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American Temperance University

Harriman, Tennessee



American Temperance University received regional newspaper coverage at its opening.  It also received a brief write up in Education Journal.  The Tennessee State Library and Archives has the 1898 Register and kindly provided scanned materials from that document.


American Temperance University opened in September 1893.  The town of Harriman, TN, itself founded in 1890, was alcohol free, planned as a temperance center.  Its citizens put up the funds and land for the university.  Even before school began, it had received student applications from Alabama, Illinois, Michigan and New York.  The first year's enrollment reached 250.  By the second year 345, representing 20 states, were enrolled.  A year later enrollment peaked at 355 students. 


In addition to the department of liberal arts, A.T.U. had departments of law, music, art, military, gymnasium, normal and preparatory.  In 1899 the law school matriculated 13 and graduated 10.


In 1900 Werner’s Magazine notes that A.T.U.’s school of oratory under the direction of Franklin A. Pearce (above)  had 76 pupils.  Two terms of class work in elocution were required for both college and preparatory students.  That school did an annual entertainment for the university community. There seems also to have been a school of domestic science in which young ladies were taught the “arts of etiquette, entertaining, proper table settings, and running a household.”


Education Journal in 1899 notes that prohibition was a “course of study.”  It was incorporated into every class and permeated the lectures and reading for those classes in the same way that ethics might be.  Prohibition was described as the warp that held the education and training together.


In 1899 the Frances E. Willard Chair of Social Science was founded.  Through this chair, A.T.U. saw the beginning of a “systematic circle of scholarly lecturers. . .who will regularly visit the classes in all parts of the country—a college on wheels.”  By this means, the college believed that the prohibition focus could become nationwide.


The school had two literary societies—Parnassian and Spensonian.  It had a cadet corps, and it had musical groups.  


The School later changed its name to American University.  In Harriman (2014) John Norris Brown blames the 2008 closure on "an academic scandal and declining enrollment."

Bricks and Mortar

The citizens of Harriman provided “three large buildings,” one of which—Exposition Hall—was equipped for a gymnasium.  Temperance Hall, built by the East Tennessee Land Company in 1891, became the main building.  Originally known as Greenlee Hall, It was a three-story red brick structure.  After the school closed, it served as a jail.  Today, it houses Harriman city offices and has a museum in the basement.  It was listed on the National Register in 1971.  Most recently the Ghost Hunter of Southern Tennessee found an “exceptional amount of paranormal activity” in the building.


Another extant ATU building is the Bushrod W. James Hall of Domestic Science for Young Ladies.  This building, now called Bushrod Hall, is a bed and breakfast in the Cornstalk Heights Historic District

Bushrod Hall as a bed and breakfast. (Photo by Brian Stansberry. < C.C 3.0)  accessed 5-17-2018

Temperance Hall today. (Photo by Brian Stansberry.  <,_Tennessee#mediaviewer/File:Harriman-city-hall-tn1.jpg>  accessed 5-17-2018


Newspaper accounts from 1904 mention a game with a team from Jellico, TN, American Temperance winning 18-0.  College Football Data Warehouse shows games in 1905-07.  All games listed were against either the University of Tennessee or Maryville College.  Records show that A.T.U. lost to Maryville College seven times; the team had a 5-5 draw with Tennessee to set against a 104-0 loss in 1905.  The team defeated Chattanooga 10-0 in 1907.

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