Round Hill School

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The Round Hill School for Boys in Northampton, Massachusetts, founded by George Bancroft and Joseph Cogswell in 1823, though it failed as a viable venture — it closed in 1834 — was an early effort to elevate secondary education in the United States for the sons of the New England elite. The incompatibility of the two founders was a fundamental cause of the eventual dissolution of the project.

School founding[edit]

On his return from the University of Göttingen, wishing to shed upon others some of the inspiration he had received, George Bancroft applied for leave to read lectures on history at Harvard University. His request was denied. After this disappointment, in an attempt to introduce some parts of the German system of education to the United States, and in conjunction with Joseph Cogswell, Bancroft founded the Round Hill School. He left the school after a few years, leaving Cogswell in sole possession.

Early years[edit]

During the first eight years of its history, it enrolled 293 pupils, drawn from 19 states and four foreign countries. The conductors of Round Hill put into practice ideas they had gathered in Germany, England,[1] and Switzerland. In Switzerland, Cogswell had studied the schools of the two educators, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi at Yverdon, and Philipp Emanuel von Fellenberg at the estate of Hofwyl near Bern. He was impressed by the good order and success of the institution of Fellenberg even more than by that of Pestalozzi. The companionship of teacher and pupil, study mingled with play, uniform development, attention to the study of modern languages — these principles impressed him forcibly, and he introduced them later at his own Round Hill School. The German system also included the abolition, as far as possible, of fear and emulation. The lash was forbidden, out-of-door life was emphasized as a feature, while individual attention given to each pupil was employed as a stimulus instead of rivalry. All these ideas were subsequently put into practice at Round Hill. It was the first school in the country thoroughly impressed with the German ideas.

Scholars and closing[edit]

The Round Hill School secured German scholar Charles Beck in February 1824 shortly after he arrived with Charles Follen on the same ship the previous Christmas. Beck was appointed teacher of Latin, and he soon established at Round Hill the first gym and the first school gymnastics program in the United States.[2][3] The gym was an outdoor facility.[3] Carl Follen was a visitor at Round Hill, and in November 1824 proceeded to Harvard to teach German.[3]

The school was comparable to a German gymnasium. It closed in 1834 due to financial difficulties[4] and overwork on the part of Cogswell.[5]


George Gibbs Ethnologist, Geologist and Naturalist

John Lothrop Motley Historian and diplomat

Samuel Cutler Ward American lobbyist


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Cogswell, Joseph Green". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  2. ^ Feintuch, Burt; Watters, David H., eds. (2005). The Encyclopedia of New England. Yale University Press. p. 282. 
  3. ^ a b c Fred Eugene Leonard (1923). A Guide to the History of Physical Education. Philadelphia and New York: Lea & Febiger. pp. 233–235. 
  4. ^ William C. Lane (1930). "Cogswell, Joseph Green". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  5. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Cogswell, Joseph Green". The American Cyclopædia. 1879. 


  • Albert Bernhardt Faust, The German Element in the United States (2 vols.), Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909, vol. II, chap. V, pp. 214–215 at This source describes the gymnasium as an indoor facility.
  • Bassett, John S. "The Round Hill School." American Antiquarian Society Proceedings new series 27 (1917), pp 18–62. The early experiment in education by George Bancroft and Joseph Cogswell, 1823–1834, and why it failed.

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