The return of Fridays with Fred: “Visit Beloit and ‘The Yale of the West’”

Early advertising for Beloit College as the “Yale of the West.”

From the city’s founding in 1836 to today’s online efforts by “Visit Beloit,” Beloiters have sought creative ways of attracting residents, businesses, tourists, and students. By 1887, when Beloit’s “Business Men’s Association” cooked up this snazzy advertisement printed on the back of an envelope, the community had every reason to boast about its amenities and accomplishments. Judging from their use of prominent type size, the boosters believed that Beloit College was one of the main attractions. In 1893, Professor Joseph Emerson wrote to his friend, Robbins Battell, about the term “Yale of the West”:

“Beloit has from the very first set and kept its standard up to that of Yale. Our first class called it the Yale of the West, and the idea has been an education and an inspiration to them.”

There was no doubt that Beloit College had strong ties to Yale. Stephen Peet, one of the college’s chief founders, was a Yale graduate, as was its first president, Aaron Lucius Chapin. Aratus Kent, the college’s first president of the Board of Trustees, had attended Yale. And when the college’s first two professors, Joseph Emerson and Jackson J. Bushnell arrived on campus in 1848, they greeted each other as long lost brothers. Both were graduates of Yale’s class of 1841. Beloit College modeled its stringent entrance requirements and its Classics-based curriculum on Yale’s. Yale also inspired Beloit students to establish their own literary societies, music clubs, and the college’s first publication, the Beloit College Monthly.

However, despite its propensity for everything Yale, the pioneer Wisconsin college inevitably began to blaze its own path, as spelled out by Professor Henry M. Whitney in a lengthy article published in the Round Table on December 4, 1891:

“…Beloit has come to have an unique individuality of her own. She now dares to do things because she herself thinks them wise…She has a field of her own, a genius of her own, and a future of her own – a future great and distinctive – and her name is not Yale, nor Amherst, but BELOIT.”

January 15, 2016

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