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The Prospect Union.

Rev. Robert E. Ely, President.
The object of the Prospect Union is to bring as many as possible of the advantages of Harvard University within the reach of workingmen through evening classes taught by Harvard students, and through lectures by members of the Harvard Faculty and other persons. There is in Cambridge, particularly in Cambridgeport, a large population of wage-earners. In Cambridge reside also a large number of Harvard students. Students were formerly often regarded with unfriendliness by workingmen, and the life of the average wage-earner was quite outside the knowledge of the average Harvard student. The Prospect Union has attempted to bring students and wage-earners into friendly relations, and to get them to understand and to help each other. The Union was named from the Prospect House Building on Massachusetts Avenue near Central Square. In this building the Union began its work in January, 1891, under the leadership of Rev. Robert E. Ely and Professor Francis G. Peabody, of Harvard. Its beginning was so small as to be insignificant, but the little group of workingmen and Harvard students increased rapidly, and there has been a constant and encouraging growth ever since. Finally the Prospect House no longer afforded adequate room, and a change of location was necessary. The old city hall was taken at a nominal rental in the fall of 1894, and a year later became the property of the Union. This building is well adapted to the work now carried on there, and has been renovated recently. In it reside the president of the Union and four of his colabor-ers. The Prospect Union, therefore, is not merely a workingmen's college, but is also something like a ‘college settlement.’

Classes are held every evening of the week except Wednesday, in a great variety of subjects, ranging from the most elementary instruction in the English branches to foreign languages, [266] ancient and modern, history, political economy, the natural sciences, the higher mathematics, drawing, and such studies as book-keeping and shorthand. There are also classes in music, vocal and instrumental. The teachers of the classes are with one or two exceptions Harvard students, who receive no pay in money for their services. At present there are nearly one hundred of these student-teachers, and their devotion to their classes is marked. So great is the interest in the Prospect Union on the part of the university that there is no difficulty in finding a plenty of college men to lend their aid, and these students are among the men of highest rank in scholarship and of prominence in other respects in the university.

The weekly meeting of the Union is held on Wednesday evening. At this time there is usually a lecture, often by some member of the Harvard Faculty. Lectures have been delivered by President Eliot, Professors Charles Eliot Norton, Francis G. Peabody, W. W. Goodwin, F. W. Taussig, A. B. Hart, G. H. Palmer, and many other members of the Harvard Faculty; also by Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Rt. Rev. William Lawrence, Mr. John Graham Brooks, Rt. Rev. J. H. Vincent, Mr. John Fiske, Dean George Hodges, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, Mrs. Lucy Stone, Mrs. Alice Freeman Palmer, Miss Vida D. Scudder, Rev. Dr. Lyman Abbott, Rev. Dr. Washington Gladden, etc., etc. The lecturers, like the teachers, receive no pay for their services in money.

The Prospect Union is not a charitable institution. Its members, who number over six hundred, pay a regular fee of three dollars a year or twenty-five cents a month. They are workingmen of almost every nationality, and of every shade of political and religious belief. The Union rests upon an absolutely non-sectarian basis; Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Gentile, meet upon a footing of manliness and friendliness.

The Union is characterized by a spirit of independence and yet of kindly feeling of men who differ widely from one another. There is no element of patronage or condescension on the part of the Harvard students, but they meet the members of their classes on the basis of a common manhood. Members have not only the privileges of the classes and the lectures, but also of the reading-room, library, social-room, bath-room, summer outings, and various concerts and entertainments.

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1894 AD (1)
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