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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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song and the memory of lager beer men.

But now the question naturally arises, whether after we have applied steam to everything inanimate, we will not for want the sake of economy and convenience apply it to ourselves and become a nation of locomotives. Our papers will become filled with notices that Mr. So + So will [sic]coming in town at the rate of 200 miles per hour unfortunately collapsed a flue and burst his boiler. Or, that we are sorry to state that while Mr. Smith was proceeding down street under a full head of steam he came violently in collision with Miss Jones. doing considerable damage to her head gear and cow catcher. No insurance Here was a pause - a crash - and such a bustle?

In short there is nothing that falls into our hands that we do not improve.

Not only the French world of fashions but also that of the Turkies has fallen into the all improving hands of the age, and the "short skirt is now becoming all the rage. But this is not to be wondered at for some improved poetiring [sic] machine predicted it long ago:

"When coats, hats and jackets are taken
By our precious acquisitive spouses
Our confidence well may be shaken
In respect to retaining our trousers?"

Our gallant editors are vieing [sic] with each other who shall say the prettiest things of it through their ....... continued on next page