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Getting Yale on The Right Track
Town and gown rode the rails together when Yale and New Haven held joint festivities to honor the university’s first leader of the 20th century.

On October 18, 1899, Yale inaugurated its new President, Arthur Twining Hadley, in a celebration unique in the University’s history. There was, of course, a traditional formal ceremony held in the daytime, but that evening, the students and townspeople got together to produce an extravaganza which heralded a new Yale for the new century.

The highlight of the event was the appearance of the 90-foot-long “Hadley Railroad Transportation Company” train, which was manned by students and accompanied by large posters that proclaimed, “A new train of thought,” and “Yale is on the Right Track.” The railroad imagery was fitting for both Hadley and Yale.

Hadley’s preparation for the Presidency involved a mixture of academic and worldly experience that set him apart from his predecessors. The son of James Hadley, an eminent Yale professor of Greek, Arthur graduated as valedictorian of the Class of 1876. After graduate study at Yale and the University of Berlin, he joined the Yale faculty as a tutor, but after four years gave it up because there were no positions available in his field, political science. Hadley then became a freelance writer for financial and industrial journals, particularly the Railroad Gazette.

After returning to Yale in a part-time position, Hadley published his lectures on railway management in 1885. Railroad Transportation, Its History and Its Laws, became the authoritative book in the field. The following year Yale appointed Hadley to a new professorship of political science, and his course became the most popular in the college. From 1892–95, he served as the first Dean of the Graduate School.

In 1899, at the age of 43, Hadley was elected President. As Yale’s first lay leader (all of his predecessors had been men of the cloth), he was a popular choice and represented the desire of most graduates to have a larger voice in the clerically dominated Yale Corporation. And, for the first time in 200 years, the emphasis shifted from Yale as a world in itself to Yale as part of the outside world.

The events of the evening inauguration made that point brightly. Every room on the Old Campus was lighted with “redfire” lanterns that turned the sky a deep red, and as the parade units assembled by class, every man carried a flaming oil torch.

When the students emerged from Phelps Gate they were stunned by the brilliant illuminations downtown. The Edward Malley store on Chapel Street was covered with Edison globes resembling daisies blooming in a field of green grass. Over Temple Street was a large “Y” crafted of blue bulbs against a background of white lights. And, to the delight of the crowd gathered on the Green, fire balloons were cut loose from the roof of the store every few minutes.

The hit of the student parade was the “Hadley R. R. Transportation Company” train. The locomotive moved on wheels, and it belched smoke and steam at every stop. The windows of the three cars, lighted from within by lanterns, contained portraits of prominent professors and graduates, and at the end of the baggage car a likeness of railroad magnate and senator Chauncey M. Depew, Class of 1856, was caught in the act of throwing out a trunk with Hadley’s initials on it.

After cheering the new President at his home on Whitney Avenue, the students proceeded to Hillhouse Avenue where a stash of fireworks was launched. At midnight, a large bonfire on the campus concluded the program as “The Old Yale was finally rung out, and the New Yale rung in.”  the end


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