charles kendall adams


History & Latin 1862-1885

CHARLES KENDALL ADAMS was born at Derby, Vermont, January 24, 1835, only son of Charles and Maria (Shedd) Adams. He was descended from William Adams, who came from England in 1635. He began teaching school at the age of seventeen, and taught several terms in Vermont. In 1856 he removed to Iowa, and the year following entered the University of Michigan. In 1861 he was graduated Bachelor of Arts, and after a year's graduate study received the degree of Master of Arts on examination. He was immediately appointed Instructor in History. After one year he was made Instructor in History and Latin, and in 1865 was advanced to the rank of Assistant Professor. In 1867 he was elected Professor of History, in place of Andrew D. White resigned, and obtained leave of absence for a year to travel and study in Germany, France, and Italy. Soon after his return to the University he introduced the Seminary method of instruction into his advanced classes, which method met with much favor and was afterwards taken up by other professors. In 1885, on the resignation of President White, of Cornell University, Professor Adams was elected to succeed him. He held the office till May, 1892, when he relinquished it with the purpose of devoting himself to authorship in his chosen line; but in July of that year he accepted a call to the presidency of the University of Wisconsin. About 1900, his health having been seriously impaired, he obtained leave of absence, and spent a year in Europe in the hope of regaining his strength. He returned to his work in the autumn of 1901, but soon found himself unequal to going on with it. He resigned the office and retired to Redlands, California, where he died on July 26, 1902. Besides numerous papers and addresses, he published the following works: "Democracy and Monarchy in France " (1872); "Manual of Historical Literature" (1882); and "Christopher Columbus, his Life and Work" (1892). He also edited "Representative British Orations," in three volumes (1885); and Johnson's "Universal Cyclopaedia" (1892-1893). He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Chicago University in 1878, and from Harvard University in 1887. He was twice married, first, in 1863, to Mrs. Abigail Disbrow Mudge, of Ann Arbor, who died at Ithaca in 1889; and in July, 1890, to Mrs. Mary Mathews Barnes, of Brooklyn, New York, who survived him only a few months.

Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906), pp.


The Michigan Alumnus, January 1896. Page 57

By The Editor

One of the most distinguished names a college education, he has become one on the roll of eminent graduates of the of the foremost educational authorities University of Michigan is that of Charles and historical writers of the country and Kendall Adams, of the class of 1861. From a poverty-stricken student working at manual labor for means to obtain a college education, he has become one of the foremost educational authorities and historical writers of the country and at different times the honored president of the two most vigorous and prosperous universities of the great Empire and Badger states. A sketch of this man, however brief and imperfect it may be, can not but be instructive and helpful, especially to graduates and friends of the University of Michigan.

The subject of this sketch was born in the little village of Derby, Vermont, January 24, 1835. Here was passed the first ten years of his life; but his parents removing to the country he lived from that time till his twentieth year on the farm. During the winter months he attended a district school and showed considerable aptitude in the study of mathematics. Two years he taught school, then going to Iowa, whither his parents followed in 1855.

While in his twenty-first year he determined to prepare himself for college. His parents were unable to help him financially but sincerely sympathized with him in his laudable desire. At the Denmark Academy, Iowa, he prepared himself for his college work by one year's arduous study and successfully entered the University of Michigan in 1857. He completed the full course with the class of 1861, paying his own way meanwhile by manual labor, by teaching and by assisting in the library. In 1862 be received a master's degree.

He was then appointed instructor in Latin and history at the University, becoming assistant professor in the following year and in 1867 being made full professor with the privilege of spending a year and a half in Europe. He availed himself of the opportunity to study in several German and French universities and to visit Italy returning to his work at Ann Arbor late in 1868. In 1871-2 Professor Adams introduced the "seminary" method of studying history. The system spread into the other departments of the University with the most important and far-reaching results. "It is the laboratory method, the scientific method, the modern method of studying history, language and philosophy," a leading historical writer has said. In 1881 a school

of political science was organized at the University and Professor Adams became its dean. He was also non-resident lecturer in history at Cornell University.

In 1885 he was called to the presidency of the growing university founded by Cornell at Ithaca. In 1892 he resigned this position after administering the charge with signal success. He purposed devoting the remaining years of his life to historical research but was led in the course of the same year to accept the presidency of the University of Wisconsin, a position, which he still holds.

President Adams is the author of numerous historical books, notable among which are his "Democracy and Monarchy in France," published in 1872, soon going to its third edition and, translated into German, published in Stuttgart in 1873; and, a few years later, the "Manual of Historical Literature," designed for students, librarians and general readers. A third edition of this “Manual," enlarged and revised, was published in 1888. In the summer of 1892 he also published the " Life and Work of Christopher Columbus." He is at present editor-in-chief of Johnson's Universal Cyclopedia, with thirty-five of the most eminent scholars of the country as his associate editors. Harvard in 1886 conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws upon him.