chat loading...
Skip to Main Content

Principia Archives


Exhibits are planned, designed, and installed on the Principia College campus. They showcase the Principia Archives, artwork, and cultural objects from the Principia Collections. We encourage you to find inspiration by viewing these exhibits at The Principia College:

  • Marshall Brooks Library - 1st Floor, West Study Area, 3rd floor Gallery, and Lobby display case.
  • Merrick/Davis Theater and Music Building foyer display cases.

Principia Cadet Corps - Library Exhibit 2022

Principia Cadet Corps (1905-1935): 30 Years of Noble Character

Come visit the 1st and 3rd floor Exhibit and Gallery space to learn more about the fascinating history of the Principia Cadet Corps. The Cadet Corps experience had an enormous impact on Principia's students. You are invited to peruse exhibit cases on the first floor, West Study Area, and imagine wearing wool uniforms during the hot spring months. Take a walk upstairs to look closer at the enlarged photographs displayed in the 3rd-floor gallery. See what life would have been like during those early decades at Principia. Visit the Marshall Brooks Library (through Dec. 2022) and explore!

Put yourself in a cadet's shoes without internet or apps, TV, or cell phone: The American Civil War was fought by your grandparents' generation. World War I will explode into your life while you are in school, and you will likely participate. You personally know Principia's founder Mary Kimball Morgan and her family. Your campus is in St. Louis, on Page Blvd., near the center of the bustling city, and all grades from Kindergarten to Junior College share the same campus spaces. Your day is highly structured in a military-style ranking system that is displayed on your uniform and adhered to in drill formations as well as in your dorm life. However, life wasn't all about the cadets. It also included academics, athletics, fine arts, parties, dances, and social events.

The photographs displayed are from a larger collection housed in the Principia Archives and soon will be posted on the Principia Digital Collections website. We hope you enjoy it!

During the spring of 1905, the idea of a Principia Cadet Corps arose from a discussion during a Principia parents' meeting. Parents complained that their children needed to learn better manners and that their children were giving undue attention to what attire they wore to school. The idea of a student uniform was presented.

Although Principia was not a military academy, the uniform essentially sparked the idea of instituting a cadet corps. Fashionable military-style uniforms were selected for boys and girls, and Arthur T. Morey led the way later that year into what became a 30-year program at Principia.

Arthur T. Morey originally conceived of the cadet corps as a voluntary organization, having some previous familiarity from attending a high school cadet corps in Denver, Colorado. It didn't take long after that Parents' meeting voted in favor of a cadet corps before the training began with Morey. The new cadets were assembled on a Wednesday afternoon and Morey began drills with them two days a week. thereafter. It was during Morey’s 5 years of governance that he was bestowed the title 'Colonel' (even though his highest military rank was actually of a 'Major'

In the early days, the boys were initially admitted as cadets by application. The cadets organized and drew up a constitution with by-laws and regulations for their own governance. (Garner E. Hubbell was a student on the original by-laws committee.) A clause of the 1910 Cadet Corps Constitution, as published in the 1910 Principia Prospectus - 'The purposes of this organization are: to learn the re­sponsibility and the discharge of duty; the meaning of dis­cipline; the acquiring of self-control; the acquitting of au­thority; the attainment of proper and manly carriage; the appreciation of truthfulness, and the acquisition of true gen­tlemanliness and noble character.'

In 1911, Garner E. Hubbell (Captain, class of 1908) took over for Colonel Morey, serving as Commandant of the Cadet Corps until 1927. Hubbell brought greater discipline, inspections, and overall stricter demands, such as requiring uniforms to be worn at all times. All boys above third grade in good academic standing participated in cadet activities in addition to their schoolwork and athletics.

The Cadet Corps was a democratic, self-disciplined organization subject to the government of the school. The Cadet Corps provided structure for every boy’s daily life while attending Principia, with many fundamentals derived from U.S. Army regulations. The boys were grouped into companies where older cadets held authority and responsibilities after having proved and progressed themselves through successful ranking. Learning through a deep foundation in character education was the priority throughout all activities.

All students wore sensible uniforms that were also fashionable for the time. Cadets wore drab olive green uniforms for their everyday activities with accompanying accessories, hats, and footwear. In the early years, a grey/blue dress uniform with simple tweed stripes was worn for formal events. White duck (canvas) trousers were substituted in warm weather and wool overcoats were added in cold weather. During the 1920s, a navy blue dress uniform was substituted for the grey/blue uniform. Both are found in the exhibit display.

Once World War I broke out and the possibility for the Cadets going off to war increased, there was a shift in preparation activities. During the time surrounding the war, cadet activities intensified in all facets. Drills increased to 50-minute daily drills, practical work, interior guard duty, and one hour a week of theoretical work. Field exercises increased, with 3 to 5 hours on Saturdays. There was an additional 2 hours a week devoted to special subject studies in small groups such as patrols, map reading, surveying work, and signaling. By the fall of 1917, Principia conformed the cadet training to ROTC instructions. Preparation proved to be of great value to the enlisted Principia boys and men. "Over eighty percent of the graduates of Principia who entered the army became commissioned officers," wrote Arthur T. Morey, Cadet Corps - Commandant.

The Military Ball had its roots in a cadet celebration banquet for George Washington's birthday. Not many cadet-only banquets passed before the girls decided to crash the event, and with enthusiasm by all, the annual "cadet hop" was established in 1911. All Principia students, Alumni, Trustees, and friends were invited to the grand event. In 1915, it was noted in the yearbook that they "ushered in the gala affair by raising "Old Glory" and firing a small cannon on stage". Howard Gymnasium was transformed with decorations of red, white, and blue bunting, gold and blue school colors, flags, large palms, and a full orchestra.

The last year Junior College students participated formally in the Military Ball was 1927. The 1936 Military Ball, celebrating the 30th and final year of cadet corps activities, was fittingly the most opulent produced: from the invitations, decorations, spotlights, giant red velvet curtains to hide gymnasium features, and full banquet, to the pre-dance entertainment of the cadet's complicated drill formation demonstration and ranked grand march to usher in the dance.

Although women held all manner of valued positions in all facets of a student's education at Principia, including the founder Mary Kimball Morgan, there is a surprising lack of written and/or photographic evidential details to help us remember the historical significance and place girls and women held equal to the cadet activities during these 30 years. There are, however, two areas where details about women and girls are noted: uniforms and dances.

Female students were required to wear uniforms (in an effort to remove importance from a focus on clothing), but only during the school week. The designs over the years were functionally simple in navy and/or white with hints of military design themes. They wore 'middy' blouses and long navy blue skirts, and white crepe de chine options for evenings and social functions. The color of one's scarf was where there was an option for personal flair. Junior College women could opt out of uniforms for their evening attire.

Cadet corps training had always been met with a certain level of opposition in the Christian Science community. With years of post-World War 1 drills, the intensity and usage of government-supplied rifles, training at early ages, and a general appearance of sympathy with war in general, the opposition rose even further. By 1925, the response was to minimize the war-like sense and eliminate as much military focus as possible. In 1927, Hubbell retired from his Commandant duties to take up work as Dean of Men, and cadet work was entirely discontinued for Junior College students. Additionally, intense drill work was eliminated except for the basic training at the start of the year for the Upper School boys. The organizational structure continued for the boys; however, the focus was turned toward band practice. There had always been a number of boys in the band, boys that either had a strong inclination for playing music or those boys with less interest in military drills. The training as a method for character education was maintained, focusing on "... Such qualities as teamplay, promptness, neatness, obedience, and the ability to give and receive an order impersonally."

By 1929, Principia offered a soft transition with an option for continued camaraderie and inclusivity, "Every boy in the Cadet Corps who wanted to, regardless of any sense of musical limitation that may have been placed upon him" a chance to play in the band. A former Cadet-turned-Commandant, Lt. Chauncey B. Nelson, wrote in a letter to the Trustees that he felt the enrollment numbers went up and there was renewed interest in the military work by having less time devoted only to it. Approximately 25 stayed with drills and over 60 boys moved to the band. As a result, later that year, 45 musicians went to support the basketball team playing against Pembroke College. The Pembroke coach remarked, "when the band marched out on the floor at the basketball game he felt that his team was defeated right there. The unity and spirit manifested by the band was truly Principian and sent a thrill through all of us who were there."

Years of increased pressure from the Trustees and the College's move to Elsah created an opportunity for the complete dissolution of the Cadet Corps in 1935. For a short time thereafter the color guard and band used the uniforms for occasional events, but that too ended. In 1936, a final grand Military Ball closed out the 30 years of Principia's Cadet Corps era.

Frank Parker - Merrick/Davis Exhibit 2018-2020

Frank Parker

Frank Parker
Principia Actor - Director - Professor

Visit Merrick/Davis Theater and Music Building foyer to learn about this beloved professor and one who inspired Principia student , now world famous actor, Robert Duvall.

Frederick Oakes Sylvester - Library Exhibit 2018 & 2019

Frederick Oakes Sylvester, ca. 1911
Frederick Oakes Sylvester
Painter - Poet - Principia Art Director

Come visit the Frederick Oakes Sylvester Exhibit, 2018, at the Marshall Brooks Library on the 3rd Floor Gallery and the 1st floor lobby display case.