Barnard, Henry, 1811-1900

Alternative names
Birth 1811-01-24
Death 1900-07-05

Biographical notes:

American educator.

From the description of Papers, 1832-1900. (Trinity College Library). WorldCat record id: 50031643

American educator; first US Commissioner of Education 1867-1870. Includes material from Gordon Ford.

From the guide to the Henry Barnard letters, 1853, 1856, 1881, 1884, 1888, 1889, undated, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)

American educationalist; born Hartford, Conn., January 24, 1811; died Hartford, Conn., July 5, 1900.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Hartford, to Anne C. Lynch Botta, 1860 Oct. 13. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 589093713

Charles Campbell (1807-1876) was born on 1 May 1807, in Petersburg, Virginia, the firstborn child of parents John Wilson Campbell (d.1842), and Mildred Walker Moore Campbell. John, a bookstore owner, was also a historian. In 1831 he published the History of Virginia to 1781 . Later, he held the position of Federal Collector of Customs in Petersburg, Virginia. Mildred taught at the Petersburg Classical Academy in the 1840's. In addition to Charles, the couple also had two younger children, Alexander (Aleck) S. Campbell, and Elizabeth (Betty) Campbell Maben (d.1871).

Charles' mother, Mildred Walker Moore Campbell, was the granddaughter of Virginia lieutenant governor Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740). Mildred Walker Moore Campbell and her siblings Mary Fairfax Moore Keller, Dr. Alexander Spotswood Moore, Ann Evelina Moore Henley, William Agustin Moore, Eliza Moore McDonald, and Lavinia Moore McPheeters wrote and received numerous pieces of personal correspondence that are available in this collection.

Charles Campbell attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) from 1823-1825. Upon graduation he enrolled in Henry St. George Tucker's School of Law in Winchester, Virginia. However, he suffered from chronic headaches which caused him severe physical and mental exhaustion. By 1829, these health issues would force him to leave the law profession.

Following his departure from law, Campbell worked as an engineer of the Petersburg Railroad. Later he ran a private school for boys in Glencoe, Alabama. On 13 September 1836, he married Elvira N. Callaway (1819-1837) of Monroe County, Tennessee. In 1837, Elvira died shortly after the birth of a son, Callaway Campbell (b.1837). In his distress, Campbell left his son with Elivira's siblings, Thomas and Lucinda Callaway. Later, this would result in a court case to regain custody of his child.

Following the death of his wife, Campbell worked as a clerk in the office of the Collector of Custom in Petersburg, Virginia (a position he obtained from his father John Campbell). From 1840-1843, Campbell also owned, published, and edited a Petersburg newspaper, The American Statesman . He returned to teaching in 1842 by opening a classical school in Petersburg, becoming both teacher and administrator in the Anderson Seminary. He would hold these positions until the formation of free public schools in 1870.

Campbell remarried in 1850 to Miss Anna Birdsall of Rahway, New Jersey. They had four children, Mary Spotswood Campbell Robinson (b.1852), Nanny Campbell (b.1854), Charles Campbell (b.1856), and Fanny Campbell (1858-1860's).

Charles Campbell was committed to Western Lunatic Asylum at Staunton, Virginia, in 1873 where he remained until his death on July 11, 1876. He was buried at Blandford Church Cemetery, Petersburg.

Like his father, Campbell was a historian. He began contributing to journals in 1834. Some of the journals to which he frequently contributed included; The Southern Literary Messenger or The Southern and Western Literary Messenger and Review ; The Farmer's Register ; The New Yorker ; and the Petersburg Intelligencer . His most important work, however, was the History of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Virginia . This work built upon his father's book and concerned Virginia history from the colony's founding to the Revolutionary War.

From the guide to the Charles Campbell Papers, 1743-1896., (Special Collections, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary)

Henry Barnard was born January 24, 1811. The fourth child of a wealthy family in Hartford, Connecticut he enjoyed the benefits of an elite education, attending Monson Academy, a private boarding school, in Massachusetts and then enrolling at Yale University in 1826. While an undergraduate he joined the Linonia literary society where he began to build a reputation as an orator through speeches delivered at local events and participating in debates. Following his graduation in 1830 Barnard traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, staying for an extended period of time in Washington, D.C. to observe Congressional debates. He then returned to Yale to study law and gained admission to the Connecticut bar in 1834.

Henry Barnard's his career as an education reformer began in earnest with his election, as a Whig, to the General Assembly of the Connecticut state legislature in April of 1837. During his three terms in office, from 1837 until 1839, Barnard became involved in efforts to improve public education in the state. At the time Connecticut's locally controlled public schools suffered from poor facilities, overcrowding, irregular student attendance, and poorly trained teachers. To address these issues Barnard lobbied to create a "Board of Commissioners of the Common Schools," which would monitor the condition of public schools in Connecticut and make recommendations for their improvement to the legislature. Shortly after the body was established in 1838 the legislature selected Barnard himself to serve as its secretary. He retained the post until 1842 when the Democratic Party gained a majority in the government and abolished the Board. During his tenure Barnard worked to bring more attention to the issue of public education through the establishment of a periodical dedicated to the subject, the Connecticut Common School Journal of 1838-1842, and describing in his speaches and articles the important role of public education in molding children into virtuous and productive citizens. He advocated in particular the improvement of school facilities, the creation of a uniform centralized education system, compulsory attendance, and substantial professional training for teachers. In the course of his efforts he began to develop personal and professional relationships with other education reformers including Horace Mann and William Alcott, a network he would expand over the course of his life.

In 1843 Barnard traveled to Rhode Island to act as an agent for the state's legislature, charged to evaluate the condition of public schools in the state and propose improvements. There, with the help of his new connections and growing reputation as an authority on education, Barnard successfully campaigned for the establishment of a state system of public schools in 1845, which he was appointed to administer. Not long after he received his new post he met and married Josephine Desnoyers in 1847. Together the couple would have five children. Two years after his marriage Barnard resigned from his position in the Rhode Island public school system, citing poor health. He returned to Connecticut to serve simultaneously as the principal of the new Connecticut State Normal School in New Britain, an institution devoted to training teachers, and superintendent of the state's pubic schools. While serving in this dual role Barnard began to attain national recognition as an authority on the subject of public education, particularly in matters of law and the architecture of school buildings. He also joined the newly established American Association for the Advancement of Education, a national organization of school superintendents, lawyers and ministers devoted to promoting reform in public education. He helped to draft the organization's constitution in 1849 and held the association's presidency in 1855.

That same year Barnard resigned from his post in Connecticut and began to publish his American Journal of Education, a periodical devoted to literature and reports concerning the history, contemporary theory, and conditions of public education in the United States and Europe. He had published similar periodicals in the past, such as the Connecticut Common School Journal, and the Journal of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction of 1845 to 1849, but neither approached the longevity or the volume of the new Journal . The issues Barnard published irregularly from 1855 until 1882, when printed in octavo form, filled thirty-two volumes of roughly eight hundred pages each. Barnard was assisted by others in the manufacture of the Journal, including Daniel Coit Gilman who helped to collect material for the publication, but Barnard retained sole control over the content. It is considered by some his most substantial legacy.

At the same time Barnard continued to receive requests from across the United States for advice and lectures on subjects ranging from textbooks to school architecture. He was also sought after to participate in ceremonial occasions such as the opening of new schools, including one in New York City at the invitation of his friend Elias Loomis, a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at New York University. In addition Barnard was nominated for the presidency of several institutions of higher education, including the University of Michigan and Indiana University. In 1858 he was elected Chancellor of the young University of Wisconsin. As chancellor Barnard again played a dual role, acting as head of the university while supervising the instruction of teachers in schools throughout the state. Barnard held the chancellorship for two years; in 1860 he tendered his resignation to the Board of Regents and returned to Hartford.

Following his departure from Wisconsin Henry Barnard focused on publishing the American Journal of Education and began working on a "Library of Education", which he intended to be resource for teachers. Ultimately the work consisted of fifty-two volumes, composed largely of selected treatises that had appeared in the Journal . He remained in strong demand as a speaker, and addressed several prestigious organizations including the National Teacher's Association and the Lowell Institute of Boston. Barnard also traveled a great deal, frequently visiting Washington, D.C. in an effort to win a position in the federal government. In 1865 Barnard was elected president of St. John's College in Maryland but resigned in 1867 when President Andrew Johnson appointed him as the U.S. Commissioner of Education, placing him in charge of the newly created federal Department of Education. Barnard's position required him to collect and disseminate statistics regarding public education throughout the United States and to report on its condition to Congress each year. After a brief term Barnard retired to Hartford, Connecticut in 1870.

In his retirement Henry Barnard focused on his publications, particularly the American Journal of Education, and conducted research into the history of education. At the same time he remained a prominent figure among professionals and scholars, including James L. Hughes, the Inspector of Schools in Toronto, Canada, who hailed him as the "Nestor of Education." Barnard continued to lecture at gatherings of educators and corresponded regularly with his friends and colleagues including Elizabeth Peabody, Theodore Woolsey, and Andrew White. Many public schools in New England honored Barnard by sending congratulatory letters, making dedications of trees, and holding school exercises to celebrate his birthdays. More public commendations of Barnard were common in the speeches and writings of the new generation of educators, including Will S. Monroe who acted as Barnard's research assistant in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Meanwhile Barnard's own works received numerous awards from the International Exhibitions at Vienna (1873), Paris (1878), New Orleans (1884), and Chicago (1893). Henry Barnard died on July 5, 1900 at the age of eighty-nine.


MacMullen, Edith Nye. In the Cause of True Education: Henry Barnard and Nineteenth-Century School Reform . New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1991.

Starr, Harris E. “Barnard, Henry.” In Dictionary of American Biography . Edited by Allen Johnson. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1928.

From the guide to the The Henry Barnard Papers, 1765-1935 (Bulk: 1830-1899)


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  • Education
  • Education and state--Connecticut
  • Costume
  • Education and state--United States--History--19th century
  • Education--Rhode Island--Periodicals
  • Educational change--United States--History--19th century
  • Women in education--United States--History
  • Education, Primary--United States--History
  • Education--United States--History--Periodicals
  • Moral education--United States--History
  • Education--Rhode Island--Aims and objectives
  • School autonomy--United States
  • Education, Higher--United States--History--19th century
  • Education, Elementary--United States--History--19th century
  • Education--Aims and objectives--United States--History--19th century
  • Education--Connecticut--Periodicals
  • Virginia--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775--Historiography
  • School supervision--United States--History
  • Education--Connecticut--History
  • Education--United States--History--19th century
  • Education--Connecticut--Aims and objectives
  • Education--Virginia--History
  • Educational law and legislation--United States--History--19th century
  • Autographs
  • Religion in the public schools--United States--History--19th century
  • Education--Rhode Island--History
  • Teachers Training of--United States--History--19th century
  • Teacher educators--United States
  • Educators--United States--History
  • Kindergarten--United States--History
  • Petersburg (Va.). Library


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