A Day in the Life of a Lafayette Student, Circa 1850

I get up (rather late by the rest of the civilized world’s standards), get dressed, and make a mad dash to my first class. I’m not that different from every other Lafayette student in 2009. However, have you ever wondered what a student at Lafayette did in 1850? I had the rare chance to read the original diary of Thomas Gardner Gayley, class of 1853—an interesting look into the daily life of a Lafayette student of the past.

Gayley’s diary details his daily activities as a student at Lafayette College between the years 1850 and 1853, when the College was still young, there were only a few buildings comprising the campus (Pardee Hall wasn’t even built yet!) and each class had only about 10 members (all male, of course, as the College didn’t become co-ed until the 1970s). In the 1850s, there were no tests or quizzes—instead there were “recitations” in subjects like Sacred Geography, Chemistry, and Latin. For fun, Gayley and other students did something that other Lafayette students still do today—go for walks, or “excursions” into downtown Easton (often in the 1850s to meet the young ladies in town). Definitely a different lifestyle than the current Lafayette student!

Sara Walter is the Advanced Archival Assistant. She is a senior double-majoring in History, Government and Law, and Spanish.

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