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Stanford Stories From the Archives

1920s

The 1920s brought with it major administrative changes, new venues to support athletics and the growing student population, and new academic programs. It was during this decade that Stanford first implemented tuition fees (breaking with the Founders’ intention of a tuition-free education), reorganized the student body into upper and lower divisions, implemented an honor code, and introduced independent study options for the upper classes.

It was also during this decade that Stanford raised its “First Million” to endow faculty salaries, marking the beginning of organized fundraising by the university and alumni. Stanford Stadium (demolished and replaced in 2005) was built in 1921 to support a growing football program, and it was also during this period that beloved football coach Glenn “Pop” Warner began his tenure. Likewise, the Stanford Pavilion (now Burnham Pavilion) was the largest basketball arena of its kind when it opened in 1922, and also housed student dances and rallies.

The School of Engineering, the Graduate School of Business, and High-Voltage and Aeronautics Laboratories all opened during this decade, consolidating and extending the academic opportunities available to students.

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Tuition loan note, 1920

In 1920, to offset the pressures of a fixed endowment income and a rising cost of living, the university introduced a tuition fee for the first time in its history, in the amount of $40 per quarter. The legal document displayed here represents the first available student loan form – borrowing at 5% simple interest, and payable within seven years.

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Expression of Aims for the Course in Citizenship, 1923

Problems of Citizenship was the first required course for Stanford freshman designed to examine the “fundamental political, social, and economic problems of the American people.”

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Stanford students repair toys during Con Home week, 1929

The Stanford Home for Convalescent Children opened in Palo Alto in May 1920, at the site of the former Stanford residence. Patients’ treatment included good nutrition, fresh air, and sunshine. From its opening until its restructuring and relocation to the Children’s Hospital at Stanford in 1971, Stanford students held annual fundraising drives, donated toys, and also volunteered their time and expertise, including during the annual “Con Home week.”

Automobiles on Campus, 1929

Cars were banned from campus in the early years, as evidenced by a sign posted at the Palm Drive entrance gates that read, “The Board of Trustees kindly request that no automobiles or gasoline bicycles trespass on these premises." Fears that the machines would frighten horses were cited as a chief concern. The ban was formally lifted in 1914, and by the 1920s cars were appearing on campus at an accelerated pace. According to lore, disassembled Model-T Fords even made their way onto the roof of Encina Hall, where they were reassembled and exhibited to the delight of freshmen.