South Jersey Institute
Bridgeton, New Jersey
Both A Souvenir of Bridgeton, NJ (1895) and Bridgeton Evening News (1906) have extended profiles of South Jersey Institute. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Bridgeton Evening News covered school events. The City of Bridgeton, New Jersey (1889) also has a section on the school.
South Jersey Institute was a product of the West New Jersey Baptist Association, which wanted a school “to promote the moral and literary education of both sexes.” Chartered in 1865, it formally opened in 1870 with 35 students and three teachers.
South Jersey Institute was essentially a college preparatory school. City of Bridgeton lists five courses of study—college, preparatory, institute, business, and music. The college course of four years prepared students to enter college without examination. The institute was a three-year “practical preparation for life” course. The “preparatory” course was a one-year junior high school.
A 1906 profile in Bridgeton Evening News breaks down the college prep into three courses—classical (Greek and Latin), Latin scientific (Latin, German, and French) and English Scientific (science, history and modern languages).
The Commercial course featured bookkeeping, typewriting, stenography, business arithmetic, business correspondence, and commercial law. Souvenir notes that a program also existed for “those intending to teach.”
Newspapers report the activities of two literary societies—Philosophian for males and Jean Ingelow for females. The two societies published the Philosophian Review. Ruby and White was another student publication. The music department provided both an orchestra and a glee club. As a Christian school, S.J.I. had daily bible readings and provided a Y.M.C.A. chapter. Commencement week featured an art exhibition, and displays of oratorical skills.
South Jersey Institute was felled by two forces—improved public education that cut into enrollment, and the unwillingness of the West New Jersey Baptist Association to continue support. The school closed in 1907.
Bricks and Mortar
Bridgeton, with a population of “nearly 13,000,” was free of saloons; Philadelphia and Wilmington were an hour away; New York City only two hours.
The campus contained 15 acres, covered in a “natural growth of oaks, pines and cedars,” overlooking the Cohansey River. Main Hall was located on the highest land in the county, providing “plenty of pure air." The red brick Main Hall was five stories over basements. The two wings provided a length of 157 feet. With gas lights and steam heat, it contained classrooms, reception rooms, a lecture hall, a library, a laboratory, music rooms, and observatories. The upper two floors served as dormitory rooms for 125 students.
By 1906 the dormitory served only male students; females attended S.J.I. as day students.
In keeping with the school’s emphasis in sports, a gymnasium had been added and what Souvenir calls an enclosed campus, with fields for baseball, football and other sports.
Colors: Ruby and white
South Jersey Institute had a strong athletic tradition. A preparatory school, it lined up against the strongest regional teams—Peddie Institute, West Jersey Academy, Perkiomen Seminary, Pennington School, Bordentown Military Academy, and Drexel Institute. S.J.I. also challenged opponents such as Bridgeton Athletic Club, Banks Business College, Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, U. of Pennsylvania Freshmen, and Villanova.
South Jersey played football from 1889 when it defeated a picked team 44-0. The first listed baseball game was in 1883 against Bridgeton Athletic Club. In addition to its own field day each spring, S.J.I. entered a track team in the Penn Relays. And with the addition of a Gymnasium, S.J.I. developed a basketball program.
A 1900 photo in the Inquirer shows that S.J.I. had also developed a girls’ basketball team.
Library of Congress photo of Main Hall. (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004666862/
1895 Phildelphia Inquirer image of the South Jersey Institute baseball team.