking and millinery). In recommending the school, the catalog stresses that “Denton is a clean town morally. There are no saloons here.”43

College yearbooks, alumni or alumnae magazines, and other educational publications can also furnish fascinating historical data. The Library does not hold all years for all colleges; for the early years especially, major institutions in the Northeast are better represented than others. Current collections of yearbooks are slim, but college catalogs from 1973 to the present are available on microfiche (MicRR).

SAMPLE LCSH: College catalogs rarely have subject headings.

For all items published by educational institutions, search for the name of the institution as a corporate author.

For alumni directories try: [Name of institution]—Registers

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