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Isaac Sharpless presidential papers


Held at: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections [Contact Us]370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Isaac Sharpless (1848­-1920) served as the president of Haverford College from 1887 until his resignation in 1917. He was the son of Aaron and Susanna (Forsythe) Sharpless and was born in Birmingham Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. In 1876, he married Lydia Trimble Cope. Sharpless taught at Westtown Boarding School from 1867 to 18­68 and from 1873­ to 1875. He taught mathematics and astronomy at Haverford College from 1875 to 18­84. In 1884, he was named Dean of the Faculty and in 1887, he was named President of the College. During his tenure as president, the College saw improvements in the areas of enrollment, academic standards, endowments, and facilities. Sharpless was a strong proponent of student self-governance, believing that students would improve their behavior if they were in charge of themselves.

Isaac Sharpless's papers consist of several publications by and about Sharpless, two letter books containing copies of his outgoing correspondence as President of Haverford College, and a scrapbook containing newspaper and journal articles by and about Sharpless.

The publications include Sharpless's inaugural address as president, his essay entitled "The Future of the Small Colleges," an address entitled "The Public Life of College Men, and his address "A Word to the Undergraduates of Haverford." Included with the publications is a poem about Sharpless by a Haverford alumnus, a minute released by the Board of Managers upon his retirement in 1917, and a black-and-white photograph of Sharpless.

Volume One consists of Isaac Sharpless's letter book of outgoing correspondence dating from September 27, 1897, to December 18, 1902. Most of Sharpless's correspondence relates to financial matters, including the operations of the Haverford Farm, faculty pay, and income generated by board, tuition, and the purchase of books. Other topics include Haverford scholarships, faculty and staff appointments, admissions, buildings, maintenance, student academic standings, and visitors. A letter to a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, judge dated October 9, 1899, notes the presence of a speakeasy on the edge of campus, while a letter to the Beta Rho Sigma Society dated October 15, 1900, describes the hazing of freshmen by members of the Society's local chapter.

Volume Two contains Sharpless's outgoing letters dating from October 18, 1904, to June 9, 1905. In addition to correspondence regarding student academics, faculty recruitment, and admissions, the letters in this volume focus heavily on the construction of a new dining hall and the associated fundraising campaign. A number of letters relate to the founding and early operations of the Friends Historical Society.

Volume Three is a scrapbook containing mostly journal and newspaper articles by Sharpless on astronomy dating from 1877 to 1910. Several clippings relate to events at Haverford and lectures by Philadelphia-area academics.

Processed by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger; completed October, 2019; updated November, 2021.

Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger
Finding Aid Date
October, 2019
Access Restrictions

Records of the Office of the President are closed for a period of 25 years from the date of the creation of the record.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Collection Inventory

Publications, 1887-1917.
Box 1 Folder 1
Letter book, 1897-1902.
Volume 1
Letter book, 1904-1905.
Volume 2
Scrapbook, 1877-1910.
Volume 3

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