Santa Clara County Genealogy -

State Normal School

Source:  Historical Sketch of the State Normal School at San Jose, California, with a Catalogue of Its Graduates and a Record of Their Work for Twenty-Seven Years [1862-1889]. State Office, J.D. Young, Supt. State Printing.  Sacramento, California. 1889.


    The preparation of the following history of the State Normal School at San José, and the work of its graduates, was first suggested by a circular sent out in 1881, by General John Eaton, Commissioner of Education, at Washington.
    This circular stated that in answer to numerous inquiries, it was purposed to send out from the United States Bureau of Education a circular of information respecting Normal Schools, and requesting that each Normal School prepare a manuscript, giving information with reference to its origin, officers, instructors, pupils, course of study, financial matters, etc.
    Though the Bureau of Education has never completed this work as proposed, presumably because not a sufficient number of schools responded, the suggestion has been productive of important results.  Several eastern Normal Schools, prominent among them the schools at Albany and at Otswego, In New York, and the school at Normal, Illinois, have published historical sketches, and others have such books in preparation.  These sketches clearly show the great value of General Eaton’s suggestions, by proving conclusively the past as well as the prospective usefulness of Normal Schools.  This is done by showing in a detailed, though condensed, form the immense educational influence they have exerted, not only upon those who have availed themselves of the advantages of the schools, but, through them, upon the public mind, also.
    The sketch for this school was begun in response to the circular, but as the material collected and the value of the work was seen, it became apparent that a full history should be issued, in a printed form, direct from the School itself.  The preparation of such a history required more time than was given in the circular, and the sketch was, therefore, retained here.  It was thought, following the lead of some of the older schools, that the history might be issued at the expiration of the first twenty-five years of the School’s existence, but the large number of graduates, scattered over so large a State, made it impossible to collect, in so short a time, any accurate record of their work.  For six years past information has been gradually, yet diligently, collected, and even now the work is not complete.  It is, however, thought best no longer to delay the publication.
    Few who read these pages will appreciate the amount of labor expended in collecting and arranging the facts therein contained.  In the catalogues of the school for the past five years, in circulars, and personal letters, information has been sough in all directions.  To most of the circulars and letters courteous responses have been received, and thanks are due to many for their lively interest in the history and their willing contributions to it.
    It is now presented, containing all the attainable information, from reliable sources, and it is sincerely hoped that the work will prove satisfactory.  If the good that results from the publication is at all commensurate with the labor that has been bestowed upon it, it will prove indeed valuable as a contribution to the educational history of California.
    It is but just to state, that almost the entire labor of collecting, arranging, preparing statistical tables, in short of editing the work, has been done by Miss Ruth Royce, a graduate of the school, and if the history proves at all valuable, the credit belongs to her.
    With sincere and ardent hopes for the highest prosperity of the Normal School at San José, I for the last time sign myself,


CHAS. H. ALLEN, Principal.
San José, June 30, 1889.


    In an address before the California State Teachers’ Institute, in May, 1863, Mr. Samuel I.C. Swezey [1] gave the following eloquent account of the founding of the first Normal School in the United States:

    On the third day of July, eighteen hundred and thirty-nine, the first American Normal School was opened, at Lexington, Massachusetts.  The place and the time were fittingly chosen.   The place was where the opening battle of the Revolution was fought, when it first became clear that freedom was to be secured for this great land where we dwell, and that henceforth the people were to be trusted with power for evermore.  It was fitting that there, also, should first be formally commenced the special preparation of teachers for the work of teaching humbly and teaching well in the public schools of the State which that battle ground had proven worthy to be free.  It was a fitting time for the commencement of such a work – the day before the anniversary of American Independence – shadowing forth, with a wisdom greater than the founders of that Normal School designed, the great fact that before a people can hope to be fully free, before they are worthy o the exalted privilege of ruling themselves, they must be taught aright.  The Third of July must ever come before the Fourth.

    At the time that the first State Normal School in California was opened, July, 1862, but eight out of the thirty-four States belonging to the Union had established State Normal Schools.  These schools numbered fourteen in all, distributed, in order of the date of opening, as follows:  Massachusetts, four, New York, two, Pennsylvania, three, Connecticut, one, Michigan, one, New Jersey, one, Illinois, one, and Minnesota, one.  Besides these, Philadelphia, Boston, and St. Louis each had a flourishing City Normal School.
    It is a matter of some educational interest, though perhaps only as a curiosity, that as early as 1836 there existed in California a school dignified by the title of “Normal School.”  Of this institution, Mr. Henry L. Oak, Librarian of the Bancroft Historical Library, furnishes the following sketch:

    Among the colonists who came to California from the City of Mexico in 1834, were half a dozen teachers.  There was need enough for their services here at the time, but no opportunity whatever to earn a livelihood by their profession.  Therefore, most of them, like many of other professions in the colony, soon left the country.  Some remained, however, one of the number being now a prominent citizen of Southern California.  Another, José Mariano Romero, attempted to found an educational establishment at the Capital, Monterey, giving it the somewhat absurd title of “Normal School.”  He obtained a few pupils, and even went so far as to publish a text-book, a little treatise on ortheöpy, or “orthology,” dedicated to the “Alumni” of his institution.  The title is a follows: Catecismo de Ortologéa.  Dedicado á los Alumnos de la Escuela Normal de Monterey por su Director, José Mariano Romero,  Monterey, 1836.  Imprenta del C. Agust V Zamorano. 18 mo. [2]   This work is preserved among the treasures of the Bancroft Library in San Francisco.  Don José failed to achieve success; and, becoming implicated in a revolution, was soon banished from California.  But the first Normal School and the first text-book merit prominent notice in the educational annals of our country.

[1] Mr. Swezey was a graduate of the State Normal School at Albany, New York, class of 1850.  He taught several years, was prominent in educational interests in California, and was for four years a Trustee of the California State Normal School.

[2] Catechism of Orthoepy.  Dedicated to the Alumni of the Normal School in Monterey, by its President, José Mariano Romero.  Monterey, 1836.  Printing office of August V. Zamorano.


    The necessity for the establishment of a State Normal School in California was first urged by a few gentlemen of San Francisco, who were prominent in forwarding the educational interests of the State during its early history.  Among the most active of these, were State Superintendent Andrew J. Moulder, his successor, Mr. John Swett, and City Superintendent Henry B. Janes.
    By the earnest efforts of these gentlemen, a City Normal School was established in San Francisco in 1857, with George W. Minns as Principal, and John Swett, Ellis H. Holmes, and Thomas S. Myrick assistants.  This was known as the “Minns’ Evening Normal School.”  The sessions of the school were held weekly, on Monday evenings, and the attendance of city teachers was made compulsory.  Superintendent Janes, in his reports of 1857 and 1858, reported favorably on the success and efficiency of the City Normal School.  This school was continued until 1862, its graduates numbering fifty-four.
    In his annual school report of 1859, State Superintendent Moulder recommended the establishment of a State Normal School, and in 1860 repeated the recommendation, but both of the succeeding Legislatures adjourned without action.  Mr. Moulder writes, “When I appealed personally to the members of the Legislature at that early day, to pass the law organizing the school, not a few of them admitted that they did not know what a Normal School was.  It was several years after I recommended the measure before legislators could be educated up to a knowledge and appreciation of the value of such an institution.”
    During the session of the first California State Teachers’ Institute, held in San Francisco in May, 1861, a committee, consisting of Henry B. Janes, Geo. W. Minns, and Ellis H. Holmes, was appointed to examine and report upon the subject of Normal Schools.  In conformity with their instructions, they addressed the following communication to the State     Superintendent:

Hon. A.J. Moulder, Superintendent of Public Instruction:
Sir:  The undersigned were appointed a committee upon a State Normal School by the recent Educational Convention.
    In part performance of the duty thus devolved upon us, we desire, through you, to present to the next Legislature some consideration favoring the establishment of such a school, and respectfully solicit your coöperation with us.  In doing so, we are actuated by the opinion that such a measure would do much to advance the educational interests of this State, and that while it is deferred, our public school system will fail to secure to us the greatest benefits of education, or the largest return for the money expended in its support.
    In a Normal School the principles of teaching are considered both as a science and an art.  Its subjects are the powers, capacities, and laws of growth of the mind;  the order, as to time, in which the different faculties are to be addressed and developed;  the best modes of their development;  the special adaptation of each school study to the particular necessities and faculties of the juvenile mind;  the laws of bodily health as to ventilation, posture, school calisthenics and gymnastics;  and the moral natures of children.  It also considers the best methods of school organization, classification, programmes of daily exercises, and modes of teaching, as exemplified in the best systems and best schools in the world;  and the knowledge so acquired is practically applied in the model or experimental school (a necessary part of a Normal School) in the presence of competent and experienced teachers.
    This statement of the objects of such a school, forces the mind to the conclusion that a teacher thus educated and trained, thus taught how to teach, must be incomparably superior to one who lacks such advantages.  The possession of knowledge is one thing, ability to teach is another and a far different thing.  The most limited observer is aware that a very learned man may profoundly understand a subject himself, and yet fail egregiously in elucidating it to others.  The profession of a teacher imperatively demands a special school for instruction in its appropriate science and methods.
    How to teach and what to teach are classes of knowledge equal in importance to the teacher, and absolutely necessary to the proper progress of the scholar.  Both must be acquired somehow.  It may well be asked why this should be reserved for the common school-room;  why the time of the school and the public money should be squandered by empirics rather than husbanded by adepts.
    No one would intrust a steam engine to a man who was acquainted with that machine only through books.  The danger and folly of thus risking life, time, and money in educating an engineer would not be questioned;  universal opinion would force him to an apprenticeship under a competent master.  Is there less of folly or danger in intrusting the mysterious and subtle mechanism of the mind to teachers unlearned in the practical duties of their profession?  Such is the principle insisted on in all the common occupations of life.  The gardener, for instance, we should all insist, must have a practical acquaintance with the nature of different soils, the habits of different plants, the best modes of cultivating and training them, and the soil and position suitable for each.  In his case, no amount of book knowledge would compensate for his want of such practical knowledge.  So of the farmer and the mechanic;  the State fosters and endows societies which constantly reward their best practical skill.
    Are not the best methods of performing the highest social duty, the intellectual, moral, and physical training of our children, equally worthy of the attention of the State?
Horace Mann, widely and justly celebrated as an eminent educator, expressed his amazement “that a parent will often intrust the education of his children to a person of whoe experience and qualifications he knows nothing, when he would not allow him to mend a watch without first ascertaining that he possessed the requisite practical skill.”
    Such then being the design of a Normal School, to afford to those who design to become teachers that previous training which, for any other business, is deemed indispensable, we need not say more of its importance to California, than to call attention to the fact, that the large number of our citizens, male and female, who are looking to the profession of teaching as an employment for life, compete at a great disadvantage with those who come hither educated in the Normal Schools of other States.  Our citizens should not be longer subjected to such disadvantages.

    The report then goes on to mention the number and efficiency of Normal Schools in Europe and in the Eastern States, with the cost of supporting some of the most prominent, and closes with the following paragraph:

    The amounts stated as the annual expense of these schools in other States, are referred to here as showing the estimation in which they are held, but do not constitute a criterion for judging the amount necessary to the establishment of such a school here.  We believe a sum much less than either of those named, will suffice to secure its opening, upon a plan sufficiently extended to meet the present wants of our citizens.

Hoping that these views may meet your approval, we remain, sir,
Very respectfully yours, your obedient servants,

Committee on State Normal Schools.
San Francisco, Januay 2, 1862.

    This communication was embodied by Superintendent Moulder in his report to the Legislature of 1862, and earnestly commended by him to their consideration, with the statement that an appropriation of $5,000 would be sufficient to establish the school and put in successful operation.
    The result of these combined efforts of the State Superintendent and the Teachers’ Institute, was an Act passed by the Ligislature May 2, 1862, providing for the establishment of a State Normal School, and appropriating $3,000 for its support for five months.
[Full text of the Act has not been transcribed here, but is available in the book.]



Leland Stanford  May, 1862, to December, 1863.
Frederick F. Low  December, 1863, to December, 1867.
Henry H. Haight  December, 1867, to December, 1871.
Newton Booth  December, 1871, to February, 1875.
Romualdo Pacheco  February, 1875, to December, 1875.
William Irwin  December, 1875, to January, 1880.
George C. Perkins  January, 1880, to January, 1883.
George Stoneman  January, 1883, to January, 1887.
Washington Bartlett January, 1887, to September, 1887.
R.W. Waterman  September, 1887, to present time.


Andrew J. Moulder  May, 1862, to December, 1863.
John Swett  December, 1863, to December, 1867.
Rev. O.P. Fitzgerald December, 1867, to December, 1871.
Henry M. Bolander  December, 1871, to December, 1875.
Ezra S. Carr  December, 1875, to January, 1880.
Fred. M. Campbell  January, 1880, to January, 1883.
Wm. T. Welcker  January, 1883, to January, 1887.
Ira G. Hoitt  January, 1887, to present time.


J.F. Houghton  May, 1862, to March, 1866.


Mayor Fowler  May, 1862, to April, 1863.


Dr. Gustavus Taylor May, 1862, to  --, 1864.
Rev. Wm. H. Hill  --, 1864, to March, 1866.


George Tait  1862, 1863, 1864, 1865.
John C. Pelton  --, 1866, to December, 1867.
James Denman  December, 1867, to April, 1870.


Dr. F.W. Hatch  March, 1866, to March, 1868.
Dr. Aug. Trafton  March, 1868, to April, 1870.


Wesley Tonner  March, 1866, and part of 1867.
J.R. Brierly  Part of 1867, to March, 1868.
John H. Braly  March, 1868, to --, 1869.
N. Furlong  To April, 1870.


Melville Cottle  March, 1866, to --, 1870.
W.R. Leadbetter  To April, 1870.


Samuel I.C. Swezey April, 1866, to April, 1870.
J.M. Sibley  April, 1866, to April, 1870.


Henry O. Weller  1870 to 1872.
Andrew J. Moulder  1870 and part of 1871.
C.T. Ryland  1870 to 1881.
James Denman  1870 to present time.
J.H. Braly  1870 to 1873.
B. Bryant, M.D.  Part of 1871 and to 1880.
Ben. Cory, M.D.  1872 t0 1882.
T. Ellard Beans  1873 to present time.
A.S. Evans  1880 to 1884.
O.W. Childs  1881 to 1887.
Ralph Lowe  1882 to present time.
Lawrence Archer  1884 to present time.
T.H. Laine  1887 to present time.

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