Henry Sabin Papers, ca. 1871-1918

Collection Overview

Title: Henry Sabin Papers, ca. 1871-1918

Record Series: 01/01/21

Creator: Henry Sabin

Date: ca. 1871-1918

Extent: 0.417 linear feet, 1 box

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.

Language: This material is entirely in English.

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Preferred Citation: [Identification of item] in the Henry Sabin Papers, ca. 1871-1918, Archives Record Series 01/01/21, [folder number], University Archives, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa

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Historical Note

Henry Sabin served as the President of the Iowa State Normal School (UNI) Board of Directors from 1888-1892 and 1894-1898. In this position, he worked closely with President Homer H. Seerley (president from1886-1928) to improve educational standards throughout the state of Iowa. Born on October 23, 1829 near Pomfret, Connecticut, Sabin was educated in the common schools of New England including Woodstock Academy and Amherst College. Gaining the experience required of teachers for this time, he went on to teach in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois before relocating to Iowa in the late 1860s.

From 1871-1887, Sabin served as the Superintendent of Schools in Clinton, Iowa. Working in this capacity he became aware of the inherent problems in the American public school system and committed his life to finding and implementing solutions. During his tenure as Superintendent, he was among the final three candidates for the first presidency of the Iowa State Normal School, which ultimately was granted to James C. Gilchrist (1876-1886). Unperturbed by the results, Sabin continued on in his work and was elected President of the Iowa State Teachers Association in 1878.

From 1896-1897 he was the chair of the National Education Association Committee of Twelve on Rural Schools. The final report compiled by the Committee recommended consolidation, efficiency, and professional teacher training as solutions for the deficiencies of rural education. Highly influential in improving Iowa’s educational standards, the report echoed Sabin’s belief that, “The school must be the aid, the active ally of civilization, from a humanitarian standpoint as well as from that of the arts and sciences. A humane education is necessary to the growth and preservation of a civilization, which is humane in its nature.”

As President of the Iowa State Normal School Board of Directors, Sabin worked cooperatively with President Seerley to ensure that teachers and students in Iowa were well educated. During his tenure, the University secured the ability to certify normal school graduates on the basis of training rather than examination, establish the training school for observation and practice teaching, develop special curricula for the training of teachers for different areas of public school work, and procure appropriations for campus improvements and construction projects. In addition, Sabin was influential in laying the foundation necessary to transition the Iowa State Normal School (1876-1909) to the Iowa State Teachers College (1906-1961).

Following his retirement, Sabin went on to teach at Highland Park College in Des Moines and participated in a Midwestern lecture circuit. While serving as an editor for Midland Schools (1899-1907) and the Iowa edition of the Western Teacher (1901), he authored two books Talks to Young People (1899) and Common Sense Didactics (1903). Along with his sons Elbridge and Edwin, he co-authored The Making of Iowa (1900) and Early American History for Young Americans (1904). Until his death on March 22, 1918 in Chula Vista, California, Sabin remained a strong supporter of educational reform in Iowa and the nation. 

Scope and Content

This collections contains biographical materials about, and writings by, Henry Sabin.


Box 1

Folder 1: Biographical Material

Folder 2: “Life of Henry Sabin” by Clarence Ray Aurner

Folder 3: ​"Aaron Burr and the Men of His Time" by Henry Sabin

Folder 4: “The American School” by Henry Sabin

Folder 5: ​"DeSoto" by Henry Sabin

Folder 6: ​"The Hidden River – Marquette" by Henry Sabin

Folder 7: ​"Horace Mann" by Henry Sabin

Folder 8: “Inaugural Address: Delivered Before the State Teachers’ Association of Iowa” by Henry Sabin, December 26, 1878

Folder 9: "LaSalle" by Henry Sabin

Folder 10: ​"My Educational Creed" by Henry Sabin

Folder 11: ​"The New vs. The Old" by Henry Sabin

Folder 12: "The Power of the Teacher's Profession" by Henry Sabin

Folder 13: "The Practical Side of School Life" by henry Sabin, 1891

Folder 14: "The Public School Library and Its Use" by Henry Sabin

Folder 15: “Some Puritan Traits” by Henry Sabin

Folder 16: “The Sources of Real Strength” by Henry Sabin

Folder 17: "What Can Be Done By Educators to Enlighten and Arouse the People and Excite Public Sentiment in Favor of Education" by Henry Sabin

Folder 18: ​"What Present Means Are Available for the Preparation of Teachers for Their Work" by Henry Sabin

Folders 19-20, Books:

  • Folder 19: Common Sense Didactics for Common School Teachers by Henry Sabin. Rand, McNally & Company: Chicago, 1903
  • Folder 20: Talks to Young People by Henry Sabin. The Education Exchange, Publishers: Des Moines, Iowa, 1899  

Processing Information

Collection initially arranged and finding aid created by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, late 1970s; prepared for the Web by Graduate Assistant Amy Rekward and Assistant Archivist Dustin S. Witsman, April 2015.  Additional updates by Library Associate Dave Hoing, April 2017, October 2017, and February 2018. Linear Feet updated August 8, 2017.

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