Historical Markers
Allegheny College Historical Marker
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Allegheny College

Lake Erie Region


Marker Location:
N. Main St. (Pa. 86) at Sherman St., Meadville

Dedication Date:
November 19, 1946

Behind the Marker

Pin and Ink of Bentley, Ruter, and Culver Halls
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Allegheny College, Meadville, PA, circa 1870.
Allegheny College began under Presbyterian sponsorship in 1815, to serve Pennsylvania's rugged northwest frontier. Early in the 1830s, however, financial and administrative problems caused the college trustees to switch allegiance to the Methodist Church. In more recent times the college has loosened its church identity as it has come to enjoy a reputation as among the best small liberal-arts colleges in America.

The leading figures in the founding of Allegheny College were Revolutionary War soldier Roger Alden and his minister cousin Timothy Alden. A graduate of Harvard College, The Rev. Alden brought considerable teaching experience to the new school.
Oil on canvas paintingof Alden seated, holding a piece of paper.
Reverend Timothy Alden, President of Allegheny College, 1816-1831.

(Legend has it the founders placed several keep-sake items in the cornerstone of the first academic building: a chip from Plymouth Rock, one from Dido's temple, and a third from the tomb of Virgil.)

After becoming the school's president in 1817, Timothy Allen immediately solicited funds from supporters across the Northeast. Like many private colleges of the era, Allegheny received modest indirect aid from the Pennsylvania legislature to help defray initial expenses.

Despite efforts to build strong relationships with classical academies in the surrounding counties, Allegheny College struggled just to stay open. As was the case with many new colleges, lower than expected enrollment and higher costs played havoc with institutional planning. As late as 1832, the college had graduated only a dozen students. Just as a national economic depression rattled the economy in 1833, both Allegheny College and markerDickinson College in Carlisle disassociated from the Presbyterian Church and came under the Methodist Episcopal sponsorship. Although a blow to Presbyterian efforts in higher education, this proved beneficial for the two schools.

Sepia colored photograph of Ida Tarbell, leaning against the back of a chair.
Ida M. Tarbell as a student at Allegheny College, circa 1880.
Allegheny's new board of trustees encouraged a curriculum "to facilitate the education of the young of our land, and send them into the world with vigorous constitutions, correct morals, and business habits, as soon as funds can be obtained to accomplish the object." Needless to say, all of the students were male. Efforts to combine a classical education with what was described as a "manual labor" course failed, and trustees returned to the original liberal arts base. Not long after the Civil War, Allegheny followed the lead of other private colleges and began to admit women as regular students.

President William McKinley, reformer markerIda Tarbell, and celebrated attorney Clarence Darrow are among Allegheny College's most noteworthy alumni.(For many years, a rumor persisted that President McKinley, who did graduate, was expelled for a college prank.)

The college boasts many distinguished programs and a strong national ranking among private liberal arts colleges. Officially nonsectarian in its affiliations, Allegheny is the 32nd oldest college in the country and the oldest college in continuous existence west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The institution's current success as a leading liberal-arts college disguises the tremendous early difficulties in establishing a seat of advanced learning in the isolated regions of rural Pennsylvania. This rich history serves as a reminder of how colleges and communities struggled to keep the dream of higher education alive.
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