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Smart, James H. (1841-1900) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: Smart, James H. (1841-1900)
Fuller Form: (James Henry)


Historical Note:

James Henry Smart (1841-1900), fourth president of Purdue University, was born at Center Harbor, New Hampshire, June 30, 1841 to Dr. William Hutchings Smart and Nancy Farrington Smart. Smart was primarily homeschooled, but did attend high school in Concord at age 12. At age seventeen, after being employed as a bookkeeper, he returned to Concord High school as a temporary teacher. In 1859 Smart began his teaching career at Sanborton, New Hampshire. In 1863 he moved to Toledo, Ohio to assume a principal position of an intermediate school. By age 25 Smart became superintendent of the public school system of Fort Wayne, Indiana. In that role he was also a member of the State Board of Education. On July 21, 1870, Smart married Mary H. Swan and went on to have a son, Professor R. A. Smart and a daughter, Mary Farrington Smart. That same year he was given an honorary degree of A.M. (Artium Magister) by Dartmouth College. In 1872 he was elected President of the State Teachers Associations and he also was appointed representative of the United States at the World’s Exposition in Vienna. In 1874, Smart was elected as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, which he held for six years. Smart was again a representative of the United States at the World’s Paris Exposition in 1878. In 1880, Smart was elected President of the National Educational Association. He was also a member of the National Superintendents’ Association and a member of the National Council. In 1883 Indiana University presented him with the degree of LL.D (Legum Doctor).

James H. Smart became President of Purdue University on August 23, 1883, succeeding Emerson E. White. That same year the Indiana State legislature appropriated funds for erecting a new building for the School of Mechanical Engineering. Although engineering and agricultural subjects were the main interest of the university, a Purdue School of Pharmacy was established in 1884. In 1887, Federal money was granted for the use of the Agricultural Experiment Station, which furthered the Agricultural department. Smart served as President of the American Association of Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations in 1890. In 1888, a separate School of Electrical Engineering was organized under the head of Dr. Louis Bell. The following year the state legislature granted funds for a laboratory building. A new Engineering building was dedicated on January 19, 1894, but nearly burned to the ground four days later. Smart appropriated funds and worked with companies to replace equipment and to rebuild; the building reopened in September. The school prospered; despite the failing heath of President Smart, between the years of 1896 and 1900, with the student body growing form just over one hundred to almost a thousand. James H. Smart died on February 21, 1900, and was succeeded as president of Purdue University by Winthrop Ellsworth Stone.

Sources: UA 2.04, James H. Smart papers, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries
Note Author: Anna Seiffert





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