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Stephen Rice, assistant professor of American Studies at Ramapo College, will deliver a talk entitled “’The Learning of the Closet with the Labours of the Field’: The Manual Labor System at Lafayette, 1832-1839,” at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in Lafayette’s Skillman Library.

This will be the third of four talks in Lafayette’s College Archives Lecture Series for 2001, entitled “Finding a Purpose: Lafayette College and its Mission in the Nineteenth Century.”

Free and open to the public, the lectures, which commemorate the 175th anniversary of Lafayette’s chartering in 1826, are sponsored by the Friends of Skillman Library.

“The College Archives is delighted to sponsor this look back at Lafayette’s early decades,” says Diane W. Shaw, special collections librarian and College archivist. “The college is so very different today from what it was like in the 19th century. Collectively, these lectures will paint a fascinating picture of the college’s initial attempts to define itself. In recent years, we have had a number of scholars using the college archives to research various aspects of the college’s history, and we are pleased to provide a forum for some of their findings.”

Rice is the author of a book on the manual labor academy movement in America.

When Lafayette first admitted students in 1832, it was organized as a manual labor school. Students pursued a traditional course of study, but they also worked three or more hours a day in a wood shop located on campus, or on a nearby farm established by the College. George Junkin, Lafayette’s first president and a leading proponent of the manual labor system, argued passionately that students who worked several hours a day would enjoy greater health. He also pointed out that they could pay for part of the expense of their education by the work they did.

Implementing the manual labor system, however, proved costly, and by 1839 Junkin and the Board of Trustees decided to abandon the program. But for a period, Lafayette was at the forefront of an important educational movement that swept the nation in the early decades of the 19th century.

The series’ fourth and final talk will be given by Bianca Falbo, Lafayette assistant professor of English, who will speak on “Francis Andrew March and Lafayette’s Literary Culture, 1857-1906” at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, September 19, in the library.

Falbo has maintained a research interest in Francis March since she joined the Lafayette faculty in 1998. March pioneered the study of literary works in the English language, instituting a program in English at Lafayette decades before the subject was widely established in colleges throughout the nation, and was the first to use the plays of Shakespeare in his courses. Lafayette was the first college to establish formally a chair for the study of the English language and literature.

Russell W. Irvine, an associate professor in the department of educational policy studies at Georgia State University, kicked off the series Feb. 15 with a talk on “Completing the Story of Lafayette College: The Presence of African Americans Before the Civil War.” This was also the keynote speech for the opening of the exhibit “Lafayette and Slavery” that is on display daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through July in Skillman Library’s Special Collections Reading Room.

Albert W. Gendebien, Lafayette’s archivist emeritus, spoke March 8 on “Turning Out Christian Gentlemen: The Nineteeth-Century Mission of Lafayette.” Gendebien has been working for nearly two years on a study of religion at Lafayette.

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