Henry Barnard Papers
Language of Materials
The Henry Barnard Papers of Fales Library holds a substantial portion of the manuscript materials collected and authored by Henry Barnard (1811-1900), a nineteenth century educationalist and prominent member of the Common School Reform movement. He joined with many of his era's most respected educators in advocating the improvement of public education in the United States, a pursuit which dominated his career as a scholar, orator, and politician. Barnard was particularly involved in expanding the literature describing the history, practice, and theories of education and teaching; over the course of his life he wrote extensively on these subjects and established multiple periodicals dedicated to them, including the American Journal of Education. The collection at Fales Library is composed primarily of correspondence, much of which is of a routine business nature, but also includes some of Barnard's diaries, draft versions of articles published in his journals, and images of Barnard's correspondents. It also contains typed transcripts of Barnard's letters prepared by the donor of the collection, Will Monroe, notes regarding the genealogy of the Barnard family, clippings that discuss Barnard's life or the subject of education, and some of Monroe's own correspondence.
Henry Barnard was born January 24, 1811. The fourth child of a wealthy family in Hartford, Connecticut he enjoyed the benefits of an elite education, attending Monson Academy, a private boarding school, in Massachusetts and then enrolling at Yale University in 1826. While an undergraduate he joined the Linonia literary society where he began to build a reputation as an orator through speeches delivered at local events and participating in debates. Following his graduation in 1830 Barnard traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, staying for an extended period of time in Washington, D.C. to observe Congressional debates. He then returned to Yale to study law and gained admission to the Connecticut bar in 1834.
Henry Barnard's his career as an education reformer began in earnest with his election, as a Whig, to the General Assembly of the Connecticut state legislature in April of 1837. During his three terms in office, from 1837 until 1839, Barnard became involved in efforts to improve public education in the state. At the time Connecticut's locally controlled public schools suffered from poor facilities, overcrowding, irregular student attendance, and poorly trained teachers. To address these issues Barnard lobbied to create a "Board of Commissioners of the Common Schools," which would monitor the condition of public schools in Connecticut and make recommendations for their improvement to the legislature. Shortly after the body was established in 1838 the legislature selected Barnard himself to serve as its secretary. He retained the post until 1842 when the Democratic Party gained a majority in the government and abolished the Board. During his tenure Barnard worked to bring more attention to the issue of public education through the establishment of a periodical dedicated to the subject, the Connecticut Common School Journalof 1838-1842, and describing in his speaches and articles the important role of public education in molding children into virtuous and productive citizens. He advocated in particular the improvement of school facilities, the creation of a uniform centralized education system, compulsory attendance, and substantial professional training for teachers. In the course of his efforts he began to develop personal and professional relationships with other education reformers including Horace Mann and William Alcott, a network he would expand over the course of his life.
In 1843 Barnard traveled to Rhode Island to act as an agent for the state's legislature, charged to evaluate the condition of public schools in the state and propose improvements. There, with the help of his new connections and growing reputation as an authority on education, Barnard successfully campaigned for the establishment of a state system of public schools in 1845, which he was appointed to administer. Not long after he received his new post he met and married Josephine Desnoyers in 1847. Together the couple would have five children. Two years after his marriage Barnard resigned from his position in the Rhode Island public school system, citing poor health. He returned to Connecticut to serve simultaneously as the principal of the new Connecticut State Normal School in New Britain, an institution devoted to training teachers, and superintendent of the state's pubic schools. While serving in this dual role Barnard began to attain national recognition as an authority on the subject of public education, particularly in matters of law and the architecture of school buildings. He also joined the newly established American Association for the Advancement of Education, a national organization of school superintendents, lawyers and ministers devoted to promoting reform in public education. He helped to draft the organization's constitution in 1849 and held the association's presidency in 1855.
That same year Barnard resigned from his post in Connecticut and began to publish his American Journal of Education, a periodical devoted to literature and reports concerning the history, contemporary theory, and conditions of public education in the United States and Europe. He had published similar periodicals in the past, such as the Connecticut Common School Journal, and the Journal of the Rhode Island Institute of Instructionof 1845 to 1849, but neither approached the longevity or the volume of the new Journal. The issues Barnard published irregularly from 1855 until 1882, when printed in octavo form, filled thirty-two volumes of roughly eight hundred pages each. Barnard was assisted by others in the manufacture of the Journal, including Daniel Coit Gilman who helped to collect material for the publication, but Barnard retained sole control over the content. It is considered by some his most substantial legacy.
At the same time Barnard continued to receive requests from across the United States for advice and lectures on subjects ranging from textbooks to school architecture. He was also sought after to participate in ceremonial occasions such as the opening of new schools, including one in New York City at the invitation of his friend Elias Loomis, a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at New York University. In addition Barnard was nominated for the presidency of several institutions of higher education, including the University of Michigan and Indiana University. In 1858 he was elected Chancellor of the young University of Wisconsin. As chancellor Barnard again played a dual role, acting as head of the university while supervising the instruction of teachers in schools throughout the state. Barnard held the chancellorship for two years; in 1860 he tendered his resignation to the Board of Regents and returned to Hartford.
Following his departure from Wisconsin Henry Barnard focused on publishing the American Journal of Educationand began working on a "Library of Education", which he intended to be resource for teachers. Ultimately the work consisted of fifty-two volumes, composed largely of selected treatises that had appeared in the Journal. He remained in strong demand as a speaker, and addressed several prestigious organizations including the National Teacher's Association and the Lowell Institute of Boston. Barnard also traveled a great deal, frequently visiting Washington, D.C. in an effort to win a position in the federal government. In 1865 Barnard was elected president of St. John's College in Maryland but resigned in 1867 when President Andrew Johnson appointed him as the U.S. Commissioner of Education, placing him in charge of the newly created federal Department of Education. Barnard's position required him to collect and disseminate statistics regarding public education throughout the United States and to report on its condition to Congress each year. After a brief term Barnard retired to Hartford, Connecticut in 1870.
In his retirement Henry Barnard focused on his publications, particularly the American Journal of Education, and conducted research into the history of education. At the same time he remained a prominent figure among professionals and scholars, including James L. Hughes, the Inspector of Schools in Toronto, Canada, who hailed him as the "Nestor of Education." Barnard continued to lecture at gatherings of educators and corresponded regularly with his friends and colleagues including Elizabeth Peabody, Theodore Woolsey, and Andrew White. Many public schools in New England honored Barnard by sending congratulatory letters, making dedications of trees, and holding school exercises to celebrate his birthdays. More public commendations of Barnard were common in the speeches and writings of the new generation of educators, including Will S. Monroe who acted as Barnard's research assistant in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Meanwhile Barnard's own works received numerous awards from the International Exhibitions at Vienna (1873), Paris (1878), New Orleans (1884), and Chicago (1893). Henry Barnard died on July 5, 1900 at the age of eighty-nine.
MacMullen, Edith Nye. In the Cause of True Education: Henry Barnard and Nineteenth-Century School Reform. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1991.
Starr, Harris E. "Barnard, Henry." In Dictionary of American Biography. Edited by Allen Johnson. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1928.
The Henry Barnard Papers are arranged into seven series entitled Correspondence, Diaries and Notebooks, Writings, Printed Material, Letters in Photocopy from Other Collections, and Picture File.
Series I has been divided into three subseries titled A. "Barnard's Letters to Family and Associates, 1833-1900," B. "Letters to Barnard arranged by Correspondent, 1831-1900" and C. "Letters, Primarily to Barnard, 1765-1899." Most of the letters in Series I were once arranged in a single chronological file, much of which endures as subseries C. On an unknown occasion Barnard's outgoing missives were removed from the original chronological series and rearranged to form subseries A. Similarly letters from selected correspondents were pulled from the file in response to requests from researchers and later re-arranged into subseries B. Within subseries A folders one through thirteen are arranged alphabetically by the name of the intended recipient and chronologically within each such group. The contents of folders thirteen through nineteen are designated as addressed to "Various" individuals have been ordered chronologically. The correspondence held in the thirty-one folders of subseries B is arranged alphabetically by the author's name and chronologically within each group. Subseries C is arranged chronologically in two hundred thirty-three folders. In many cases a processor assigned a year to undated items, which were then placed following the dated letters from that period. Those that could not be identified by date or author are held at the end of the subseries. In order to efficiently retrieve correspondence from a particular author patrons are advised to consult the alphabetical index of correspondence, available in Fales Library, identify the numbers assigned to the appropriate letters, and then refer to the finding aid to determine the box and folder in which they are housed. It should also be noted that some items within Series III, IV and VI bear index numbers as well. In the cases of folders 14-19 of subseries A and folder 230 of subseries C each item was numbered sequentially within the folder, which was then used as a reference within the alphabetical index. However in folder 230 the items were apparently later assigned index numbers and re-arranged, thus the index's references to the folder's contents are no longer entirely accurate. Instead the contents of these folders are described in the finding aid.
Series II holds material arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end of the subseries.
Series III is grouped by subject.
Series IV is arranged roughly according to document format and then ordered chronologically.
Series V is grouped according to the collections where the original letters are kept and ordered chronologically.
Series VI ise arranged in chronological order.
Series VII is arranged alphabetically by the subject's name.
- Series I: Correspondence
- Series II: Diaries, Notebooks, etc.
- Series III: Writings, etc.
- Series IV: Printed Material
- Series V: Letters in Other Collections
- Series VI: Addenda
- Series VII: Photograph File
Scope and Content Note
The Henry Barnard Papers at Fales Library holds a substantial portion of the nineteenth century educationalist's manuscript materials. While the collection spans the years between 1765 and 1935 the overwhelming majority of the items date to Henry Barnard's adult life, particularly from 1830 to 1899. They include original and transcript copies of correspondence, notebooks, drafts, clippings, and images which document a degree of Henry Barnard's professional career as a speaker, writer, editor, and politician and to a lesser extent his personal life. The collection is dominated by correspondence; it possesses only a few examples of Barnard's own writing and little of the manuscripts submitted to him for publication in his periodicals.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Materials in this collection, which were created 1765-1935, are in the public domain. Permission to publish or reproduce is not required.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); The Henry Barnard Papers; MSS 033; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to New York University Libraries in 1936 by Professor Will S. Monroe.
About this Guide
Collection processed by Roger Jones, 1980-1981.