UNT: The First 50 Years : Origins as a Teachers College

Origins as a Teachers College

The school we now know as the University of North Texas was founded in 1890 as the Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute, a private, nonsectarian, coeducational teachers college. (A “normal school” is an antiquated name for a school that trains teachers.) The first class had 80 students, including 28 members of the Creek (Muscogee) Nation in present-day Oklahoma. Classes were held in rented rooms above B. J. Wilson Hardware Store on the northwest corner (Oak and Elm) of the Denton Square (the current location of Ethan Allen). Among the courses of study open to students in 1890 were teacher training, science, business, classical, elocution and literature, conservatory music, fine arts, and surveying. A full year’s tuition was $48.00.

The College became a state institution in 1899 under the new name North Texas State Normal College. In 1949, when the curriculum was expanded, North Texas officially moved away from solely being defined as a teacher’s college with the new name North Texas State College.

This is the speech delivered by North Texas’s first president and founder Joshua Crittenden Chilton on September 16, 1890, when the Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute was officially opened. Chilton, a native of Detroit, Michigan, was attracted to the North Texas region by his brother, a doctor in Dallas.

The college’s early financial struggles took a toll on Chilton. He left the Normal College in 1893 upon forfeiture of his contract. Chilton died in 1896 at age 43 believing he had failed to “make a mark in the world” by founding the Texas Normal College.

College Opening Speech by President Chilton

This plate features an image of the first building on campus, the Normal Building, which opened in 1891. Denton was still a prairie town at the end of the 19th century and a barbed wire fence was installed around the building to keep out livestock. The Normal Building was located on the corner of Hickory and Avenue B, today the site of Hickory Hall. In 1907 the Normal Building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

This diploma from North Texas Normal College certifies that Nettie Williams completed all necessary coursework in English to achieve certification. The top of the document features an illustration of the Normal Building, and the bottom of the diploma is embossed with the NTNC seal. The certificate is signed by President of Faculty Montor Bradley Terrill, President of Trustees William A. Ponder, President of the Board of Regents Colonel Thomas Walter Abney, Secretary of Faculty J. A. Sanders, Secretary of the Board of Trustees H. F. Schweer, and the Secretary of the Board of Regents Honorable Alvin Clark Owsley.

These pages from a North Texas Normal College student’s “souvenir book” expound the school’s philosophy. The souvenir book was originally held together with a ribbon but was disbound sometime before it was donated to Special Collections. The cover and first three pages are pictured. To view the entire object on the Portal to Texas History, click "Learn More" beneath the image.