Henry Barnard (1811 – 1900)

Henry Barnard

Henry Barnard was born to a wealthy Hartford family in 1811.  He graduated from Yale in 1836 and became a lawyer. As a member of the Whig party, he was elected to the General Assembly in 1837, and he introduced legislation designed to assist the blind, deaf and insane. He also became active in conversations about the public education system and soon found his life-long focus – improving the public education system in the United States. 

According to James P. Walsh’s article about Henry Barnard in Connecticut’s Heritage Gateway, “For Barnard, public education was the means of ensuring that the American people remained capable of self‑government, and he subsequently spent much of his personal fortune to publish journals advocating educational reform.”

Barnard’s accomplishments include founding and editing the Connecticut Common School Journal and Annals of Education (1838–42), establishing the first teachers’ institute (1839), examining the public school system in Rhode Island (1843) which resulted in the reorganization of the state’s school system two years later, becoming Rhode islands first Commissioner of Education (1845), becoming state superintendent of education and principal of the normal school at New Britain in Connecticut (1849), serving as editor of the American Journal of Education (1851-1888), and being appointed as the first United States Commissioner of Education (1867 – 1870).  He was an avid advocate for increased appropriations, increased teaching wages, school building repairs, and improvement of teaching methods.  As a result of his advocacy and accomplishments, he was recognized across the country as an education reformer. 

Barnard traveled to Europe several times to meet with writers and educators, including William Wordsworth, Thomas De Quincey and Thomas Carlyle. He was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin in Madison (1858–61) and president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland (1866–67).

Barnard died in 1900 at the age of 88 ranked among the top education reformers of his time.

Biography.com. Henry Barnard. Accessed at
http://www.biography.com/articles/Henry-Barnard-9199454 on August 18, 2010.
Walsh, James P. Henry Barnard. Connecticut’s Heritage Gateway. Accessed at
http://www.ctheritage.org/encyclopedia/ct1818_1865/barnard.htm on August 18, 2010.
Wikipedia. Henry Barnard. Accessed at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Barnard on August 18, 2010.

Photo Credit: Henry Barnard, Public Domain