Meet our first graduates: the College of Liberal Arts Class of 1877.

This photo album dates to 1877 and provides a truly remarkable glimpse of the community of faculty and students who were in the College of Liberal Arts when the College’s very first class of undergraduates obtained their bachelor’s degrees in June of 1877.

We believe that the album was a gift to the College by Chauncy C. Williams, a member of that first class of students and pictured on page 55 of the album.  The album was retained in the office of the Dean of the College, and even cited on occasion in writings by Dean William Marshall Warren (1904-1937).

While we still have many more questions about the album than we do have answers, there are some remarkable findings.  The photos, for instance, offer us some of the earliest pictures ever seen of Boston University faculty (pp. 4-22).  President William F. Warren, pictured on page 4, is without much of the gray hair that we’re accustomed to seeing in published photos.  Likewise, Professor Borden Parker Bowne (p. 9) and Professor (later Dean and President) William E. Huntington (p. 13) are looking particularly youthful.  Most notably, we also have a photo of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps on page 16.  Phelps was a Reconstruction-era novelist and her books were best sellers.  As the College’s “Lecturer of Representative Modern Fiction,” she was the very first woman to teach for the College.  Indeed, President Warren had remarked at the very beginning of Boston University that “BU welcomes women not only to the bench of the pupil, but also to the chair of the professor.”

An extraordinary group photo of the very first class of students appears on page 23 of the album.  While we’re not 100% confident, we believe we’ve identified all members of the photo as follows:

Men Top-Down (Left)

  • William Gibson Colesworthy
  • Orison Swett Marden
  • Joseph Emery Sears
  • Alonso Marston Weeks
  • Saxton Bentley Conant

Men Top-Down (Right)

  • Nathan Crane Alger
  • John Davies Pickles
  • Edward Samiel Lewis
  • Chauncey Cleveland Williams
  • Milton Smith Veil
  • Samuel Russell Pearce Pingree
  • James William Higgins

Front-Most Women (Left to Right)

  • Abbie Mather Sumner
  • Sara Anna Emerson
  • Cora Luella Hill

Next Row of Women Above (Left to Right)

  • Eva Channing
  • Sarah Louise Miner
  • Agnes Fitzhenry Williams
  • Adelaide Laura Meserve

Top Row of Men (Left to Right)

  • Preston Herbert Grover
  • Asa Ai Caswell
  • Abraham Thompson Lowe
  • Walter Herbert Russell
  • John Wesley Collier
  • Samuel Lynch Beiler

Remaining Men Below Top Row (Left to Right)

  • Frederic Obed Nickerson
  • Archibald McCord
  • Frederic Burrill Graves
  • Charles LeRoy Goodell
  • Herbert Goodridge Nickerson
  • Frank C. Meserve
  • Percy Clinton Webber

Individual student photos appear on pages 24-55 of the album.  Of course, it should be noted that all of the women were among the first in the state (and also the nation, depending upon how you define matters) to be admitted equally alongside men to an academic degree program.  A group photo of all the women appears on page 58.  In particular, Sarah Emerson (p. 31) was the first woman to recite in any College class.  She would go on to earn a Ph.D. from Yale, and then served on the faculty at Wellesley College.  And, Eva Channing (p. 27), granddaughter of William Ellery Channing, the eminent Unitarian minister and abolitionist, would go on to play a prominent role as a writer and activist in the women’s suffrage movement.

Selected student club photos appear on pages 56 and 61.

Photos of selected facilities, including the College’s very first home at 18-20 Beacon Street, begin on page 57 of the album.

Thank you to Alison Currier, Academic Program Coordinator at CAS, for her research on the album (matching faces to names in the group photos); Ford Curran, Digital Preservation & Conservation Archivist with BU’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, for digitizing the images; and Athene La Jeunesse, CAS History Intern and current student of American Studies (CAS’25), for creating the online flipbook.“