California State Normal School

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Not to be confused with California University of Pennsylvania.

Coordinates: 37°20′9″N 121°52′57″W / 37.33583°N 121.88250°W / 37.33583; -121.88250[1]

An 1880s lithograph of the original California State Normal School campus in San Jose.
The California State Normal School Bell, forged in 1881, still graces the San Jose campus
The California State Normal School, San Jose, catalog from 1918-1919 school year

The California State Normal School was a teaching college founded on May 2, 1862. The original campus later became San Jose State University, the founding institution of the California State University system.

Although the California State Legislature act founding the school referred to the institution as the "Normal School of the State of California," the institution was commonly referred to as the California State Normal School. The 1870 Act that moved the school to San Jose formalized the California State Normal School name.

The school was created when the State of California took over a normal school that educated San Francisco teachers in association with that city's high school system. This school was generally known as either the San Francisco Normal School or Minns' Evening Normal School.

The second California State Normal School campus, predecessor to UCLA, at its original downtown Los Angeles location

In 1871, the school moved to Washington Square Park at Fourth and San Carlos Streets in San Jose, where San Jose State University is still located. The original building at Washington Square Park was completed in 1872 but burned down on February 10, 1880. It was replaced by a second building in 1881, depicted in the lithograph at right.

In 1881, the first branch campus was announced in Los Angeles, which later became the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1887, the California legislature changed the name of the two normal schools, dropping the word "California" and designating them simply as "State Normal Schools." At the end of the 19th century it was graduating 130 teachers a year and was "one of the best known normal schools in the West."[2]

The State Normal School and "SNS" athletics[edit]

The State Normal School at San Jose football team in 1910. Jerseys display a large "N" for the "Normal".

After 1887 the official name of the San Jose campus was the "State Normal School at San Jose." The school's athletic teams initially played under the "Normal" identity as indicated in the photo below, but they gradually shifted to the State Normal School identity, as evidenced by images of the SNS football and basketball squads from this era. Despite the SNS identity, the school continued to be referred to as the "California State Normal School, San Jose" in official publications like the 1919 school bulletin pictured on this page. A recent historical display in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library on the San Jose State campus featured a number of pieces of State Normal School memorabilia, including a "SNS" pennant.

Statewide spread of the State Normal School[edit]

Other State Normal Schools were established in Chico in 1887, San Diego in 1897, and elsewhere throughout the state of California. With the exception of the Los Angeles campus, the system of State Normal Schools would later become the California State University system.

In 1919, the State Normal School at Los Angeles became the southern branch of the University of California.

In 1921 the California State Legislature decreed that the remaining State Normal Schools would be known as State Teachers Colleges and that the original campus would be known as the State Teachers College at San Jose. In 1935, the State Teachers Colleges became the California State Colleges, administered from the State Department of Education in Sacramento. The new San Jose State College was no longer limited to educating teachers and later evolved into San José State University.

References[edit]

  • Act to Establish and Maintain a State Normal School (May 2, 1862), The Statutes of California, pp. 472–473, Benj. P. Avery, State Printer, Sacramento, 1862.
  • Historical Sketch of the State Normal School at San Jose - 1862 - 1889, State Office, Supt. of State Printing, 1889.
  • Act Providing for the Selection of a Site for and Construction of the California State Normal School
  • Washington Square 1857-1979: The History of San Jose State University, Gilbert & Burdick, San Jose State University, 1979.