Title Reviewed:
A History of Spiceland Academy

Author Reviewed:
Sadie Bacon Hatcher

Ernest L. Welborn.


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 299-301

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:


A History of Spiceland Academy. By Sadie Bacon Hatcher. Indiana Historical Society (Publications, XI, No. 2), Indianapolis, 1934. Pp. 174, fifty cents.

Spiceland Academy in Henry County was one of the best known academies in Indiana. This history of the institution deals with its work from the opening in 1826 to the end of its existence in 1921. The principal aspects treated are: curriculum, finance, extra-curricular activities, and the human side of the academy. The study bears evidence of careful scrutiny of the available source material and is therefore a valuable contribution to the history of academies in Indiana.

This particular institution needs to be viewed in relation to the growth of academies in the country as a whole. The first academies were established in some of the eastern states about 1750, and, at the time of the founding of the school at Spiceland, there were about 6,000 of them throughout the country.

Spiceland seems to have been representative of many of the academies of the period. It was fostered by a religious sect—the Friends—although it appears that the authorities freely admitted students who were not Friends. Like many other academies Spiceland was supported by tuition fees and donations. In 1872 an endowment fund was started, which finally amounted to $30,700. Toward the end, however, the institution was aided quite extensively by public support in the form of tuition fees.

The curricula of various periods are given, but there is nothing to show from what sources ideas on curriculum making were obtained or indeed from what sources the educational philosophy of the institution was derived. Apparently the secondary curriculum was rather limited until 1860, for Latin and history were not offered until about that time. By the decade of the 1870's, the public high school movement, which began in 1821, was attaining importance. Inspection of the secondary curricula of Spiceland for this period leads one to infer that the institution was influenced on the one hand by the waning academy movement (especially the church-sponsored sector), and on the other hand by the youthful public high schools. The development of the elementary department appears to have been quite definitely influenced by the public elementary schools which were just emerging as real graded schools.

Though teacher-training was begun in the academies of New York State in the 1820s and had become quite general by the 1840s, Spiceland first undertook teacher-training in 1864-5, and "the details of the Normal Course were not definitely listed until 1874" (page 128). By this time colleges and normal schools were rapidly replacing the academies as teacher-training institutions. By way of summary, therefore, it may be said that for a few decades Spiceland Academy filled a real need, but the causes of its demise were at work before it was well started.

Several miscellaneous points of interest will be noted. It is recorded that in 1845 the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends chose a uniform list of textbooks for schools under their jurisdiction. This step seems to have been in advance of the current practice of that time. The lists of textbooks in use, including McGuffey's readers and Ray's arithmetics, indicate that the work of the academy was excellent according to the standards of the times.

Studies by L. V. Koos and others have shown that as secondary schools developed in this country, there was a tendency to transfer subjects formerly taught in college to the secondary level. Evidently Spiceland's curriculum exemplifies this for the author says: "A review of the courses offered as high school work makes the reader wonder if this was not a college rather than a high school" (p. 123).

It is a tribute to the work of Spiceland Academy that in its best period it drew students from not only many Indiana counties, but also from North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Kentucky, and Kansas. There were several hundred graduates, of whom the names and addresses are given in an appendix of the study under review. The list includes the names of several persons who have attained national reputations.

Interesting sections on extra-curricular activities and on the human side of the academy are given. Several of the superintendents are given brief mention. It is unfortunate that the author did not find it possible to include material on the personal characteristics and educational philosophies of these men, especially such matter relative to Clarkson Davis, who seems to have been the outstanding superintendent of Spiceland Academy during the comparatively brief life of the institution.

Ernest L. Welborn.

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.