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Amherst College Department of Hygiene and Physical Education Records

Identifier: MA.00251

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of the records of the Amherst College Department of Hygiene and Physical Education from 1861 to 1933. The collection include reports, publications, programs, correspondence, record books and other matierals. These records reflect the development and evolution of the department's curriculum from its earliest years as a pioneer in physical education; the day to day activities of the department; and research and publications relating to the impact of the department's activities. Of note are records relating to the practice and promotion of anthropometry at Amherst College and associated schools. Correspondence relating to the department is largely lacking from this collection and can be found in the personal papers of department faculty.


  • Creation: 1859-1965
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1861-1933


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the collection for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Amherst College Department of Hygiene and Physical Education was formed in 1860; it was the first physical education program at an institution of higher education in the United States. The first professor in the department was John W. Hooker, who was replaced by Edward Hitchcock, Jr (AC 1849) in 1861. Hitchcock was instrumental in the development and promotion of physical education curriculum locally and nationaly; he taught in the department until his death in 1911. Other professors in the department include Richard Nelligan (1892-1929), Paul C. Phillips (1896-1929), A. W. "Eli" Marsh (1917-1958) and Albert "Al" Lumley (1928-1968).

The Department of Hygiene and Physical Education was formed in response to a perceived problem of ill health among Amherst College students due to too much studying and lack of physical activity. For the first four decades of the department's existance, students were required to attend classes four days a week focused primarily on calesthenics and strength building. Competitive sports were extra-curricular and student organized during this time. Students were also required to attend hygiene courses, which covered a wide variety of topics considered to impact healthy living.

Professor Hitchcock and his sucessors played a role in the development of anthropometry, the study of human bodies using detailed measurements. Hitchcock gathered a variety of data about students throughout their college years, including physical and strength measurements, demographic data, and health information. Aggregated measurements of Amherst students and students from other institutions were used by Hitchcock to promote the benefits of physical education to the college community and on the national stage.

Over the course of the early decades of the twentieth century, the department shifted to a more modern philosophy of phyiscal education. By the late 1940s, the department was teaching competitive sports and no longer offered the group calisthenics that were the hallmark of the nineteenth century, hygiene courses were no longer offered, and student measurements were not taken. The department removed the "Hygiene" from its name in 1933 and became the Physical Education Deparment.


14.0 Linear feet (5 record boxes, 4 archive boxes, 2 oversize flat boxes, 15 volumes)

Language of Materials



Records documenting the activities of the Amherst College Department of Hygiene and Physical Education from 1861 to 1933. A significant subset of the collection is material on anthropometry (the study of bodies using detailed measurements) at Amherst College. The collection covers the period from the establishment of the department in 1861 to 1933, when the department was renamed Physical Education Department and underwent a slow, concurrent change to a more modern philosophy of physical education.


The records are organized into 7 series:

  1. Series 1: General, 1861-1965
  2. Series 2: Annual Reports, 1862-1897
  3. Series 3: Instructional Material, 1863-1934
  4. Series 4: Programs and Tickets, 1867-1916
  5. Series 5: Attendance Records, 1882-1911
  6. Series 6: Bound Memorabilia, 1859-1907
  7. Series 7: Anthropometry, 1861-1949

Related Materials

  1. Amherst College General Files, Departments, Physical Education (material from 1934 to present)
  2. Amherst College Athletics Collection
  3. Edward (AC 1849) and Mary Judson Hitchcock Family Papers
  4. A. W. Marsh (AC 1913) Physical Education Department Records
  5. Amherst College Non-alumni biographical files: Paul C. Phillips, Richard F. Nelligan
  6. Amherst College Alumni biographical files: Edward Hitchcock, Jr., Class of 1849
  7. Albert E. Lumley Papers (unprocessed)
  8. Amherst College Bound Memorabilia Collection
  9. William Earl Dodge Ward (AC 1906) Family Papers, Series 4 (material relating to physical education in India through Ward's work with the YMCA and Boy's clubs)
  10. Cataloged works, including items previously owned by Edward Hitchcock, Jr. or the Department of Hygiene and Physical Education

Processing Information

There is no record of the provenance of the Amherst College Department of Hygiene and Physical Education Records, however, annotations in the hand of Edward Hitchcock, Jr. throughout the collection suggest that the records were collected by him in his role as head of the department.

These records were maintained as two separate collections, the Hygiene and Physical Education Department Records and the Anthropometry Records, until the collections were united and processed as a single collection in 2016. At the time of processing, little original order was discernable. The current arrangement scheme was imposed during processing.

Mariah Leavitt, Archives & Special Collections Specialist
2016 July
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299