Salina Normal University

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Salina Normal University
MottoStudy first, outside issues afterwards.[1]
TypeNormal university
Active1884–1904 (destroyed by a fire)
United States of America

Salina Normal University, sometimes called Salina Normal College,[2] was an independent coeducational normal school established in 1884 in Salina, Kansas, United States. It offered collegiate, normal, business, science, and fine arts courses.[3][4][5]

A partial side view of the Salina Normal University.

The university's first proprietor was Alexander Hopkins, who closed his East Illinois College in Danville, Illinois and brought some students and faculty with him.[6][7] A building was constructed on College Street, at the western end of Iron Avenue, and the college opened on Tuesday, 2 September 1884, with a record-breaking initial enrollment for a Normal School of 60.[8] The building had 57 rooms, cost a total of $40,000 to build, and the ground floor measured 100 by 65 feet.[9] It had two wings: a dormitory wing, able to house 60–75 students, and the college wing, able to accommodate 500–600 students. The campus grounds occupied six acres, while the surrounding 53 acres were owned by the college stock company and sold in platted parcels.[6]

Salina Normal University, its college campus and the city's University Addition, in 1887.

Attendance in the first year reached 125, but at mid-year many students and faculty became dissatisfied and ownership of the institution was transferred to J. Walter Fertig and L.O. Thoroman, with the latter becoming president.[10] A prominent Salinan, Oscar Seitz, also served as president of the university in the 1880s while simultaneously managing the streetcar company.[11] In 1884–85 the college library had approximately 1,000 books, the only library in Salina listed in the U.S. Office of Education 1886 survey of public libraries.[12] By 1893, despite a lack of financial backing, annual enrollment was almost 700.[10]

The university was destroyed by fire on 4 September 1904, and not rebuilt. At that time it had 400 students.[13] The Salina Journal gave the following account of the fire:

Carl Gunter, Charles Ruppenthal and a new student named Atkins were asleep on the second floor. Gunter, who had not retired but had fallen asleep reading, was aroused by the noise of the fire. Mr. Wilbur, the janitor, and his sons, asleep in the basement, escaped as the roof fell in. Those on the second floor, cut off from the stairways by flames, crawled through windows and dropped to the ground. When the fire department arrived, flames were issuing from the roof. Firemen used three streams of water in fighting the blaze, but succeeded only in saving the walls.[14]

Notable students[edit]


  1. ^ Salina History Book Committee. Salina: 1858-2008, Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7385-6181-3, p. 33
  2. ^ John Malcolm Peterson, John G. Haskell: Pioneer Kansas Architect, Lawrence: Douglas County Historical Society, 1984, p. 263, note 12 states that some sources use "College" but the catalogues use "University." There are also references to "Salina Normal School."
  3. ^ Salina: 1858-2008 p. 33 states the opening year as 1883 and lists "collegiate, normal, professional, musical, and fine arts."
  4. ^ Kansas State Historical Society, Topics in Kansas History: Community & Daily Life, Essay on Education, accessed 12 December 2009, like most other sources states 1884: "In addition to a four-year course of study for teachers, the university offered programs in business, science, and the classics."
  5. ^ H. W. Daily, M.D., "The College," Saline County Journal, 6 March 1884, p. 2, online in the Library of Congress digital collection, announces an opening day of 2 September 1884 and lists "Classical, Philosophical, Scientific, Normal, Preparatory, Elocutionary, Commercial, Engineering, Musical, [and] Art" branches, taking between one and four years to complete.
  6. ^ a b Daily, "The College."
  7. ^ Peterson, p. 136 states that the organizing effort began in 1883 and that the organizers "then engaged" Hopkins, whom he calls "Alex." Prof. I. D. Fitzpatrick, "The Subject of Education," Saline County Journal, 6 March 1884, p. 1, online in the Library of Congress digital collection, states that construction was to occur that summer and the college was expected to open in September, with Alexander Hopkins as President. Columbian History of Education in Kansas, Topeka: Hamilton, 1893, p. 78 states that it was Hopkins' idea, in spring 1884, to start the college, and gives his name as "Alex. C."
  8. ^ Longfellow, "College Notes," Saline County Journal, 4 September 1884, p. 2, online in the Library of Congress digital collection.
  9. ^ "Salina: The Metropolis and Railway Centre of Western Kansas," Saline County Journal, 9 December 1886, p. 3, online in the Library of Congress digital collection.
  10. ^ a b c Columbian History.
  11. ^ Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, Salina Business Hall of Fame, Class of 2007, Oscar Seitz (Pioneer Award, 1858-1925) Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 12 December 2009.
  12. ^ United States, Office of Education, Statistics of Public Libraries in the United States: From the Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1884–85: with additions, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing House, 1886, p. 712.
  13. ^ Erin Mathews, "Saving Lives & Property: A Fire Department Grows Up," Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine Salina Journal, 16 April 2009, accessed 12 December 2009.
  14. ^ 4 September 1904, cited in Sharon Montague, "Colleges offer variety of opportunities," Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine Salina Journal, 22 February 2008.
  15. ^ William Elsey Connelley, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, Volume 5, Chicago: Lewis, 1918, p. 2467.
  16. ^ House Journal of the Legislature of the State of Washington (1947), p. 382.

External links[edit]