Guide to the Records of the Evanston Academy

Collection Title: Records of the Evanston Academy
Dates: 1857-1967
Identification: 38/8
Creator: Evanston Academy
Extent: 2 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: Materials related to the Evanston Academy in this series represent the following: historical materials; correspondence; catalogs; circulars; bulletins; programs; brochures.
Acquisition Information: The series is composed of materials from the University Archives' General Files.
Processing Information: Robert Pruter, March, 2000.
Separated Materials: Few duplicate and extraneous materials were discarded. Two 1909 issues of the student journal, The Academian, were transferred to series 38/7, The Evanston Academy Academic, Administrative, and Campus Activities Records.
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Evanston Academy, which closed in 1917, had a history that dates back to 1859, when the Preparatory Department of Northwestern University, or the Preparatory School, was opened. The creation of the department was proposed by the Faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and approved by the Trustees of the University in 1857. In the absence of many quality secondary schools in the Chicago area and Midwest, a preparatory department was felt essential in ensuring that Northwestern would receive students prepared to do college work.

The first male students entered the department in 1859, and the first female students were admitted in 1869. The first principal was Warren Taplin. The Preparatory Department originally consisted of a three-year pre-secondary school and a four-year secondary school. The original age requirement for entrance to the preparatory department was ten, but it was later raised to eleven, then twelve, and finally thirteen. The Trustees of the University directed the administration of the Preparatory School, while faculty of Northwestern's College of Liberal Arts formed its curriculum.

The Preparatory School initially shared facilities with the University. In 1871, the original Northwestern building, called Old College, was enlarged and turned over completely to the use of the school, which occupied the facility until 1899. In that year, the Preparatory School, which had been renamed the Academy in 1892, moved into a much larger building, Fisk Hall, which it occupied until its closing (Fisk still serves as a Northwestern University classroom building). A boarding facility, Hatfield House, was opened in 1906.

In its early years, the school featured a classical curriculum that emphasized Latin, Greek, history, and mathematics. Gradually the curriculum was expanded to include modern languages and natural and physical sciences, and English became a major course requirement. In later years, manual training, mechanical drawing, bookkeeping, commercial law, stenography, and typing were added.

In 1873, Herbert Franklin Fisk (1840-1916) was named principal, and under his leadership for the next thirty-one years the Preparatory School grew and prospered. Fisk was an ardent campaigner against the use of tobacco, and required his students to sign pledges to abstain from its use. Fisk stepped down as principal in 1904, but remained on the Northwestern faculty as Professor of Education until his death.

In 1905 the Academy, which was known popularly as Northwestern Academy, was renamed once again and became the Evanston Academy. During World War I, Northwestern University, citing decreased income and the prospect of receiving fewer students to the Academy, decided to close the institution at the end of the 1916-1917 school year. President Thomas F. Holgate of Northwestern explained that the growth of nearby high schools had made the need for a preparatory school less important.

Further information pertaining to the Academy's history, curriculum, student body, student life, and extracurricular activities may be obtained by consulting the University Archives' holdings of The Academian and The Bear; the Evanston Academy Academic, Administration, and Campus Activities Records, 1896-1917 (Series 38/7); the Northwestern University Academy Faculty Minute Book, 1904-1910 (Series 38/5); the Evanston Academy Student Records, c. 1900-1917 (Series 38/3); the Philomathia Society Minute Books, 1869-1893 and 1904-1917 (Series 38/4); and the Herbert F. Fisk Papers, 1874-1917 (Series 38/1).

The University also holds a variety of general reference materials relating to two other affiliated secondary school institutions of Northwestern University, the Elgin Academy (located in Elgin, Ill.) and Grand Prairie Seminary (located in Onarga, Ill.). For records of an earlier effort to provide a preparatory school for Northwestern, see the records of the Northwestern Female College.

Scope and Content

Materials related to the Evanston Academy in this series represent the following: historical materials; correspondence; catalogs; circulars; bulletins; programs; brochures.

The historical materials, arranged chronologically, include typed copies and clippings of newspaper and other stories on the history of the Academy spanning the years 1857 to 1967. Of special interest is the anonymous typed manuscript providing a documentary history of the institution from 1857 to 1878.

The correspondence, arranged chronologically from 1867 to 1917, consists of a handful of letters by key administrators of the Academy, notably a letter from the Academy's last principal, E.W. Marcellus, offering an explanation for the school's closing in 1917.

Announcements and brochures consist of small one-page items, arranged chronologically from 1873 to 1914, including postcards, brochures, and calendars that were used to promote the Academy.

The bulk of this series consists of catalogs, circulars, and bulletins, arranged chronologically, of the Preparatory School, the Northwestern Academy, and the Evanston Academy, dating from the 1867/68 catalog to the 1916 catalog. Updating the catalogs several times a year were the circulars, later called bulletins, which are interfiled with the catalogs chronologically through seven of the nine folders of catalogs.

The catalogs include basic introductory materials which inform the students about the school, its location, affiliation, requirements for entrance, tuition costs, regulations, and expenses. Each catalog includes the course requirements for each year, and lists all the enrolled students. Some of the catalogs list graduates and faculty members.

The circulars were designed to update the catalogs, but usually included the same general introductory information and listed all the current courses. Of the distinctive content of the circulars, most interesting are the listings of the faculty members, giving their complete educational and career background. Some of the circulars include floor plans of the school buildings.

The bulletins, as are the circulars, were originally designed to update the catalogs, but most of the later examples are nothing more than one-page announcement fliers. Distinctive to the bulletins are the lists of faculty members and their detailed backgrounds, reports of athletic achievements, and news of changes in administration.

The bulletins: “book of views” are two of the bulletins, from 1905 and 1908, that are essentially photo albums of the campus, buildings, classrooms, surrounding landscapes, students engaged in activities, and athletic teams. Of special interest are the undated photos of President Theodore Roosevelt visiting the Academy.

The anniversary exercises programs are the annual graduation programs of the Academy. They are arranged chronologically and each provides a complete list of graduates, spanning the years 1875 to 1916. After 1911, the name of the program was changed to graduation exercises.

Materials on student life, arranged chronologically, range from a typed register of the first class from 1859-1860, to a student reunion program from 1912 that lists all the graduates of 1887. Also listed are members of each of the classes from the first year of pre-secondary school in 1880-1881). Of particular interest is an anti-tobacco pledge form that Principal Fisk required all students to fill out.

The folder of duplicates contains duplicate material, mostly catalogs, bulletins and circulars that was removed from the other folders and retained for its rarity.


Corporate Name

Evanston Academy


Preparatory schools--Illinois--Evanston

Container List / Contents

  • Historical Materials, 1857-1967Box 1, Folder 1
  • Correspondence, 1867-1917Box 1, Folder 2
  • Announcements and Brochures, 1873-1914Box 1, Folder 3
  • Catalog, 1867/68Box 1, Folder 4
  • Catalogs and Circulars (bound), 1890/1-1892/3Box 1, Folder 5
  • Catalogs and Circulars, 1892/3-1894/5Box 1, Folder 6
  • Catalogs and Circulars, 1895/6-1898/9Box 1, Folder 7
  • Catalogs and Circulars, 1899/1900-1900/1Box 1, Folder 8
  • Catalogs and Bulletins, 1901/2-1904/5Box 1, Folder 9
  • Catalogs and Bulletins, 1905/6-1908/9Box 1, Folder 10
  • Catalogs and Bulletins, 1910-1912Box 1, Folder 11
  • Catalogs, 1913-1916Box 1, Folder 12
  • Bulletins: “Book of Views”, 1905-1908Box 1, Folder 13
  • Anniversary Exercise Programs, 1875-1899Box 2, Folder 1
  • Anniversary/Graduation Exercise Programs, 1900-1911Box 2, Folder 2
  • Materials on Student Life, 1859/60-1912Box 2, Folder 3
  • Duplicates, n.d.Box 2, Folder 4