Thursday, July 6, 2017

Grammar School of Columbia College in 1829-30

In 1829 Herman Melville began attending the Grammar School of Columbia College. Before that, he went to the New York Male High School. As shown by John P. Runden, Herman enrolled in the Columbia College Grammar School on September 28, 1829. His older brother Gansevoort was already there. When Gansevoort enrolled on May 14, 1829 the Grammar School had just relocated "to the apartments lately occupied by the deaf and dumb" at 294 Broadway.

Herman Melville's grammar school in 1829-1830
New York Evening Post - April 7, 1829
GRAMMAR SCHOOL OF COLUMBIA COLLEGE.--Notice is hereby given of the removal of the Grammar School of Columbia College, to the apartments lately occupied by the deaf and dumb, in the rear of the City Hall. Exercises in said school will commence on Monday next, at 9 o'clock, A.M. The situation is healthy, and the rooms airy and convenient.

Application for entrance may be made to the Master at the rooms between the hours of 9, A.M. and 3, P.M. or at other hours at No. 294 Broadway.

New York, 3d April, 1829.
Herman Melville's grammar school was formally controlled by the twenty-four Trustees of Columbia College, including Clement C. Moore the "Clerk of the Board."

Trustee and Board Clerk Clement C. Moore had been on the committee with William Harris et al that reported in 1827 on the "Plan of a Grammar School to be attached to Columbia College."

Clement C. Moore's son Benjamin left the Columbia Grammar School on July 3, 1828, so he was gone before either Gansevoort or Herman began attending in 1829. When Herman was enrolled, the Grammar School moved again, this time "to the new building" on Murray street.

New York Evening Post - December 15, 1829

Found on

Lorenzo L. Da Ponte (1805-1841) the son of Clement C. Moore's old Italian teacher and friend Lorenzo Da Ponte (still professor of Italian at Columbia College), is named as one of two "English Instructors" at the Grammar School attended by Gansevoort and Herman Melville before their removal to Albany, New York in 1830.

Marian Gouverneur remembered Lorenzo L. da Ponte (one of her teachers in Madame Chegaray's school) as "a man of unusual versatility" who "was especially distinguished as a linguist":
"He taught us English literature in such a successful manner that we regarded that study merely as a recreation."  --As I Remember: Recollections of American Society during the Nineteenth Century
Two articles by John P. Runden on Melville and the Columbia Grammar School are available online via the Melville Society Extracts Archives:
  • "Columbia Grammar School: An Overlooked Year in the Lives of Gansevoort and Herman Melville" in Melville Society Extracts 46 (May 1981): 1-3; and

1 comment:

  1. We see Charles King on both boards. At this time he was editor of the American. I think Charles jr b. 1817 is closest in age to Herman.