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Oberlin Business College

Oberlin, Ohio



The December 7, 1892 Wellington Enterprise did a profile of Oberlin Business College.  But the best information comes from “A Brief History of the Oberlin College of Commerce.” on the Electronic Oberlin Group website.  


Oberlin Business College dated its origin from a bookkeeping and writing school conducted by E. G. Folsom in 1845.  “A Brief History” notes that in a time before typewriters, many official documents were hand written, so classes in “ornamental” penmanship were popular.  Note the textbook cover above.



Each year newspapers reported an increase in enrollment, but actual numbers are more difficult to ascertain.  In 1903 Business Education in the United States reported an enrollment of 236.  Biennial Survey of Education shows 380 in 1918.  While O.B.C. drew many local students, its reputation was such that students came from 22 states and four foreign countries.  While much of the news from the school emphasized job opportunities for graduates, O.B.C sponsored an annual Thanksgiving party with a drama performed by students.  A Brief History shows a school orchestra, a newspaper, and the Beta Gamma Sorority.  


Like many stand-alone business schools, Oberlin Business College saw an enrollment decline after World War II.  It closed in 1973 after 128 years..


The Enterprise shows that by 1892 the Oberlin Business College was conducted by Uriah McKee, a penmanship teacher, and John T. Henderson, one of his former pupils.  O.B.C. was composed of three separate schools:  the school of penmanship, the school of typewriting and stenography (organized in 1884), and the business college.  Until at least 1884 Oberlin Business College was associated with neighboring Oberlin College, but the two schools gradually drifted apart. 


In 1895 Oberlin Business College was chartered by the state.  In 1915 it was accredited to offer a two-year training course for business teachers.  In 1926 it underwent a name change to Oberlin School of Commerce.  In 1936 it was accepted as a member of the American Association of Junior Colleges.

Henry C. Dugas was an early graduate of Oberlin Business College.  O.B.C. was one of the earliest integrated colleges.$b712981&view=1up&seq=119

Bricks and Mortar

The Enterprise noted that because of increased enrollment, the Oberlin Business College had moved to two locations in downtown Oberlin, occupying two rooms in the Goodrich Building on the east side of Main and College Streets and three rooms across the street in the Royce Block.  All rooms were on the second floor of two-story brick structures.  The article emphasized that the rooms were well ventilated and lighted.


As the school continued to grow, it moved to the second floor of the new two-story brick Beckwith Building, sharing that building with the post office.    Then in 1914 O.B.C. occupied rooms the new Hobbs Building at 51 Main Street.  A covered walkway connected this building to the Beckwith Building. 


The Beckwith Building has been razed.  The other buildings are part of the Historical Downtown Oberlin area.



Google streetside image of the Hobbs Building.  College rooms were on the second floor.


The first reference to an O.B.C. sports team I encountered was in 1893.  That year the football team defeated Wellington High School 4-0 and lost to Elyria High School 6-4.  A year later the team lost to Lorain High School 12-4 and to Baldwin-Wallace College 22-4.  Results appear sporadically until 1912.  Most games were against high schools or town teams.  An announced game in Cleveland against Modern Business College in 1903 likely shows the nature of the program; it states, “All wishing to play, please report on time.”


Newspapers reported in 1900 that a baseball team was being organized, with a call for games against business colleges, high schools and academies.  Basketball activity is first reported in 1915 with a game against Mounds High School. Basketball opponents tended to be collegiate.  Spencerian Business College, Ohio College of Chiropody, John Marshall Law School, and Dyke Business College were in the number.  On March 5, 1966 Bliss College of Columbus, Ohio defeated O.B.C. 207-88, a record for points scored. 

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