Object Thursday: Brunoniana

This week in Providence there is music in the air. That and tens of thousands of parents and alumni of Brown University, the first college established in the Colony of Rhode Island. It is almost Commencement Weekend (May 24-26).
Rhode Island College was established at Warren, R.I. in 1764. It moved to its current location in Providence in 1770 and the college was renamed in 1804 in recognition of a $5,000 gift from Nicholas Brown (1769-1841), class of 1786.  Its first graduating class was of seven men on 7 September 1769.

First Graduating Class Theses, 1769 (Newport: Solomon Southwick)
First Graduating Class Theses, 1769 (Newport: Solomon Southwick)
[G1157 Broadsides 1769]
The Rhode Island Historical Society collects material from all schools in Rhode Island, but our materials relating to Brown were some of our earliest gifts. There is no formal relationship between the R.I.H.S. and the university, but 11 of the 12 charter members of the R.I.H.S. in 1822 were Brown graduates and even our beloved longtime librarian Howard M. Chapin (1887-1940) graduated in the class of 1908. [See: Chapin, Howard M. “The Rhode Island Historical Society and its close relationship to Brown University,” Brown Alumni Monthly, Vol. XIII, No. 7, Feb 1913).] The following manuscript copy of the first exercises of the first commencement was given to the Society in 1827 by David Benedict.
Copy of the First Exercises
Copy of the First Exercises of the First Class of Rhode island College, 1769.
[MSS 9004, v.XIII, p.1]
These first exercises started with a Forensic Dispute between graduates James Mitchel Varnum and William Williams entitled “The Americans in their present circumstances cannot consistent with good policy affect to become an independent state.”  Varnum (1748-1789) was the future the Revolutionary War General and Rhode Island jurist.
But back to that music. Commencement Weekend at Brown is a time of honors and revelry when Providence is in its full Spring bloom.  Enjoy and congratulations to all Rhode Island graduates this season!
~Phoebe Bean

One thought on “Object Thursday: Brunoniana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More of the Latest Old News
Donor Privacy Policy

The Rhode Island Historical Society’s Commitment to Our Donors

We will not sell, share, or trade our donors’ names or personal information with any other entity. We will not send mailings to our donors on behalf of other organizations. This policy applies to all information received by RIHS on any platform by any means, both online and offline, as well as any electronic, written, or oral communications. To the extent any donations may be processed through a third-party service provider, our donors’ information will only be used for purposes necessary to process the donation.

Website and digital strategy by nabec partners