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James H. Smart papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 48

Scope and Contents

The James H. Smart papers (1874-1977; 3.4 cubic feet) primarily document James H. Smart’s term as president of Purdue University (1883-1900).

The majority of the papers are in the form of letter books (1881-1899). The letter book from 1881-1885 begins with President Emerson E. White; the greater part is by James. H. Smart. The letters are primarily written by Smart, although some are written by his secretary L.D. Swan as well as vice-president Winthrop E. Stone in his absence. The letters chiefly concern everyday correspondences relating to the office of the president.

Other papers include correspondences relating to Purdue University. The collection contains non-commercial publications, addresses and administrative papers documenting issues concerning education and Purdue University. There are also biographies, memorials and newspaper clippings regarding the career and death of James H. Smart.

Types of materials include: letter books, correspondence, printed material (publications, newspaper clippings), biographical information, memorials, addresses and administrative papers. The papers are organized into 2 series:


  • 1874-1977
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1883-1900


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Some material in this collection are in the public domain, while other material copyrights are held by Purdue University. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

James Henry Smart (1841-1900), fourth president of Purdue University, was born at Center Harbor, New Hampshire, June 30, 1841 to Dr. William Hutchings Smart and Nancy Farrington Smart. Smart was primarily homeschooled, but did attend high schoolin Concord at age 12. At age seventeen, after being employed as a bookkeeper, he returned to Concord High school as a temporary teacher. In 1859 Smart began his teaching career at Sanborton, New Hampshire.In 1863 he moved to Toledo, Ohio to assume a principal position of an intermediate school. By age 25 Smart became superintendent of the public school system of Fort Wayne, Indiana. In that role he was also a member of the State Board of Education. On July 21, 1870, Smart married Mary H. Swan and went on to have a son, Professor R. A. Smart and a daughter, Mary Farrington Smart.That same year he was given an honorary degree of A.M. (Artium Magister)by Dartmouth College. In 1872 he was elected President of the State Teachers Associations and he also wasappointed representative of the United States at the World’s Exposition in Vienna. In 1874, Smart was elected as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, which he held for six years. Smart was again a representative of the United States at the World’sParis Expositionin 1878. In 1880, Smart was elected President of the National Educational Association. He was also a member of the National Superintendents’ Association and a member of the National Council. In 1883 Indiana University presented himwith the degree of LL.D(Legum Doctor). James H. Smart became President of Purdue University on August 23, 1883, succeeding Emerson E. White. That same year the Indiana State legislature appropriated funds for erecting a new building for the School of Mechanical Engineering. Although engineering and agricultural subjects were the main interest of the university, a Purdue School of Pharmacy was established in 1884. In 1887, Federal money was granted for the use of the Agricultural Experiment Station, which furthered the Agricultural department. Smart served as President of the American Association of Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations in 1890.In 1888, a separate School of Electrical Engineering was organized under the head of Dr. Louis Bell.The following year the state legislature granted funds for a laboratory building. A new Engineering building was dedicated on January 19, 1894, but nearly burned to the ground four days later. Smart appropriated funds and worked with companies to replace equipment and to rebuild; the building reopened in September. The school prospered; despite the failing heath of President Smart, between the years of 1896 and 1900, with the student body growing form just over one hundred to almost a thousand. James H. Smart died on February 21, 1900, and was succeeded as president of Purdue University by Winthrop Ellsworth Stone.


3.40 Cubic Feet

1.00 cubic_foot_boxes

1.00 cubic_foot_boxes

1.00 cubic_foot_boxes

1.00 mss._boxes

1.00 folders


1. Letter Books, 1881-1899 3 cubic feet Primarily the letters concern everyday correspondences relating to the office of the president. These topics include letters to prospective students, current students and guardians regarding academic progress and letters of recommendation, staff and officials both at Purdue University as well as other institutions. Several letters concern additions to the University, especially construction of new laboratories. Other letters concern football and the State Athletic Association. Several letters contain information about Chief of Ordinance, US. Army, Washington, D.C. regarding supplies and students receiving military instruction and shipments to Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Illinois. A number of letters regard Purdue University’s involvement in the World’s Columbian Exposition. Materials in the series are arranged chronologically.

2. Papers, 1874-1977 .4 cubic feet There are correspondences relating to the Government Agricultural Experiment Station, the World’s Columbian Exposition, the suit against the Auditor of State by several state universities, a proposed addition to a laboratory and an Address to the State board of Education requesting membership for the President of Purdue University. There are form letters that address concerns of the cost of education and budgetary matters. Materials in the series are arranged by form and chronologically.

Processing Information

Materials have been housed in acid-free boxes and folders.
James H. Smart papers
In Progress
Anna Seiffert
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States