“Miss C. is a beautiful dancer—and has just taught me the Saratoga—do you know it? It is all the rage—and if you don’t, you must learn it right off.” Letter from a student to her fiancé.
In 1867 Matthew Vassar had sanctioned dancing at the college. Noting a recent essay by a Poughkeepsie Methodist minister entitled “Incompatibility of Amusements with Christian Life,” Vassar said, “Years ago I made up my judgment on these great questions in the religious point of view, and came to a decision favorable to amusements. I never practised public dancing in my life, and yet in view of its being a healthful and graceful exercise, I heartily approved it, and now recommend its being taught in the College to all pupils whose parents and guardians desire it.” Matthew Vassar, Communications to the Trustees, X, June 25, 1867
The first decade of Vassar was celebrated by the formal opening of the new Museum of Natural History, housed in the former Riding Academy. The Art Gallery was transferred from Main to new quarters in the Museum where it remained for forty years. Among the guests were Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union, and Louisa M. Alcott.
Miss Alcott was pursued by students seeking autographs: “I finish my tale and go to Vassar College for a visit. See M[aria]. M[itchell].; talk with four hundred girls, write in stacks of albums and school-books, and kiss everyone who asks me….” Louisa May Alcott, Life, Letters and Journals
Activist, poet, and author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Julia Ward Howe, visiting the college as a guest of Maria Mitchell, lectured in the Observatory on "Is Polite Society Polite?" Mrs. Howe was a frequent guest at the college. In her journal for January 1883 she spoke of "a peaceful day at Vassar College.” She was also present at the dedication of the Chapel, Nov. 4, 1904.
Class Day for the Class of 1875 began at 3 pm in the Chapel. A band played a march as the class assembled, led by their marshal, Emma Hollister ’75. The recitation of the class’s history by class historian Eva March Tappan ’75 was at times, according to The New York Times, “so irresistibly funny that the members of the Senior Class, fully appreciating her allusions, indulged in uncontrollable laughter.” After a poem by the class’s poet laureate, Mary Taylor ’75, Kate Roberts ’75 offered, one by one, the prophecies for her classmates, and as she “surrounded their future with impossibilities, the greatest merriment prevailed.”
Later, the band serenaded a crowd gathered under a pavilion for the dedication of the class tree, a young maple. Preparing to bury the class records at the tree’s base, Kate McBain ’75, holding Matthew Vassar’s spade, delivered the senior charge, praising the maple, which, she said, casts long shadows while yet letting sunlight shine through. She added that, although the maple had been chosen to represent the class, the class was not a “sappy” one. In the junior response, Mary Augusta Jordan ’76 said that she was interested to hear of the class’s lack of sap, “as that statement fully accounted for the absence of all sweetness in it.” An evening reception and dancing in the Calisthenium to the famous band of Patrick Gilmore concluded the class’s day.
The trustees, in a concurrent series of meetings, elected the Rev. Dr. J. Ryland Kendrick and William Allen Butler to the places left vacant by the deaths of founding trustees Rufus Babcock and George W. Sterling, gave out a detailed description of the college’s grounds and facilities and reported on the college’s finances. Receipts for the year totaled $170,000 and expenses—including $45,000 for extensive alterations to the former Riding Academy to accommodate the new museum—of $200,000. The year’s profits were about $16,000. The New York Times
The trustees also reported that the inventory of the college property showed its value to be nearly $700,000 and additional investments to amount to about $300,000, bringing the total value to $1,000,000. Collegiate students for the year were 214: seniors, 42; juniors, 51; sophomores, 58; freshmen, 63. Pursuing special collegiate courses were: juniors, 3; sophomores, 5; freshmen, 3. Students in the preparatory department totaled 159, for a total of 384 students at Vassar. The Chicago Tribune
According to The New York Times, 1,000 people packed into the Chapel, on an “intensely hot” day for Commencement. Founding trustee and president of Brown University Ezekiel Gilman Robinson gave the invocation and the traditional program of student orations and musical selections included addresses in Latin and German and selections by Beethoven. Mary Frances Buffington ‘75 spoke on “The Acheivements of Theoretical Chemistry,” Alice Hettie Lowrie ‘75 discussed “The Aesthetics of Astronomy” and Kate Roberts ‘75 explored the varying views of “Agassiz and Darwin.” 1875’s oratorical opposition was between “The Sciences Superior to the Fine Arts in their Influence on Progress,” given by Kate Louise Maltby ‘75 and “The Fine Arts Superior to the Sciences in their Influence on Progress,” by Kate McBain ‘75.
Among the distinguished guests as President Raymond conferred the baccalaureate degree on the 42 members of the class were the hero of the Battle of Fort Fisher (1865), General Alfred Terry, and Elisha Pease, who had been the civilian governor of Texas at the outset of Reconstruction. The New York Times
Three baseball clubs were formed, the Sure-pops, the Daisy-clippers and the Royals.