Friday, August 23, 2013

Pitt had as many Japanese as New Yorkers in 1896.

The University of Pittsburgh kindly scanned millions of pages worth of old documents and made the available online at Documenting Pitt. Flipping through them is a great way to spend a few months some time and learn a little about the international students at Pitt in the 19th and early-20th centuries.

The earliest record available of a Japanese student at what was then Western University of Pennsylvania is of two Japanese engineering students in 1893, Wahei Matsura and Saki Murayama. (The same year the school graduated its first African-American student, William Hunter Dammond.) There isn't a list of students by state and country of origin until the 1896 Catalogue of the Western University of Pennsylvania, which shows that one out of the 583 enrolled students was from Japan (the same as from Kentucky, New York, Germany, and Italy):

In 1916 an alumni directory was published, which lists alumni in alphabetical order and sorts them by country in another list. It includes 10 graduates from China, three from Japan, and one from Korea. Or, rather, one in Korea, as it's F.S. [Frederick Scheibler] Miller, a notable missionary and teacher there in the early-20th century.

Another collection shows that the early Western University of Pennsylvania yearbooks are a little bit like the ones of today: padded in the back with shoutouts and inside jokes. A nicer example from 1921's The Owl:
Otakichi Tanaka
Nagasaki, Japan
One of our neighbors from across "the way." Doesn't say much, but is always listening and when you can get him to talk, he's the most entertaining boy around. Persevering, you ask? You'd think he was if you knew he attends both day and evening school, wouldn't you? Well, he does, and is just as big a booster for the Evening School as any member of it. We're proud to have him with us and happy that he picked Pitt to come to.