Category: Today in Lawrence history

A Memorial Service for President Lincoln

Appleton Motor headline, April 20, 1865
Appleton Motor headline, April 20, 1865

150 years ago yesterday, the city of Appleton held a memorial service in Main Hall for President Abraham Lincoln, who had been assassinated on April 15, 1865. The following text comes from the report in the Appleton Motor newspaper, published April 20, 1865:

On Wednesday morning…our citizens, in order to appropriately participate in observing the solemnities of the funeral of our late beloved Chief Magistrate, whose cowardly assassination appalls the senses…of every true American citizen, formed in procession on College Avenue, opposite Odd Fellows’ Hall, at half past ten o’clock, and marched to College Chapel where an Eulogy was pronounced by His Honor, R. Z. Mason, Mayor of the city.

The procession formed in three columns, preceded by a Band of Music and the American Flag draped in mourning, in the following order:

On the Left – Masons, German Society, …Odd Fellows

On the Right – Returned soldiers, Lawrence Engine Co., in uniform, Students

In the Center – Good Templars, Sanitary Commission, Christian Commission, Citizens

The Chapel and Gallery were filled to overflowing, and the assemblage listened with the utmost attention to a very appropriate and affecting Eulogy. It was voted that it be published in the city papers.

All places of business were closed, and the most of them draped in mourning. The Chapel was very neatly and profusely draped in the habiliments of woe.

Half hour guns were fired during the day, by City Marshal, E. H. Graves.

It was a time of universal sadness.

50 years ago: News of the consolidation

ARC2013-181On Tuesday morning, October 22, 1963, Milwaukee-Downer College students, faculty, and staff gathered for a special convocation. The chairman of the Board of Trustees, Charles Stone, delivered a brief address. He announced: “The Trustees of Milwaukee-Downer College and of Lawrence College have agreed to join together in the establishment of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.” The Downer campus was to be sold to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Students were shocked and many were in tears. Even the faculty had not been informed ahead of time. Reporters and photographers from The Milwaukee Journal were on hand, and they printed photos of Downer students receiving the news on the front page of the paper.

Consolidation_headlinesMeanwhile, Lawrence president Curtis Tarr (who had been formally installed only five days earlier) had gathered the faculty in Harper Hall to announce the consolidation. He told Lawrence students shortly thereafter. The press release was sent out to the papers and radio stations at the same time as the meetings, and the news dominated the headlines in both Milwaukee and Appleton.

This announcement was the first step in the consolidation process that was carried out in less than a year. For many, especially Downer students, faculty, and staff, it was a traumatic beginning.

But this year, we will commemorate and celebrate fifty years of “strength through union,” as a contemporary publication put it. The joining of Lawrence College and Milwaukee-Downer College created Lawrence University, and this shared history is reflected in our campus, our traditions, our alumni, and our mission today.

For more information about Milwaukee-Downer College and the consolidation with Lawrence, explore Milwaukee-Downer  written and oral histories or visit the Archives.

Background for Founders Day

An Act to Incorporate Lawrence Institute of Wisconsin, Section 1, manuscript copy, 1847

On January 15, 1847, the Territorial Legislature signed “An Act to Incorporate Lawrence Institute of Wisconsin.” It was the third institution for higher-education to be established in the territory of Wisconsin, after Carroll College and Beloit College.  Amos Adams Lawrence of Boston had offered $10,000 for the establishment of a Methodist institution in the vicinity of De Pere, where he owned some land, and Wisconsin Methodists agreed to match the sum. Lawrence’s agent Reeder Smith, Rev. Henry R. Colman, and William Harkness Sampson assisted a committee in drafting the charter, based largely on charters for similar institutions at the time. The LU Archives has two copies of this charter – a manuscript copy and a photostatic copy of the original, which is located in Madison.

The signing of the charter was the first step in the difficult process of establishing a college on the frontier. There was land to be purchased and cleared, funds to be secured, a building to be raised, instructors to be hired, and students to be sought. The city of Appleton did not yet exist. Classes at Lawrence began almost three years after the charter signing, on November 12, 1849. During the earliest years, Lawrence operated only as a preparatory school, educating students at the secondary level until a cohort was ready to begin college-level work. Thus, the first class of college graduates (four men and three women) graduated in 1857.

For more detailed information on the founding and early years of the university, contact or visit the Archives – or check out Charles Breunig’s book, A Great and Good Work: A History of Lawrence University, 1847-1964. Happy Founders Day!

100 years ago: Taft visits Lawrence

On October 26th, 1911, President William Howard Taft became the first sitting president to visit the Fox Cities area, addressing a crowd from the steps of Main Hall. His stop in Appleton was part of a nation-wide speaking tour through which he hoped to pressure the Senate to ratify his peace treaties with France and England. The Lawrentian reported:

“After driving about the city on the route previously mapped out, the presidential party arrived at the south door of Main hall, having come across the Lawrence street bridge and along the driveway in front of Ormsby and Science halls.

A unique welcome was given President Taft as he entered the main building. The co-eds of the senior class, all dressed in white and each wearing a white jersey sweater, were lined up on either side of the hallway, connected with a streamer of red, white, and blue, and as the executive entered the south door he was presented with a bunch of roses in behalf of the college by Miss Florence Plantz. The President was pleased as well as surprised and thanked the girls for their remembrance.

When Mr. Taft emerged from the big front door of Main hall he was greeted with yells by the Lawrence students and lifted hats. He removed his high silk hat and bowed and smiled, then seated himself in the big chair back of a flag-draped pedestal on the porch. The seats for those provided with invitations were ranged on either side and a little back of the president’s chair. The faculty and college students had previously assembled directly in front of the extended platform, the faculty and senior boys appearing in caps and gowns.”

After introductory remarks by Appleton’s mayor, and then by Lawrence President Samuel Plantz, President Taft addressed the crowd (which The Lawrentian reported to be 10,000 strong.) Among his words:

“We are a great nation, afraid of no other nation, and not subject to the charge of cowardice. We have no entangling alliance…The poor people of Great Britain and France and other countries look to us to lead in the movement for peace among the nations. And I look to you, especially to your younger people, to feel a sense of responsibility not only towards our own country but, with your power and intelligence and opportunities, a sense of duty which will impel you to help advance the highest ideals of Christian civilization throughout the world.”

Though this was surely a momentous occasion, it may be worth noting that The Lawrentian report on this event shared equal headline size with a football game re-cap and an account of Y.W.C.A. activities.