Yale University

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.

Osborn Hall, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. [between 1900 and 1915]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

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.

Yale College, Phelps Hall and gateway. c1901. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

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 GalleryExternal 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 ArtExternal, the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and Yale University PressExternal, one of the nation’s most distinguished university publishing houses.

Yale Society Two-StepExternal.” Charles L. Van Baar, composer; New York: Brooks & Denton, 1894. Historic American Sheet MusicExternal. Duke University Libraries

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.

Yale Varsity Crew and Substitutes. Notman Photo Co., c1910. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

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.

Princeton and Yale Football Game. Thomas A. Edison, Inc., November 1903. America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894 to 1915. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division
Yale Glee ClubExternal, January 1889. Denver Public Library Digital CollectionsExternal.

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