The 1880s and 1890s at the Normal School 

A student schedule in the 1800s at the Normal School was nothing like what SEMO students know today. Studying began at 8:30 a.m. in the Normal building. Evening study hours were from 6-9 p.m. during the first, second and third terms, and from 7-9 p.m. during the fourth term. Students were also prohibited from frequently visiting other students’ rooms or heading to town during study hours. Also prohibited were profane language, attending parties that interfere with schoolwork, drinking alcohol, and using tobacco in or around the Normal building. 

The economic depression in the 1890s caused immense hardship for many in the community. However, it also marked the beginning transformational change, ushering in a new era of progress and development.

Willard Duncan Vandiver the first to be appointed president for the Normal School from faculty members in 1893. He succeeded in obtaining funding to construct society halls, add plumbing and electricity, and improve school routes. He also enhanced the curriculum to better prepare teachers, adding a postgraduate degree and a student code of conduct. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1896. While a member of the U.S. House Committee on Naval Affairs, Vandiver popularized Missouri's unofficial nickname, "The Show-Me State".

He stated, "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."

Professor John Sephus McGhee was appointed the next president after Vandiver's resigation. During his term, a summer school was introduced. Grade levels D, C, B, and A were replaced with freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. An avenue to link Sprigg Street with the Normal School was constructed.

Cost to attend Normal School

The cost to attend Normal School was $35 per term. With inflation, that's about $1,150 in today's money.

That price included room, board, laundry, incidental fees, and books. Private families also offered housing for $2.50 to $4 per week.

While the cost of living may have changed drastically, the commitment to quality education has remained the same at Southeast over the years.

Mark Twain Quotes the Normal School's Beauty

Mark Twain painted a picture of our campus in 1883 in his book "Life on the Mississippi." He quoted “There was another college high up on an airy summit – a bright new edifice, picturesquely and peculiarly towered and pinnacled – a sort of gigantic casters, with the cruets all complete."

It was just one year later when Twain published one of his most well known books, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". 

Normal School is renamed

The 1890s came to an end, and so did the Normal School.

The seventh president of the Normal School was Washington S. Dearmont, who was appointed in 1899 and served for 13 years. The institution was renamed to Southeast Missouri State Teachers College and a new era was born.

Dearmont finalized the time it would take to earn a degree would be four years with a minimum of 120 credit hours. This would earn a student a bachelor's degree. The College ushered in a new chapter of educational standards, creating a foundation that still stands today.

What's Happening 1880s and 1890s?

  • June 1880 - The first pay-phone service was started
  • July 1885 - The Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor from France
  • 1885 -  Louis Pasteur creates the first successful rabies vaccine 
  • 1886 - Coca-Cola is developed 
  • 1889 - Aspirin is patented 
  • 1889 - The Eiffel Tower opens in Paris, France 
  • July 1890 - Wyoming and Idaho are admitted as the 43rd and 44th states
  • 1890 - The cardboard box was invented 
  • January 1892 - The Ellis Island Immigration Station begins processing immigrants to the United States
  • 1892 - Basketball is invented
  • 1895 - Volleyball is invented 
  • 1898 - The U.S. gains control of the Phillipines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico 
  • 1898 - H.G. Wells publishes War of the World

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