In the fall of 1900, Baylor University had been in Waco for only fourteen years. Our copy of the Hand-Book of Information from that year is a small, unassuming volume with a faded green cover, a few slightly damaged pages, and some handwritten notes inside. It certainly doesn’t look like much when you first pick it up, but you know what they say about judging books….
Interestingly, it is the railroads that open and close this Baylor handbook. While we rely on highways for most of our transportation today, railways were essential for the vitality of Texas cities and institutions at this time. The lack of rail transportation in Independence, the University’s original location, contributed to Baylor’s move to Waco. The Hand-Book begins:
Waco is the central city of the coming Empire State of Texas and is the point of intersection of five important railways. It is the chief convention city of the State. Every year brings people here from far and near to meetings of political, educational, religious, scientific and industrial character.
Of course, along with all those people coming for meetings, the railroads brought students to Baylor which was “located in the southern part of the city, commanding a magnificent view of the valley of the Brazos and the outlying hills.”
Throughout its 24 pages, the Hand-Book of Information tries to persuade new students to come to Baylor. The young University boasts, “The property of the institution is worth about $250,000….The main building is three stories high and contains twenty lecture rooms, four libraries, laboratories, museum, art rooms, society halls, president’s and registrar’s offices, and the chapel.” One section of the handbook notes the reasons for Baylor’s strong appeal, including the standard of scholarship; its Christian tone; a democratic nature which allows every student to stand on his own merit, not on what his family has or has not done; the purity, wholesomeness and vigor of its student life; and the many opportunities to hear fine speakers and guest lecturers.
The Baylor campus was full of activity at the turn of the century. The Philomathesian, Erisophian, Adelphia, R.C.B. and Calliopean student societies are praised as “vigorous and helpful associations for the general culture of their members….The questions debated are usually those uppermost in the public mind.” Some Societies also maintained libraries which were open to all students.
Early twentieth-century parents were doubtless concerned about the company their children would keep while away from home. Under the heading “General Control” we read:
The students of Baylor University are animated by a fine spirit of “Loyalty, Democracy and Christianity.” Cases of discipline involving serious breaches of public order or morality are rare. The relations between the members of the faculty and students are usually cordially friendly and mutually considerate. Students who are unable to “get along” on this basis usually withdraw or are sent home.
After all the discussions of degrees and expenses, living arrangements, dining and athletic facilities, the railroads reappear at the end of the handbook. Having carried students to Baylor at the beginning of this volume, the railroads close the pamphlet by advertising all the places you can go when you leave Waco: Chicago, New Orleans, Mexico, California, San Antonio, Houston, Galveston. The wide world awaits, and the railroads are ready to facilitate both a young person’s travel and their larger journey. All that is needed is to ride the M.K. & T.–“The Katy Flyer ” or the Cotton Belt Route (St. Louis Southwestern Railway); take the S.A. & A.P Ry. (San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway), The Texas Central Railroad, the H. & T. C. R.R. or the Southern Pacific Sunset Route. Travel in comfort and style in through sleepers, and day cars, reclining chair cars, and Pullman Standards with “Parlor Buffet Service.” An educated man or woman has many choices—just pack your bags and begin the adventure! As they say on the Cotton Belt Route, “All Inquiries Cheerfully Answered by Mail or Otherwise.”