The Art Gallery moved to the Museum of Natural History, formerly the Calisthenium and Riding Academy. Following five years of requests for additional space, the trustees approved moving the Library from the third to the fourth and fifth floors in Main Building, where the Art Gallery was formerly housed.
Charles Kingsley, Canon of Westminster, novelist, naturalist and chaplain to Queen Victoria, lectured on "Greece in the Day of Her Glory." “He was exceedingly reserved, indifferent and hard to entertain. The only interest he showed was towards Miss Mitchell, whom he called upon at the observatory. ‘My wife would never forgive me if I came home without seeing Miss Mitchell….’ When asked if he would take some refreshment, Mr. Kingsley frankly mentioned that he would like a glass of beer. The situation might have been embarrassing had not Professor [of English Truman] Backus come to the rescue and carried the guest off to his study for a pipe and chat and bottle of ale….” Frances A. Wood, Earliest Years at Vassar
Prayer was dropped from the Founder’s Day program. Edward Everett Hale, Unitarian minister and orator, chose as his topic "What Is the Work of a Person Devoted to Letters?" Hale also spoke at Founder's Day in 1886.
The junior class gave the seniors a moonlight excursion down the Hudson on the steamer Mary Powell, in place of the usual reception. This became an annual custom until the faculty discontinued it in 1885, citing its expense, the danger from wandering ferry boats and some detrimental remarks from newspaper men. The tradition was restored in June 1899.
“The most celebrated excursion was the trip to West Point on the Mary Powell in 1877. The cadets turned out in a body, clambered over the rocks by the river, and waved ‘pocket handkerchiefs’ to the young ladies, who fluttered theirs in return (it is not recorded whether or not with the permission of the Lady Principal), and exclaimed in the Miscellany later, ‘What elegant uniforms!’” Frances T. Marburg ’15, “The Social Life,” The Vassar Miscellany, Vassar 1865-1915, From the Undergraduate Point of View, Fiftieth Anniversary Number
Under their class motto, "Finis Coronat Opus," 42 members of the Class of 1874 received their degrees in the Chapel at Vassar's eighth Commencement. The traditional organ voluntary was followed by an invocation by the chancellor of New York University, Rev. Howard Crosby. The literary and musical exercises followed, and, in a departure from custom, the musical pieces were given by members of the music faculty: the Misses Charlotte Finch ‘72 and Eliza M. Wiley and Mrs. Alma B. Goodrich.
The Latin salutatory oration, given by Lizzie Andrews Hill ’74, was followed by student orations, which included “The Specialist in Natural Science,” by Anna Louise Meeker ’74, “Deutschland und die Wissenschaft,” by Lucretia Stow ’74 and “The Deformity of Symmetry,” by Mary Walley Marvin ’74. The oratorical opposition for 1874 was between “Competition Fatal to High Scholarship,” given by Fannie Florence Fisher ’74, and “Competition Favorable to High Scholarship,” given by Laura Higbee Brownell ’74. The valedictory address was given by Florence Cushing ’74.
The conferring of degrees on the 42 graduate was followed by a luncheon and tours of the college facilities. The New York Times
Addressing the the general session of the National Educational Association, meeting in Detroit, Professor James Orton compared both graduation rates and absences due to poor health at men's and women's colleges. "Vassar graduated last June," he said, "42, just half the number who have been connected with the class. Amherst graduated 62 out of 95, and Cornell 65 out of 261—a painful example of 'survival of the fittest.' During the past year, eleven percent of the undergraduates in Vassar have been kept from college duties more than ten days on account of illness; while at Amherst, where the physical education of the young men is more carefully attended to than at any other college, the percentage was twenty-one."
Orton's paper, “Four Years in Vassar College,” followed “The Building of a Brain,” presented by Dr. Edward H. Clarke, a professor at Harvard Medical College whose influential attack on higher education for women, with warnings about its potential psychological and physical dangers, Sex in Education or, A Fair Chance for Girls, had appeared in 1873.
Calling it "one of the most complete adaptations of electricity to a useful purpose," the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle hailed a collaboration between Professor Maria Mitchell at the Vassar College Observatory and Theophilus Mayhew, a Poughkeepsie watchmaker. Having noted "some talk" three years earlier "of regulating city time by electricity from Vassar College Observatory via Atlantic and Pacific [telegraph] wires," the Eagle announced that Mayhew had invented "what he calls a controller and corrector, which is a contrivance connected with Vassar College Observatory by wire, and which enables him to obtain correct time at any time he may desire it.... Mr. Mayhew has almost completed a magnificent dial, which is to be placed in the post office. This dial is to be propelled by electricity from the regulator, and will therefore indicate exactly the same time.
"On the roof of the Morris building a signal pole has been placed, and in a few days our citizens will be enabled to set their timepieces by the dropping of a target at precisely noon. This is also operated from the observatory. Mr. Mayhew will be pleased to explain the working of his apparatus to who may take an interest in anything new."
Maria Mitchell relied on the precise time kept by her astronomical clock, made by the famous Bond company in Boston, for the work she and her students conducted at the Observatory. As the "Vassar Time Service," she and her successor, Mary Watson Whitney '68, and their students sustained this local collaboration for several years.
On January 23, 1875, Theophilus Mayhew applied for a patent for "a time-recording instrument operated by pneumatic pressure upon a friction-brake, in which, when both hands are engaged, the pressure may be applied by a tube placed in the mouth, or exerted in any other suitable manner." The Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle, The Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith, June 1, 1875