In the most recent “Beyond the Log” post, David rebroadcast Bob Magill Jr. ’65’s bleg:

c. 1990, a book was out that tracked the top 5 college preferences of the children of the social register in large cities on the East Coast, from the years 1900 to 1950 . . .  I asked Fred Rudolph over the weekend at the reunion and he could not remember either.

Via the magic of Google Books, I’ve tracked down a promising candidate:┬áRichard Farnum, Patterns of Upper-Class Education in Four American Cities: 1875-1975, in The High Status Track: Studies of Elite Schools and Stratification,Paul W. Kingston and Lionel Stanley Lewis, eds (1990). Farnum’s essay “examin[es] patterns of college attendance of the upper classes of of Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Baltimore from 1880 to 1970.”

Google Books has most of the text of this chapter, but is missing a couple of pages. The available portions confirm Bob’s recollection. In Boston, Williams was the 4th-most attended college, after Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (“HYP”), although in a few decades, Williams surpassed either Yale, Princeton, or both. And in New York City, Williams consistently ranked 5th, trailing HYP and Columbia. In Philadelphia, the top 5 were rounded out by Penn and Haverford, and in Baltimore, by Johns Hopkins and Virginia.

Below the fold, what Farnum has to say about Williams…

Williams is initially discussed in the passage on Boston:

To Bostonians, Williams and MIT also represented “local” institutions of high standing. Although Williams is not exactly local to Boston, it is in Massachusetts and has long enjoyed a reputation as perhaps the finest New England liberal arts college.

Although Farnum downgrades his characterization of Williams somewhat later, describing it as “a fashionable liberal arts college,” he concedes that:

the fashionability that Williams developed, especially in the 1920s, may suggest that it became something of a national upper-class liberal-arts college. Its Puritan origins and Massachusetts location probably helped foster this reputation.

In the context of the “Beyond the Log” seminar, this passage in Farnum’s discussion of Philadelphia also jumps out:

In the 1880s, Penn graduates were about half of the upper class, but in the one decade from 1910 to 1920 they dropped from this level to 14 percent. Almost all of this decline corresponded to Princeton’s ascent from 11 percent to 40 percent in the same decade.

This is the period in Penn’s history when its undergraduate population was characterized as having the “democracy of the streetcar” [cite]. Upper-class alumni and trustees after World War I complained about its urban setting, a polite euphemism for the increasing admission of Jews and other non-WASPs. Various proposals were circulated, largely by disgruntled alumni, to redress what was perceived as an unacceptable and increasing level of heterogeneity…

The proposals included moving the school to a more “pastoral” setting in the countryside and attracting former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Leonard Wood as Provost. Is it relevant that Princeton’s ascent also corresponded with Woodrow Wilson’s ascent to the presidency, and that Gen. Wood was a leading rival of Wilson (who passed him over for further command during World War I in favor of Gen. John Pershing). and protege of Theodore Roosevelt, who pushed him to (unsuccessfully) seek the Republican presidential nomination?

Print  •  Email