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This summary description of the Class of 1865 is based on biographies of each of the 49 men who at one time or another were part of this class.
How young were the students?
Since members of this class had been born anywhere from 1841 to 1847, they would have ranged in age from thirteen to twenty years of age as entering freshmen, and from seventeen to twenty four years at the time of the class’s July 1865 graduation. The bulk of the class, forty students, were born from 1844 to 1846, making them age fourteen to seventeen years as freshmen in the fall of 1861. The mean and median year of birth for both graduating and non-graduating students was 1845.
Where were they from?
Most members of the Class of 1865 were from Philadelphia. A handful of others came from nearby: Haupt from Gettysburg, Schaefer from Harrisburg, Stichter from Reading, Bates and McKim from Delaware. Only McDonald was a southerner, born in North Carolina, but his parents had both been born in the North. Robert Ellis Thompson was Irish-born, but had settled in Philadelphia with his family when he was thirteen years old. The origins of two non-graduates is unknown. The other forty-two associated with this class were Philadelphia natives.
Where did they settle later on?
After graduation, most but not all of the members of the Class of 1865 settled in Philadelphia. One man became an expatriate in France, and two others lived abroad for a time as members of the United States foreign service. The North Carolina native returned to North Carolina after the Civil War. Three men settled in the American West, Colorado and California. Six men spent most of their lives after college living in New York City. Two clergymen moved frequently, living in a variety of places from Maryland to Massachusetts to California; an architect lived in New York City, Philadelphia and Wernersville, Pennsylvania. Most of the others did not venture far afield: three lived in Delaware, one in Reading and one in Allentown. Thirty-two members of the Class of 1865 lived most of their lives in Philadelphia.
What degrees did the Class of 1865 receive from the University of Pennsylvania?
Of the forty-nine men who were members of the Class of 1865 at one time or another, twenty-five of them received their A.B. degrees from the College. Six members of this class later received law degrees from the University’s Law Department; two others earned their doctor of medicine degrees at Penn. In addition, the University of Pennsylvania granted honorary degrees to seven members of the Class of 1865.
What happened to those who did not earn Bachelor of Arts degrees from Penn?
The 25 young men in the Class of 1865 who left the College before graduation did so for a variety of reasons. Only two disappeared without a trace; the others left to pursue their education elsewhere, to serve in the military, or to join the work force, sometimes in a family business. A few entered Penn’s medical and law schools before completing their undergraduate degrees. Others left the University after a year or two because Penn could not yet provide the military or technical education they sought. In this time of Civil War, a few students left Penn for military training at West Point and Annapolis. The developments of the industrial age influenced others to seek scientific and technical training at Philadelphia Polytechnic College, Yale University’s Sheffield Scientific School, the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard, the Saxon School of Mines in Germany, and engineering courses in France.
The freshman class lost nine of its members. One young man left for unknown reasons early in the year. Another eight left after completing their freshman year, one to fight in the Union army, three to join the work force (as a publisher, teacher and merchant), and four to attend other academic institutions. A student who would later become an architect left Penn to attend the Philadelphia Polytechnic College and then Yale University’s Sheffield Scientific School. A future engineer continued his education at the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard and then West Point; another left Penn to study engineering in Paris, France. The last of those who departed the class as a freshman took a short break before continuing his liberal arts studies at Harvard.
During the sophomore year, ten more members of the Class of 1865 departed. Again one student left for unknown reasons. Three entered the business world; two others left to read law in preparation for careers as lawyers; and another, after a short hiatus, attended Episcopal Divinity School. Another young man left the College to begin his studies in Penn’s Medical Department. Two other members of the class left Penn in favor of military education at West Point and Annapolis, although the Naval Academy graduate would later return to the University of Pennsylvania for law school.
Junior year saw fewer departures. One young man entered Penn this year as a member of the Class of 1865, but left before the year was out to complete his undergraduate work at Lafayette College and then to pursue advanced studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. One student left during the year to enlist in the Union forces; he would later finish his education at the Saxon School of Mines in Germany. Two other students left to enter law school, one at Harvard and the other at Penn.
Only two members of the class left during senior year. One moved to France where he lived as an expatriate without any financial need to engage in employment. The other became a stockbroker in Philadelphia.
Did these students participate in the Civil War?
Eighteen members of the Class of 1865 are known to have performed some sort of service during the Civil War. Seven were members of the University Light Artillery that trained on campus; another eight saw service in various volunteer militia regiments in the emergency of the summer of 1863, when Confederate armies threatened Pennsylvania at Gettysburg. Service in the University Light Artillery or during the summer of 1863 did not necessarily interrupt education at Penn.
At least five young men left the College for longer military service. Thomas Carswell Miles, the first to serve in the Union Army, left the College at the end of his freshman year in order to enlist and did not return. Theodore Minis Etting, Lewis M. Haupt and William Evans Rogers enlisted in the military and finished their undergraduate educations at the United States military academies. Thomas Mitchell was an officer in both the University Light Artillery and in the 198th Pennsylvania Regiment; he left College in May of 1865 to assist in the final war effort, but was still graduated with the Class of 1865.
What were the occupations of the members of the Class of 1865?
Many graduates and some non-graduates joined the traditional professions of law, medicine and theology. Sixteen became lawyers, seven earning their degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. The eight clergyman included one Lutheran, one Presbyterian and six Episcopalians. Three became medical doctors. A number of these men were authors, editors, publishers, and/or teachers in colleges or theological seminaries.
Another significant portion of the Class of 1865, however, turned to scientific and financial occupations related to the nineteenth-century industrial economy. Seven men had careers that combined finance and manufacture, often owning or managing manufacturing companies while also working as stockbrokers or financiers. Other scientific fields included architecture and engineering. Some of the lawyers also were tied to the industrial world, concentrating on such fields as real estate or marine law. Some men were in business, two as clerks, two as substantial merchants, and several others in management roles for lumber, railroad or other businesses.
One non-graduate became a teacher in Delaware, and another a teacher at Girard College. Occupations are unknown for three members of the Class of 1865, although one of these seems to have moved to France and lived comfortably there without working.
What were some of the noteworthy accomplishments of members of the Class of 1865?
Given the emphasis on finance and industry in late nineteenth-century America, it is not surprising that a number of members of this class were prominent in these areas. Some men were involved in family businesses built around the refining of sugar and the manufacture of iron, lead, and coal. Members of this class also included the co-founder of the Yale Lock Manufacturing Company, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Director of Philadelphia’s Land Title and Trust Company, the President of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, the Vice-president of the Madison Square Garden Company, and the President of Pennsylvania Hospital.
Others in this class were known for their government service. Included in this class was a state senator in Colorado, a Speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives in Delaware, a United States Commissioner to Samoa and Tonga, and a foreign diplomat to such posts as Prague, St. Petersburg and Brussels. An engineer from the Class of 1865 played an important role in the construction of the Panama Canal. Two other men served on their local city councils, in Philadelphia and in Reading.
In the traditional professions of law, medicine and theology, alumni included the publisher of the Legal Intelligencer, the founder and president of the American Dermatological Society, and the editor of the American Sunday School Magazine as well as the Dean of Philadelphia Divinity School.
Athletically, this class is remembered for the role of John Clarke Sims in the creation of the Alumni Athletic Association, but members of the class also made important contributions to the sport of cricket. One member of the class was a cofounder of the Merion Cricket Club, and another was an internationally known cricket player.
How did alumni of the Class of 1865 contribute to Penn?
Robert Ellis Thompson and Louis Adolphus Duhring were later professors at the University. Henry Reed and John Clarke Sims served on Penn’s Board of Trustees, and Sims also played a key role in the creation of the Alumni Athletic Association. As an alumnus Harry Markoe remained a member of the University Barge Club, serving as its secretary. Duhring and Horace Magee each left particularly large bequests to the University; the addition to the Fisher Fine Arts Library is named after Duhring.