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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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columns and the demand for silk and satin has improved to such a degree, that the "poor lords of creation" look on in helpless despair and entertain serious doubts as to their right to propriety of their own clothing.

But the improvement is one of the age and it is useless for poor man to contend against the powers that be. It only remains for him to submit with the best grace he can, hand over the inexpressibles and say -- nothing.

The ladies always have prevailed and always will prevail in everything they undertake, be the matter foreign or domestic, civil or political and by some misterious [sic] means they always contrive to have the right side.

To be sure there were some a ungracious remarks made some time ago in relation to female Rights but what is the consequence? The Rights do not exist in name but they most assuredly do in reality, and though the right of suffrage is still solely possessed by the Sovereign lords there is a powerful undercurrent of female influence which exercises a powerful control over the same sovereigns.

However they have the satisfaction of knowing that what is done by the ladies is always well done and that in the handsomest manner, ....... continued on next page