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Special Collections & Archives: Founder's Day Virtual Exhibit
Webpage for the Daniel A. Reed Library Special Collections & Archives department.
Due to the pandemic, the Special Collections & Archives Division was unable to install our annual Founder's Day exhibit in Reed Library this year.
We hope that you will enjoy browsing this virtual exhibition of images selected and digitized from materials in the Cornerstone Collection and the University History Collection. It tells the story of the first century of Fredonia's institutional history, from its origins as the Fredonia Academy through its time as a State Normal School and into the early days on this SUNY campus that we all know today.
To navigate the exhibit, please use the arrows on either side of the image below to scroll through images with accompanying narrative text.
Founder's Day Virtual Exhibit
Fredonia Block, 1800s
An aerial view of Main Street in Fredonia in the early 1800s. Note the horse-drawn vehicles, unpaved road, and the absence of motorized cars.
Fredonia Academy, 1826
Officially opened on October 4, 1826, the Fredonia Academy building was the first structure of the institution that evolved into today’s SUNY Fredonia. Built with a combination of state and local funds, it served high school students until 1867 when the Normal School for teacher training was established. The Academy building was razed in 1890 to make room for the construction of what is now Fredonia Village Hall.
Fredonia Academy President, 1826
First president of the Fredonia Academy, Leverett Barker, one of the early citizens of the village. The Academy opened in 1826 with 15 students. By the next year, the Academy had enrolled 81 gentlemen and 55 ladies.
Fredonia Academy Catalogs, 1827-1855
The photo shows Academy Catalogs from 1827 (second year), 1842, 1855 and 1858. Commencement ceremonies would typically include singing, musical performances and sometimes drama, speeches, or even gymnastic performances.
Fredonia Academy Newspaper Advertisement, 1857
Advertisement for “Academy Home” a boarding house for Academy students who came from outside of Fredonia. For a number of years, the Academy was one of the only institutions of higher learning in all of Western New York.
Fredonia Railroad, 1860s
The Dunkirk and Fredonia Railroad was essential for students and other travelers who came by train from afar, arrived in Dunkirk, and made their way to Fredonia. The street car line opened in 1866 in Fredonia.
First Normal School, 1867
When the state announced that it would take propositions from communities for new Normal schools in 1866, it was the influence of Governor Reuben E. Fenton of Jamestown, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Victor M. Rice, also from Chautauqua County, that helped secure one of the institutions for Fredonia.
Cornerstone Celebration, 1867
August 8, 1867 the cornerstone of the Fredonia Normal School was laid in a masonic ceremony witnessed and celebrated by thousands of proud local citizens and dignitaries.
Cornerstone Broadsheet, 1867
This poster for the event was preserved in the metal “time capsule” box that was enclosed in the cornerstone of the first Fredonia Normal School building.
Cornerstone Box, 1867
The actual metal box that survived the 1900 fire and was placed with another box in the new building, erected in 1901. Both cornerstone “time capsules” were retrieved from the Normal School in 1984 when SUNY sold the building.
Detail of Cornerstone Box, 1867
Sealed in the metal box inside the cornerstone were items deposited by The Fredonia Academy, the village of Fredonia, and the Masonic Lodges of the area. Newspapers from local towns and cities were also included as historical artifacts in the box. The Normal School opened for classes on December 2, 1867. Tragically, on December 14, 1900 the Fredonia Normal School building burned to the ground, taking the lives of six students and the janitor of the school. The cornerstone box was unscathed and transferred to the new building which would be nicknamed “Old Main.”
"To Our Posterity" Envelope, 1867
The small envelope found in the cornerstone contained a letter written in 1867 by Ira H. Wilson, a Fredonia man.
"To Our Posterity," 1867
The villagers of Fredonia contributed $100,000 dollars “to the erection of this institution of Education which is the theme of our ambition and the glory of our age.”
Commencement Programs, 1870-1900
Fredonia Normal School Commencement programs for the years 1870, 1880, 1890, and 1900. The first class of teachers graduated in 1870. The programs included the names and course of study for each student, a practice that became prohibitive as the enrollment numbers became greater.
Normal School Diploma, 1873
Each 1873 diploma included a small photographic print of the Normal building.
Dickens Club, 1878
A variety of clubs allowed students to participate in groups outside of their academic classes. The Dickens Club members enacted scenes and dressed as characters from the works of Charles Dickens.
Performance Programs, 1878-1914
Musical performances, poetry readings, art exhibitions, and speeches were often part of campus ceremonies, as they are today.
Lithograph of Normal School Building, 1880
A graphic illustration of the first Fredonia Normal School, 1880s.
Jessie Hillman, 1889
Jessie Hillman began teaching at the Normal School in 1881, and became faculty (piano) in 1887 when music as a specialty area began. The Hillman Opera is named for her.
The Normal Leader, 1893
The Normal Leader, volume 1 number 1. May 1893. Published monthly by students of the Normal School Zetesian and Agonian (literary) Societies. The Leader continues publication, now weekly, in print and online.
Normal School Student Notebook, 1900s
A page in the notebook of a Normal student, circa 1900. Classes included science, music, language, drawing, painting, mathematics, etc. – all the ‘normal’ subjects.
Main Street, Fredonia, 1900s
The streetcar line opened in 1866, but automobiles dominated the street a few decades later.
Normal School Diploma, 1901
The 1901 New York State Normal and Training School diploma declares the recipient “hereby licensed to teach in any of the public school of this state for life.”
Fredonia Village Trustees, 1901
These photographic portraits of the Fredonia village trustees were preserved in the cornerstone of the second Normal School that replaced the structure that burned. The center photo is Arthur R. Maytum, the founder of the Dunkirk and Fredonia Telephone Company, now known as DFT Communications.
Football Poster, 1902
Fredonia once had a football team. This fund-raising poster reminds everyone to “Bring Your Money With You.” Then, as now, having school-supported sports teams was expensive.
Normal School Faculty, 1913
1913 faculty of the Fredonia Normal and Training School.
Normal School Assembly, 1925
1925 assembly of the faculty, staff and students of the Normal School. Photo taken in Old Main Chapel.
Physical Education Students, 1925
1925 physical education class in the Old Main gymnasium. The women wore exercise uniforms.
Art Club Picnic, 1927
1927 Art Club picnic with Miss Dewey and Miss DeVinney. The Art Club was organized January 26, 1927 as a branch of the Alma Mater Society.
Western New York Music Festival, 1928
The Western New York Music Festival was held yearly in Fredonia. Children from surrounding area schools participated in a weeklong festival, and faculty and guest artists performed throughout the year as part of the festivities. This photo was taken in front of Old Main, the 1901 Normal building on Temple St. On the far right is a young Harry King, for whom King Concert Hall was named.
Western New York Music Festival, 1928
Some of the hundreds of area music students who participated in the 1928 Western New York Music Festival. The festival, which ran yearly until around 1949, was organized by music faculty Howard Clarke Davis.
Campus School, 1931
Teachers-in-training could practice without leaving Old Main since the campus had its own school for that purpose until 1967 when student-teachers went to public schools to practice.
Normal School Catalog, 1932
The 1932-1933 college catalog in the art deco style of the time.
Piano Student, 1935
A student practicing piano in a music room of Old Main. Fredonia was authorized by the state to award teacher certificates in music in 1909. A four-year course in music is first offered in 1931.
Science Students, 1940s
Students studying physics in the 1940s.
Mason Hall Aerial View, 1941
In 1933, New York state purchased property on Central Avenue to be used for future expansion. While non-music classes continued to be held in Old Main, the music building sat alone on the current campus from 1941 to 1951, when it was eventually joined by Gregory Hall (’51), Fenton Hall (’53) and Alumni Hall (’58).
Campus Construction, 1940s
Roads on the new campus were challenging in mud and snow, but imagine what it was like walking on those wooden ‘sidewalks’!
Grape Harvest, 1943
During World War II, a majority of the male students and young locals were sent to war. The grape and tomato harvests of Welch’s and Red Wing were in danger of rotting on the vines due to lack of laborers. The college decided to cancel classes to allow students, faculty and staff to help ‘save the harvest’ by bringing in the crops.
Normal School Students, 1949
After World War II, the numbers of students rose dramatically, helped by the GI Bill. The students pictured were happy to be here in 1949. SUNY, a system of public higher education, was created in 1948 to supplement and complement the curriculum of private colleges.
Art Club Members, 1953
1953 Art Club members.
Freshmen Parade, 1959
First year students were expected to participate in some goofy orientation activities such as this Freshman parade with lampshade hats. 1959.
Freshmen Orientation, 1959
Freshmen were easily identified by their required “Beanie” hats. These students are heading to orientation at the College Lodge or Point Gratiot.
War Demonstration, 1960s
The 1960s were a volatile era on most college campuses as many students strongly agreed or disagreed with the war in Vietnam. This group supported the war.
War Demonstration, 1966
Students and faculty marching in protest against the war.
Old Main Building, 1960s
The building referred to as Old Main was sold in the 1980s. By that time, all classes and activities had moved to the new campus.
Trumpet Student, 1960s
The sound of music coming from Mason Hall - just as it does today.
Computer Installation, 1965
Ready to hook up the new ‘computers’ on campus.
Centennial Telegrams, 1967
Congratulations came in for our 100th anniversary in 1967. Telegrams (in a scrapbook) from Robert F. Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, and John Lindsay among others. The college experienced rapid growth in programs, departments, faculty and students, in the years 1966-1976.
Dunkirk Observer Clipping, 1967
This 1967 clipping from the Dunkirk Evening Observer describes some of the 100-year history of the college.