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CHAPTER VI When Roots Would Go Deep g g g g 1896–1915 It was a case of now or never. Either the school would fall apart completely, or it would pick itself up and become wiser for the tumble. As it happened, the next twenty years were one of the most determining periods in Worcester Tech’s whole history, a time when standards and standing were raised to unexpectedly high levels. The pieces to pick up in 1896 were actually of considerable substance. Perhaps the school’s greatest asset was its recent change to a four-year course. That, and the cumulatively amazing record of its graduates. On the material side, there were several new buildings, an increase in endowment—thanks again to the State of Massachusetts—and the fact that Tech was no longer a free institute. The work in the Tech classrooms went on as if nothing had 5 to sign a pact with Dr. Mendenhall to be “good boys,” to keep unpleasantness at a minimum; but there were few other students who knew anything at all about the recent turmoil in administration. The ink was not long dry on the student agreement when “ ’98” appeared in big numbers on the shop steps. To answer for this reprehensible development the boys were hurriedly summoned. Frank Harrington, president of the class, promised for his classmates that the numbers would be promptly removed. But the oil of the paint had already sunk far down into the pores of the cement, and no matter how hard the boys rubbed, only the surface color would come off. Everybody finally conceded that the class of 1898 had made a permanent impression. The controversies which stormed around the hydraulic elevator episode divided the City into two argumentative camps. The Alumni Association spoke nervously of the prospect of becoming a “byword in the street.” “There are many things existing at the Institute which could be severely criticized and justly so,” continued the report. “All of the departments are more or less in a state of transition.” Inevitably there came a drop in enrollment and a deficit in the treasury. Uneasiness was further intensified by the uncertainty of the whole country’s economic condition. Such was the difference in investment value that in 1901 the income from Tech’s invested funds was less than it had been in 1873. Then, too, there had been the interruption of the SpanishAmerican War. The Worcester Volunteers had marched off for Cuba in 1898, wearing dark blue blouses and light blue trousers, high leggings and rakish campaign hats. Compared to other wars, The present must be regarded as a critical period in the history of the Institute. —Alumni Association pamphlet, 1895 We have sent out year after year from our classes young men who have been highly taught in the arts of life and who have become all over the country men of moment, who have helped administer great business transactions upon which the safety and prosperity . . . of the nation depended. —George F. Hoar, 1900 Davenport Cup, given by Class of 1890 for athletic trophy, in memory of Clarence G. Davenport, who lost his life in Spanish-America War 85

When Roots Would Go Deep - part 1

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