Building a University: Vanderbilt’s Second Decade, 1885-1895

As a part of the Fall 2021 Buchanan Library Fellowship Building a University: Vanderbilt’s Second Decade, 1885-1895 undergraduate fellows examined historically significant university documents in the Special Collections Library and placed them in context with the university’s and the nation’s history, while learning how to interpret primary sources for an exhibit in the Central Library. This fellowship now has an online exhibit, as well, with the goal of amplifying their findings to a much broader audience.

Vanderbilt’s second decade, 1885-1895 was one of rapid change for the fledgling university. There was a rising population of female and international students, as well as broadening of extracurricular offerings such as athletics, Greek organizations, and student clubs. Figures such as Charles Soong and Stella Vaughn created lasting legacies at the university during this decade with their boundary-breaking roles and long-lasting achievements. The longest running student publications, The Comet (later renamed The Commodore) and The Hustler, Vanderbilt’s student newspaper, were founded in 1887 and 1888, respectively. The first form of student government – the West Side Court – was established a few years later in 1891 to adjudicate disputes between young men living in the six dormitory cottages which made up West Side Row. Modern student life harkens back to the student experiences first witnessed during this decade.

Vanderbilt faculty, staff and students are encouraged to come into Central Library to experience the in-person exhibit. Community members not yet able to come to campus, we hope you will enjoy the online exhibit.

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