Scholfield's Commercial College

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Scholfield's Commercial College
Scholfield's Commercial College Providence RI.jpg
1882 engraving
Type Private co-educational Business college
Active 1846–?
Founder Albert G. Scholfield
Academic staff
Students 650
Location Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Campus Urban

Scholfield's Commercial College was a business college in Providence, Rhode Island during the second half of the 19th century. It is no longer in operation.


Albert Scholfield (1807–1901)

In 1846, Albert Gallatin Scholfield (1807–1901)[1] moved from Connecticut to Providence. He was a proponent of the double-entry bookkeeping system, but found that most merchants in town used the single-entry system.[2] Sensing an opportunity, in June 1846 he opened Scholfield's Commercial College in downtown Providence.[2] It was the first business school in the city.[2] Eventually the double-entry method became the dominant accounting system in town.[2]

By 1867, the school boasted twelve faculty and an average daily attendance of 650 students.[3]


Bookkeeping was the main course of study at Scholfield's. The school promoted itself as teaching a superior and original method, which they called "Scholfield's Manuscript System of Book-Keeping."[3] This method dispensed with textbooks, and was simultaneously more thorough and faster to learn than other accounting methods.[3] The school offered "special attention" to bookkeeping for the Jewellery industry,[3] which was an important industry in Providence at the time. Further, the school boasted that Scholfield's System would "render the perpetration of fraud or embezzlement by workmen and employees nearly impossible."[3]

A catalog from 1867 lists courses including surveying; civil engineering; navigation; and penmanship.[3] Also offered was a course on "Common English Studies", which included arithmetic, grammar, geography and other studies.[3] Students could study a basic level of Latin, Greek, French, and German.[3]

Women studying bookkeeping were allowed to study with the men in the Bookkeeping Department, while other women could enroll in the Ladies Department, which offered instruction in penmanship, Belles-lettres, drawing, and French.[3]


The school advertised for students from as far away as New York City, as in this advertisement from the New York Tribune from March 30, 1866.

The school was located in the Howard Building, at the corner of Dorrance St. and Westminster St. in downtown Providence.[4] Although Bryant College occupied the same building in 1863,[5] the two are not to be confused.[4] Scholfield's was a competitor of Bryant, and by 1882 Bryant was located in the Hoppin Homestead Building down Westminster Street.[4]

There have been four Howard Buildings on the site. Twice it burned down. The third building, home of Scholfield's, was built 1857 and demolished in 1957 after Hurricane Carol flooded downtown.[5]

The main hall of the Howard building was a huge space, with a capacity to hold 1200 students.[3] It measured 108 feet long by 62 feet wide, and 25 feet high from floor to ceiling; it was illuminated by the light of fourteen windows by day, and fourteen chandeliers by night.[3]


Scholfield's school turned out business leaders, architects, and at least one mayor of Providence. Notable people who studied at Scholfield's include:


  1. ^ "The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project Index". US GenWeb Project. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Greene, Welcome Arnold (1886). The Providence Plantations for Two Hundred and Fifty Years. Providence, RI: J. A. & R. A. Reid. p. 174. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Circular and catalogue of Scholfield's Commercial College. Providence: Knowles, Anthony & Co. 1867. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "Scholfield's Commercial College Certificate". Digital Commons @ Bryant University. Bryant University. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Lennon, Sheila (25 January 2013). "Long ago, it housed a business school: Where, when, what's there now?". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "Henry Fletcher, City's Mayor 1909-13, Dies". Providence, Rhode Island: The Providence Journal. 27 August 1953. p. 12. 

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