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College of St. Francis Xavier

New York, New York

1847-1912 (College), 1847- (High School)


Four key sources are available on either HathiTrust or Internet ArchiveThe College of St. Francis Xavier: A Memorial and a Retrospect, 1847-1897 is a history of the school’s first fifty years.  Also available are St. Francis Xavier College Bulletin and Alumni Catalogue 1913,   The College of St. Francis Xavier Grammar School 1902-03, and The Latin Play The Two Captives of Plautus by the Students of the College of St. Francis Xavier New York.


The Fathers of the Society of Jesus founded the School of the Holy Name of Jesus as a day school in 1847.  In 1850, when it moved to a new building, it took the name of College of St. Francis Xavier.  While the first class graduated in 1855, the school was not chartered to award degrees until 1862.  The main departments were grammar, preparatory, collegiate, and post-collegiate.  Enrollment was 175 in 1850.  It had reached 500 by 1863. In 1897 enrollment was 781—91 post-collegiate, 163 collegiate, 336 preparatory and 191 grammar.


St. Francis was a very strong academic school.  Classes were taught in Latin.  In Pantheos, Pat McNamara lists the elements of the entrance examination for the collegiate department in 1899.  Students were required to sight read Latin, to decline regular and irregular Greek verbs, to translate French passages into correct English, to solve quadratic equations and problems in plane and solid geometry, and discuss the “matter and form” of selected English and American literary passages.


Co-curricular activities grew out of what A Memorial calls the school’s “special training in public speaking and strict standards of the usual classical studies.”  Consequently, students had a tradition of dramatic performances and oratory.   An 1890 performance of the Two Captives by Plautus was so well staged and performed in both English and Latin that it was performed again at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.  A Memorial notes that some plays, such as The Critic, were called for so often that they were seen as “an ordinary exercise in school life.”


The Debating Society celebrated its Silver Anniversary in 1880.  By 1883 a student newspaper Xavier was begun, with editors chosen by the students themselves.  Blessed with faculty members who were superb composers and musicians, St. Francis Xavier became known for its music.  A Memorial reports that even Protestants attended masses there to hear the music.


At some point after 1912, St. Francis Xavier’s College dropped the collegiate department.  St. Francis Xavier High School continues today.

Cast of The Captives, performerd by St. Francis Xavier students at the World's Fair in 1893.  Image from The Two Captives (;view=1up;seq=28) accessed 2-18-2017

Bricks and Mortar

The school occupied rented rooms for its first two years. In 1850 students moved into a new building on 15th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.  Expanded enrollment and programs required new facilities.


In 1886 a new building was begun on 16th Street.  This was a massive five-story quarried stone building, measuring 184 feet by 62 feet.  Among its chief features was a permanent theatre, providing drama students with facilities to display their talents to advantage.


In 1905 the school purchased property on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, announcing in 1912 that the collegiate department would locate there. 


The present Medgar Evers College Preparatory School is now located on Brooklyn site.  The present St. Francis Xavier High School is still located in the area of the original building.


The 16th Street building.  Image from The Captives (;view=1up;seq=8)  accessed 2-18-2017


      Colors: Present high school colors are Maroon and Blue.  These appear to have been the colors in 1902.


College football Data Warehouse lists games between 1882 and 1902.  Twelve of 25 listed games were with Fordham.  Other opponents were St. Francis, Seton Hall, St. John’s, De La Salle, N.Y.U., and C.C.N.Y.   The only newspaper listing was a game with Fordham in 1889.


The New York Tribune shows hockey matches with Oriental Athletic Club and Boys High School of Brooklyn in 1901 and 1905.  But that St. Francis Xavier College may have been the one in Nova Scotia, which was also an opponent of Harvard.


Newspapers do show that the St. Francis Xavier chess team was challenged to a match by a team from City College.  C.C.N.Y. won the match 2-0-1.

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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