Page 1


The Tech g g g g g g g g g g g 1882–1896 Questions were multiplying every day, he said. What shall we do with our rivers? How shall we economize on fuel? “It costs thirtythree million yearly to furnish wood and coal for the locomotives on our railways.” How shall we ventilate our buildings, control malarious diseases, insure a water supply and destroy our sewage? And what shall we do to occupy the time and attention of children in our large cities? There was so much to learn about the strength of materials, the force of wind and currents, the corrosive action of salt water. “Technical problems have everywhere broadened and deepened. But advance means more room, appliances, instruction. It may mean more time, a longer course.” So spoke Homer T. Fuller, the second president of the Institute in his inaugural address at the Commencement exercises of 1883. When, after his resignation in 1894, he spoke again at graduation, the school had not answered all of his questions, but it had tackled many of them. The school program had developed into a four-year course; the Institute had extended its buildings; it had solved water and sewage problems for the City of Worcester; it had instituted a hydraulic laboratory which soon was to attract international attention. As for giving young people in the cities something to do, it had at least amply solved that problem for its own students. The biggest challenge of all, stated Dr. Fuller, was to find time for the new work resulting from “continual fresh discoveries in the arts and new applications of science.” Many things had changed. First of all, the name. For years no one had known what to call the school. No one, not even the trustees or teachers, called it by its full name. Immediately after its incorporation, the school had been soundly spanked for its “interminable name” by the Daily Spy, but nothing had been done about it. The Institute itself used such terms as the Scientific School, the School of Industrial Science, the Technical School, and Worcester Free Institute. As for the people of Worcester, they simply labeled it “the Tech,” in the same way they talked about the station, the Common, the Court House, or the City Hall. “The Tech” it remained in the minds and on the lips of everyone who lived in the school’s first half-century, even though the name was officially changed to Worcester Poly technic Institute in July of 1887. Just as the name had changed, so had the people. Only two of the original board members—Senator George F. Hoar and Charles H. Morgan—were still serving. Conspicuously missing was Stephen

Sure foundations have been laid. The utility of combined study, handicraft, and laboratory work is no longer problematic. —Homer T. Fuller, 1894

Loyalty and affection soon contrive to shorten names. Perhaps in a few years we shall know our institution as Worcester Technical School. —Charles Thompson, 1869

Homer T. Fuller


Peleg Emory Aldrich

Mr. Salisbury mentioned his desire “to recognize the deep interest and constant laborious effort” of his father . . . The trustees were equally desirous of honoring the memory of this staunch benefactor, so they voted to name the building the Salisbury Laboratories. —Herbert F. Taylor, 1937

A room is urgently needed where an assistant can sit in charge of our books of reference and papers. —Charles Thompson, 1878


Salisbury. When Mr. Salisbury died in his eighty-sixth year (1884), Judge Peleg Emory Aldrich succeeded him as president of the corporation. At the same time, Mr. Salisbury’s son, Stephen III, accepted board membership in addition to the many other positions in Worcester to which he fell heir from his father. When Judge Aldrich died in 1895, Stephen III became president. The treasurership of the Institute had passed through the hands of David Whitcomb to Philip L. Moen (Ichabod Washburn’s son-in-law), to Waldo Lincoln, then to Charles G. Washburn, the latter being the first graduate of the school to become a trustee. With the duty of keeping the books, the privilege of paying many of the bills was also transferred. Although the trustees had been fairly generous in gifts and legacies, the adolescent school had had to grow up fast when its most benevolent guardian, Stephen Salisbury II, was no longer available. When his son asked for an accounting of his father’s gifts, a record of $236,800 could be found in the books, but the amount of Mr. Salisbury’s unlisted gifts will never be known. Except for ten thousand dollars for instruction, Mr. Salisbury left the school no more in his will. Soon after his death, however, his son made a hundred-thousand-dollar contribution in his memory. This gift was immediately used to fill the pressing need for laboratory space. The arrangement of the four-story building, built not for looks, was planned by the professors themselves to be as useful as possible. Professor Alden took a good share of the building for mechanical engineering, Alonzo S. Kimball a floor and a half for physics and electrical engineering (its new subsidiary). Leonard P. Kinnicutt appropriated part of the first floor for chemistry, but his laboratories were placed on the top floor, where “the wind would have a chance to dissipate the odors.” For the first time in years Boynton Hall was free to clean out its corners and take a deep breath. In the name of progress its lustrous chestnut woodwork was covered with paint, student lockers were placed in the basement, hardwood floors were laid, and a skylight was fitted into the ceiling of the drawing room. One of the first things Dr. Fuller did in the newly-decorated Boynton Hall was to arrange a place to exhibit his five thousand minerals and three thousand geological specimens. At last there was enough space for a library room, and the few books kept in the president’s office were added to those which were accumulating from an alumni fund given in Professor Thompson’s memory. By 1885 there were fifteen hundred volumes in the collection. The death of Professor Thompson in 1885, so soon after he left Worcester, came as a result of inflammatory rheumatism, which had troubled him for years. Professor Thompson’s father, professor of Hebrew at Hartford Theological Seminary, was present in Worcester at the Commencement exercises of 1885 to witness the unveiling of his son’s portrait. He looked so young—Charles Thompson was

only forty-eight when he died—and it was a poignant moment when his likeness joined the older faces in the frames that already covered the chapel walls. Senator Hoar spoke for everyone’s affection in his reminiscence of Professor Thompson’s enthusiasms, his “beaming face and clear frank eyes.” Professor Alden ac cepted the portrait for the school with the best compliment he knew how to say: “He was what he seemed.” Dr. Fuller, a graduate of Dartmouth and a clergyman, had been appointed to succeed Professor Thompson not only as principal but also as professor of chemistry. In addition he taught geology, his pet subject, and required it of every student. School life was not new to him, for he had been principal for many years of an academy in Vermont. “Good morning, are you well?” was a question that was asked, answered, and ignored more times than the students wished to count during the twelve years of Dr. Fuller’s presidency. He seemed to be everywhere. There was no place where the students could avoid the soft-soled approach of what they called his “sneakers,” more for their function than for their style. His strictest rule was “No whistling.” One boy’s graduation was postponed a year because of erring in this respect. There was no one then to know that one of the saddest commentaries of following generations would be that boys no longer often whistled. The boys’ pranks during the regime of Dr. Fuller were designed to outwit the good Doctor, and when he resigned to go to a “milder climate,” there were a few boys who suspected they knew what he really meant. These were the years when the Goat’s Head story and the Buckskin episode became legends at the Tech. The story of Mr. Higgins’ Buckskin has been told by everyone except the horse himself, who might probably ask for some credit for surviving the experience. It took a smart horse to negotiate a two-flight spiral staircase up to the chapel, and a mighty good-natured one to submit to an exit upside-down by block and tackle. The final indignity came when the poor old horse was sold to avoid the notoriety of being seen on the streets of Worcester. This was the only escapade which brought to a full stop every function at the Institute. Everyone was suspended, but thanks to the intercedence of Johnny Sinclair, no one was punished. Afterwards, the record reads, “The faculty discouraged for some time all forms of student activity not connected with the regular work of the Institute.” For several years school spirit was kept alive only by surreptitious feedings by the students at their Half-Way-Thru banquets, dramatic shows, junior promenades, noisy serenades, and athletic programs. The basement of Boynton Hall became a scramble of scheduling for such groups as the Tech Fencing Club, the Wres tling Club, and the Rifle Club. Skating, tennis, bicycling, football, baseball, and basketball (with many an excellent team) all had

Library label, Thompson memorial gift


Fraternities have long played an important part in the life of the college. They have been providing housing since long before the Institute had a single residence hall, have sparked the social life of the campus and have actively supported extra-curricular activities. —Committee Report, 1958


their followers and associations until 1894, when a permanent Athletic Association evolved from the organizational turmoil of many formative years. When Harry Dadmun came home from Washington after winning the United States Championship in the half-mile race—in just under two minutes—the halls of Boynton and Salisbury Labora tories rang with cheers. Even Doctor Fuller gave no reprimand. “The students of the Institute seem to have waked up to the fact,” commented one observer, “that they are more than mere highschool boys.” The old fun-making contests were banished. Sports became very serious, and the only other student groups were scholastic ventures strictly “connected with the work of the Institute.” There was a Thompson Club for debating, the Pol Econ Club for discussing current topics, the Historical Society for studying history and literature. There was also a Washburn Engineering Society, a Tech Elect (for students of electricity), and the Salisbury Sanitary Engineering Club. A sense of social well-being survived no better with this hearty fare than it had with the forbidden sweets of an earlier year. Only when everyone concerned—trustees, teachers, and students—ad mitted the need for rollicking, uninhibited fellowship did the spirit, which has since become uniquely Tech’s own, begin to thrive. This recognition came first with the acceptance of fraternities “which had been strongly discountenanced.” This strong history of camaraderie began in 1886 with a Latin fraternity whose members in 1891 formed a nucleus for the later chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, Tech’s first Greek fraternity. “There was nothing Latin or Greek about it,” insists Robert S. Parks. “It started in my room on Lan caster Street as a means of expediting homework in mathematics.” Student publications, financed and managed by the boys themselves, provided the only opportunity for public expression of opinion. Any boy who worked on these periodicals risked not only losing his money but also being suspected of wasting his time. The WTI (“no periods, please”), which changed to WPI when the school changed its name, was a lively bit of journalism which carefully edged its way past faculty disapproval. Some of the other pamphlets and papers were not so fortunate. As students neared graduation time, they seemed to measure each other’s bravado by the extent of their daring. To stop the sometimes merciless attacks on authority, the teachers voted themselves a right to revoke degrees, even after graduation, if derogatory statements were made about school or faculty by the students. Everyone thought the teachers were bluffing, and the boys of 1891 continued to plan their yearbook, the third to be published in the history of the school. The book was reviewed in the Worcester papers a few days before graduation and was found to contain devastating remarks about some of the teachers. When Commencement day came, diplomas were distributed in the usual bundle for

each department, but afterwards there were no concluding re marks. Only when Dr. Fuller motioned quickly for the benediction did the five editors of the Aftermath realize they had received not diplomas but slips of paper complete with a set of rules for “conduct becoming a gentleman.” Worcester newspapers covered every detail of what they called the ensuing “pretty how-do-you-do.” Dr. Fuller would not talk about it; he was, he said, not a member of the board. So one by one the board members were roused from bed for questioning, but they, too, refused to become embroiled in debate. Finally, of course, the boys apologized—“for the sake of my parents,” as one boy explained—and all were given their degrees. Moreover, the class profited by having their book skyrocket in demand and price. “The classrooms are now deserted. The trouble for the year is at an end. Washburn Shops have a number of mechanics who are making up time. They say nothing, but saw wood,” concluded one reporter who thus ended his story. The Alumni, which incorporated as an Association in 1891, nervously watched such proceedings, sometimes entered the fray, but usually retreated with impatience at the triviality of such schoolboy antics. The graduates of the school had become a stronger autonomy than had ever been imagined; already several branches of alumni were stretching Tech’s influence across the country to the west coast. These men of Tech were becoming such a powerful segment of society that even their own Alma Mater never ceased to be surprised. As for the local scene, the students who had made the school were the same men who made Worcester. The names included Paul B. Morgan, H. Winfield Wyman, George I. Rockwood, John P. Coghlin, Harry R. Sinclair, Arthur C. Comins, Aldus M. Higgins, Calvin Andrews, Victor E. Edwards, R. Sanford Riley, Chester A. Reed, Harry W. Smith, Matthew P. Whittall, Albert A. Gordon, Lyman Gordon, Albert J. Gifford, Charles A. Harrington, Ralph L. Morgan, Charles Baker, John W. Higgins, E. Howard Reed, James N. Heald, Charles G. Washburn, Frank C. Harrington, Fred H. Daniels, and George C. Gordon. More than half of the 257 students enrolled in 1894 came from Worcester County. This had become such a strain on the policy of giving “free” tuition that such largess had been announced in 1889 as applying only as far as the income of funds would stretch. There was a surprising number of foreign students. One Thanksgiving Day boys from fourteen nations were seated around the dinner table in President Fuller’s home. Mrs. Fuller regularly served Sunday supper to the boys from overseas and took care of them in her own home when they were ill. “Student receptions were almost daily affairs,” noted her son, Henry J. Fuller, many years later in a reminiscent moment. Actually the school’s community was becoming as wide as the world itself. Other names became familiar: Moses B. Kaven, Robert

While theoretically engineering was but a department of the school, really it has almost constituted the school itself, and the fame and success of our Alma Mater rests for the most part upon the good work done by her graduates in every branch of civil and mechanical engineering. —Alumni Report, 1893

Here is an institution, the effect of which is to keep our young men just where they are most needed, at home, to build up and maintain the prosperity of the Commonwealth. —Emory Washburn, 1869

The founders of this school did not expect to give direct instruction to all the youth of our state. But they did not forget that ten righteous, right-minded men could have saved the worst of cities. —Stephen Salisbury II, 1881

The interests of the School will not be promoted by making it a narrow local institution with no variety in its pupils. . . . The greatest advantage of the youth will be secured by the companionship and competition of scholars from other parts of the State and the Country. —Stephen Salisbury II


The W.P.I., though sometimes classed with schools of manual training, is virtually an institution of college rank. —Carroll D. Wright, Report of Commission of Labor on institutions of technology, 1892

No other city in the United States has so great a variety as Worcester of manufactories of an important character, in proportion to its population, and these are owned and managed here. —City of Worcester, 1886

The public typewriter is an interesting development of this modern profession, but it has yet made little headway in Worcester. The work is precarious anyway. —Newspaper, 1895, speaking of the “typewriter” as a person, not the invention.


S. Parks, Elwood Haynes, Harry P. Davis, Harrison P. Eddy, and James P. Pierpont. There was William G. Thompson (Professor Thompson’s son, Willie), who became one of Boston’s best lawyers and Henry J. Fuller, Dr. Fuller’s son, who became a noted manufacturer. Other students were later to figure prominently in Tech’s own history: Ralph Earle, Arthur D. Butterfield, William S. and Robert C. Sweetser, Elmer H. Fish, Elmer P. Howe, Louis W. Rawson, William W. Bird, Joseph O. Phelon, Alton L. Smith, and Daniel F. O’Regan. The school was growing up. It was with no small diffidence that the Institute adopted the manners expected of an institution of its status. Even the usual words came hard. For a long time they were a “group of teachers,” not professors of a faculty. There was a “principal,” not a president, and he was not given the privilege of signing the diplomas, a prerogative reserved for the president of the board. There was little mention of formal departments. This hesitancy “to act the part” was imposed originally because of the close supervision of the first board of trustees. The teachers had all been very young, not much older than the institution, whereas most of the trustees were very old. For many years the board was alphabetically divided into working committees which were given the weeks of the year and departments of the school as special assignments. In other words, Moen and Morgan made one committee, Washburn and Whitcomb another. In 1894, when Dr. Fuller gave his farewell speech, all this had changed. The technical school had become a college of engineering. The teachers had become a faculty who met with regularity and great length in Room 19 of Boynton Hall. The principal had become a president, and the school had been recognized as something far more than a local institution. While the Institute had been assuming its status as a college, Worcester had been similarly developing its role as a city. Worcester was a good example of the current trend toward urbanization, a subject of much discussion among economists and educators. There were many theories about the cause and effect of this sudden rush to the cities. In fact, a young professor from Wesleyan University, Woodrow Wilson, once came to Tech to lecture about “Modern Systems of Government.” These were the years when Worcester became more widely known than ever before or since for its manufacturing. Many of its companies were either the first, the best, or the biggest in the world. There were other embryonic activities which never became so well known as far as the City was concerned, but nevertheless added much color to the local scene. There were for instance the calliope, the lunch carts, and the typewriter. Then, of course, there was Shredded Wheat, invented and manufactured by Henry Perky on Jackson Street. This business eventually moved away from Worcester to find more power, but while it was

here it received a jolly sort of attention. Shredded Wheat was advertised as a palliative for all ailments, not merely as a tasty breakfast food. There were many well-attended demonstrations given of the innumerable ways in which the food could be served, and the Tech students were supplied with generous samples of all forty varieties. Professor Alden, for one, believed in Shredded Wheat’s curative benefits. He invested heavily in the product and ate great quantities of it, especially with his favorite custard pudding. Worcester’s greatest problems as a city concerned its streets, water, sewage, and supply of mechanics. For all of these problems, the Tech offered advice and partial solution. For several summer seasons Henry W. Badger taught young boys how to make simple articles in the woodworking and machine shops. Civil Engineering students, under Professor George H. White, helped with the surveying of streets. Leonard P. Kinnicutt, who had become the head of the Chemistry Department, gave constant advice about Worcester’s water and sewage problems. When a Legislative Act in 1886 stipulated that Worcester must, in four years, abandon its cesspools and adopt a system of sewage disposal, Dr. Kinnicutt advised and supervised the chemical precipitation installation, the first of its type in the country. Dr. Kinnicutt vowed the method was so satisfactory that the effluent was pure enough to drink. To prove his point, he drank it. Leonard Kinnicutt, a Doctor of Science and the first man at the Institute with such an advanced degree, was also the first Worcester boy to be engaged as a professor at Tech. With a lineage reaching far back into Worcester’s past, he was welcome in all of the City’s west-side homes. It was a familiar sight to see Dr. Kinnicutt pedaling along on his bicycle, knapsack on his back, and pockets bulging with bottles of water specimens picked up from the homes of his friends. One dividend of his visits was that he always looked over the house drainage to be sure everything was in proper sanitary condition. Usually racing along behind Dr. Kinicutt’s bicycle was Kelpie, a Scottie dog who attended all of Tech’s chemistry classes and listened attentively to Kinnie’s informal talks, which covered the whole range of manners and morals. The only teacher who smoked, he counseled the boys against the practice. “Oh, yes, I smoke—but don’t you. You can’t afford it. I didn’t when I was your age, or I couldn’t afford it now.” He would walk out to the front of the long bench, shut his eyes, pucker his mouth into a small “o” and continue—“Don’t feel you must go down town to Poli’s every night. The show is just like last week’s and the week before.” Eventually his “man-to-man talk” would end. He would straighten up and say, as if it were an aside, “There may be someone who is short of money. If so, I want to talk to him alone.” Thereby Dr.

The popular Washburn drawing stand

The education that is wise, though it involves drudgery, makes no mere drudges or machines. Yet it must stretch the mind or it is useless. —Homer T. Fuller, 1894


During the last ten years Worcester has changed materially in appearance and has lost much of the rural aspect which, long after it became a city, gave a charm to the streets and continued to offer refreshment and cheer to its inhabitants. —Stephen Salisbury III, 1887 in letter to Samuel Winslow

This area shall be called Institute Park in recognition of the usefulness of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute to the material interests of the city and county. —Stephen Salisbury III in deed of gift

Alonzo S. Kimball


Kinnicutt instituted a student loan system which helped more boys through college than will ever be known. Most of the teachers kept the timing of their quizzes a secret. Not Kinnie. “A week from today there will be a quiz,” he would say. “I’m telling you this so you can prepare a crib in good time. When you’ve made one, tear it up and make another. Then tear that one up. By that time you won’t need it. You’ll know the subject and I won’t have to give you the quiz.” Dr. Kinnicutt, a naturalist as well as a chemist, was actively in terested in Worcester’s attempt of the 1880’s to create a park system. His friend, Edward W. Lincoln, who contributed his services as Park Commissioner, had created an elaborate scheme whereby the City would eventually be circled by a wide boulevard connecting a series of parks. There were many supporters of his plan. Several citizens gave plots of land for this purpose, and Lake Avenue and Park Avenue were made into long wide streets as the first links of the contemplated boulevard. Stephen Salisbury III, who was a member of Mr. Lincoln’s Commission, gave seventeen acres of land across the street from Tech for such a park and he proposed to beautify the land himself. In the deed of gift he made a deferential gesture by specifying that the park must be named Institute Park and a certain section be reserved for future building by the school. The “location and dimension” was kept flexible, to be determined by agreement be tween City and school, a prerogative that up to its Centennial year was never to be used. Salisbury Pond had originally been created when the first Stephen Salisbury had thrown an embankment across Mill Brook to provide a millsite for Ichabod Washburn’s wire mill. With its new importance as part of a park, Stephen III built a decorative bridge over one corner of the pond, added boathouses, bandstands, and a replica of a Norse Tower. He was careful to provide “facilities for ingress and egress of carriages.” He also rescued two tall Doric columns from Boston’s old Tremont House, which at that time was being demolished. These two granite columns, one with a round ball on its top, were placed as lone sentinels at the opposite boundary lines of the park. To give the school further prominence, Stephen Salisbury III arranged that the historical Jo Bill Road be renamed Institute Road. He also persuaded the City to curve the street around the bottom of Boynton Hill, thereby extending Tech’s campus considerably. At the very corner where the new road met Boynton Street, and close to the gates of the campus, Mr. Salisbury erected a small building which was to become one of Tech’s most picturesque traditions. Intended to be a magnetic laboratory, its interior had been planned by Professor Kimball. The building was to be used as an adjunct of electrical engineering, a subject which was offered as the school’s first post-graduate course. Electricity in the 1880’s was very little understood. The class of

1886 had given a few sockets and light bulbs to the school, but they had not yet been installed. The school was still lighted by gas lamps, and the streets stuttered with a sporadic system of carbon arc lights. Electricity was still such a mystery that students invariably took off their watches before entering any room where there was known to be a motor. Electricity had occupied a place in physics textbooks for many years. It had been known to be closely associated with magnetism and the ideas had been developed mathematically, but not until the late 1800’s was the knowledge made practical by the invention of a dynamo. Stephen Salisbury II was so interested in the development of electricity that as early as 1882 he had given dynamos, motors, magnets, dynamometers, galvanometers, and other electrical measuring instruments to the school. Professor Kimball thus had an opportunity to pioneer in electricity and magnetism long before the use of electricity became common in the City. He had also established a meridian at a corner of the campus, and it was on this spot that the magnetic laboratory was erected. No iron was used in the construction of the little building. Its axis coincided with the magnetic meridian, and through opposite windows in the tower passed the north and south meridian. A heavy wire connecting the building with the Salisbury Labora tories made possible the conducting of many delicate experiments. In this building there was practically no vibration. That is—until horse railway service was added to Boynton Street almost immediately after the little building was erected. (The horses were replaced by trolleys in 1898.) In 1891 electric lights were added to the street, and this double dose of interference made the little building useless for its intended purpose. For many years, however, it served as a perfect architectural example for the students in free-hand drawing. Dr. Fuller, in his farewell speech, mentioned the many doors which electricity had opened in technical education. Much had been accomplished, but he was sure there was far, far more to do. By the October day when Dr. Fuller’s successor, Thomas Cor win Mendenhall, was met at the station by members of the board and faculty and a great crowd of students, many of the projects Dr. Fuller had initiated were close to fulfillment. Almost ready for occupancy was a new president’s house, just across the street from the old grey house where Professor Thompson and Dr. Fuller had lived. Peering far up into the sky at the top of Tech Hill was the ninety-foot chimney stack of a new power house. From this installation ran a tunnel carrying heat to the other buildings; through another tunnel, power was transferred to the laboratories and Shops. Up to this time each building had had its own heating equipment, and the Shops their own engine. The new power station, with its steel grey walls and crimson engines and generators, was in itself a proud display of Tech’s school colors. Almost completed was another building made possible by a grant

The recent applications in electricity alone call for years of study in this one department to make the ordinary student familiar with the advance. —Homer T. Fuller, 1883

We have all sketched that much used building known as the Magnetic Laboratory. —Yearbook, 1896

Thomas Corwin Mendenhall


The most valuable thing about the WPI practice system is the fact that everything is made for a purpose and used for that purpose after it is made. It is this feature more than anything else that distinguishes it from other institutions of similar character. —Arthur D. Stevens, President, Merrill-Stevens Engraving Company, Jacksonville, 1891

It is apparent that our department of mechanical engineering has obtained its proud position by the unique feature of shop practice. —Examining Committee, 1891


from the State of Massachusetts. With two floors for classrooms and two for laboratories, the entire building was to become the home of Mechanical Engineering. Thomas Mendenhall had had a spectacular career of teaching, spending many years in the Midwest and at the Imperial University of Japan. At Rose Polytechnic Institute he had succeeded Profes sor Thompson, then he had served as Chief of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey before coming to Worcester. One of the first things he did after arriving at Tech was to ask who was in charge of the Washburn Shops and what attitude the Shops and their superintendent should sustain toward the Institute and its president. “Are we one educational institution with several branches or are we two institutions?” The trustees evinced some surprise that such a question should be asked, but in reality there was no one who knew the answer, even the persons most involved. Periodically the situation had been reviewed, with the Shops and Milton Higgins’ control of them alternately being curtailed and expanded. There was no denying that the Shops had been amazingly successful—all too successful, muttered certain critics who worried about the comparative academic standing of the school. In the twenty-seven years of their existence, the Shops had sold almost a million dollars’ worth of products, and their hydraulic elevators had been installed in every major city of the United States. Charles Morgan was always sharp and ready in his defense of the Shops. Like Mr. Higgins, a protege of Ichabod Washburn’s, he was conscientious about the trust he had been given to supervise this experiment in “practical education.” There were other members of the board who could not so easily be reconciled to the prosperity of the Shops, although they all agreed that the “authority of the president extends alike to all departments.” Even the graduates were asked for their opinions. “Would it be wise to conform to the practice of other technical schools, which do not work on commercial products?” wrote Senator Hoar to fifty graduates of Mechanical Engineering. Every answer advised no change. J. Fred Wilson, proprietor of a cold metal punching business (Worcester Stamped Metal), said emphatically, “No.” H. Winfield Wyman (nine years out of school, in a business known as Wyman and Gordon Drop Forgers) suggested that if any change be made, it should be “more toward the commercial system.” Victor E. Edwards an engineer in Mr. Morgan’s new construction company, said with conviction: “To eliminate the commercial element would seriously impair the course.” Nevertheless, the controversy continued until the community and Worcester papers also became involved in the quarrel. Local manufacturers expressed no little resentment that a tax-free institution was allowed to conduct such a profitable enterprise, and there were constant inquires into income, profit, expenses, and control. It was not a matter of who was right and who was wrong. But

there came a day when the situation was no longer tenable for either the school or for Milton Higgins. In January of 1896 the board voted to discontinue the elevator business and to indicate that Mr. Higgins’ resignation as superintendent of the Washburn Shops and member of the Institute faculty would be acceptable. In their own good time, circumstances would doubtless have conspired to bring about the same result. It was inevitable that with the change to a four-year course an adjustment in the practice system would have had to come. Sooner or later everyone would have had to admit that apprenticeship had served its day. Local labor would not have tolerated much longer the prosperous business at the school. It is not conceivable that Mr. Higgins’ own outside business ventures could much longer have survived without his full attention. And in perspective, everyone knows how disastrous it would have been for the school and for the community if Milton Higgins had stayed on the hill making drawing stands and hydraulic elevators. But people are never as patient as is progress, so anxious are they to inflict the wounds which life itself might give so much more mercifully. Milton Higgins left the school on the hill to become Worcester’s leading industrialist. He came back later to serve on the board of Tech; he and his sons and grandsons have contributed to the school with the same magnaminity exhibited by Ichabod Washburn in a previous year. But it was a disappointment from which Milton Higgins never fully recovered. “I’m a failure,” he confided to his little daughter as he sat with folded arms in his favorite willow chair. And no matter how hard she, and life, tried to convince him otherwise, no subsequent success ever made up for those twenty-seven years of Tech life. “My heart was in the Washburn Shops, not just my brains,” he said again and again. “It’s education not industry that means the most to me and I’ve failed in what means the most.” The morning after his resignation Mr. Higgins called his old friend, Professor Alden. He, too, promptly resigned. It was clear that whatever concerned Milton Higgins also involved George Alden. Professor Alden, who had twice served as chief officer of the school between presidential terms, had been deeply disturbed by what he felt was a trend toward a liberal curriculum. He had been articulate about this opinion when a Physical and Political Science Department had been organized to give the students a broader choice of subjects. Professor E. P. Smith, who had organized the plan, had watched over the new department with fierce and jealous care and had had many supporters. There were just as many teachers who had opposed the new department, and Pro fessor Alden was one of them. With the board’s decision concerning the Washburn Shops, he felt all the more fearful that Worcester Tech was deserting its original function. Besides, he and Mr. Higgins had many other irons in the fire. Flossie, Professor Alden’s white horse, no longer appeared as

The gulf between the work of the schools and the shops has sometimes been called a difference between theory and practice; but the real variance in educational attempts is between men, between the mechanics and the schoolman, between the machinist and the engineer. Brave attempts have been made to bring the two together, but with partial success only. —Milton Higgins, 1897

There is an increasing class of worthy students who desire a general scientific education, rather than a college one, but do not aim to become chemists or engineers. —Report of Committee on Courses of Study, 1889

Two factions had grown up in the faculty, one favoring greater emphasis on the practical side of Institute training, the other on the liberal or more purely academic. —Zelotes Coombs, 1915


Tech’s trademark at the hitching post in front of Boynton Hall but alongside Rob, the white-nosed roan belonging to Mr. Higgins, in front of a small square building at Barber’s Crossing. Here grinding wheels were being made in a business venture in which the two professors had been involved for several years. In another nearby building the two men also continued the manufacture of hydraulic elevators, the rights to which they had purchased from Tech. It was at this time that Professor Gladwin resigned from Tech, because of loyalty perhaps, but also because his course in free-hand drawing had been dropped and the hours of drawing practice reduced to only four a week. Three men in the Shops and a young instructor in Professor Alden’s department also left the school. An old order had changed, making way for new. The Washburn Shops continued, but never in the same robust way. Limping along as a teaching and research function rather than as a commercial enterprise, the Shops were finally dissolved in 1955. They had been continued so long more for tradition’s sake than for that of usefulness. Again and again the Washburn building was converted to other purposes. And in the Centennial year an eloquent small sign indicating the presence of a nuclear reactor was to tell the whole long story of a school’s effort to offer a “practical” education.

Seal, designed by A. S. Kimball, 1888


g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g

Boynton Hall, with a surprised “O,� inspects what has happened to its long-time neighbor, the Washburn Shops


1885 Tennis Trophy, given by Jang Landsing, first Chinese alumnus Right: Leonard P. Kinnicutt in his study

Construction of Salisbury Laboratories, Stephen Earle, architect


Stephen Salisbury III

Bridge over lagoon in Salisbury Pond and pillars from Tremont House, Boston, brought to Institute Park by Stephen Salisbury.


Sketch of Magnetic Laboratory by Robert S. Parks, ’93. Now occupied by Skull, senior honorary society

Edison Electrical Exposition, Mechanics Hall, 1884. Mr. Edison, after his lecture, visited Tech Hill


Faculty, 1900. Back row: Kingsbury, Reeve, Coombs, Jones, Duff, H. Smith, Jennings, A. Smith, Cutler. Front row: Marshall, Sinclair, Chandler, Kinnicutt, Mendenhall, Haynes, Conant, French.

Intercollegiate Athletic Team, 1891. Second from left, back row, Harry L. Dadmun, national half-mile champion, 1890, with record unchallenged for nearly forty years.


Advertisement for Shredded Wheat when manufactured in Worcester

82 Norton Company’s first building with Flossie, Mr. Alden’s horse

The road down from Tech to the City of Worcester, which was literally fashioned by the Institute’s early graduates


Campus, 1915


The Tech  

The Tech paper

The Tech  

The Tech paper