Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles written by Robert Dunkelberger, Bloomsburg University Archivist and Historian, honoring the 150th anniversary of the construction of Bloomsburg University’s iconic building, Carver Hall.
One hundred and fifty years ago, the Bloomsburg Literary Institute opened under the leadership of Principal Henry Carver. On April 4, 1866, the first newspaper advertisement appeared in the Columbia Democrat & Star of the North looking for students to enroll in Carver’s new school. The newspaper advertisement encouraged friends of education to attend a future meeting, stating, “…especially all those who wish to develop all the natural talents of their children and furnish them with a lasting and most valuable legacy, a good education.” The newspaper went on to say that these friends of education needed to “give their encouragement and support to the praiseworthy enterprise. The object is a good one. Let it be accomplished.” The Institute survived and thrived due to the support of the citizens of Bloomsburg who did all they could to see it succeed and provide their children with an opportunity for an excellent education.
The Bloomsburg Literary Institute had been originally chartered in 1856 by a number of prominent men in town, but no school by that name actually opened until the title was adopted by Henry Carver ten years later. The advertisement for the school stated: “The founders of this Institution intend that it shall be second to none in the facilities it affords young men, for acquiring a thorough Commercial and business education, or in preparing for any class in College; or in the advantages it affords young ladies for acquiring a Useful and Ornamental Education.” Bloomsburg University has always been coeducational, but it was not until the literary institute was paired with the state normal school for teacher training that women could earn an education leading to a profession.
Professor Carver rented existing space in the Academy Building, which was located at the northwest corner of West Third and Jefferson Streets. Tuition for an 11-week term was $8 for learning common English; $10 for higher English, ancient and modern languages; and $12 for piano lessons. Demand was so great that the school opened a week early on April 9, 1866, just five days after the advertisement first appeared. Classes have been offered at Bloomsburg University continuously from that day to the present. Carver spoke to the students before the start of classes, impressing upon them the importance of hard work, completing assignments, setting a high standard of scholarship, getting along with school-mates and being polite, cultivating good habits, and not marking or writing on books, desks, walls, or any part of the school premises. He concluded his address by saying: “For your own sake, therefore, cultivate an artless integrity and strive to be good that you may be great.”