top of page

Gem City Business College 

Quincy, Illinois

1874-1961 (name and program change)

Travel and E-Travel: 

Several catalogs for Gem City Business College are available from HathiTrust; three yearbooks are available from  “A Different Type of Football: Gem City Business College” by Timothy P. Brown describes the football program.

The seal (right) is from the 1914-15 catalog.

Gem City seal_edited.jpg


Gem City Business College was founded in 1870 by D. L. Musselman, a Civil War veteran.  It featured three departments: Banking and Actual Business, Normal Penmanship, and Shorthand and Typewriting. Each program was six months in length.  The school’s goal was to provide the training to allow each student to become a high-end wage earner in a short period of time. 


The 1900 catalog states that a common school education was sufficient for admission to the college.  It cites one instance of a girl who had completed coursework for shorthand and typewriting and obtained employment before her fifteenth birthday.  For graduation from the Banking and Actual Business Department students had to complete courses in bookkeeping, actual business practice, business penmanship, commercial law, business arithmetic, rapid calculation, business letter writing, business forms, and spelling—all at 85%.


The 1900 catalog shows a total enrollment of 856 from 33 states.  Of these, 342 graduated that year.  Faculty totaled 12.


Student activities included a mandolin club, a 29-member brass band, a male quartet, and a college literary society.  The college chartered two excursion boats to take students down to Hannibal for a football game.  During another year, the school chartered a train to take students to Kirksville for a game.


After World War II Gem City suffered the fate of other business colleges.  Four-year colleges and university began adding business departments, and employers began looking for college degrees as conditions for employment or advancement.  Also students began asking for more from college beyond job training, so enrollments at business colleges fell.  In 1961 Gem City Business College acquired the horology department from Bradley University and added the Quincy School of Cosmetology in 1975, in the process becoming Gem City College

Gem City Building_edited.jpg

The Musselman Building.  Image from the 1899 catalog.

Bricks and Mortar

In 1892 Musselman had a new building constructed on the corner of 7th and Hampshire Streets.   Known as the Musselman Building, it was built exclusively to fit the needs of the Gem City Business College.  A five-story stone and red brick structure in the Richardson Romanesque style, it was trimmed in terra cotta.  Measuring 88 x 155 feet, it had 30,000 square feet of space and had a capacity of 1200 students.  It featured steam heat, electric and gas lighting, and private telephone lines


Apparently, the ground floor was rented for shops, with the college occupying the upper four floors. Typing and Shorthand departments along with administrative offices were on the second floor.  The third floor was the location of the actual banking and business department.  The floor contained four large banks with desks for merchants.   The penmanship department, advanced bookkeeping, and a large auditorium were found on the fourth floor.  The top floor held the beginning bookkeeping classrooms.


Considered “outmoded,” as a college building, the Musselman Building was sold to the  Adams County Farm Bureau in 1953 and had since been razed. 


            Team Name: Gems

            School colors: Black and Gold


Gem City Business College teams faced the problem of all business colleges: finding an appropriate level of competition. The short-term academic programs led to a rapid turnover of players. So the schedule included small four-year schools, two-year schools, an occasional high school, and a few town teams.  Nevertheless, yearbooks show a 7-1 record in 1899 and back-to- back undefeated seasons in 1911 and 1912.  Timothy Brown says that G.C.B.C began football in 1891.  The earliest scores I found were two games in 1897.  Illinois competition included yearly games against Carthage College and Illinois College as well as games with Hedding, Quincy, and Lombard colleges.   In 1913 the Gems defeated what is today Western Illinois University 16-6.  Missouri competition included Kirksville College of Osteopathy, and what is today Culver-Stockton College. Christian Brothers College and Hannibal-LaGrange University. 

Gem City Football_edited.jpg

The 1899 football team.  Image from the catalog.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

bottom of page