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Frances W. Shimer College Collection (Mt. Carroll)


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Original Documents, Historical, and Biographical Files

Office of the President Files

Alumnae and Public Relations Records

Scrapbooks and Photographs

Financial Records

Shimer College Publications

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Frances W. Shimer College Collection (Mt. Carroll), 1838-1980 | Northern Illinois University

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Collection Overview

Title: Frances W. Shimer College Collection (Mt. Carroll), 1838-1980

ID: RHC/RC/077

Extent: 22.0 Linear Feet

Date Acquired: 10/10/1979. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Church Colleges, Community Colleges, Diaries-- 1840-1869, Education., Frances W. Shimer College, Mt. Carroll (Ill.), Mt. Carroll Seminary, Shimer, Frances Wood, Shimer College, Women, Women--Education (Higher)

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Shimer College Collection documents the founding and development of an important higher educational institution in Mt. Carroll, Illinois.  Materials in this collection range from original manuscripts pre-dating Shimer's origin in 1853 to publications printed in 1978.  There are six major record series in the Shimer College Collection:  (1) original documents, historical, and biographical files; (2) files from the Office of the President; (3) alumnae and public relations records; (4) scrapbooks and photographs; (5) financial records; (6) Shimer College publications.

Types of materials making up the first three series include diaries, correspondence, legal documents, minutes, reports, and research relating to the founding and history of the College.  Although these records span the period, 1838-1975, the bulk of the material documents the earliest years of the College (1853-1875) and the period 1930-1955.  Unfortunately many of the records generated during the half century between 1875 and 1925 appear to have been lost.

The photo and scrapbook series is especially strong in the period 1925-1955 and documents campus personnel, groups, buildings, and events quite well.  Publications and financial records found in the concluding series also fall mostly into the twentieth century, although some very early financial records have been preserved.

A major strength of this collection is its abundance of nineteenth-century correspondence and documents which are rather comprehensive.  Researchers should note that subsequent alumnae correspondence and publications frequently contain additional information on Shimer's early history and founders.  While there is considerable material on the twentieth century as well, there is progressively less after 1950 or 1955.  In particular, business records, for all practical purposes, cease in 1924.  Overall, coverage of recent years is the weakest part of the collection.

Collection Historical Note

Frances Shimer College, now located in Waukegan, Illinois, traces its origins back to 1852 when Mount Carroll, Illinois residents, lacking public schools, sought to provide education for its citizenry.  John Wilson and William T. Miller successfully led the attempt to get the State Legislature to incorporate the Mt. Carroll Seminary, which officially opened on May 11, 1853 in the town's Presbyterian Church.  Two women, Frances Ann Wood and Cinderella Gregory, were invited to come from New York to operate the school.  After shares were sold and a site chosen, a new building opened in October 1854.  The Board then offered to sell the property to Wood and Gregory, who became full proprietors.

From 1854-1896 the Mt. Carroll Seminary continued under the direction of Frances Wood, who married Henry Shimer in 1857.  From its inception it was a coeducational institution which offered the same six year program to student of both sexes.  Intellectual, cultural, character, and spiritual development were stressed.  In 1866 shortage of space led the Seminary to refuse to accept male residents.  While there were male day students afterwards, the school became noted as a woman's school.  In the mid and late nineteenth century few woman received formal education and few institutions granted women the right to a higher education.  A rarity, especially West of the Appalachians, Mt. Carroll Seminary was therefore historically significant.

In 1896 the school was transferred to the University of Chicago and renamed the Frances Shimer Academy of the University of Chicago.  Its Baptist Church connections and its orientation toward liberal arts were accordingly strengthened.  One year later Shimer reestablished its autonomy but continued a cooperative working relationship with Chicago.

Throughout the twentieth century Shimer has enjoyed a reputation for innovation and for its emphasis on liberal arts.  In 1920 it received accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and from the 1930's it offered an expanded junior college program for grades 11-14.  A distinctive feature of the Shimer Plan, instituted in 1939, was its advocacy and use of primary sources in general education curriculum.  Renewed affiliation with the University of Chicago in 1950 brought a return to co-educational status and led to the awarding of the first B.A. degree in 1952.  Shimer's curriculum was now directly modeled on that of the University of Chicago.  Formal affiliation between the two institutions however, ended in 1956.

Shimer celebrated its centennial from May 1952 to May 1953.  In 1959 it became accredited as a four year college.  For a brief period, 1959-1973, it was affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

Like many private liberal arts colleges, Shimer was beset with financial difficulties in the 1970's.  Various attempts were made to keep the school running.  Bankruptcy proceedings eventually ended in a court agreement by which the Trustees agreed to sell the 36 acres Mt. Carroll site to pay off a $2,000,000 debt.  In October 1979 a Restoration College Association bought the main facility at the bankruptcy auction.  During the preceding in January Shimer College moved to smaller quarters in Waukegan, Illinois.  In September 2006 the college moved to the Chicago campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Subject/Index Terms

Church Colleges
Community Colleges
Diaries-- 1840-1869
Frances W. Shimer College
Mt. Carroll (Ill.)
Mt. Carroll Seminary
Shimer, Frances Wood
Shimer College
Women--Education (Higher)

Administrative Information

Repository: Northern Illinois University

Accruals: An addendum was added in January 2005.

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions on access to the collection.

Use Restrictions: Property rights in the collection belong to the Regional History Center; literary rights are dedicated to the public.

Acquisition Source: Duncan E. McBride and the Trustees Committee of Shimer College

Acquisition Method: Duncan E. McBride and the Trustees Committee of Shimer College donated the Shimer College Collection to the Northern Illinois Regional History Center on October 10, 1979.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Original Documents, Historical, and Biographical Files],
[Series II: Office of the President Files],
[Series III.: Alumnae and Public Relations Records],
[Series IV.: Scrapbooks and Photographs],
[Series V.: Financial Records],
[Series VI.: Shimer College Publications],

Series VI.: Shimer College Publications
Box 28
Folder 1: The Seminary Bell, 1860-1861
Folder 2: The Oread, 1869-1895
Folder 3: Annual Calendar, 1896-1912
Folder 4-10: Frances Shimer Record, 1909-1934
Box 29
Folder 1-9: Frances Shimer Record, 1934-1960
Folder 10-27: The Record, yearbook, 1938-1959
Folder 28-29: Acropolis, 1960-1961
Folder 30: Recondite, 1965
Folder 31: Frances Shimer Handbooks, 1944-1949
Box 30
Folder 1-4: Shimer College Handbooks, 1960-1978
Folder 5-7: Shimer College Bulletin, 1945-1976
Folder 8: Excalibur, 1966-1967
Folder 9: Mt. Carroll Seminary, 1894-1895
Folder 10: Francis Shimer Academy booklets, 1901-1905
Box 31
Folder 1: Francis Shimer booklets, 1930s
Folder 2: Francis Shimer booklets, 1943-1947
Folder 3: Francis Shimer booklets, 1950-1957
Folder 4: Francis Shimer booklets, 1960s
Folder 5: "Shimer College Report on Entering Students", 1966
Folder 6: Shimer College, booklets, no date
Folder 7: Francis Shimer College pamphlets, no date, 1976
Folder 8: "General Reading Programs" Upper and Lower Division, no date
Folder 9: Bridging the Gap Between School and College, 1953
Folder 10: Song books and musicals, 1911-1923
Folder 11: poems and stories- booklets, 1900-1905, 1950
Folder 12: Kathryn Gray McFarland- In Memory, 1924
Folder 13: History pamphlets, no date
Folder 14: The Divinity School News, 1941
Folder 15: Fortieth Annual Reunion, 1893
Folder 16: Christmas Greetings, no date
Folder 17: Diary, Frances Wood Shimer (photocopy), January 1, 1852-August 24, 1853, October 12, 1854
Box 32
Folder 1: Diary, Frances Wood Shimer, Memorandum of Events from  Starting from Mt. Carroll on December 30, 1890 (photocopy), December 30, 1890-May 7, 1891
Folder 2: Reminiscences of Frances Wood Shimer (photocopy), 1897-1898
Folder 3: Printing cards (7)
Folder 4: scenic "postcards" Los Angeles (2)
Folder 5: scenic "postcards" Utah (7)
Folder 6: Printing plate of lecture hall, no date

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Original Documents, Historical, and Biographical Files],
[Series II: Office of the President Files],
[Series III.: Alumnae and Public Relations Records],
[Series IV.: Scrapbooks and Photographs],
[Series V.: Financial Records],
[Series VI.: Shimer College Publications],

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