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February 08, 2011

Charter Day: Happy Birthday CWRU!

On February 7, 1826 the State of Ohio granted the charter to establish Western Reserve College.

Frederick Waite, in his 1943 history of the origins of Western Reserve College, describes the communication environment of 1826. “This was before the era of the telegraph or of railroads, and the only means of communication was by messenger or by mail forwarded on stages that usually did not cover over fifty miles a day and ran on alternate days only. Three days must have elapsed before the information reached Hudson [the original home of Western Reserve]; it was the middle of winter when roads were blocked with snow, which delayed notification of the trustees and their travel to a meeting.” [1]

Carroll Cutler, fourth president of Western Reserve, has a wonderful description of the lobbying effort undertaken to secure a charter acceptable to the college’s supporters. He refers to some members of the Ohio Legislature as possessing “infidel sentiments.” Cutler’s history of the early days of Western Reserve College is available in Digital Case.

You might expect that the birthday of such a venerable institution as ours might have occasioned more attention than has seemed to be the case. Early University milestone anniversaries, the 75th and 100th, celebrated in the spring and fall. It wasn’t until the 125th anniversary in 1951 that Charter Day was included in the year-long series of celebrations. A convocation was held at Severance Hall on February 7 and an alumni banquet was held the previous evening. The 1976 Sesquicentennial similarly included Charter Day among a year-long series of events. Held on February 15, the Charter Day Convocation introduced the new history of CWRU, written by C. H. Cramer, presented the University Medal, and recognized new University Fellows.

Cleveland’s early February weather may be less conducive to festivity than May or October. On the other hand, in the cold, gloom, and snow, we could all use a celebration. So, minus the birthday cake - at least this year - Happy 185th Birthday, CWRU!

[1. Federick Clayton Waite. Western Reserve University: The Hudson Era. Cleveland, Western Reserve University Press, 1943; p. 52]

President Leutner blows out candles on the 125th birthday cake, February 6, 1951

Posted by jmt3 at February 8, 2011 04:48 PM

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