By Alexis Schulz
Wide eyes, gasping breaths, laughter and gleaming smiles brightened the Rare Book Room in Moore Library on March 11 as family members of William Cogswell Whitney, co-founder of the Trenton Business College, learned about him and the beginnings of Rider.
Chatter, pointing fingers and excitement filled the small room that was engulfed by the family, as they leaned over a menagerie of photos, letters, maps, a diary and other historical information sprawled on a wooden table.
“This is very interesting, wow!” one family member said.
“You’ll need to grow a beard, then you’ll look like great-great-great grandfather,” another joked.
The Bryant, Stratton & Co. Trenton Business College opened on Oct. 2, 1865, under co-founders James Sutphin Chamberlin and Whitney.
“Whitney supplied funding and oversight to the school, while Chamberlin was in charge of day-to-day operations,” said Robert Congleton, librarian and the university’s archivist.
Whitney also had a Newark school called the Bryant, Stratton & Whitney Business College. In 1866 he moved George A. Gaskell, his famous penmanship teacher, to Trenton to bolster the curriculum taught at the school. At this same time, Andrew J. Rider went to Whitney’s Newark school to teach.
“It appears that Rider had skill as a teacher, for he was one of two Newark Business College teachers to win an award in recognition of their teaching late in the spring of 1866,” said Congleton.
Chamberlin eventually left the Trenton Business School in March 1866 to buy 50 percent of the Bryant & Stratton School in Burlington, Connecticut. In Trenton, Gaskell was promoted to principal during this time.
“[The promotion] does not seem to have been agreeable to Henry B. Bryant, co-owner of the schools as part of the Bryant & Stratton partnership that co-owned some 46 business schools,” said Congleton.
Bryant then ordered Rider to Trenton in June 1866. He became the school’s third principal, and Gaskell returned to Whitney’s Newark School as the school’s leading teacher.
Whitney sold his 50 percent share of the school in 1866 to Joseph A. Beecher and took over as principal, replacing Rider. But Rider remained a teacher at the school.
Whitney, after he sold his share of the school, set up a commercial training school in Tokyo, now called Hitotsubashi Business School. His wife, Anna, and daughter, Clara, became missionaries and eventually his daughter married a Japanese man, Kaji Umetaro.
As for the Trenton Business College, in 1868 Rider created a partnership between himself and Beecher as he purchased half-interest in the Trenton Business College. Then, in 1869, Rider assumed control of the college, though still not full ownership, when Beecher moved to Newark. In November 1870, Beecher sold his share of the school to William B. Allen, starting the partnership between Rider and Allen. Once Allen retired in 1881, Rider became sole owner of the Trenton Business College.
“Rider started many endowments and scholarships,” said Congleton. “That’s part of the reason why the school is named after him.”
As the family of Whitney passed around documents, embraced one another and shared memories, Douglas Stiffler, great-great-grandchild of Whitney and associate professor of history (China, Japan and World) at Juniata College, said he was amazed by the information Congleton presented and was thrilled to find out more information about his relative.
“He had a real influence on the development of business education, international business,” he said. “I am amazed, really. I’ve always paid attention to the Japanese side of the family. I’m just kind of astonished.”
As the great and great-great and great-great-great descendants of Whitney left the Rare Book Room, they took with them an understanding of the founding of Rider and the beginning steps of a relative who started it all.
Published in the 3/30/16 edition.