A Day in the Life...

Posted by UW Digital Collections | 11:47 AM | , , , , | 0 comments »

Ever wonder what it was like to be a college student 100 years ago? Where did they live? What did they study? How did they unwind after a long week of lectures? Published by Stanford University in 1939, Diary of a student of the University of Wisconsin, 1886 to 1892 recounts the experiences of Waukesha native and UW Madison student, Sidney Dean Townley, through his six years on campus.

From his very first day on campus, Townley shares his daily experiences at UW Madison, providing detailed and often humorous commentary on his fellow students, courses, faculty and surroundings. For example, Halloween hi jinx are nothing new to campus. Back in '87 (as in 1887), this time-honored campus celebration included ducks, guns and spontaneous serenading of professors living on campus. Oh those naughty undergrads!

Equally important, Townley provides an in-depth first hand account of literary society debates, campus lectures and courses taught by UW Madison's founding faculty including Bascom, Chamberlain and others. He shares detailed information about campus housing, his mandatory military training, social activities, athletic events, campus traditions (including "taking over the fence" on Bascom Hill!), local politics and the city of Madison environs during this period. Townley received his BS in 1890, his MS in 1892, taught Mathematics and worked for the Washburn Observatory on campus. He went on to hold positions at the University of Michigan and the University of California. By 1939, he was Professor of Astronomy and Geodesy, Emeritus, at Stanford University. He published this diary while at Standford University.

(photo from UW Madison Class Album, 1890)