Archives > Primary Documents


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


View facsimile

crowded for want of room, he casts his eyes about him for some country he thinks will answer their purposes, cuts off a nice large slice and annexes it immediately. He is then very apt to get very short and savage if any nation makes any insinuating remarks as to his right, stirs up his volunteers, and the consequence is that some grumbling neighbor finds that Brother Jonathan is very sensitive to remarks and not to be trifled with.

It is not sufficient that improvements have reached that height that will answer all the ends and purposes of man. They must be perfection or they will fail to give satisfaction. This is admirably illustrated by the Eastern States in the manufacture of their celebrated clocks. By their ingenuity and perseverance they have brought the manufacture of these articles to such a degree of perfection that time has become a secondary object, and the clocks are covered over with advertisements of pills, hair tonics and panaceas and their [sic] are thrown into our doors, the clock answering as an inducement to prevent the advertisements being kicked out, and the bore of reading them being considered as ample compensation for the value of the clock.

But our Yankee is not satisfied yet. Not....... continued on next page