Records of the Cuban Summer School
The Records of the Cuban Summer School document a six-week residential summer program held at Harvard University in 1900 that instructed more than one thousand Cuban teachers in the latest American educational methods and American culture. Consisting primarily of administrative records relating to the planning and coordination of the large-scale program, publications and photographs from the summer school are also included. These materials offer insight into American imperialism during the early 20th century and the history of relations between Cuba and the United States.
Conditions Governing Access
The Records of the Cuban Summer School are open for research.
Extent7.94 cubic feet (7 legal document boxes, 22 flat boxes, 8 flat folders, 1 volume, 2 microfilm reels)
Dating from 1900 to 1902, the Records of the Cuban Summer School document the immense planning and coordination required to make the Cuban Summer School at Harvard possible, the structure and content of the summer school curriculum, and how the Cuban teachers were received by residents of Boston. To a lesser extent the records also touch upon the personal experiences of the Cuban teachers. A byproduct of the Spanish-American War, the records offer insight into American imperialism at the turn of the century and the history of relations between Cuba and the United States.
The largest portion of the records was produced by the Cuban Teachers Department for Harvard University which organized, planned, and managed the Cuban Summer School of 1900. Headed by Cuban Summer School business manager Clarence C. Mann (AB 1899) the department operated out of Holden Chapel and served as the business and information center of the expedition. The department was staffed by Harvard students, alumni, and volunteers. The department administrative materials consist of letters, correspondence, contracts, financial documents, and forms related to arranging transportation, housing, instruction, food, salaries, excursions, and entertainment for the Cuban teachers.
Much of the correspondence is addressed to or from Clarence C. Mann who oversaw the logistics of the summer school which included soliciting and approving instructors, chaperones, guides, residential hosts, and translators. Letters and applications document the candidates who were interested, accepted, or rejected to serve in these roles.
Mann also negotiated business contracts and field trip sites for the Cuban teachers. Letters and contracts document bids to provide laundry service, railroad transportation, food, furniture, and baggage transportation for the summer school. These materials offer insight into the names and locations of Boston businesses within these industries. Mann contacted multiple factories within the Cambridge area to arrange educational site visits including the National Biscuit Company, Lever Brothers Limited Boston Works, Ginn and Company Publishers, and American Net and Twine Company.
Correspondence between Mann, Harvard President Charles Eliot, and Harvard Librarian William C. Lane, who oversaw the Cuban Summer School program in Eliot’s absence, discuss various conflicts and issues that occurred during the summer school. Of note is an outcry from local Catholic societies after a Baptist organization was approved to sponsor an event for the Cuban teachers. Other incidents include sick or hospitalized Cuban teachers, stolen Cuban Summer School identification pins, and harassment complaints against a Cuban teacher.
Participants in the Cuban Summer School had a full schedule of activities which included classes, field trips, meals, and nightly receptions. Schedules, calendars, and timetables detail the daily activities of the Cuban teachers and their departure and arrival times at certain locations and train stations. The intensity of the schedule was tiring for some Cuban teachers and their participation declined as the summer school continued which is illustrated by class attendance records. Insight into the personal experiences of Cuban teachers during the summer school are best illustrated through the volume “Autographs and testimonials of students, 1900.”
Dormitory permits document which Harvard students volunteered their dorm rooms as housing for the male Cuban teachers and whether they also agreed to lend their beds, towels, and chamber sets. The permits are occasionally paired with letters from students further explaining their consent or concerns. Materials related to off-campus housing for the women Cuban teachers include host housing agreements with compensation amounts and letters addressing housing conflicts and conditions. Housing standards for the women Cuban teachers were high and hosts who did not meet requested requirements were dropped.
The records also document the financial activities of the Cuban Teachers Department and its various expenditures and proceeds. These records include account and receipt books regarding payment from the Cuban teachers for textbooks and general deposit. Salary vouchers and receipts document salary payments to the Cuban teachers, who were compensated during their stay in the United States. Receipts also detail salary and compensation to Cuban Summer School instructors, office staff, and those who hosted the Cuban teachers in their home or dorm room. Bills document the purchase of items and services for the summer school including painted signs, an ambulance, and stenography.
Photographs include large group shots of Cuban Summer School participants, staff, and government officials such as Alexander Everett Frye and General Leonard Wood. Two photographs of students and instructors from the second Cuban Summer School held in 1901 are also found in the records. Memorabilia includes a flag of the United States and a souvenir scrapbook.
Historical Note on the Cuban Summer School
The Cuban Summer School held at Harvard University in 1900 was one of the largest cultural exchanges between the United States and Cuba. On July 5, 1900, about 1,270 Cuban teachers arrived in Boston to complete a six-week summer school program at Harvard where they participated in classes, lectures, and excursions. Superintendent of Public Schools in Cuba Alexander Everett Frye (LLB 1890) organized the summer school to instruct Cuban teachers in the latest American educational methods and American culture.
The summer school was based on lawyer Ernest Lee Conant’s (AB 1884) suggestion to Frye to bring some Cuban teachers to the United States for further education. Vastly increasing the scale of Conant’s original plan, Frye proposed the Cuban Summer School to Harvard President Charles W. Eliot and the project was approved in April 1900. With support from the Boston community, more than $70,000 was raised by subscription to defray students' travel costs. The summer school was also supported by the United States federal government. Officials such as Secretary of War Elihu Root and Military Governor of Cuba Major-General Leonard Wood viewed the expedition as a step towards the annexation of Cuba through acculturation. The U.S. government provided ship transportation for the expedition, covering the cost of onboard meals and service.
From June 25 to 29, 1900, teachers from across Cuba departed on U.S. military ships from ports in Gibara, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Sagua, and Nuevitas. Participants were selected by town vote and consisted of women and men from across racial and social backgrounds. Upon arriving in Boston in early July the teachers were guided to their accommodations. Men were housed in Harvard dormitories while women were lodged in the private homes of Cambridge and Boston residents. During the program, the Cuban teachers were accompanied by Harvard students who served as guides, translators, and assistants.
The summer school curriculum included Education, Geography, Psychology, Spanish-American History, U.S. History, and Public Libraries. English language classes were highly emphasized and taught twice a day, including Saturdays. Women were given additional classes in kindergarten training and men in Sloyd at the Cambridge Manual Training School. In the afternoon the teachers took excursions to places of historical, geographical, or industrial interest around the city. Destinations included Beaver Brook in Medford, the Cambridge Clay Pits, and factories in Cambridgeport.
While the focus was on educating a large proportion of the teachers in Cuba, the summer school was also attended by ten Puerto Rican teachers and one Filipino teacher.
Before returning to Cuba in August, the teachers also visited the tomb of Ulysses S. Grant, Columbia University, and West Point military academy in New York; Independence Hall in Philadelphia; and toured Washington D.C. where they met President William McKinley.
The expedition was widely reported in local newspapers and the cohort was well received by the people of Boston. Many events were held in the teachers' honor including receptions, dances, and social gatherings. Social events were organized by Harvard, private families, and local organizations such as the Baptist Societies of Cambridge and the Catholic Alumni Sodality.
Though never recreated on the same scale, a smaller Cuban Summer School was held at Harvard in 1901 using leftover funds from the prior year. This program accommodated 77 Cuban teachers, both women and men, under the age of 30 who had prior English language experience. The program focused solely on English language classes and was attended by teachers who covered a considerable portion of their own expenses.
The Cuban Summer School served as a model for future programs at Harvard including a summer school for Puerto Rican teachers (1904) and a summer school for Chinese students (1906).
The records are arranged alphabetically in three series:
- Administration, 1900
- Writings and publications, 1900-1902
- Photographs, 1900-1901
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Records of the Cuban Summer School are University records and were acquired in the course of University business. Specific acquisition notes are indicated at the folder level.
This document last updated 2021 October 12.
This collection was processed by Jehan Sinclair in August 2019. Folder titles in brackets were devised by the archivist.
- Harvard University. Summer School of Arts and Sciences and of Education. Records of the Cuban Summer School, 1900-1902: an inventory
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- 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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