Benjamin Hallowell: Educational Leader of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, 1799 - 1877


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Virginia Tech


This study is an investigation of the life of Benjamin Hallowell (1799-1877) a significant contributor to the spread of useful knowledge in the middle (1824-1877) of the nineteenth century. During this period the advancement of knowledge, once the domain of the landed gentry, became the province of the middle class citizen.

The majority of studies of individuals influential in the spread of knowledge center on persons who had a national influence or on those who were active in the northeastern United States where the leading educational efforts flourished. Using historical research, a methodical, critical gathering and interpretation of knowledge from past and present records, we examine Hallowell's work in establishing learning institutions.

Hallowell's life work was examined in the light of his use of adult education as a means of furthering his goals, and how he used his Quaker educational and scientific networks to found and operate institutions, such as his boarding school in Alexandria (1824), the Alexandria Lyceum (1834), the Maryland Agricultural College (1859) the predecessor of the University of Maryland, and Swarthmore College (1867).

This study contributes to the growing body of knowledge about middle class citizens so important to the dissemination of knowledge and the formation of the nation in the middle of the nineteenth century. Hallowell's extensive correspondence was significant as he established his scientific reputation and as he worked in support of the disenfranchised. This is especially evident in his work as an advocate for slaves rights, in his progress towards women's equality in education, and in his work with the Indians.

Hallowell used adult education techniques such as lecturing, group discussion and decision making in forming the Lyceum, Swarthmore College, and the Alexandria Water Works. Self reading and self-directed learning were important parts of his personal improvement process from his earliest years. He was an intense man of wide interests who shared his knowledge with all. He participated actively in the growth and spread of knowledge especially in the mid-Atlantic states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.



Swarthmore, Science, Lyceum, Education