Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gansevoort Melville at the Albany Academy, 1831



UPDATE: 03/01/2015
Below are images for the Albany Academy announcement in the Argus, showing in two parts the notice of Saturday, March 5, 1831. Found online in the newspaper archives at Fulton History
(Albany NY Argus 1831 -0218 and Albany NY Argus 1831 -0219).


From the Albany Argus (Thursday, March 3, 1831):

ALBANY ACADEMY.

On Wednesday the 2d inst. the public distribution of premiums, awarded at the semi-annual examination, was made in the hall of the Academy.  Previous to this, the compositions to which prizes had been adjudged were read.  The following report, adopted by the board of the trustees, contains the details….

That on the 26th, the following classes under the care of Professor Bullions and Mr. Leech were examined….
5th class in Cornelius Nepos and Irving’s Roman Antiquities.

In the classes in the second department under the care of Professor Bullions and Mr. Leech, the premiums are awarded as follows:

In Roman Antiquities—the premium to Gansevoort Melville.
 * * *
Classes in English and Orthographical Exercises in this Department
1st class— 2d [premium] to Gansevoort Melville….
 * * *
In the classes under the care of the Principal the premiums are awarded as follows:

1st class in Ancient History—…2d [premium] to Gansevoort Melville
* * *
The committee also report that the various classes in Penmanship have been examined, and the premiums awarded as follows....
1st class, 1st [premium for improvement] to Gansevoort Melville

The Albany Academy strongly promoted and encouraged student writing.  Prizes for superior compositions were awarded for the following essays, all submitted anonymously and pseudonymously:
Heavenly Bodies
Early Impressions, signed “Young Moralist”
Future Glory of the United States
French Revolution 
Santa Claus
Duelling
Desire of Fame
Influence of Civil Institutions in forming the Moral Character
Character of Lord Byron
 Let's see now, might Gansevoort have written one of the above?  Yes! 
2d class—1st premium to the composition on the “French Revolution”
* * *
The premiums for compositions having been awarded without a knowledge of the authors, the following were ascertained at the above exercises to have been the successful competitors:
2d class—1st premium to Gansevoort Melville.
So then, in early March 1831, 15 year-old Gansevoort (born December 6, 1815, still nine months away from his 16th birthday) took first prize in his class for his essay on the "French Revolution."  


That's on top of the awards Gansevoort brought home for excellent work in the subjects of Roman Antiquities, Ancient History, spelling (English orthography), and penmanship.

In other news, the prize-winning essay on Byron was by Gansevoort’s buddy Alexander W. Bradford.  And young Frederick F. Leake, later a pal of Herman’s, wrote the essay on “Heavenly Bodies.”

Gansevoort's teacher Peter Bullions died in 1864.

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