Columbia University Archives

Departmental Reports to the President, 1890-1927

Summary Information


This collection contains three sets of reports from the academic departments to the President of Columbia College (1890) and Columbia University (1900 and 1927).

At a Glance

Call No.: UA#0188
Bib ID 6947874 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Columbia University
Title Departmental Reports to the President, 1890-1927
Physical Description 0.83 linear feet (2 document boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection has no restrictions.

The following box is located off-site: Box 1. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.



This collection is arranged in two series.



This collection consists of the reports submitted by the different academic departments to the President in 1890, 1900 and 1927.

  • Series I. Reports to President Seth Low, 1890-1900

    The reports in these series are the responses to a circular sent out by the President of the College and then University Seth Low.

  • Series II. Reports to President Nicholas Murray Butler, 1927

    Departments were asked to assess their position in their respective academic field and to predict their financial needs to the year 1950. The length of the responses varies: some are very brief while others provide quite extensive answers (e.g., the Department of Chemistry). The Departments of Romance Languages and Zoology appended reports on their departments to their replies.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection has no restrictions.

The following box is located off-site: Box 1. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

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); Departmental Reports to the President; Box and Folder number (if known); University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Related Materials

For additional correspondence between the Office of the President and the academic departments, see Central Files (UA#0001). Earlier departmental reports can be found in the Columbia College papers (UA#0224).


No additions are expected.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

The Seth Low selections in this collection were processed by John Kim in 2000 and edited by Marilyn Pettit in February 2001. The Nicholas Murray Butler selections were processed by Alexander Hunt in December 1992 and edited by Jocelyn Wilk in February 2002. Finding aid written by Joanna Rios in June 2019.

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:"
Columbia College (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- : Administration Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- : Curricula Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

Departmental reports to President Seth Low indicate that he was acting as chief academic officer as well as president of what was Columbia College in 1890 and Columbia University in 1900. Departments received the circular from the President's Office (December 4, 1890 and October 4, 1900) and were asked to provide answers to numbered questions. The reports include the names and rank of current faculty and their current roles, a department's immediate financial needs (for salaries, libraries, and equipment), and what new courses they would like to offer. The 1900 reports include those from the departments of the medical school.

In 1927 the Trustees and President Nicholas Murray Butler considered initiating a major fundraising campaign to expand Columbia's capital resources. The John Price Jones Corporation, which assisted educational, philanthropic, and scientific organizations procure endowments, was hired to organize the campaign. On April 14, 1927 John Price Jones submitted its "Survey and Plan of Fund Raising for Columbia University" to the Trustees. It was estimated at the time that $8,000,000 would be raised for the University at a cost of approximately $250,000. On May 2, however, the Trustees decided not to implement the plan formulated by John Price Jones.

An important element of the study was a questionnaire sent to each of Columbia's academic departments by President Butler. Departments were asked to conduct a self-assessment and to predict their needs for the year 1950. The replies to the questionnaire were confidential and allowed the departments to provide thorough and often blunt evaluations of their role in their academic fields and of their standing compared to their competitors at other universities. They provided John Price Jones with frank and detailed information about the financial requirements and individual accomplishments of Columbia's various departments.