The History of Bowdoin College from 1794 to 1871

Michael Toscano

We may well imagine that the whispering pines of the forest and the sylvan creatures inhabiting it were hushed into silence as they heard for the first time the language of the Augustan Age and of the world of letters here pronounced in sonorous periods and with polished utterance, here where the war-whoop of the Indian had so recently resounded.

Leonard Woods, Jr., fourth president of Bowdoin College, reflecting on its opening in 1802


Our third Preliminary of the Bowdoin Project, “Bowdoin’s History from 1794 to 1871,” is the first of four installments which will trace the history of the college from its founding to the present day. This installment focuses on the earliest curricular, political, and religious allegiances of the college; it recounts the divisive cultural circumstances surrounding the landmark legal case, William Allen v. Joseph McKeen, Treasurer of Bowdoin College; and it highlights the origins of key complexities that Bowdoin has wrestled with throughout its history.

* * *

Since September 2011, NAS has been conducting an in-depth, ethnographic study of Bowdoin College in Maine. We asked, “what does Bowdoin teach?” and examined Bowdoin’s formal curriculum, its residential and student life policies, and its co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. We have dedicated a page on our website to the Bowdoin Project. The full report will be published there in April. In the meantime, we will continue posting a series of Preliminaries which will provide context for the report.

The Bowdoin Project >

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