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A BRIEF OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF
By THOMAS W. BICKNELL,
As there are many at this meeting who are not familiar with the history of the American Institute, it may not be untimely for me to give a brief account of its history. In March, 1830, a meeting of teachers was held in Boston to consider and discuss the condition of educational concerns, and a resolution was passed " to form a permanent association of persons engaged and interested in the business of instruction.” A committee was raised to draft a constitution and make the preliminary arrangements for the organization. Two of that committee, Geo B. Emerson, LL. D., of Boston, and . Hon. Henry K. Oliver, of Salem, are still living.
The committee followed their instructions and extended a call for a meeting to be held in the Representatives Hall of the State House in Boston, Aug. 19, 1830. Fifteen States were represented by over two hundred persons, chiefly teachers, and as a measure of their zeal we have to relate that they travelled from the
remote parts of our land by stage-coach, and remained in session five days, during which time the American Institute of Instruction was given an existence. Francis Wayland, president of Brown University, Providence, R. I., was elected its first president, and Gideon F. Thayer, of Boston, first secretary. The first vote passed was to the effect that all prefixes and affixes, excepting only such as designate the presidents and professors of colleges, should be removed from the lists of officers chosen, and our officers henceforth have been designated by the democratic title “Mr.” Until the year 1838, the public were rigidly excluded from attendance upon the meetings. Efforts to open the doors to the public were unsuccessful until, on motion of Mr. Thayer, at the meeting at Lowell, the second held outside of Boston, the citizens of that city were invited to attend. Since that time the attendance at the Institute has been uniformly large, and the membership to date numbers over 4,000 persons, mostly teachers, and representing more than half the States of the Union. Of the fortyeight meetings, previous to the present, twenty-three have been held in Massachusetts, five in Maine, seven in New Hampshire, four in Vermont, three in Rhode Island, five in Connecticut, and one in New York. Until the formation of the National Teachers' Association in 1856, it was the only general association of teachers in the country, and the name American was given it as expressive of its character as a leading representative of the American system, as well as the New England ideas of education. During the forty-nine years of its life, over four hundred lectures and addresses have been made by men and women of experience and culture on topics connected with the work of the common schools, the normal schools, and the colleges.
In 1874 the Institute was made self-supporting by an act which at the time was considered by some its death-blow. Prior to that date, the Massachusetts Legislature had appropriated $300 annually for its support, which, for reasons not wise to state here, was then withheld. This was made the occasion for rallying the educators of New England to its support, and since that date we have had no lack of means to carry on our work with an unwonted vigor, and we trust our treasury will be put in such a condition that our treasurer will be required to give bonds for official faithfulness. With few exceptions, the Institute has published the volume of its Proceedings annually, including in it the addresses and lectures delivered before it, and it is believed that there is no series of volumes in our language so rich in pedagogical instruction and philosophy as the journals of this Institute. The volume for 1877 contains a catalogues of all the members of the Institute from the first to the present meeting, – a list of names worthy to be enrolled on “ Fame's eternal bead-roll”
The annual membership fee is one dollar. Any person, teacher or otherwise, interested in the objects of the association, can become a member by signing the Constitution, and paying, one dollar to the treasurer. The sum thus collected enables us to meet our expenses, and the payment of the fee entitles members to a share in the perquisites of the society, including this year a specimen of Mt. Washington rock, which each member is expected to take away as a souvenir of this meeting.