George Washington University History

Bibliographic Essay

The most helpful secondary source for George Washington University is Bricks Without Straw: The Evolution of George Washington University by Elmer Louis Kayser, 1970. This book provides a thorough background of the complete history of the University, beginning in 1821.

The prime source for the history of the University is the Minutes of the Board of Trustees, preserved in their entirety from 1821 to the present. The proceedings of the Board are recorded will great fullness, many documents being quoted verbatim. Principally useful for this period of University history is Volume 6 of the Minutes. Important for the change of name and the affiliation with the George Washington Memorial Association is the correspondence with Mrs. Archibald Hopkins and Mrs. Susan Whitney Dimock, which can be found in the Board of Trustees Minutes from 1904 and 1909, respectively.

The various numbers of The George Washington University Bulletin include much information, in addition to the annual educational offerings and lists of students. The Alumni Number of the 1904 Bulletin, for example, details the University’s cooperation with the George Washington Memorial Association and includes designs and drawings for new University buildings.

The George Washington Memorial Association files consist primarily of fundraising information on “The George Washington University Movement,” the nation-wide campaign for funds for a new site. Also helpful for researching the fund-raising campaign are the correspondence with Mitchell Carroll and Richard Harlan, which can be found in the University Bulletins, and the letters of President Needham. The presidential files begin with the Needham period—thanks, no doubt, to the use of the typewriter, which had become general by that time.

The student publications The Columbian Weekly, 1903-1904; and the annual (The C, 1904; The Mall, 1905-906; The Cherry Tree, 1908—) provide an interesting perspective on the student reactions to the changes occurring at the University.

For an outsider’s perspective to the events at Columbian/George Washington University, check out the Washington Post from 1903 through 1910. The Post can be accessed online through ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Bibliographic Citations

Kayser, Elmer Louis. Bricks Without Straw: The Evolution of George Washington University. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1970.

Elmer Louis Kayser was the longest-tenured George Washington University historian. Kayser served the University for more than 50 years in a variety of positions, including professor of history, chair of the history department, dean of students, and University historian. Bricks Without Straw covers the history of GW from 1821 until the mid-1960s and can be found online at

The Cherry Tree, George Washington University Student Annual. University Archives, Gelman Library, the George Washington University. Module uses issues 1903-1906.

The student annual went under several different names (The C, 1904; The Mall, 1905-1906; and The Cherry Tree, 1908—present). The current name for the publication is The Cherry Tree and so, to avoid confusion, that is how I have referred to all issues used in this module.

Columbian University Bulletin, Vol. 3 No. 2 June 1904, Alumni Number. George Washington Memorial Association Box 1 Folder 25: “Fundraising-The George Washington Memorial Association, 1898-1904”

The alumni number of the Bulletin provides a long explanation of George Washington's patriotism and desire for a national university and explains the reasoning behind Columbian University's name-change and partnership with the George Washington Memorial Association.

George Washington Memorial Association. Folder 27: The George Washington University Movement; Washington Site Fund Campaign. University Archives, Gelman Library, the George Washington University.

Contains fund-raising correspondence and literature.

Minutes of the Board of Trustees, Vol. 6 (Microfilm Reel 3). University Archives, Gelman Library, the George Washington University.

The prime source for the history of the University, the Minutes present the only continuing record of the University from the founding to the present.

Hoyt, John W. "No Right to the Name." The Washington Post, 27 June 1904, pg. 2.

An editorial that details the protest of John W. Hoyt, Chairman of the National University Committee to the changing of Columbian University's name to the George Washington University.

"Will Not Be Disbanded." The Washington Post, 31 Oct. 1903, pg. 2.

An October 31, 1903 article from The Washington Post that details a meeting of the George Washington Memorial Association where its members decided to continue the association. Columbian University President Charles Needham was present at the meeting to propose a partnership between the University and the Association.

The Columbian Weekly, Vol. 1. 1903-1904. University Archives, Gelman Library, the George Washington University.

The student newspapers have been The Columbian Call: 1895-1899, the Columbian Weekly: 1903-1904, and the University Hatchet: 1904—present.

Washington, George. The Will of George Washington. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, vol. 4, April—December 1799. Special Collections, the University of Virginia.

This excerpt is from the oft-cited portion of George Washington's will where he expresses his desires for the creation of a national university and bequeaths "the fifty shares which I hold in the Potomac Company... towards the endowment of a UNIVERSITY to be established within the limits of the District of Columbia."

"Plans for the new George Washington University at Washington." Harper's Weekly, 31 Dec. 1904, p. 2040.

Harper's Weekly published the winning architectural design for the new University, submitted by the Washington, D.C. firm Hornblower and Marshall.

Presidents' Papers. President Needham, Correspondence 1902-1910. University Archives, Gelman Library, the George Washington University.

The Presidents' Papers in the University Archives begin with President Needham's papers because typewriter technology had become more popular by that time.