What Did Students Study in Southern Colleges Before the Civil War?

By Alfred Brophy

What did students study in Southern colleges before the Civil War? Well, in algebra class, they sometimes studied how terrible Yankees were. Take several examples from the math textbook of Professor D. H. Hill of Davidson College:

A Yankee mixes a certain number of wooden nutmegs, which cost him 1/4 cent apiece, with a quantity of real nutmegs, worth 4 cents apiece, and sells the whole assortment for $44; and gains $3.75 by the fraud. How many wooden nutmegs were there?

Fun in math class, eh? (Am I right in thinking that 4x-1/4x=375?)

And they studied the hiring of a slave:

A planter hired a negro-man at the rate of $100 per annum, and his clothing. At the end of 8 months the master of the slave took him home, and received $75 in cash, and no clothing. What was the clothing valued at?

Also, on the issue of emancipation and the generosity of North and South, try this problem:

A gentleman in Richmond expressed a willingness to liberate his slave, valued at $1000, upon the receipt of that sum from charitable persons. He received contributions from 24 persons; and of these there were 14/19ths fewer from the North than from the South, and the average donation of the former was 4/5ths smaller than that of the latter. What was the entire amount given by the latter?

Mighty interesting stuff to see what’s on the minds of antebellum textbook authors, isn’t it? I will talk shortly about some of the more traditional curriculum in southern colleges shortly.


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