Back to School with the Way to Knox College

As students return to campus and the Fall academic semester begins, the IDHH is featuring The Way to Knox, a collection of images representing the history of Knox College, a four-year private liberal arts college that is home to over 1,200 students and 120 faculty of the Prairie Fire. Located in Galesburg, Illinois, the history of Knox College and its hometown is inextricably entwined. Presbyterian minister George Washington Gale moved from New York to Illinois to found a manual labor college, a college where students performed a few daily hours of manual labor in exchange for rescinding tuition and room/board. Gale’s 1836 “Circular and Plan” documented his intentions for a Prairie College in the west, and in 1836 Galesburg, Illinois was founded by the first settlers. Knox Manual Labor College was founded in 1837, and in 1857 was renamed Knox College. 

From its beginning, Knox College has been firm in supporting the marginalized. Galesburg was home to the first anti-slavery society in Illinois and a stop on the Underground Railroad, as many of the Galesburg residents and founders of Knox College supported the abolitionist movement. In fact, one of the first black men to receive a college degree in Illinois was Barnabas Root, Class of 1870. Furthermore, Gale’s “Circular and Plan” for the Prairie College included educating women, and in 1844 the college opened a Female Seminary. The Way to Knox reflects the growth of the Knox Manual Labor college into the four-year Knox College, with over 500 items that include student organizations and activities, campus buildings, protests and marches, and research and scholarship over the last 150 years. 

Here are a few of our favorite items from the collection: 

Library circulation desk. circa 1950s. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 
Move in day. 1970. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 
Anti-Columbus Day march. 1992. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College.
Women’s archery. 1957. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College.
Homecoming football catch. 2009. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 
Preparing for the Knox centennial. June 1937. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 
Commencement processional, 1919. 1919. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College. 

Want to see more? 

Browse the full The Way to Knox collection, or browse all items from Knox College

View more items in the IDHH related to back to school

To learn more about Knox College, visit Knox College’s site

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