Archives > Historical Features > Exhibits > 19th Century

COLLEGE CLASS OF 1852:
Life before College

Also see a LIST OF STUDENTS and a SUMMARY OF THEIR LATER LIVES.

 

Were all the students from Philadelphia?
Most members of the Class of 1852 were from Philadelphia; 24 of the 36 individuals who were part of the class at one time or another lived with their families in Philadelphia (although one had been born in Lisbon, Portugal). Four of the students hailed from rural Pennsylvania: Carpenter from Pottsville, Cox from Bucks County and the Appleton twins from Bedford Springs. Another four came from other states in the northeast: Lee from Connecticut, Ludlow and Lockwood from New York (Ludlow had been born in Rhode Island and lived for a time in Canton, China). Dunglison was from Maryland and Taggart from Virginia - the only members of the class who could be considered southerners. Finally, two members of the class had been born in Great Britain: Patton in Ireland and Suddard in England.

Were they all the children of prominent families?
Most, if not all, the members of this class came from well-educated and prosperous families, often Philadelphia's most elite. They were the sons of professors, doctors, lawyers, physicians and well-to-do merchants and industrialists. The occupations of 26 of the 36 fathers have been identified and can be broken down as follows:

  • Four professors:
    the three fathers who taught at Penn, plus Richard Dunglison's father, a professor at Jefferson Medical College
  • Three other physicians:
    the fathers of Albert Bache, John Carpenter and Albert Hewson
  • Six lawyers:
    the fathers of George Benson (also a banker), Dorsey Cox (also an industrialist), Benjamin Coxe (federal judge), Matthew Messchert (also a merchant), Isaac Norris, and William Wells
  • Four clergymen (including an Episcopal bishop):
    the fathers of the Appleton twins, John Harris, Benjamin Lee and Henry Suddards
  • Six merchants:
    the fathers of William Barclay, Henry Duhring, Charles Hutchinson (also U.S. Consul to Portugal), Francis Lewis, Benoni Lockwood (as a captain in the US merchant service), Matthew Messchert (also a lawyer)
  • Two bankers:
    the fathers of George Benson (also a lawyer) and William Biddle
  • Three industrialists:
    the fathers of Dorsey Cox (president of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company), Andrew Ripka (head of the Ripka textile mills in Manayunk), and Joseph Rosengarten (chemist and founder of the company that has evolved into the Merck Co.)

The most common religious denominations of these students were Episcopalian or Presbyterian; Asch and Rosengarten were Jewish.

At least twelve students had family connections with the University of Pennsylvania. Seven young men (William Foster Biddle, Brinton Coxe, Alfred Elwyn, Isaac Norris, Albert DaBadie Bach, George Earp Benson and Albert Hewson) were the sons of Penn alumni. Another three were sons of faculty members: James Bayard Hodge was son of Hugh Len Hodge, MD and professor in Medical Department; Richard Ludlow was son of Provost John Ludlow; and Samuel Brown Waylay Mitchell was son of Archibald Mitchell, mathematics teacher in the Academy. Also Dorsey Cox was the grandson of John Syng Dorsey, M.D., professor in the Medical School, and Charles Hare Hutchinson was the grandson of Charles Hutchinson, MD 1774, Penn trustee and Professor of Materia Medica and Chemistry.

A number of students were members of families that had been prominent in the American Revolution. William Foster Biddle, Alfred Elwyn, Charles Hare Hutchinson, Benjamin Lee, and William Lehman Wells later became members of the Sons of Revolution. Isaac Norris, Jr., a member of an established Philadelphia family, had been born in house across the street from Independence Hall. Brinton Coxe's grandfather was Tench Coxe, a wealthy industrialist and land speculator, Penn alumnus, and a Tory sympathizer. Alfred Elwyn's ancestors included a governor of New Hampshire and the first president of the US census.

What kind of education did they have before coming to College?
All of the members of this class had received a classical education in order to be admitted to the College. This education involved some combination of home-schooling, private tutoring and attendance at a private academy or public "classical" high school.

Tutoring usually came at the beginning or end of a pre-college education, the basic grammar school education when a boy was very young or special tutoring later on to prepare a young man for his college entrance exams. Thus, as examples, John Carpenter had a private tutor at home before attending the Pottsville Academy, while Provost Ludlow's son Richard was tutored by Rev. William Rice before matriculating at the College.

Fourteen members of the College Class of 1852 are known to have attended a number of preparatory schools. Only two, Isaac Norris and Joseph Rosengarten, had attended the Academy branch of this institution; interestingly, the same number of students ( two - Richard Dunglison and Samuel Mitchell) were prepared at Philadelphia's Central High School, even then a prestigious academic institution. Other Philadelphia schools attended included Episcopal Academy and the schools of Charles Allen, Edward Brown, John Faries, Thomas James, and William R. McAdams. For those who had lived outside of Philadelphia, the school choices included the Pottsville Academy outside of Philadelphia, Lawrenceville Classical in New Jersey, and the Jamaica Plains boarding school near Boston.

How young were these students when they entered the College?
These students seem young compared to the college students today. There was a range of ages, but the average student would have entered at age fourteen and graduated at age eighteen.

The thirty-six members of the Class of 1852 were born anywhere from 1828 to 1835. They ranged in age from twelve to twenty years of age as entering freshmen, and from sixteen to twenty three years at the time of the class's 1852 graduation. The bulk of the class were born in 1833 (fifteen students) or 1834 (ten students) and would have been thirteen to fifteen years old as freshmen and seventeen to nineteen years old at graduation. One young man, Joseph George Rosengarten, was only 16 years old at his graduation on July 2, 1852; he would turn seventeen on July 14. Ten members of the class were a bit older, but none over the age of twenty three at graduation; five were born in 1832, three in 1831 and two in 1828.