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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Mechanic Arts records

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: AC-0499

Scope and Contents

This collection contains one volume of minutes and records of the Special Committee of the Faculty on the School of Mechanic Arts of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from November 24, 1877, to January 2, 1880, and three volumes of student records from 1876-1886.

The Special Committee of the Faculty was responsible for the administration of the School of Mechanic Arts. MIT President John D. Runkle was chair of the committee from 1877 to 1878; Professor John Ordway was chair from 1878 to 1880. The minutes contain information about changes in the curriculum, workshop and classroom facilities, special petitions by students, disciplinary matters and exam schedules. The volume also includes examination results from 1879.

The volumes of student records contain brief entries for each student. These include a list of courses taken, grades, dates of entrance and departure and occasional comments.


  • Creation: 1876 - 1886


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical Note

School of Mechanic Arts, 1876-1889

The School of Mechanic Arts was organized in 1877. The two-year program was designed to provide manual training for younger students who wished to prepare for industrial occupations. The School of Mechanic Arts was not affiliated with any of the existing academic programs at MIT; it attracted a different group of students from those enrolled in the regular courses in the Institute.

The program was organized at a time when the apprenticeship system in the industrial trades was being phased out. MIT President John Runkle got the idea for the school during a visit to the Philadelphia centennial exposition in 1876. The Russian exhibit at the exposition explained a system of technical education that focused on shop work as an art rather than a trade and used instructional exercises that were valued more for their educational than their practical uses. Runkle freely borrowed from these ideas and, in his annual reports, gave credit to the "Russian system" which was then in place at the Imperial Technical School in Moscow as a model for the School of Mechanic Arts.

The catalog for 1877-1878 states that the school was established "for those who wish to enter upon industrial pursuits, rather than to become scientific engineers." These students were often younger than others at MIT. The 1876-1877 Report to the President reports that "[t]he students in the special course on Practical Mechanism are boys, and it is for boys that that course is intended. They need the care and discipline that school-boys require . . . Their studies, outside their shop-work, should be conducted in separate rooms, under the constant supervision of special instructors and disciplinarians." The School of Mechanic Arts offered shop courses in Carpentry and Joinery, Wood Turning, Pattern Making, Vise Work, Forging, Foundry Work and Machine Tool Work. In addition, basic courses in English, Mathematics and Physics were required. The school was administered by a faculty committee.

The school proved to be popular and in 1884 moved into a larger workspace on Garrison Street in Boston. The curriculum was expanded to include instruction in French. The School for Mechanic Arts continued to operate at MIT until 1889. By this time, other specialized schools offering training in the industrial arts had opened.


0.3 Cubic Feet (1 legal manuscript box)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Related Materials

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, John Runkle papers, MC 7.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Guide to the Records of the School of Mechanic Arts of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 July 12: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US