Charles McMicken Will Notice

Charles McMicken

[Insert photo of Charles McMicken]

Dr. Richard E. Schade, Professor of German Studies at the University of Cincinnati and the Honorary Consul of Germany, was recently examining Cincinnati German newspapers in our German Americana Collection when he came across the item below. Businessman Charles McMicken, who died of pneumonia on March 30, 1858 in Cincinnati, bequeathed to the city the means to found a university. After a delay due to the Civil War and to several litigations, the University of Cincinnati was founded in 1870 when the McMicken gift was combined with other funds garnered by the city for educational purposes. McMicken is generally considered as the founder of UC, and thus integral to our institutional history.

The translation below is kindly provided by Professor Schade, who also pointed out the reference to Philadelphia’s Girard College. McMicken’s will mentioned other conditions, such as stipulating a college for “white boys and girls.” However, efforts by the City of Cincinnati and UC’s original board of directors resulted in a true university of higher education open to all, regardless of race or color.

Professor Schade is also the author of “‘The German University and the American College’ (1871): Charles Phelps Taft’s Essay on the Founding of a University in Cincinnati” in Das Ohiotel-The Ohio Valley: The German Dimension, ed. by don Heinrich Tolzmann. New York, NY: Peter Lang, 1993.

To learn more about Charles McMicken, please see the essay about him in The University of Cincinnati by Kevin Grace and Greg Hand. Montgomery, AL: Community Communications, 1995.

McMicken’s full will is available on the ARB website. [original link path: /content/dam/libraries/arb/docs/university-archives/mcmicken-will.pdf]

To learn more about Girard College as McMicken’s model:

“Protestantische Zeitblätter”/‘Protestant News’

[Insert scan of will notice] April 1858

A University in Cincinnati Possible

“The will of Charles McMicken, whose death was reported a few days ago, was introduced into the Probate Court of Judge Hilton. The deceased left an estate of more than a million dollars of which he designated but a portion to his brother Andrew McMicken and to his nephews and nieces and $800–900,000.00 for a university in Cincinnati to be established on the ‘old Watson property’ on Hamilton Road.

In this university, both male and female orphans between 5 and 14 years of age are to be accepted and educated with the income generated from the real-estate. Instruction in various disciplines and trades keyed to the interests of the pupils are planned.

Those who wish to perfect themselves in a specific discipline should be able to do so under the guidance of capable professors, for whom special funds are set aside. The university shall be modeled on Girard College in Philadelphia.

Charles McMicken was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1782. He arrived here in 1803. At that time his entire fortune consisted of a horse, saddle and bridle. He made business deals on Ohio River flatboats that were highly successful at the time and he also established a business in Buenos Aires. A few years later he returned to Cincinnati as a wealthy merchant and made his permanent home here.”