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Ricker Classical Institute

Houlton, Maine




I was able to purchase a copy of the 1958 Acquilo, source of the logo.  Ricker has a strong  alumni association, which maintains a website with the school history and photos.  The Maine Historical Society has a number of photos online.  Internet Archive now has copies of early Ricker College catalogues.  Cary Library in Houlton updated information about the campus.


Ricker College began as Houlton Academy in 1848. Reverend Joseph Ricker, the State Secretary of the Maine Baptist Convention, re-established the school after its closure in 1873; it was renamed Ricker Classical Institute in 1887. Originally a secondary school, Ricker had an enrollment of 130 by 1926, when it added a fifth year to the curriculum to meet local demands for further training.   By 1934 it had added a sixth year and had become Ricker Junior College, effectively serving as the community college for its region.  In 1949 Ricker became a four-year liberal arts college and was accredited in 1966.  Still, as late as the 1970’s, advertisements for Ricker emphasized that it was a “co-ed boarding college preparatory school for grades 9-12.”


Enrollment in 1958 was around 180—many were students in the commercial program.  School activities included four different musical groups, a commercial club, chapters of Future Homemakers of America and the National Honor Society.  Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y were available for high school students.  The major social event of the school year was the Sno-Ball.  The 1903-04 catalogue shows an athletic association as well as chapters of the Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A., and Philomusian Society.


At an earlier time in Ricker history, the drama and music students combined to perform Pirates of Penzance.


In 1966, just as Ricker gained accreditation, the Maine legislature dealt the school a  death stroke.  By passing the Sinclair Act, it established School Administrative Districts across the state.  These created public colleges, which siphoned off many Ricker students.  As a result Riker began to experience falling numbers and consequent financial hardships. Finally in May 1978, Riker College closed its doors.  

Wording Hall and Ricker Students in 1903 (

accessed 10-16-2017

Bricks and Mortar


Wording Hall, Ricker’s classroom and administration building, was constructed in 1886, the result of a $30,000 gift from the Wording family in Grand Forks, North Dakota. 


The original Wording Hall burned in 1944.  It was replaced in 1946 by a new Wording Hall. Another key building was Putnam Gymnasium, dedicated in 1948 as part of the Ricker centennial celebration.


According to Cary Library, part of the campus is an apartment complex today.  One building has been renovated as a branch of the University of Maine.  The library is now a private residence.





          Colors: Originally Purple and Gray

          Team name:  Bulldogs was a later adoption.  Early newspapers call the team “Purple and Gray.”


Ricker’s prep teams were members of the Aroostook County Preparatory League, playing against similar teams.  A Centennial edition of the local newspaper shows a championship baseball team in 1910.  Ricker’s history against collegiate competition in football shows little to celebrate.  Early attempts to play Maine’s four-year schools ended in an 11-0 loss to Colby in 1904 and a 37-0 loss to Maine in 1908.   In the 1940’s Ricker teams lost three games to Maine Maritime Academy.   Games against Freshman teams from Colby in the 1920’s and 30’s were also unsuccessful.  However there was a victory over the Bowden Freshmen in 1936.


Ricker also fielded a girls’ basketball team.  The Houlton Pioneer Times called the 1932 team “title winning.” 


The 1915 R.C.I. girls' basketball team.  ( )  accessed 10-16-2017

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.

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