The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


THOUGH the Department of Sociology of the University has been in existence only since 1931 the history of the teaching of the subject runs back into the last century. Three periods of its development are distinguishable preceding the establishment of an independent department.

The first period, 1881-94. — It may be assumed that during this period there was an interest in what later came to be called sociology because of the offering in three entirely separate departments of courses which touched upon sociological subjects. Of these, perhaps the most interesting from a historical standpoint is one entitled Social Science, which was given five times between 1881 and 1887 by Edward Swift Dunster (Harvard '56, M.D. New York College of Medicine '59), Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children. This course, which was in the School of Political Science (see Part IV: Department of Political Science), was described in the University Calendar for 1881-82 (pp. 80-81) as follows:

Lectures on the following topics: 1. Introductory: Page  726the scope and purposes of Social Science, and its relations to socialism, so called, to sanitary science, and to political economy. 2. Historical: theoretical or ideal systems, Plato's Republic, Campanella's Civitas Solis, More's Utopia; practical efforts to establish social systems or communities, the Essenes, the Shakers, the Perfectionists of Oneida, the Colonies of St. Simon, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier. 3. Poverty and its Prevention: causes of poverty; organized efforts for the relief of the worthy poor; treatment of the unworthy poor; the problem of the tramp; almshouses and their superintendence. 4. The Prevalence of Crime, and the means of diminishing or preventing it: (a) the relation of crime to poverty, to vicious habits, and to hereditary influences; (b) prostitution, its causes, prevalence, and dangers, and the means of preventing it; (c) care of the children of the criminal and pauper classes, State schools for abandoned or neglected children, the Michigan State School at Coldwater; (d) the punishment of crime, the object of punishment, prison labor, treatment of criminals after release; (e) penal institutions, their construction and management. 5. Practical Questions in Social Science: (a) the care of the insane and the management of asylums, the cottage system, the associated or central system, qualifications of superintendents and assistants; (b) the care and training of the feebleminded; (c) the care and training of the blind. 6. Economic Problems: (a) conservation of life, the prevalence and increasing frequency of suicide, means of preventing suicide; (b) conservation of property; (c) conservation of food, game laws, pisciculture.

This course of Dunster's has received mention (Bernard, p. 13) as one of the more successful early attempts to assemble materials which would constitute the new academic discipline for which many college heads were groping.

During the eighties and early nineties, Henry Carter Adams (Iowa College '74, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins '78), first as Lecturer on Political Economy and later as Professor of Political Economy and Finance, was touching on the sociological field from the angle of political economy. He gave, under various titles, courses in economic problems in which he discussed proposed social and industrial reforms. Among other topics he gave attention to immigration, industrial classes, poor laws, and socialism. It should be noted that Adams was the one who first suggested to Charles Horton Cooley, then a graduate student in economics but later the chief figure in the development of sociology at the University, that he attempt to develop courses in sociology within the Department of Political Economy (see Part III: Department of Economics). Therefore to Professor Adams must be accorded chief credit for the introduction of the new discipline. Cooley himself was glad to acknowledge help from another source. He said:

Indeed, one of the Regents, Levi L. Barbour, a man of real distinction in mind and character, greatly interested at that time in penal reform, was most appreciative both of my work and of the promise of sociology. It was through his exertions, largely, that an instructorship in sociology was formally established in 1895, and that my later promotions were obtained.

(Cooley, p. 10.)

The third avenue through which sociology was being approached was the political philosophy of John Dewey, then Instructor in the Department of Philosophy (see Part IV: Department of Philosophy and Department of Psychology). In 1889-90 he gave his first course in this field, and by 1892-93 he was giving two, the first of which was designated Political Philosophy: the Theory and Institutions of Social Organization, and the second, Special Studies in the History of Political Philosophy. In the latter course Spencer's Sociology was specifically mentioned as one of the texts. Cooley notes that he attended these lectures in 1893-94 (Cooley, p. 6). Although he felt that he was more influenced by Dewey's personality than by his lectures, Page  727we may surmise that his later psychological approach to sociology was not uninfluenced by Dewey's viewpoint.

The development of a curriculum, 1894-1917. — A sound but not elaborate curriculum in sociology was established in this second period, in which Charles Horton Cooley ('87, Ph.D. '94) was the central figure; in fact, his influence has been dominant throughout the period in which sociology has been taught at the University. Cooley had been prepared for this work not so much by specialized study in the field as by broad grounding in the humanities and in the political economy of his day. The son of Judge Thomas McIntyre Cooley, he had had unusual opportunities for study and travel and had already been employed on two research projects in Washington of an economic character. He had begun teaching courses in economic theory and statistics in 1892, and he took his doctorate in political economy in 1894 with a thesis on the theory of transportation. For a number of years after he began to teach sociology he continued his courses in political economy, the last course in this field which he relinquished being that in statistics, which he gave for the final time in 1900-1901.

Cooley gave the first courses bearing the name Sociology during the academic year 1894-95: Principles of Sociology, and Problems of Sociology. As other members were added to the staff, he assumed general charge of the work. Though his undergraduate courses soon became large, it was with the more thoughtful graduate students that his success as a teacher was most marked. To the brilliance of his own thought he added painstaking criticism of the thought of those less mature. Through his writing he exerted an influence beyond the campus; his great trilogy, Human Nature and the Social Order (1902), Social Organization (1909), and The Social Process (1918), gained for his sociological theory a wide acceptance. Indeed, these books have become classics which are referred to wherever sociology is taught. He was given national recognition by being selected as president of the American Sociological Society for the year 1918.

During the period 1894-1917 Cooley carried most of the teaching burden in sociology. In addition to the courses already mentioned, he had added by 1903 Special Studies in Sociology, Historical Development of Sociological Thought, Psychological Sociology, and Social Development of the Church. In the year 1902-3 Kenyon L. Butterfield (Michigan State '91, A.M. Michigan '02, LL.D. Amherst '10), later president of Michigan State College, gave a course known as Rural Sociology. This was probably the first use of the term which has since come to designate so large a branch of sociological study. Not until 1910-11 did a second teacher of sociology appear again. This was Carl Eugene Parry ('05, Ph.D. '09), who, besides teaching political economy, taught Criminology and Social Origins and repeated the course Social Origins in the two following years. Parry has since had a distinguished career as a research economist with the Federal Reserve Board. He is now Chief of the Division of Security Loans of the Federal Reserve System.

The year 1913-14 marked the first appointment of a full-time instructor to aid Professor Cooley. He was Warren Simpson Thompson (Nebraska Wesleyan '07, Ph.D. Columbia '15), now the director of the Scripps Foundation for Research in Population Problems and an authority on population questions. In 1914-15 he offered the courses Social Evolution and Social Problems of Rural Life, and the following year added Social Statistics and Immigration. Thus, as the second period closed there were two full-time Page  728men teaching sociology in some thirteen courses.

Expansion and specialization, 1917-30. — The years 1917-30 constituted a period of rapid expansion and differentiation of the work in sociology. Especially notable was the development of courses in social problems and social work which followed the advent of Arthur Evans Wood (Harvard '06, S.T.B. ibid. '11, Ph.D. Pennsylvania '20) in 1917. It is true that Cooley had offered since 1913-14 a course entitled Seminary in the Principles of Social Case Work, but Wood, besides taking this over, added Criminology, Community Problems, and Problems of Poverty, and made arrangements for a limited number of students to receive credit for field work in social agencies. The Family was a course added by him in 1919-20. In 1921 he was made director of the curriculum for the training of social workers and thereafter arranged for the offering of courses by specialists in various fields of social work, both from other units of the University and from outside.

In 1918 Thompson gave up his teaching to do war work in Washington, and Roy Hinman Holmes (Hillsdale '11, Ph.D. Michigan '27) took over the instruction in social evolution, rural sociology, and immigration. From time to time during the next ten years other instructors were added to the staff, mainly to help with the introductory course, but occasionally giving courses of their own. Of this number, only Lowell Juilliard Carr ('20, Ph.D. '25) and Robert Cooley Angell ('21, Ph.D. '24) have remained with the department to expand its offerings, the former in the fields of social psychology, public opinion, and juvenile delinquency, the latter in the fields of general theory and social institutions.

During this third period there were in residence as graduate students and instructors men who have since made their mark either in sociology proper or in social work. In the former category are Professor Read Bain (Willamette '16, Ph.D. Michigan '26), of Miami University, and Walter Abram Terpenning (Kalamazoo '14, Ph.D. Michigan '24), of Albion College; in the latter are Harry Lawrence Lurie ('22, A.M. '23), executive director of the National Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare Funds, and Robert Tucker Lansdale (Oberlin '21, A.M. Columbia '25), of the committee on public administration, Social Science Research Council.

It may seem surprising that so flourishing a field did not come to constitute a separate department before the death of Charles Horton Cooley in 1929. The explanation lies partly in his temperament, and partly in the justice of the treatment which sociology received from the heads of the Department of Economics — Henry Carter Adams, Edmund Ezra Day, and I. Leo Sharfman. Cooley had no taste for administrative work and was only too glad to shift as much of it as possible to the shoulders of someone else. In fact, he argued that it was better to be a part of a strong department than to be an independent weak one. The equality which the staff teaching sociology enjoyed within the Department of Economics is shown by the fact that after the first year's teaching of sociology the heading of the department's offering of courses in the Calendar (1895-96) read, "Political Economy and Sociology."

The Department of Sociology, since 1930. — The last period follows upon the death of Cooley and the selection in 1930 of Roderick Duncan McKenzie ('12 Manitoba, Ph.D. Chicago '16), then of the University of Washington, to become the head of a department of sociology separate from the Department of Economics. Though the department did not become a distinct budgetary unit until 1931-32, to all intents and Page  729

TABLE INumber of Courses, Number of Student Elections, and Number of Graduate Students Specializing in Sociology at Ten-Year Intervals
Academic Year Number of Courses Listed Number of Elections by Students in College of Literature, Science, and Arts Number of Elections per 100 Students in College of Literature, Science, and Arts Total Number of Elections from All Schools and Colleges Number of Graduate Students Specializing in Sociology
1895-96 5 116 9.6 .... ....
1905- 6 8 201 12.8 .... ....
1915-16 13 531 17.7 604 ....
1925-26 28 1,374 26.3 1,817 25
1935-36 40 2,398 51.0 2,881 64
purposes it started on its separate career in 1930-31. McKenzie brought to the department an interest not theretofore represented — that of human ecology. In addition to a general course in that field, he offered the courses Population, the City, and Migration and Race Relations. It was under his direction that the seminar the Metropolitan Community was set up for the holders of Earhart fellowships. This seminar has been continued since the cessation of the Earhart grants. The curriculum of the Department of Sociology has also been enriched by the new courses given by Richard Corbin Fuller ('28, A.M. '30, J.D. '35): Modern Social Problems, Fields and Methods of Sociology, and Social Legislation. For a period of two years Clark Tibbitts (Lewis Institute [Chicago] '24) taught courses in social statistics. He left to become a regional director in the United States Government Health Survey, but has since returned as Director of the Institute for Human Adjustment and Lecturer in Sociology.

Perhaps the most striking features of this latest period are the increasing interest in sociology shown by students during the depression, the greater attention given to the integration of curricular offerings, and the increasing emphasis placed upon the development of the graduate work in the department. Also notable has been the adoption of a policy of bringing distinguished sociologists from other universities to teach for a semester or a summer session. Relations with the University of Chicago have been particularly close, Professors Robert E. Park, Ellsworth Faris, Herbert Blumer, and Louis Wirth all having taught here during the past decade.

Two members of the staff have carried on projects during this period which are of more than usual interest to the people of the state. Since 1934 Lowell J. Carr has been directing the Michigan Juvenile Delinquency Information Service (see Part II: Michigan Child Guidance Institute); Roy H. Holmes has been doing research on the problems of the Michigan farmer through a correspondence technique which has kept him in touch with hundreds of farm families throughout the state.

Beginning in the academic year 1937-38, the professional courses leading to the certificate in social work were taken out of the department and placed in a special curriculum in the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Courses in social problems have continued to be offered in the department, but the professional training constitutes part of the work for the master's degree. This has given the opportunity for a closer integration of the work of the department and increased emphasis on graduate work in pure sociology.

Page  730The manner in which the work in sociology has expanded over a period of forty years is roughly indicated in Table I. Also of interest is the growth in the amount of graduate work: In the decade 1904-14 ten master's degrees were obtained in sociology and one doctor's degree; in the next ten years there were two doctor's degrees and thirty-four master's degrees, but between 1924 and 1934, fifteen students specializing in sociology earned the degree of doctor of philosophy, and sixty-six the degree of master of arts.

On May 6, 1940, the University suffered a severe loss through the death of Roderick D. McKenzie, who had been Professor of Sociology since 1930 and Chairman of the Department of Sociology since it became distinct in 1931. The Board of Regents selected Robert Cooley Angell as his successor in the chairmanship.

Social Work

In May, 1921, the Regents of the University authorized the establishment of a curriculum in social work. This was in response to an urgent request from leaders of social work in Detroit that the University undertake to encourage students to enter this field and give them the necessary training. A "curriculum," in terms of University organization, meant a group of courses selected from various departments and so arranged as to constitute a unified program centering about a given subject. It was thus that the courses in business administration were first organized within the Department of Economics. The staff teaching courses in sociology, then within the Department of Economics, was given charge of the curriculum in social work, which covered courses in sociology, economics, political science, psychology, and history. Elementary courses in these fields might be elected as early as the sophomore year, but the main convergence of the program was upon the junior and senior years, with additional offerings on the graduate level. Besides the courses in the various social sciences there were later added to the curriculum certain professional courses specifically related to social work, such as case work, medical social work, psychiatric social work, and child welfare. A final aspect of these developments was the provision for supervised field work, designed to give students actual contacts with social agencies in Ann Arbor and Detroit, under the direction of a supervisor of field work who joined the staff in 1927. Thus, the three major aspects of education in social work were provided for in the curriculum, viz., background courses in the social sciences, specialized professional courses, and field work.

On the foregoing basis the training program of the University was carried on for a period of fourteen years. Scores of students within this period were graduated to positions with social agencies throughout Michigan and in other states, adding thereby to their academic training actual experience on the job. Many persons who have since become leaders in the profession acquired their initial interest and training through facilities established by the University. In 1927 a certificate in social work was authorized by the Regents, to be granted to those who had added to their academic work in the curriculum a year's experience in a responsible agency under supervision of both the agency and the supervisor of field work on the University staff in charge of the curriculum in social work. This certificate, analogous to that awarded in journalism or nursing, was adopted instead of a specialized degree, which as yet had not been authorized.

Meanwhile, important developments were taking place elsewhere in this new Page  731educational field, emanating largely from leaders and teachers of social work. Even before the University curriculum for the training of social workers was established the Association of Schools of Professional Social Work had been organized. In this association the staffs of the New York School of Social Work and of the Chicago School of Social Service Administration, established by the University of Chicago, took a leading role. Throughout the decade 1920-30 the demand for training in social service had greatly increased, and a large number of schools or curriculums had come into being, both within and outside established educational institutions. Obviously there was a very great need for the authorized expression of educational standards as to types and content of courses and the personnel engaged in giving them. To this task of developing educational standards the Association of Schools of Professional Social Work applied itself. Its efforts were aided by the appearance of such significant monographs as Education and Training for Social Work, by James H. Tufts of the University of Chicago, and by the organization of the American Association of Social Workers, a professional group which seeks to do for social work what professional organizations have accomplished in the respective fields of medicine, law, and education. The University of Michigan, by virtue of its curriculum in social work, became eligible for membership in the Association of Schools of Professional Social Work and was admitted in 1925. In 1940 there were thirty schools in this Association, all of them having met the requirements as to courses of instruction and personnel.

For continued membership in the Association of Schools of Professional Social Work it has recently been required that all instruction of a professional or technical character be raised to the graduate level and preceded by undergraduate work in the social sciences. Consequently, in 1935 the University reorganized its program in this field through the establishment of what was first called the Institute of the Health and Social Sciences, and later, the Institute of Public and Social Administration. The purpose of organizing this new graduate unit has been to correlate the training program in public administration, which has its backgrounds in the Department of Political Science, with the program in social administration, which, as we have seen, was long organized as a curriculum in the Department of Sociology.

In social work a two-year graduate program within the Institute has been established leading to the degree of master of social work. For entrance upon this graduate program the student must have had thirty hours of credit in the social sciences during his undergraduate period. The graduate work is for the most part of strictly professional or technical character. The work is now given entirely in Detroit at the Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial, on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Farnsworth Street.

In some academic circles these training programs for public and social service are criticized as being outside the field of formal intellectual interests which should, it is held, be the primary concern of our educational institutions. Over against this contention it may be urged that the needs of our democratic civilization are many, not the least of which is the existence of a body of trained personnel in the various fields of public service. The depression has served, as nothing else could, to throw into strong relief the multifarious social problems which must be dealt with sympathetically and expertly if even greater chaos is not to ensue. It would seem as if a democratically supported Page  732state university would be under the necessity of devoting some of its attention and resources to the recruiting and training of students for public service in the field of social work.

The Earhart Foundation

In the autumn of 1930 the Earhart Foundation (a family enterprise established by H. B. Earhart of Ann Arbor) offered the president of the University a sum of money to finance an experiment in the training of a selected group of University students for more intelligent and effective leadership in the affairs of the modern American community. The sum assigned by the foundation was not to exceed $10,000 annually, and the period of experimentation was set at four years.

The president decided that the Department of Sociology was the logical unit to set up and administer this project. R. D. McKenzie was assigned the position of director of the enterprise by the president and the Board of Regents.

The plan of operation proposed and followed throughout the four-year period was as follows: a limited number (from eight to twelve) of advanced graduate students from the various social science disciplines were chosen each year on the basis of scholarship and personality, and were awarded fellowships in the Graduate School, each bearing a stipend of $500 for the academic year. In addition, a somewhat larger number (from twenty-five to thirty) of selected undergraduate students, most of them in their senior year, were awarded scholarships averaging around $100 for the academic year. Both fellows and scholars thus selected were required to devote a stipulated minimum amount of time each week to the investigation of some community problem in the field, primarily in the Detroit metropolitan region. The problems selected were carefully chosen, and the scholars, for the most part, worked under the field guidance of the fellows. Two seminars, each meeting for a two-hour period once a week, were set up, one for the fellows and one for the scholars. The two seminars were closely interrelated. The scholars working under the direction of a particular fellow always attended the senior seminar when the fellow in question reported on his work, and frequently the fellows made reports in the junior seminar.

One feature of these seminars was rather unique; namely, the participation in them by members from the various social science departments and also by invited persons from the outside community. As each student reported in the seminar, those most closely associated with his research project, both professors and outsiders, attended the seminar and took part in the discussion. This, together with the fact that the student members of the seminar represented different social science disciplines, and were engaged in the study of different types of community problems, made for a cross-fertilization of ideas and for a broader perspective of the interrelationships of human activities in our modern social order. It tended to break down the narrow academic divisions which characterize university specialization and to focus attention upon the interrelationships of social phenomena.

The period of this experiment terminated at the close of the academic year 1934-35, but in recognition of the value of this type of activity, the University has continued the project, though on a somewhat more limited scale, by setting aside a number of specially designated fellowships in the Graduate School to be awarded to students selected for this work.

Aside from the student-training feature of this work, which, of course, Page  733was the main objective, a considerable amount of research material has been collected which is made available to interested parties and which, when amplified and interpreted, will be presented in published form.


Bernard, Jessie. "History and Prospects of Sociology." In: Trends in American Sociology. Ed. by George A. Lundberg and others. New York: Harper and Bros., 1929. P. 13.
Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1881-1914.
Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1914-23.
Catalogue and Register, Univ. Mich., 1923-27.
Cooley, Charles H.Sociological Theory and Social Research. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1930. Pp. 3-14.
"Curriculum in Social Work Is Success."Mich. Alum., 39 (1933): 401-2.
General Register Issue, Univ. Mich., 1927-40.
Jandy, Edward C.Charles Horton Cooley; His Life and His Social Theory. New York: Dryden Press, 1942.
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1881-1909, 1920-40.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1881-1940.
Wood, Arthur E., and Others. "Charles Horton Cooley." In: University Council and Senate Records, 1929-1932. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich. Press, 1932. Pp. 54-64.