Freshmen studying under James H. Tufts (Class of 1884)
Geometry students in Williston Hall, c. 1885-87

Seriously, can one really have enough final exams?  In case exams week didn’t exhaust your desire for challenges, here are a few more from the Examinations Collection in the Archives.  The collection contains mostly late 19th-century and early 20th-century exams, but the samples below are from the years 1848-49 and 1858-59.

At the time, the College had an academic year composed of three terms: “There are three Terms or Sessions in each year.  The first begins four weeks after Commencement [“Commencement is the fourth Wednesday in August”], and ends the fourth Wednesday in December, after which is a vacation of six weeks.  The second Term ends the second Wednesday in May, after which is a vacation of three weeks.  The third Term ends at commencement.”  (Amherst College Catalogue, 1848-49)

Examinations were held for all classes at the close of the second term, in addition to exams for the senior class six weeks before Commencement and for the three lower classes during the week before Commencement.

The first exam submitted for your enjoyment — perhaps over interterm? —  is one taken by seniors in the Class of 1849, probably for the course entitled “Philosophy of the Mind,” taught by Henry B. Smith, Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy.  This copy of the exam seems to be almost entirely in the handwriting of Edward “Doc” Hitchcock, a member of the class.  Doc Hitchcock was the Father of the Archives & Special Collections, and given that he both took the test in 1849 and kept it for posterity, his penchant for collecting items of College history must have started early.  Doc certainly wrote the description at the top of the exam naming Smith as its creator.  The handwriting in the body of the test looks like a more youthful version of Doc’s.  Each topic also has a  student’s name pencilled in at the top, suggesting that the students made presentations on their assigned topics to the whole class.


In addition to Hitchcock, class luminaries who endured this test in 1849 include Julius H. Seelye, future president of Amherst; Henry Lobdell, future missionary who gathered the Nimrud slabs now in the Mead; and two students whose journals are part of the collection in the Archives, William Hammond and Martin Root. An abridged version of Hammond’s journal was published in MCMXLVI (a nod to early Amherst Latin classes) as Remembrance of Amherst.

Morgan Library was built in 1853 at a cost of $10,000.  The architect  was Henry Alexander Sykes (1810-1860) of Suffield, Connecticut.
After 1853 students could study for exams in Morgan Library, designed by architect Henry Alexander Sykes (1810-1860) of Suffield, Connecticut.

The exams below, in Greek and chemistry, are both from 1858-59.

Greek exam, 1859Greek exam, 1859 (pg. 2)

The chemistry professor for  1859 - 1860 was William S. Clark, himself a graduate of the Class of 1848.
The chemistry professor for 1859 – 1860 was William S. Clark, himself a graduate with the Class of 1848.
From an 1859 album, when he was Professor of Chemistry
From an 1859 album, when Clark was Professor of Chemistry

According to the catalogue for the year, the students used and would have been tested on “Well’s Chemistry,” which probably referred to “Wells’s Principles and Applications of Chemistry” by David Ames Wells (1828-1898), whose book went through several editions.

A later chem lab with Professor Arthur J. Hopkins (Class of 1885; taught at Amherst from 1895-1939)
A later chem lab with Professor Arthur J. Hopkins (Class of 1885; taught at Amherst from 1895-1939)

Students fervently desiring to see additional examinations of yore may visit the Archives and Special Collections and browse through the Examinations Collection.

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