Records of the Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures kept by George Ticknor
The letters, Corporation votes, reports, and news clippings in this collection document the activities of George Ticknor, Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures at Harvard from 1816 to 1835. The records also illustrate the interaction between George Ticknor, Harvard faculty, and members of the Harvard Corporation, in their attempts to harmonize competing education reform proposals at Harvard in the early nineteenth century.
- 1816-1835 and undated.
Records of the Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures kept by George Ticknor are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the Public Services staff for further details.
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Extent1.06 cubic feet (1 document box, 2 flat boxes)
This collection documents the activities of George Ticknor, Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures at Harvard from 1816 to 1835. The records also illustrate the interaction between George Ticknor, Harvard faculty, and members of the Harvard Corporation, in their attempts to harmonize competing education reform proposals at Harvard in the early nineteenth century. The records are arranged in two series: Documents arranged by George Ticknor and Letterbook. The two series consist of letters, Corporation votes, reports, and news clippings and contain overlapping subject content. In some cases copies of the original letters found in Ticknor's letterbook can also be found in the documents arranged by George Ticknor.
Series: I. Documents arranged by George Ticknor, 1816-1835. This series details the selection and appointment of George Ticknor as Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures, as well as the concurrent professorship of Belles Lettres; delineates the rules and regulations of the Smith professorship; refer to the development of George Ticknor's program of lectures, including his teaching methodology, theories of instruction, and the organization of modern language instruction at Harvard; and illustrates Ticknor's reform efforts at Harvard College from 1821 to 1827 to alter Harvard's academic organization, particularly around the division of the College into departments and the subdivision of students according to proficiency and merit, rather than alphabetically by class. This series also documents the financial difficulties that Harvard experienced in 1826, referring to suggested remedies, including a proposed salary reduction for professors; and the establishment of the Department of Modern Languages.
Series: II. Letterbook, 1816-1828 and undated. The letterbook documents George Ticknor's appointment as Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures along with the concurrent Professorship of Belles Lettres (1816-1817); his years in Europe purchasing books for the Harvard College Library (1817-1819); the development of Ticknor's early program of modern language instruction and his initial reform efforts at Harvard (1821-1823); Ticknor's further advocacy of academic reform at Harvard (1823-1827); and the establishment and operation of the Department of Modern Languages (1826-1828). The letterbook also notes the routine administrative functions performed by Ticknor in his management of modern languages at Harvard such as his arrangement of the times and days of examinations and lectures, his arrangement of recitation rooms for the language department, his establishment of student fees for courses, the grading of students, and his committee involvement. The letterbook also provides information about Ticknor's language classes and the modern language department, the academic progress of students, books studied and read in class, and subjects taught to students.
The records were assembled as an archival collection by the archivist at an unknown date from various sources without regard to original provenance in order to document University professorships.
Historical Note on George Ticknor
George Ticknor (1791-1871), educator and author, served as the first Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures at Harvard from 1817 to 1835. After his arrival at Harvard, Ticknor became disenchanted with the school curriculum, characterizing the College as a well-disciplined high school, and began an effort to reorganize the College around four main goals: the division of students in courses according to academic proficiency and merit; the division of the College into departments grouped around related subjects; an elective system from which students could select their own courses above a prescribed minimum; and an open door policy which would allow students who were not candidates for a degree to take specialized courses at Harvard. After lengthy discussion and debate among members of the Corporation, the Board of Overseers and faculty, Ticknor's reform proposals were largely adopted in June 1825. However, the 1825 reform laws withered in the face of resistance by Ticknor's colleagues and by 1827 the reforms were abandoned in the College at-large, except in the Department of Modern Languages, where under Ticknor's direction they were largely successful. Ticknor resigned his professorship in May 1835 after becoming discouraged over the prospects of reform at Harvard College. He spent his remaining years traveling abroad, writing books and articles, and helping to establish the Boston Public Library.
Historical Note on the Smith Professorship of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures
The Smith Professorship of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures was founded in 1816 under the will of Abiel Smith, a Boston storekeeper and businessman.
The records are arranged in two series:
- Documents arranged by George Ticknor, 1816-1835
- Letterbook, 1816-1828 and undated
The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business. The records were deposited in the Harvard University Archives in April 1896.
- Bentinck-Smith, William and Elizabeth Stouffer. "Smith Professorship of the French and Spanish Languages 1817." In Harvard University, History of Named Chairs: Sketches of Donors and Donations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Secretary to the University, 1991.
- Doyle, Henry Grattan. "George Ticknor." Modern Language Journal 22, no. 1 (October 1937) : 3-19.
- "Early Instruction in Modern Languages." Harvard Alumni Bulletin, 29 January 1913, 294-296.
- Ford, Jeremiah D. M. "Ticknor, George." Dictionary of American Biography. Ed. Dumas Malone. Vol. XVIII. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943. 525-528.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard 1636-1936. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.
- Quincy, Josiah. The History of Harvard University. Vol. II. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Owen, 1840.
- Tyack, David B. George Ticknor and the Boston Brahmins. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1967.
This document last updated 2018 December 6.
Superseded call numbers
The call number for all the material in the Records of the Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures kept by George Ticknor is now UAI 15.1038. To assist researchers in identifying materials noted in previous citations, the list below provides references from obsolete call numbers to new box and folder numbers. Please use the current call number, UAI 15.1038, with the appropriate box and folder number in place of the superseded call number when citing material from this collection.
Formerly UAI 15.1038.2 Professorship records: Smith Professorship of French and Spanish, 1816-1828 (1 volume)
- See Letterbook, 1816-1828 UAI 15.1038 Box 3, Volume 1
Formerly UAI 15.1038.3 Professorship records: Smith Professorship of French and Spanish, 1819-1835 (1 container)
- See Appointment as Smith Professor, 1816-1819 UAI 15.1038 Box 1, Folder 1
- See Arrangement for lectures, 1819-1825 UAI 15.1038 Box 1, Folder 2
- See Reforms attempted in 1821 to its failure 1823, 1821-1825, 1821-1825 UAI 15.1038 Box 1, Folder 3
- See Reforms attempted 1823 to its failure 1827 in all Departments except the Modern Languages, 1823-1835 UAI 15.1038 Box 1, Folder 4
- See Reforms attempted 1823 to its failure 1827 in all Departments except the Modern Languages, 1823-1835 UAI 15.1038 Box 1, Folder 5
- See Reforms attempted 1823 to its failure 1827 in all Departments except the Modern Languages, 1823-1835 UAI 15.1038 Box 2
- See Retrenchment, 1826-1828 UAI 15.1038 Box 1, Folder 6
- See Department of the Modern Languages, 1825-1831 UAI 15.1038 Box 1, Folder 7
This material was first classified and described in a Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was re-processed in 2011. Re-processing involved a collection survey, enhanced description of items from the nineteenth century, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in September 2011.
- Ticknor, George, 1791-1871. Records of the Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages and Literatures kept by George Ticknor, 1816-1835 and undated: an inventory
- Language of description
- EAD ID
Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository
Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.
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