These records contain information related to the formation of Robert College
(Bebek, Turkey). 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 their efforts to gain necessary permits to build upon the
At a Glance
|Bib ID:||6607719 View CLIO record|
|Creator(s):||Robert College (Istanbul, Turkey)|
|Physical description:||89 linear ft. (207 boxes).
This collection is located on-site.
Subseries V.1: Edgar Fisher is
More information »|
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
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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
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
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
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
Series IV: Records of the Vice President, George H.
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,
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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Using the Collection
This collection is located on-site.
Subseries V.1: Edgar Fisher is
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.
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.
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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
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.
xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor
xml document instance created by Catherine N. Carson
xml document instance revised by Patrick Lawlor
xml document instance revised by Catherine C. Ricciardi
Archived Website series added by Jane Gorjevsky
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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.
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History / Biographical 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
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
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
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
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
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.
1863 - Robert College founded by Hamlin and Robert.
1871 - American College for Girls (originally known as The Home School) founded in
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
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
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