On October 9, 1701, the colonial legislature of Connecticut chartered the Collegiate School in Saybrook to educate students for “Publick employment both in Church & Civil State.” Originally based at the house of the first rector in Killingworth, the school moved to New Haven in 1716, and in 1718 was renamed Yale College to honor its early benefactor, the merchant Elihu Yale.
Yale graduates were influential in the American Revolution. Lyman Hall, Philip Livingston, Lewis Morris, and Oliver Wolcott signed the Declaration of Independence. Twenty-five Yale men served in the Continental Congress and the patriots Nathan Hale and Noah Webster also were among its graduates.
YaleExternal evolved into a university in the late 1700s to mid-1800s when its original liberal arts curriculum expanded to include graduate and professional education. Among Yale’s most prestigious schools are those of divinity, medicine, law, and art. The first doctoral degrees earned in the United States were awarded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1861.
In 1832, the Yale University Art Gallery External became the first American college art museum. Built with funds from the Connecticut legislature, the gallery housed a series of American Revolutionary War paintings donated by Colonel John Trumbull. Also associated with Yale are the Yale Center for British Art External, the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and Yale University Press External, one of the nation’s most distinguished university publishing houses.
Yale has had other notable nineteenth-century firsts. These include the first collegiate rowing races, held in 1843, and the first intercollegiate game of modern baseball in 1865. In 1861 Yale became the first U.S. university to award a PhD in philosophy. The Yale Daily News, the oldest college daily newspaper, was founded in 1878.
Notable Yale graduates include representatives from all professions, ethnicities, and gender: William Howard Taft, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Samuel F.B. Morse, Eli Whitney, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Angela Bassett, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Thornton Wilder, Eleanor Holmes Norton, etc. In 1781, Yale University conferred the honorary degree of “Doctorate in Laws” on George Washington. Search on Yale in the collection George Washington Papers to view the correspondence of Ezra Stiles, president of the university, with George Washington.
- Search the collection Making of AmericaExternal on Yale to find several books about Yale including the Biographical Record of the Class of 1850 of Yale CollegeExternal (1877).
- Search on Yale College or Yale University in the Detroit Publishing Company collection, to view over one hundred photographs of the Yale campus.
- The Gottscho -Schleisner Collection includes 112 images of Yale’s Silliman College, named after geologist and Yale professor Benjamin Silliman.
- The Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey contains drawings, black and white photographs, and data pages relating to Yale University buildings, for example Yale’s Dwight Hall.
- Search the Panoramic Photographs collection on Yale to see panoramic photographs of Yale athletes and sporting events.
- Search the collection Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic ViewsExternal on Yale to find views of New Haven, Connecticut, in the nineteenth century, including pictures of Yale College.
- Read an interesting anecdote concerning one of the earliest African Americans to attend Yale College in the collection The African-American Experience in Ohio, 1850-1920 External. The article “The Color Line at YaleExternal” originally appeared in the November 12, 1887, issue of the Cleveland Gazette.
- Listen to George Wilton Ballard perform “There’s A Long, Long Trail” written by two Yale seniors in 1913. To access the audio file click the Download Dropdown menu and select the WAV file.
- Search Today in History on college or university to find features on American colleges and universities including Columbia, Harvard, Howard, Cornell, and Vassar.