Bowdoin College, the oldest and most prominent literary institution in the state of Maine, situated at Brunswick, on an elevated plain S. of the village, about 1 m. from the Androscoggin river, and 4 m. from the shore of the Atlantic ocean. It was named in honor of Gov. James Bowdoin of Massachusetts. Prior to the revolution it had been proposed to establish a college in Maine, then a district of Massachusetts; but it was not till 1788 that a petition for a charter was presented to the Massachusetts legislature, from the association of ministers and the court of sessions for Cumberland county. The charter was granted in 1794, together with five townships as a foundation for the college, whose object, as stated in the act of incorporation, should be to " promote virtue and piety, and the knowledge of the languages and of the useful and liberal arts and sciences." The government was vested in two boards, one of trustees and the other of overseers, which met in 1801, and elected Joseph McKeen, D. D., a graduate of Dartmouth, for president of the college, and John Abbott, a graduate of Harvard, for professor of languages. These officers were installed in 1802, when eight students were admitted, and in 1806 the first honors bestowed by the new institution were conferred upon eight graduates.
A single building at this time served all the college uses, and also as the residence of the family of the president. President McKeen, dying in 1807, was succeeded by Jesse Appleton, D. D., who during the 12 years of his presidency contributed largely to the prosperity of the college. James Bowdoin, son of the governor, had before made a donation to the college of 1,000 acres of land and more than £1,100; and at his death in 1811 he left to it another donation of land, 400 models in crystallography, more than 500 specimens of minerals which had been arranged by Hauy, an elegant private library, and a costly collection of paintings. This gallery, since then much increased, is one of rare excellence, and the crystals and minerals were the nucleus of the large and valuable mineralogical and conchological cabinets which have been collected and arranged by Prof. Cleaveland. Upon the death of President Appleton in 1819, the Rev. William Allen, who had formerly been president of Dartmouth university, was elected his successor, and retained the office till 1839, with the exception of a short interval in 1831, when, being indirectly removed by an act of the legislature of Maine, which had now become a separate state, he contended against the authority of the state thus to control the college, and the question was decided in his favor by adjudication in the circuit court of the United States. President Allen was succeeded by Leonard Woods, D. D., who held the position till 1866. In 1867 the Rev. Samuel Harris, S. T. D., became president, and was succeeded in 1871 by Joshua L. Chamberlain, LL. D. - There are now eight college buildings, all large brick structures, excepting the chapel, which is of light granite, in the Romanesque style, and " Memorial Hall," of the same material.
It was begun in 1846 and completed in 1855, and has rooms also for the library and picture gallery. The government of the college is vested in a board of 13 trustees and 40 overseers. Among the trustees are the president and vice president of the college. There is a visiting committee and an examining committee, each composed of two trustees and three overseers, and a finance committee of two trustees and two overseers. Besides the president, there are, including those in the medical school, 17 professors, 8 instructors, and 6 lecturers. During the year 1871-'2 the college had 163 undergraduates, 4 post-graduates, and 67 medical students; total, 234. The college year, divided into three terms, begins about the middle of September and ends on the second Wednesday of July, when the commencement exercises are held; there is a vacation of six weeks, beginning the last week in November, between the first and second terms, and one of a week in April, between the second and third terms. The regular course of study comprises four years - all studies being required, except that for the third term of the junior year Italian and Greek are optional, and for the second term of the senior year Spanish is optional. Examinations are held at the end of each term.
Besides the regular classical course, there is a scientific course for undergraduates. The degree of Sc. B. is conferred in this department. There is also a post-graduate course of two years in philosophy and the arts, in which are conferred the degrees of A. M., Sc. D., and Ph. D. Graduates who have completed any post-graduate course with honor may be appointed fellows, to reside at college, with all the privileges of the same, one or two years longer without charge. Instruction is given in military science, and daily exercises in drill are held, by an officer of the army detailed to perform these duties. The annual college expenses for each student are $60 for tuition and $10 for room rent. Ten scholarships, each yielding from $50 to $G0 per annum, have been founded by individual benefactors, and there are several college scholarships. Assistance is furthermore afforded to students from a fund of $6,000 given by Mrs. Amos Lawrence of Massachusetts, and one of $2,000 given by Daniel W. Lord of Ken-nebunkport. The college has received no aid through legislative appropriation. The medical school of Maine was united with this college in 1821, and has now a complete anatomical cabinet and chemical apparatus, and a library of 4,000 volumes.
The annual course of lectures, extending over a term of 16 weeks, begins early in January. The number of professors and instructors in the medical school in 1872 was 13; students, 67. The library of the college, together with those belonging to the societies of the students (exclusive of the medical library), contains 30,138 volumes. According to the triennial catalogue of 1870, the whole number of alumni was 1,677, of whom 1,150 survived; whole number of ministers, 316, living 227; whole number of doctors, 993, living 834. Parker Cleaveland, one of the earliest eminent mineralogists in America, was connected with the college from 1805 to 1858. Thomas O. Upham, D.D., held the position of professor of mental philosophy from 1824 to 1867. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry W. Longfellow graduated here in 1825, and among their contemporaries as students in the college were Luther V. Bell, G. B. Oheever, William P. Fessenden, John P. Hale, Franklin Pierce, S. S. Prentiss, and Calvin E. Stowe. Mr. Longfellow was the professor of modern languages from 1829 to 1835, when he was called to Harvard. The prevailing religious denomination at Bowdoin college is the Congregationalist.