Ohio History Journal

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Early Oberlin is best understood as the experimental college

of its day. For the most part, the colleges of the middle third of

the nineteenth century sternly resisted the assaults of innovation.

A monastic unworldliness and timelessness characterized the

great majority; they stood barrenly and stubbornly isolated amidst

the pounding surf of romantic reformism. Even newly-established

institutions of the always-innovating West were so completely

dominated by the ideals and traditions and general conservatism

of ancient foundations in the East that only incidental concessions

were made in them to local convenience or liberalism. Curriculum,

rules, ceremonial, even buildings were slavishly patterned after

those of eastern parent institutions. No western college could bear

a prouder title than "Yale-of-the-West" or "Princeton-of-the-

West." Indeed, one important purpose of many of them seems

to have been to save the West from "innovation," a word which

bore decidedly unfavorable implications to easterners of Federal-

ist traditions.

But innovation, barred elsewhere, was always welcomed at

Oberlin. Oberlin embraced the heretical theology of President

Charles Grandison Finney and every reform   which could be

reconciled with that form of revolt against Calvinism. Oberlin

was the chief center of the peace movement beyond the Appa-

lachians. Students and faculty embraced Graham vegetarianism

and expelled meat from the commons. The largest local chapter

of the American Moral Reform Society in the West was at Ober-

lin. Negroes were welcomed as students at Oberlin when they

were scarcely or not at all tolerated elsewhere. Of course, Ober-