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

Summary Information

At a Glance

Title:Columbia College A.B. Theses Collection, 1878-1905
Physical description:32.25 linear ft. (162 bound volumes)
Language(s): Materials entirely in English.


Arranged into the following series: I. Columbia College A.B. Theses


Scope and Content

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

Access Restrictions

This collection is located onsite.

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

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.

Accrual Information

No additions are expected.

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 Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

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.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion June 7, 2017

Finding aid written in English.

    2017-06-07 File created.

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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Bachelor of arts degreePortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia College (Columbia University).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note


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.