Date of Defense
Date of Graduation
Educational systems in antebellum Michigan were markers and propagators of cultural self-identity for the community they belonged. The relationship between institutions and communities were reciprocal in nature; the fortunes of one depended on the other. Colleges and their communities, though initially separate in goal and custom, became increasingly bound through shared self-identity. Communities used these educational institutions not only to restate and promote existing social values and norms, but also as vehicles for reform. The values and self-identity were reflected in what these institutions taught. Instruction was utilitarian in nature, with the goal of making useful and skillful citizens, thereby improving society at large in the spirit of civic virtue. Essentially, Michigan colleges were making men for society.
But education in self-identity was not limited to the collegiate. Although mandatory militia service ended before war with Mexico, private militia groups expanded in Michigan during the 1850s. Militia companies, like colleges, were expressions of local pride that could be displayed to other communities. However, it also served as an educational system. The physical education movement was waning, creating a gap in educational needs for many. The expansion of the militia served to fill this gap for young men. But Michigan communities were not embracing militarism—even if military service was increasingly popular, most young men did not participate nor did it become a part of campus life.
Michigan’s educational ideals were vastly different in scope and specific purpose than those of New England and the South. With this in mind, the focus of this thesis is confined to Michigan. In the first part, it examines eight individual colleges in Michigan—Albion, Adrian, Hillsdale, Kalamazoo, Michigan Normal, Olivet, University of Michigan, and Agricultural Colleges. While each shared common trait, they also retained a uniqueness of character that reflected the values of both the founders and the town in which the colleges were located.
Hickey, Christopher, "Making and Breaking Men: Michigan Colleges, Manliness, and the Civil War" (2015). Honors Theses. 2544.
Honors Thesis-Open Access