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1851 Commencement Speech
by M. Edgar Richards


M. Edgar Richards' essay "Improvements of the Age" was the last of twelve student orations listed on the program for the July 3, 1851 commencement of Penn's College Class of 1851. The seven page manuscript of Richard's tongue-in-cheek commmentary on mid-nineteenth century progress is available here as both facsimile and transcription.



Facsimile pages :Title 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Transcription: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


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Improvements of the age.

This age is decidedly one of improvement. The restless spirit and indomitable patience and perseverance [sic] of the American nation are admirable calculated to overcome all obstacles in the way of improvement. Suggest but the impossibility of anything and people will exert all their ingenuity and strain every nerve to accomplish it.

Our country is all together a great one and has been rapidly improving ever since its first colonization. Our ancestors consisted of a mere handful liable to be cut off at any moment by the savages, and now Uncle Sam is one of the largest and most spunky nations on the face of the globe, and takes the lead in everything, and dancing on leaving the thickheaded lookers-on to hold the candle. Our motto is "Go ahead," "Keep moving," acknowledge no superior in anything, drink nothing but lager, and if our article is not the best, the tongues of our artists crack it up the higher to make up for the deficiency.

In medicine we stand unrivalled. Who is not proud of our Philadelphia medical students? Those youthful and sapient sons of Escalapius who carry large canes. And as to patients: why the ease and facility with which they are helped....... continued on next page