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Bowdoin College History Resources Online

Bowdoin’s First College Catalogue, 1807 (detail)
Bowdoin’s First College Catalogue, 1807 (detail)

Published Primary Sources

  • The Bowdoin College Catalogue is the official publication that describes entrance and degree requirements, course offerings, scholarships, student awards and prizes, and sanctioned student organizations.  The Catalogue, which also lists the names of faculty and College officers and, until the late 1960s, the names and residences of students, is an essential resource for researching the curricular history of the College and biographies of Bowdoin students and faculty.  For those years when the Medical School of Maine was administered by Bowdoin College (1820-1921), the Bowdoin College Catalogue was typically published jointly with that of the medical school.
  • The Bowdoin Orient, the student newspaper, began publication in 1871 and is the nation’s oldest continuously published college weekly.  It provides news and information relevant to the Bowdoin community, especially concerning student social life, and maintains a tradition of editorial independence from the College and its administration.
  • Report of the President, Bowdoin College (1891-2001) provides annual “state of the college” summaries issued by the Office of the President. Most issues also include annual reports of the librarian, the director of the Museum of Art, the curator of the Arctic Museum, the dean of the College, and for some years, reports by the registrar, the dean of the Medical School, the College physician, and the director of the Senior Center. Among the matters discussed are gifts and acquisitions, changes in programs and personnel, demographics and other statistical data.
  • Bowdoin Alumni Magazine (1927-1969), published under various titles, includes alumni updates, news of campus and alumni association events, and articles centered on Bowdoin’s history and social life. Online versions of more recent issues of the alumni magazine, Bowdoin (2002- ), are also available. Issues published between 1970 and 2002 are available in print only, in the College Archives (Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, 3rd floor).

General histories:

  • The History of Bowdoin College (1927), by Louis Clinton Hatch, is the most detailed history of the College for the period from the College’s founding in 1794 until 1927. It is especially useful in documenting College traditions and curricular developments, and tangentially in recording social life in Brunswick.
  • A Small College in Maine (1993), by Charles Calhoun and published in conjunction with Bowdoin’s bicentenary, provides a readable, illustrated history of the College.  Calhoun cites numerous primary resources that are helpful for further historical inquiry.


Special topics:

  • The Architecture of Bowdoin College (1988), by Patricia McGraw Anderson, is the best single resource for the architectural history of Bowdoin’s campus buildings, gates, and memorials.
  • Religion at Bowdoin College: A History (1981), by Ernst Christian Helmreich, considers how people at Bowdoin have perceived religion, how they have felt religion should or should not be realized at the College, and how those views changed over the years.
  • Named Professorships at Bowdoin College (1976) is a study of the named professorial chairs and other endowed funds designated directly for faculty support.
  • The Legacy of James Bowdoin III (1994), was published to accompany a major year-series of exhibitions and programs at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art commemorating the bicentennial of the founding of Bowdoin College. It includes essays by Kenneth E. Carpenter, Linda J. Docherty, Arthur M. Hussey, Clifton C. Olds, Richard H. Saunders, Susan E. Wegner.
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