Bureaucracy: Scholarship Coupon from Texas Normal College Teacher’s Training Institute. 1892.

Scholarship Coupon from Texas Normal College Teacher’s Training Institute. 1892.

Learn More


This certificate is a repurposed diploma issued as a scholarship certificate to J.W. Medlin in 1892. The original document was a diploma for the Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute, which opened in Denton in 1890. These certificates were likely produced in bulk. The top half of the certificate, which includes a picture of the school and the normal college’s name, was printed from an engraved plate. The bottom half of the certificate would have been left blank so that graduates’ names and courses of study could be printed on them as needed. This diploma, however, has been repurposed as a scholarship certificate. The text indicating the completion of a course of study has been crossed out in red. At the bottom of the certificate, four scholarship certificates were issued for different courses of study at Texas Normal College. These certificates were purchased by J.W. Medlin, a prominent area citizen and cattleman. The certificates were transferrable, and they were valid for four separate courses of study. This format suggests that they would have been purchased as gifts for multiple people. However, since these certificates appear unused, it is possible that Medlin donated money to the struggling school, for which he was issued these scholarship certificates.

This certificate suggests two different bureaucratic functions. One, the original function of the diploma, is a credential to be bestowed upon a student who completed his or her course of study at Texas Normal College. But the second bureaucratic function is a form of promising inasmuch as the scholarship coupons represented a promise that a student or students could attend the school and take courses by virtue of possessing one of the coupons. The fact that the diploma was repurposed calls our attention to the ways in which bureaucratic forms are often used to do things that they were never intended for.