Life at the University of Chattanooga (1910 catalogue)

If you were interested in higher education in 1910, the University of Chattanooga offered an impressive array of benefits. Beautiful city, cutting-edge laboratories, and scholarly professors. And $50 annual tuition!

Take a look at these photos from their 1910 “lookbook” and imagine yourself in this environment.

Do you know what amazes me more than anything about these older pictures of public accommodations like universities, courthouses, air travel, bus travel, etc?





It’s how beautifully clean all these settings were and how much pride everyone took in their surroundings and in themselves. People would get dressed up to ride the bus. No overcrowding. No garbage on the floor or overflowing from trash cans. This didn’t require heavy-handed government interference but the people in each community having higher standards. It was enforced by their collective expectations and behavior.



Think about your own life and your own home. Do you think more clearly when your house is messy or orderly? Do you make better decisions in beautiful settings or ugly settings? Can you think more strategically and successfully in peaceful settings or loud ones?

It makes me wonder how many of the problems of our modern world we could eradicate by placing a real emphasis on cleanliness and order and adopting higher standards. And possibly valuing silence more highly as well.

Residential life


College affordability had a different meaning back then.

The school was fairly strict in terms of expecting students to have grades in good standing and attend all their classes. In exchange for the serious and hardworking students, the university made it affordable. “If the student is economical, $4 per week will cover all necessary expenses,” the lookbook says. Necessary expenses were tuition, room, board, laundry, books, and incidental expenses.

They also offered regular work for students that could be done outside class hours so they could pay as they go. Students who worked at the university earned a minimum of $4/week, with most averaging between $5 and $6.

It’s an interesting idea.

All photos in the lookbook are courtesy of the Chattanooga Public Library and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Special Collections.

2 thoughts on “Life at the University of Chattanooga (1910 catalogue)

  1. $50 for tuition per year. Shoot, around here your monthly bus pass costs twice as much. As to the cleanliness, well, we have to realize that all these photos were staged. They do that at the college where I work too, but I know what it looks like when they aren’t staging photos or doing videos because I am the janitor, lol. But there was also a LOT less garbage back then. No convenience foods and take-out drinks, no unnecessary packaging blowing all over the place, cafeterias with real china and flatware and not just stacks of Pizza Pizza boxes lying around. But also most of these folks who attended were from well-to-do homes and had been taught a certain modicum of civilized behaviour and living. You could go to slummier areas of the city and probably see all the wreckage and garbage you wanted. You still can. The difference between the rich and poor neighbourhoods in our area is rather stark. I am not trying to burst your bubble, honestly, but nostalgia tends to be blind to the realities of the day.

    But I think you are totally right about community spirit and pride. It is definitely one of the things we have lost in our era of globalization. We are so busy looking at the Kardashians, or the Patriots, or some pop star or another that we don’t even have any concern about what is going on in our own cities. We watch national news but don’t know anything about our own local news. We don’t even know our neighbours anymore! Civic pride was a real thing and local philanthropists did everything they could to support their own community and pay them back for all their hard work.

    Liked by 1 person

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