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Robert College Records, 1858-1986

Summary Information

At a Glance

Title:Robert College Records, 1858-1986
Physical description:89 linear ft. (207 boxes).
Language(s):English, Turkish, Bulgarian
Access:restricted.  More information »

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in 2 parts. The first part of this collection is arranged in 19 series:

Addition to the collection. Arranged in 7 series

Description

Scope and Content

The records of Robert College are organized into fifteen series. Series fifteen of Robert College Records contains a vital documents series, a substantial collection of photographs, and a sizable body of records that relate to both Robert College and the American College for Girls.

The collection also contains personal papers of some of the leading figures in the history of each institution, notably Cyrus Hamlin, George Washburn, Christopher Robert, Caleb Gates, Mary Mills Patrick and Caroline Borden. Cyrus Hamlin's earliest papers date from the 1830s, while the correspondence of the correspondence Caleb Gates and Mary Patrick extends into their retirement years as they continued to remain in close touch with their colleagues and former students.

The earliest records of ACG date from 1890, the year of its founding with a charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The records are not as complete for the early years as for the later ones. Nevertheless, they document the pioneering role of ACG in opening higher education to women in the Near East and thereby enrich our understanding of the dramatic changes in the changes in the status of women during the twentieth century.

The collection contains a large proportion of college officials in Istanbul and the Office York. The vital role played by the trustees and material support to both colleges is well documented. Throughout the correspondence that concerns the operations of the colleges there can be found many commentaries on events in Turkey and the outlying regions of the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, the administrators of both institutions reported on their travels in Europe and the Near East. They wrote about Turkey and conditions during the Russo-Turkish conflict and both World Wars. Finally, they followed with great interest the modernization in Turkey and sought to adapt their own institutions to the far-reaching changes in Turkish society. Thus, while theses records contain the history of two American colleges, they are also significant sources for the study of modern Turkey. Accordingly, extensive descriptions of each record series are provided.

Acquisition Information: Purchased from Robert College, 2006. The collection was delivered to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library on April 12, 2007

Series I: Origin: Robert College Prior to 1863

These records contain information related to the formation of Robert College. They document the founders' attempts to define the mission of a Christian college within the Ottoman Empire, their efforts to obtain permission to purchase land, and gain necessary permits to build upon the site.

There is correspondence between Cyrus that details Hamlin's many difficulties college a reality. The letters also reflect his somewhat strained relationship with E. Joy Morris, the American Minister in Istanbul. Christopher Robert's letters provided direction and encouragement to Hamlin, and in addition relate some events of the American Civil War as viewed from New York. Included is a single file of letters from Hamlin's brother, Hannibal, who worked in the Treasury Department and thus provided Cyrus with some account of the war from his post in Washington.

The records contain correspondence between Robert and Hamlin regarding the purchase of instructional materials, a list of Robert's donations, and the items purchased. The expenses of the college's first year are part of the financial record. Included is correspondence from Hamlin relating to the 1862 murder of Rev. William Merriam, an American missionary in Turkey. There is also a narration of the origins of the college (undated) prepared by Christopher Robert.

Subseries I.2: The Personal Papers of Cyrus Hamlin

In addition to documenting the founding of the College, this record group contains some personal papers of Cyrus Hamlin. They include his earlier activities in Maine as well as his longtime involvement in the Near East. The personal papers are chronologically arranged. They include sermons (1837-1839, 1841, 1843, 1858 and undated); lectures on Africa and "the conflict of Science and Religion"; a minute book recording visits among the Irish immigrants in Maine; and the management of an evening school for Irish Catholics, 1836-1844.

There is a journal of Hamlin's travels in Turkey as a teacher and missionary, 1840-1844, and another journal of a brief trip to Salonica and the Balkans in 1844.

Among the other papers are accounts of his work at the seminary in Bebek prior to the founding of the college; a letter to his children, 1848; and a memorandum of his visit to his patients afflicted with cholera during the 1860s that includes their symptoms and treatment.

These journals and documents are noteworthy because they contain more detailed accounts than those in Hamlin's published memoir, My Life and Times (1893).

Series IV: Records of the Vice President, George H. Huntington

There are eight folders of records of George H. Huntington (Box 29) comprising general correspondence and spanning the period 1927-1952 (not inclusive). Until 1933 he served as vice president and at LJ times as acting president. After that year he resided in the U.S. and was treated for paralysis of the legs. Some of his letters are datelined Warm Springs, Georgia.

Series VI: Records of the Faculty

Those faculty records that have been preserved constitute only a small fraction of what was generated by the teaching staff. There are a few nineteenth-century contracts, committee reports and two lists of faculty: one titled "American Teachers at Robert College, 1863-1950"; the second titled "Alphabetical List of Former American Teachers" (1953).

Some additional materials may be found among the Dean's records.

Series VII: Records of the Students

While fragmentary, this series contains lists of students by nationality and age covering the period 1882-1890. There are programs of special events, a student handbook of rules and regulations from 1914, and other items of interest. See also student publications, Box 49.

Series VIII: Records of the Alumni

The five folders of alumni records include lists of graduates of the College of Arts and Science organized by year and by nationality group. There is also a list with biographical data titled "Some Distinguished Graduates of Robert College" dated 1950. For additional materials see alumni publications, Boxes 49-50

Series IX: Office of the Trustees, New York

n 1920 a single business office was established for three of the independent Near East Colleges College. The office supervised the procurement of the colleges. Under the direction of Albert in New York City including Robert of supplies for all Staub the New York B LI\., Office coordinated efforts to raise funds so as to liquidate debts incurred during World War I and to provide adequate operating funds for the postwar years. In 1927 the New York Office was formally constituted as the Near East College Association.

The records of this office date from 1923 and serve to document the close link between Robert College administrators in Istanbul and 0 their supporters and benefactors in the united States. It has since I functioned as the Office of the Trustees.

The presidents and deans of the college wrote regularly to Albert Staub, reporting on developments at the college, enrollments, the need for new faculty, budgetary matters, and requirements for supplies necessary for the functioning of the college.

The profound changes that took place in Turkey during the 1920s had their effect on the college. On the one hand, the government under Ataturk took an ever increasing responsibility for educating the nation's youth. On the other hand, Turkish leaders became increasingly wary of foreign influences on Turkish society.

Fortunately, RC was a well-established institution that had a long LJ history of cooperation with Turkish authorities. In particular, the RC school of Engineering became an increasingly important place for training Turkish young men who would playa large role in the process of modernization. In 1928 the government granted graduates of Robert College the right to practice as engineers, and the following year the engineering school received official recognition from Turkish authorities.

Most of the correspondence is concerned with the day-to-day operation of the college and the always present problems of fund-raising; there is also, however, a sprinkling of commentary on political developments in Turkey as well as current issues in the United States. In particular, the U.S. Senate's consideration of the Lausanne Treaty was followed with great interest. Another subject of importance is President Gates's emphasis on the relationship between religious instruction and character building.

With the onset of the great depression in the 1930s, the college was forced into financial retrenchment and the presidency of Paul Monroe, who served from 1932-1935, was preoccupied with economic problems. His successor Walter Wright was concerned as well, about the increase in taxes enacted by the Turkish government. Wright also sees a more positive trend in the quality of new students and the fact that families of "political prominence" were beginning to enroll their children in the college.

By the late 1930s, with war clouds gathering, the Turkish government demonstrated a desire to improve relations with the democratic nations, particularly the united States. One expression of was the action taken by the government in exempting from the Buildings Tax (March 23, 1939). this the World War II compelled a number of faculty members to leave for military service and the College had to operate with a much reduced staff. The problems of operating an American educational institution in the Near East during wartime are well detailed in the letters of Walter Wright, Harold Scott (acting president), and Wright's successor Floyd Black. Scott, for example, enthuses about the arrival of "much needed reinforcements" in the form of five new instructors. are ready to "Their spirit cooperate in is splendid every possible and it is manner" obvious (January that they 21, 1944).

Series X: Financial Records

This series spans the years from the 1860s to the 1940s. A sizable portion of the early records concern the expenses of constructing buildings on the Bebek campus. There are financial statements for the 1870s prepared by George Washburn in his capacity as treasurer and an 1899 list of securities held by the trustees on behalf of the College. In many instances there is correspondence that refers to financial matters.

As the College grew the records became more elaborate, encompassing such subjects as beneficiary funds, procedures for aiding needy students and financing operations under the stringencies imposed by World Wars I and II. There is an incomplete series of minutes of the finance committee of the trustees for the early 1930s and early 1940s.

Relations between the College and the Turkish government became strained during the 1930s with the enactment of the Minimum Profits Tax. This law treated colleges as though they were commercial enterprises and thus was a source of concern to RC administrators. There are extensive reports of conferences with tax officials over the application of the tax to educational institutions. Much of the correspondence in this series relates to the availability of supplies and the cost of transporting them to Turkey from the United States.

There are several printed pamphlets and broadsides designed for fundraising that describe the College, provide some historical background and discuss the institution's financial needs in order fulfill its mission. These materials range in date from 1873 to 1919.

Series XI: Official College Events

These records include Founders Day addresses, commencement addresses, the dedication of Henrietta Washburn Hall, and musical programs. Included in the speeches are tributes to Cyrus Hamlin, Cleveland Dodge and Caleb Gates. They span the years from the 1860s to the 1950s, though there are many gaps.

Series XII: Publications

Brief runs of student publications as well as alumni publications comprise the major portion of this series. There are also magazines and newsletters of the Near East College Association. The earliest is dated 1916 while Bosphorus was published in the 1960s and afterwards. Several have rather brief runs. In addition, are the student yearbooks of Robert College, the Record, beginning with 1919, though there are some gaps.

Series XIII: Historical Writings

This series contains a variety of published and some unpublished material. Included are many newspaper articles published in the United States and abroad spanning the dates 1870 to 1963. Some of the earliest ones were written by George Washburn and Caroline Borden.

There is significant biographical information on the life and family of Christopher Robert, Cyrus Hamlin, George Washburn, Cleveland Dodge and family, and Caleb F. Gates. Upon the retirement of Dr. Gates in 1932 a 60-page illustrated booklet was published containing appreciative essays by his colleagues.

There is a folder of material dated 1881-1883 pertaining to the suit contesting the will of Christopher Robert. Robert College was a major beneficiary under the terms of the will and the courts sustained it as originally drawn.

Of particular interest are the extensive notes of Keith M. Greenwood, an instructor at the College and author of "Robert College: The American Founders" (unpublished dissertation, Johns Hopkins University, 1965). These notes include extensive typescripts from the correspondence of Robert, Hamlin and Washburn.

This series also contains a number of articles and typescripts relating to Turkish history, the role of Americans in Turkey, and the work of missionaries, particularly under the Ottoman Empire.

Other historical works of interest include "History of the Kaidar Site (near Rumeli Hisar)" written by W. F. Clarke, to Secretary of I State William Seward, 1868, and a "Summary of the facts relating to the purchase of land at Rumeli Hisar," also by W. F. Clarke, 1868. There are brief unpublished historical sketches of the College written from 1903 to the 1950s. Included are typescripts by Caleb I Gates, Floyd Black, Lynn Scipio, and handwritten notes apparently by Harold Scott.

In addition there is a photocopy of a typescript history by Sylvia Kuran titled "A Legacy on the Bosphorus," and a more extensive draft of a history by several authors. Eshref Sakarya has written "The Robert College Natural History Museum," an account of this important I collection. Another typescript is a "fictional-memoir" by Ali Neyzi of his years as a boarding student at Robert College from 1938-1946. This is an English translation of a published Turkish I original. Professor Cyril Edwin Black has written a remembrance of his father Floyd Henson Black dated 1984, and Harry A. Dawe contributed a typescript titled "Istanbul Amerikan Robert Lisesi: I The Orphan Child of Robert College and the American College for Girls."

Finally there is a three volume typescript history of the College written by Herbert Lane (1913- 1976), longtime teacher of English, organizer of the alumni office in Turkey, editor of the Alumni Bulletin, and keeper of the College records. Although not footnoted, it represents the most complete account of the College's history at this time (1987). It contains an index and bibliography.

Series XIV: Oversize and Miscellaneous Material

This series contains a varied group of documents. These include a manuscript of an autobiographical essay of Christopher R. Robert (undated), apparently written in his own hand, drafts of letters, apparently written by Cyrus Hamlin (undated), newspaper articles reporting Robert's visit to Robert College in 1870, copies of diplomas from Robert College and ACG in various languages, and a printed copy of the Treaty of Peace with Turkey signed at Sèvres, 1920.

Several folders pertain to the Engineering School. Included are a copy of the Imperial Irade, dated 1928, authorizing the school's establishment, Annual Reports from 1916-1932, and a report on the school written by Harold Hazen in 1955.

There is a folder containing faculty proposals to the Ford Foundation, 1950s and 1960s, and a document entitled "The Official Regulations of the Istanbul American College" [1950s].

This series also includes five copies of Robert College's Seventy Fifth Anniversary Publication, 1863-1932, as well as messages of congratulations from colleges in the United States in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of Robert College's founding.

There are several publications pertaining to Turkey, e.g., Turkey the Beautiful (1939). Additional oversize materials include two bound volumes titled "Extracts From the Correspondence of the President, Director and Treasurer of Robert College of Constantinople Essential to its History." They cover the measures period February 1868 to January 1875. These represent copies of a major portion of the correspondence of Hamlin and Washburn whose originals are elsewhere in the collection. (Note: these volumes have suffered water damage.)

Series XV: Photographs

Using the Collection

RBML

Access Restrictions

This collection is located on-site.

Subseries V.1: Edgar Fisher is restricted.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Robert College Records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Finding aid in repository; folder level control.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Professor Michael A. Lutzker, Director of the Program in Archival Management and Historical Editing at New York University, and Catherine Thompson, a graduate of the Program.

Finding aid written by Professor Michael A. Lutzker and Catherine Thompson in 1988.

Papers processed 5/2/1999 mmb

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion November 7, 2008

Finding aid written in English.

    2008-11-07 File created.
    2009-01-16 xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor
    2009-06-12 xml document instance created by Catherine N. Carson
    2011-03-23 xml document instance revised by Patrick Lawlor

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Subjects

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
American College for Girls (Istanbul, Turkey)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
College etc., Turkey: Robert College.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Gates, Caleb Frank, 1857-1946.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hamlin, Cyrus, 1811-1900.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Robert College (Istanbul, Turkey)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Turkey.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Universities and colleges--Turkey--Istanbul.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Washburn, George, 1833-1915.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

Robert College, the first American-sponsored college founded outside the United States, opened its doors in Bebek, Turkey, in 1863 with four students. The following year the American trustees obtained papers of incorporation in the State of New York allowing the! institution to raise funds in support of the experiment. The college was an outgrowth of American missionary efforts within the Ottoman Empire, but had no formal connection with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Under the leadership of the Reverend Cyrus Hamlin, a Congregational minister, who had spent many years in Turkey, and with the support of Christopher R. Robert, a prosperous New York merchant, the college gradually became recognized as an important institution for educating the Christian minorities within the Ottoman Empire.

Cyrus Hamlin's desire to establish a permanent campus increasingly diverted his energies from administrative duties. After protracted I negotiations and considerable resistance from the Turkish authorities, he secured a site above the fortress of Rumeli Hisar overlooking the Bosphorus and began personally to oversee I construction of the new building. In the process he became increasingly alienated from his colleagues and as a consequence the trustees shifted responsibility for administering the college to George Washburn, a long time resident of Turkey who had served as I treasurer for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions before joining the Robert College faculty.

In 1871 the college moved to its new campus and while the number of students grew so did the tension between Hamlin and the faculty. In 1877 the trustees officially named Washburn president though in fact he had been acting as such for some years. During his long tenure Washburn gradually assembled a faculty of distinguished scholars who firmly established the college's academic reputation. These professors were augmented by tutors from the United States and by local academics.

With the death of Christopher Robert in 1878, the college lost one of its leaders and its chief benefactor. However, his generous bequest laid the basis for an endowment. That same year the college's first catalog was published showing that since 1863, 912 students of many nationalities had attended and 76 had graduated. The number of students grew markedly during the l880s but in the process the physical plant and equipment gradually became outmoded. I Faculty morale declined. In the United States a new group of trustees was recruited, and men such as John S. Kennedy, Cleveland H. Dodge and William Sloane inspired an ambitious building program II that both expanded and revitalized the college. In 1903 Dr. Caleb Gates succeeded George Washburn as president. During his twenty-nine year administration the student body underwent a dramatic transformation as the Young Turk movement led to an Ii unprecedented demand for education along western lines. "Concurrently, government relaxation of barriers against attending foreign schools encouraged the enrollment of Turkish youngsters in t1 existing institutions such as Robert College

In 1912 the School of Engineering was established, a major step in harmony with the needs of a Turkey determined to modernize itself and provide technical education to its young generation.

With the coming of World War I, Robert College faced a host of ;I pressures and experienced severe shortages of supplies. II Nevertheless, the college continued to fulfill its educational mission. Even after the United States entered the war and severed diplomatic relations with Turkey, Robert College never was obliged to close its doors. A significant indication of the relationship I between the two countries is the fact that there was no declaration of hostilities despite the fact that Turkey was allied with the Central Powers.

At the end of the war the rising spirit of Turkish nationalism left the fate of an American institution precarious. However, by the I 1920s Robert College had been in existence for over half a century and had won the respect of Turkish leaders who recognized the i crucial role of education to the process of modernization. Moreover, the United States government had never over the years EJ become associated in the public's mind with efforts to dismember the Ottoman Empire. Finally, President Woodrow Wilson's emphasis on self-determination of nations was in accord with Turkish desires for independence in the wake of World War I.

During the 1920s a militantly nationalist Turkish government sought fl to exercise increased control over all schools through its Ministry II of Education. While this thrust was not in accord with American traditions of institutional autonomy, both the government and then college maintained a degree of flexibility over the years that made it possible for generations of Turkish students to become educated in the Western liberal tradition and thereby contribute to the development of modern Turkey. This can be attributed, in some measure, to a respect for the secular traditions of the West on the part of Kemal Ataturk.

The retirement of President Caleb Gates in 1932 closed a twenty-nine year chapter in the history of the college. By that time the impact of the worldwide economic depression had severely strained the institution's finances. The trustees appointed Dr. Paul Monroe of Teachers College, Columbia University, to consolidate the college in the face of its reduced income. One of his first moves was the merger of Robert College with the American College for Girls (ACG) under a single president, though the two institutions continued for I many years to maintain their separate Boards of Trustees and their separate endowments.

Prior to the appointment of Paul Monroe in 1932 as the president of both Robert College and the Amerlcan College for Girls, the two institutions had begun sharing instructors for certain elective classes. The stringencies imposed by the depression led to further consolidation.

When ill health compelled the retirement of Dr. Monroe in 1935, he was succeeded as head of the two institutions by Dr. Walter II Livingston Wright, Jr., an Ottoman scholar whose extensive knowledge of the Near East served the colleges well during an era of profound change in Turkey. President Wright faced the continuous task of maintaining academic standards in the face of financial stringency. The curriculum underwent revision as the college strove to adapt to I the needs of a nation undergoing modernization.

As Europe's crises of the late 1930s brought war in 1939, it became increasingly difficult to attract qualified teachers. Moreover, when the U.S. became involved in 1941, President Wright was called to Washington to serve as an advisor on Near Eastern affairs. Dean Harold L. Scott, who had served Robert College in several capacities since 1911, guided the institutions through most of the war years acting as president. In 1944 Floyd Henson Black was appointed president of the college. His first teaching position had been as a tutor at Robert College in 1911. In 1914 he had returned to the United States and after completing his doctorate at Harvard he it returned in 1919 to teach Latin. In 1926 he was appointed president of the American College in Sofia where he served for the next eighteen years. By 1944, however, the war forced the closing of the college in Sofia and Floyd Black returned, this time to a combined Robert College and American College for Girls, to lead it into the postwar years. By the war's end the college was highly respected in Turkey and there was no difficulty attracting students. The problems centered on a shortage of faculty and the college's aging physical facilities. Financial constraints and an overburdened faculty threatened an erosion of academic standards, even while extracurricular activities, drama, and athletics flourished. The college found itself at a crossroads and with the impending retirement of Dr. Black in 1955, the faculty sought to re-evaluate the academic needs of the institution while the trustees undertook to seek new sources of funding.

In 1955 Dr. Duncan Ballantine, President of Reed College, was appointed by a joint presidential search committee composed of RC and ACG trustees. His mandate was to revitalize the academic programs at the college. After a year-long study sweeping changes were made. The orta, which trained eleven to fourteen-year-old youngsters, was phased out. The four-year lise was made comparable to the three-year Turkish lise and designated Robert Academy. The collegiate division was granted permission by the Turkish Government to award Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees as well as Masters degrees in both fields. The college program was reorganized into three departments, the Engineering School, the School of Business Administration, and the School of Science and Foreign Languages. All three departments were to be coeducational.

In 1958 a comparable change was made at the level of the trustees, when both Boards of Trustees and both endowments were merged under the corporate name of The Trustees of Robert College of Istanbul. This merger was ratified in 1959 by an amendment to the charter granted by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.

In 1961, Dr. Ballantine resigned and was succeeded in 1962 by Dr. In Patrick Murphy Malin, who had taught Economics at Swarthmore College Jj and later served as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. Dr. Malin presided over the centennial celebrations of the college held in 1963.

During its first century the college had fulfilled the vision of its chief founders, Christopher Robert, Cyrus Hamlin and Mary Mills Patrick, by educating successive generations of young people, beginning with the Ottoman Empire and continuing under the Turkish Republic.

Timeline:

1863 - Robert College founded by Hamlin and Robert.

1871 - American College for Girls (originally known as The Home School) founded in Gedikpasa.

1874 - American College for Girls moved to Uskudar.

1912 - Engineering school opened at Robert College (with first civil engineering program in Turkey).

1914 - American College for Girls moved to Arnavutköy campus.

1932 - Administration of RC and ACG united under leadership of a single president.

1958 - Three new schools added to the degree-granting Yuksek (Higher Education) Division of Robert College. Boards of Trustees and endowment funds of both Colleges merged under the name of the Trustees of Robert College of Istanbul.

1971 - Robert College Yüksek transferred to the Turkish Government and now carries on the Robert academic tradition as Bogaziçi University. Robert Academy and ACG combined physically on the Arnavutköy campus as a coeducational six-year preparatory school.