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A diary page showing an entry from September 1870.
Saint Louis University Digitizes Historic Records Showing Jesuit, Student Life in Late 1800s

July 24, 2015 — A newly digitized collection at Saint Louis University gives a glimpse into the daily lives of students and Jesuits at Saint Louis University in the late 19th century.

The Special Collections Library at SLU has digitized the historic diaries of prefects, or supervisors, at the university from 1851 to 1894, making them available to anyone who would like to view this unique historical record.

In the five diaries that the university holds, the prefects kept records of the activities of the students. At the time, students as young as 10 years old could be enrolled in the university, and prefects were responsible for looking after them.

These journals are some of the earliest records of students at the university and preserve firsthand accounts of daily activities, providing a unique window into student life. One prefect tells the story of older students tricking the younger boys into thinking dessert would be served after the evening meal, and laughter when they were disappointed. Most days consist of a rhythm of Mass, classes and mealtimes, but of course, the younger boys also get into trouble: making too much noise in services and having snowball fights.

Another journal in 1870 begins with prefects returning to school from the summer months. Before classes resumed, the first order of business for the Jesuit prefects was that the "boys got their tickets" for the upcoming baseball game between the St. Louis Red Stockings and the Empires Baseball Club.

The Saint Louis University Special Collections holds rare and original sources, preserving them so that students, staff and visiting scholars have easy access to these materials. These diaries are part of the process of digitizing the larger Historical Records Collection at the library; this provides access for students and staff to engage directly with these important sources with ease and convenience. [Sources: Saint Louis University, Saint Louis University Digital Collections]

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