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Several Thomasites are interred at the American Teachers Memorial, a special plot inside the Manila North Cemetery. The current memorial was erected in 1917.

The Thomasites were originally a group of about 500 American teachers sent by the United States government to the Philippines in August 1901 who arrived on the USAT Thomas. The term however has also been expanded to include any teacher who arrived in the first few years of the American colonial period of the Philippines.

Foundation, purpose and etymology[edit]

The Thomasites arrived in the Philippines on August 21,[1] 1901, to establish a new public school system, to teach basic education, and to train Filipino teachers, with English as the medium of instruction.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] The Philippines had enjoyed a public school system since 1863, when a Spanish decree first introduced public elementary education in the Philippines. The Thomasites, however, expanded and improved the public school system and switched to English as the medium of instruction.

The name Thomasite was derived from the transport vessel USAT Thomas (earlier known as SS Minnewaska in private service), which brought the educators to the shores of Manila Bay.[7] Although two groups of new American graduates arrived in the Philippines before USS Thomas, the name Thomasite became the designation of all pioneer American teachers simply because USS Thomas had the largest contingent. Later batches of American teachers were also dubbed Thomasites.[2]

The Thomasites—365 males and 165 females—left Pier 12 of San Francisco on July 23, 1901, to sail via the Pacific Ocean to South East Asia. The U.S. government spent about $105,000 for the expedition. More American teachers followed the Thomasites in 1902, making a total of about 1,074 stationed in the Philippines.[3][4][7]

At the time, the Thomasites were offered $125 a month, but once in the Philippines salaries were often delayed and were usually paid in devalued Mexican pesos.[2][4][5]

Although the Thomasites were the largest group of pioneers with the purpose of educating the Filipinos, they were not the first to be deployed by Washington, D.C. A few weeks before the arrival of USS Thomas, U.S. Army soldiers had already begun teaching Filipinos the English language, thus in effect laying the foundation of the Philippine public school system. The U.S. Army opened the Philippines’ first public school in Corregidor Island, after Admiral George Dewey vanquished the Spanish Pacific fleet in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898.[3] Also, a few weeks before the arrival of USS Thomas, another group composed of 48 American teachers also arrived in the Philippines, aboard the USAT Sheridan.[3]

After President William McKinley’s appointment of William Howard Taft as the head of a commission that would be responsible for continuing the educational work started by the U.S. Army, the Taft Commission passed Education Act No. 34 on January 21, 1901, which established the Department of Public Instruction. The latter was then given the task of establishing a public school system throughout the Philippines. The Taft Commission also authorized the further deployment of 1,000 more educators from the U.S. to the Philippines.[3]


After being quarantined for two days after their arrival on August 21, 1901, the Thomasites were finally able to disembark from the USS Thomas. They travelled from the customs house near the Anda Circle then stayed at the walled city Intramuros, Manila before being given initial provincial assignments which included Albay, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Masbate, Samar, Zambales, Aparri, Jolo, Negros, Cebu, Dumaguete, Bataan, Batangas, Pangasinan and Tarlac.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Curriculum 1902–1935[edit]

The Thomasites taught the following subjects: English, agriculture, reading, grammar, geography, mathematics, general courses, trade courses, housekeeping and household arts (sewing, crocheting and cooking), manual trading, mechanical drawing, freehand drawing and athletics (baseball, track and field, tennis, indoor baseball and basketball). [6]


The Thomasites built upon the contributions laid down by the U.S. Army. They built elementary schools and learning institutions such as the Philippine Normal School (now Philippine Normal University) and the Philippine School of Arts and Trades (now Technological University of the Philippines) in 1901, the Tarlac High School on September 21, 1902 and the Quezon National High School (now, Tayabas High School), also in 1902.[3][4][5][6]

The Thomasites also reopened the Philippine Nautical School, which was originally established by the Board of Commerce of Manila in 1839 under Spain.[3] About a hundred of the Thomasites stayed on to live in the Philippines after finishing their teaching assignments. They transformed the Philippines into the third largest English-speaking nation in the world and they became the precursors of the present-day U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers.[2][3][4][5][6]

For their contribution to Philippine education, the Thomasites Centennial Project was established in cooperation with American Studies associations in the Philippines, the Philippine-American Educational Foundation, the Embassy of the United States of America in Manila, and other leading cultural and educational institutions in the Philippines.[7][9]

List of some Thomasite teachers[edit]

  • George G. Adams, married a Filipino named Esperanza Nolasco in Aparri[4]
  • Charles John Anderson – Alumnus of Harvard, his first assignment (1901–1902) was in Lucena and served as assistant principal of Tayabas High School. In 1903 to 1905, assigned as supervising teacher in Indang, Cavite and established the Indang Intermediate School (now known as Cavite State University) in 1904.
  • Mr. Allen, died due to smallpox at Naga, Cebu[4]
  • Thaddeus Delos Anglemyer, husband of Philinda Rand[10]
  • Mr. Badger, died of cholera at Malasiqui, Pangasinan, buried in Manila; his widow was also a Thomasite who decided to remain in the Philippines with her two sons[4]
  • Henry H. Balch, former principal of Quezon National High School[6]
  • James D. Barry[11]
  • Roy DeWitt Bennett (1884–1968), father of Roy Anthony Cutaran Bennett and Helen Cutaran Bennett[12][13]
  • Audrey Boyle, former principal of Quezon National High School[6]
  • Harry Cole, husband of another Thomasite, Mary Cole[2]
  • Mr. Collins, drowned en route to Cebu from Negros, buried in Dumaguete[4]
  • Edwin Copeland, first dean of UP College of Agriculture and founder of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños.
  • Austin Craig, an American expert on José Rizal[5]
  • The Davis family, husband and wife with five children[5]
  • Frederic Vincent Doherty. b. 1875. Coconut farmer and Thomasite. Helped establish first English speaking school on the island of Mindanao, also built small Catholic chapel on the island.
  • Mr. Floyd Engle[4]
  • Mary Fee, author of An American Woman’s Impression of the Philippines, reprinted by GCF Books[5]
  • Paul Gilbert[2]
  • C. Goddard, a Catholic University graduate[5]
  • Hattie Grove, the English-language teacher of Carlos P. Romulo[2]
  • Mr. Guernsey, died after succumbing to diphtheria at Balayan, Batangas[4]
  • A.V.H. Hartendorp, the founder and publisher of the Philippine Magazine[3][5]
  • Harvey Edgar Hostetter, stationed in Panay (1914 to 1917)[4]
  • The Hilt family, husband and wife with three children, from Hawaii[5]
  • Mr. Jamizon, died due to cholera while at Dinalupihan, Bataan[4]
  • Maud Jarman[2]
  • Adeline Knapp[3]
  • Frederic Marquardt, a son of a pioneer Thomasite, who went back to the Philippines in 1987 to unveil a bust of his father.[2]
  • Roy Matthews[2]
  • Roderick McCloud, served as the superintendent in the town of Laguna
  • Blaine Free Moore[2][5]
  • Henry Nash, former member of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders
  • Benjamin Neal[2]
  • James O'Hara[4][14]
  • Luther Park[4]
  • Philinda Rand[2]
  • Delia Delight Rice (1883–1964),[15] founder of the Manila School of the Deaf in 1907 (see Filipino Sign Language)
  • Carrie Rice Shaw, also wrote a poem while on board the USS Thomas en route to the Philippines[5]
  • E. E. Schneider, author of the poem, "To the Philippine Teachers" which was written in 1901 while aboard the USS Thomas, en route to the Philippines[4]
  • George R. Summers, later married Trinidad Agcaoili and father of Helen Summers Brown
  • The Townsend family, husband, wife and three children, from Hawaii[5]
  • Frank Russell White, assigned in Tarlac[16]
  • Ralph Wendell Taylor [17][18]
  • George William Satterthwaite, first assigned in San Jose, Antique where he met and married Dolores Tiscar[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ karnow, In Our Image, Page 85
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Karnow, Stanley. In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines, Ballantine Books, Random House, Inc., March 3, 1990, 536 pages, ISBN 0-345-32816-7
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The Thomasites:An Army Like No Other", October 12, 2003
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Thomas Sites In the Philippines Remarks by US Embassy Charge d'Affaires Michael E Malinowski In Honor of the Thomasites Centennial Memorial Program at the American Teacher's Plot North Cemetery Manila on August 26 2001 (from the U.S. Peace Corps Online Website) February 17 2003
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Tan, Michael L. "The Thomasite Experiment",, September 03, 2001
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Quezon National High School: A Century Hence" from Quezon National High School Website (archived from the original on 2007-02-12).
  7. ^ a b c d e International Book Project: Thomasites and Thomasites Centennial Project from U.S., June 28, 2001
  8. ^ a b Rivera, Guillermo Gómez. "The Thomasites Before and After" (eManila:05 August 2001), date retrieved: 27 May 2007
  9. ^ The Thomasites' Centennial Project: Launching of a Book on Thomasites and Photographs (Book Title:"Back to the Future: Perspectives on the Thomasites Legacy to the Philippines";Author Name: Corazon D. Villareal, Professor, University of the Philippines, U.S. Embassy (Manila) Website, August 15 2003
  10. ^ Anglemyer, Philinda Parsons Rand, 1876–1972. Papers, 1901–1909: A Finding Aid, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Call No. 86-M74–86-M130, Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute; These papers of Philinda Parsons (Rand) Anglemyer were given to the Schlesinger Library by her daughters, Katharine and Mary Anglemyer, in May and July 1986), Radcliffe College, July 1986, retrieved on: June 23, 2007
  11. ^ Ocampo, Ambeth R. "What the Thomasites Ate on Their Voyage to the Philippines", Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 June 2004
  12. ^ "Bios of notable Thomasites". Angkan Pilipino. 2011-06-21. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  13. ^ "Roy DeWitt Bennett (1884–1968)".  External link in |publisher= (help)
  14. ^ Oharas Website Message Database,
  15. ^ Abat, Rafaelito M., and Liza B. Martinez. The History of Sign Language in the Philippines: Piecing Together the Puzzle, Philippine Federation of the Deaf / Philippine Deaf Resource Center, Philippine Linguistics Congress, Department of Linguistics, University of the Philippines, January 25–27, 2006, 8 pages (PDF), retrieved on: March 25, 2008
  16. ^ Dizon, Lino L. Mr. White: A 'Thomasite's' History of Tarlac Province (1901–1913),, February 17, 2003, retrieved on: June 22, 2007
  17. ^ Log of the Thomas
  18. ^ letters to his mother
  19. ^ Estrada, Eufemia C. "The Thomasite Who Stayed.", Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 26, 2001.

External links[edit]