West Florida Seminary
Florida State University has placed digital copies of early yearbooks on Internet Archive. The school’s first yearbook was the Argo, published in 1901. Three issues were published before the school began a 40-year history as a women’s college. According to that 1901 yearbook, part of the president’s job was the physical correction of unruly students.
In 1851 the Florida legislature commissioned two state “seminaries” of higher learning—one east and one west of the Suwannee River. So these date their origin from that act. However the West Florida Seminary did not actually begin classes until 1856. During the 1882-85 period, it was called the Literary College of Florida University, and after 1885 it was the Academic Department. It offered three degrees—Bachelor of Arts emphasizing Greek and Latin; Bachelor of Science emphasizing natural science and modern languages; and Bachelor of Letters, emphasizing English, German and Romance Languages.
In 1901 the school advertized three branches: the academy, the normal school, and the college. After a name change to Florida State College in 1902, it added a fourth branch—the school of music. The 1901 Argo shows a student body of 171—35 in the college, 77 in the academy, and 59 in the normal program. There were also seven “special students.”
The two rival student groups were the Anaxagorean Literary Society and the Platonic Debating Society—each with more than 20 members. The highlight of their year was commencement week, when each society had a day to display its talents. The school also had a Dramatic Club and an Oratorical Association.
The 1905 Buckman plan reorganized higher education in Florida, segregating state-supported schools by race and gender. At that point Florida State College became Florida Female College. It was not until the aftermath of World War II that the school once again accepted male students, becoming the school we know today as Florida State University.
College Hall in 1901 Image from Argo, accessed 1-19-2017. <archive.org/details/argo219011902flor>)
Bricks and Mortar
College Hall, built in 1891, was the second home of the West Florida Seminary, replacing an 1854 building. The 1901 Argo describes College Hall as a “handsome and commodious building, situated on a high hill in the western part of the city.” Both the men’s and women’s dormitories were wooden structures. As the college continued to grow, College Hall was no longer adequate and so was “removed” according to the Flastacowo. In 1910 Wescott Hall, a new administration building, was built on the same location. It continues to be used today to house the administration of Florida State University
Colors: Purple and Gold
The 1901 Argo shows teams in football, base ball and track. The yearbooks carefully list team members (called “officers”) along with positions. And we learn that the best quarter-mile time that year was 1:47. But except for football, the Argo is silent on opponents or scores.
The 1902 football team played a three-game schedule, defeating South Georgia Military Institute, which contained former University of Georgia players. The team split games with Florida Agricultural College of Lake City—one of the ancestors of the present University of Florida.
By 1902-03 Florida State College also had a tennis club, a golf club, and a women’s basketball team. Again there is no indication of schedule or results.
1902 football team. (Image from Argo accessed 1-19-2017 <archive.org/details/argo31903flor>)