Columbia University Archives

Columbia College A.B. Theses Collection, 1878-1905

Summary Information


This collection consists of the undergraduate theses admitted for graduation by students of Columbia College from 1878 to 1905.

At a Glance

Call No.: UA#0229
Bib ID 12533121 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Columbia University. Columbia College Students
Title Columbia College A.B. Theses Collection, 1878-1905
Physical Description 32.25 linear feet (162 bound volumes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located onsite.

This collection has no restrictions.



Arranged into one series.



This collection consists of the undergraduate theses admitted for graduation by students of Columbia College from 1878 to 1905. A thesis or essay was required of all graduating seniors in order to receive a diploma until 1905. The works have been collected and bound together into multiple volumes for each class year. For each year, the theses are organized alphabetically by the student's last name. For 1904 and 1905 there are supplemental volumes in addition to the main alphabetical run of names. Of particular note is the 1887 thesis submitted by Mary Parsons Hankey, who enrolled in Columbia's Collegiate Course for Women, and was the first woman to receive an undergraduate degree from Columbia College.

  • Series I: Columbia College A.B. Theses, 1878-1905

    Series I consists of bound volumes of undergraduate theses submitted by students at Columbia College from 1878 to 1905. The theses are arranged in alphabetical order by last name within each volume. As the volumes were initially cataloged as books the original Columbiana call numbers are noted in the container list for each volume

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located onsite.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Columbia College A.B. Theses Collection; Volume call number; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Emily Burns, CC 2017 and Molly Boord (GS 2021) in Winter/Spring 2017.

Finding aid written by Jocelyn Wilk and Joanna Rios in May 2017.

Revision Description

2017-06-07 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

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.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Thesis Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Bachelor of arts degree Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia College (Columbia University) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

From 1878 to 1905, every student of Columbia College's senior class was required to submit a thesis on any subject, scientific or literary, in order to graduate. Originally, the student would have to get the President's approval on his chosen subject and then deliver the written thesis to the President personally. A thesis could not "occupy less than eight minutes in reading, at the ordinary rate of effective delivery." The President and the Professor of Rhetoric or English would then decide whether to admit or reject the work. In the case of a split decision, the faculty would be asked to weigh in. If the work was rejected, the student would need to rewrite it or to write another thesis for the President's sole evaluation in other to be allowed to receive a diploma. All admitted theses were to be retained by the College. As the enrollment numbers in the College grew, the President could no longer be as involved in the process. The approval of the thesis subject went from the President (1878-1879), to "the professor of one of the departments" when each department was made up of one professor (1888-1889), to the head of the department (1893-1894), and finally to then-newly-created position of the Dean of the College (1900-1901). Likewise, the evaluation of the submitted work went from the President and the Professor of Rhetoric (1878-1879 to 1891-1892) to the department or head of the department of the thesis subject. For the students, the graduation thesis also evolved into something more scholarly. Starting in 1888-1889, a bibliography was required: "Each essay shall contain as appendix a list of all books, essays, etc., that have been used as authorities." The length of the work would move from the oral presentation rate of at least eight minutes to the written requirement of at least 2000 words starting in 1893-1894. In January 1905, the faculty approved a new program of studies for the undergraduate students at Columbia College. With the new degrees (BA and BS) and the new point or credit-hour system, the thesis requirement was discontinued.