Peabody Institute Office of the Provost records
- 1861 - 1916
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
11.36 Cubic Feet (30 boxes)
Biographical / Historical
Provosts include Nathaniel Holmes Morison (1867-1890) and Philip Reese Uhler (1891-1911).
The Peabody lecture series became a thriving aspect of Baltimore's intellectual life. Professor Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian Institution gave the inaugural lecture in November 1866, and in the years that followed, distinguished men in science, literature, and art delivered more than 30 lectures a year in the institute's main lecture hall. Literary and scientific subjects were intermingled with topics of regional interest.
The lectures were organized by a committee of trustees and administered by the provost of the institute. Noting the attendance problems plaguing the Lowell Institute's free lectures in Boston, Provost Morison required patrons to pay a small fee for the course of lectures to ensure good attendance. Lectures were scheduled for daytime hours "...to accommodate women, who, it was believed, would be more likely than men to attend." Poor attendance at evening lectures prompted the proposal to schedule the forthcoming season's lectures at 4:00 p.m., with the provost citing the success of the lectures at Cambridge, South Kensington Museum, and those at the Royal Institution, London, held at that hour.
High-spirited neighborhood youths were also drawn to the lectures, and in an attempt to restore decorum, children under 12 were barred from attendance and youths between 12 and 15 were required to be in the company of an adult. A city police officer was employed to monitor the hall "so that unruly spirits were shut out or restrained," providing audiences with an "unusual degree of quiet and order."
In addition to the general lecture series held in the large hall, courses of class lectures were instituted in 1870 to provide extended instruction in specialized branches of knowledge. From 10 to 40 lectures were given during each November to April season, with audiences typically ranging in size from 10 to 80. Topics included physics, physiology, French and English literature, and natural history. Several professors from the newly established Johns Hopkins University conducted course lectures. The poet Sidney Lanier, a flutist in the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Hopkins faculty, delivered a series of lectures on Shakespeare.
Herbert Baxter Adams was the first of a number of Hopkins professors to use the Institute's small lecture room to provide students with easy access to the large historical collection in the Peabody Library. He was quickly followed by Latinist Minton Warren. Another Hopkins professor, Charles Sheldon Hastings, delivered a series of 20 weekly lectures on astronomy to 175 of the city's female students in 1883 and 1884. Two years later, Professor Ira Remson conducted lectures in physics for females. Supported by the girls' schools, these lectures were discontinued in 1888 despite increasing enrollment. Hopkins frequently used the large lecture hall for lectures arranged for the university's own students and patrons.
Between 1899 and 1906 the institute suspended the lectures because of a decline in public demand. The series was restored in 1907 when Commander Robert Edwin Peary, U.S.N, was invited to give an account of his explorations in the vicinity of the North Pole. After several attempts to revive the series, the lectures were again discontinued in 1915.
Scope and Contents
Records relating to the lectures contain correspondence with many distinguished scientific and literary figures including Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Tyndall, and James Russell Lowell. Library correspondence contains letters from Abram Stevens Hewitt of the Cooper Union, E. W. Blatchford of the Newberry Library, and Melvil Dewey. A series of letters from librarian Philip Uhler to the provost chronicle the institute's day-to-day activities as well as Uhler's research activities. Other items include early scrapbooks maintained by the provost and letterpress books related to the Art Gallery and to the Rinehart Fund.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Dewey, Melvil, 1851-1931
- Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882
- George Peabody Library
- Gilman, Daniel C. (Daniel Coit), 1831-1908
- Hewitt, Abram S. (Abram Stevens), 1822-1903
- Johns Hopkins University. Peabody Institute
- Lowell, James Russell, 1819-1891
- account books
- annual reports
- clippings (information artifacts)
- financial records
- lecture notes
- letterpress copies
- notes (documents)
- receipts (financial records)