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Chancellor James Roscoe Day Papers

An inventory of his papers at the Syracuse University Archives

Finding aid created by: Cara Howe
Date: 2010


James Roscoe Day

James Roscoe Day was the fourth and longest serving Chancellor of Syracuse University, holding the position from April 1894 to June 1922. Born in 1845 in Whitneyville, Maine, to Mary Plummer Hillman Day, daughter of a Methodist preacher, and Thomas Day, a prominent business and lumberman, James Day was raised on his family’s farm. He studied at local schools in eastern Maine, then at Maine Wesleyan Seminary with a focus on mathematics and the classics, enabling him to enter Bowdin College one year ahead of his class. Upon graduation, Day entered into the Methodist ministry in 1872 and held his first pastorate in Bath, Maine. Shortly after, he married Anna E. Richards and together they had a daughter, Mary Imogene. Day then moved to Boston and spoke at churches and conferences all over New England. He also held a pastorate at St. Paul’s Church in New York where he became close friends with John D. Archbold, vice-president of the Standard Oil Company.

On November 16, 1893, Day was elected the fourth Chancellor of Syracuse University, succeeding Charles N. Sims. Upon his arrival he stated, “I see in my mind’s eye a great university on the Hill. Instead of three colleges, I see a dozen colleges. Instead of several buildings, I see a score of buildings. Instead of a student body of 800, I see a student body of 8,000 and the university as the center of the educational system of the state of New York.”

Day’s chancellorship saw the erection of 22 new buildings and the establishment of 13 new divisions and schools at the University, funded by such names as John D. Archbold, John D. Rockefeller, Lyman C. Smith, Esther Baker Steele, and S.W. Bowne. Day created law, journalism, and home-economics programs at the University, helping to draw in a greater number of students. He also changed the University from a Methodist institution to a nonsectarian university, hoping to attract a larger student body.

After nearly 29 years of building a legacy at Syracuse University, Day retired in 1922. In February 1923, he moved with his wife, who had taken ill, to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Unfortunately, Day died shortly after having contracted a cold, which turned into the influenza and eventually bronchial pneumonia.

Day left behind a lengthy list of accomplishments, the height of which was spending almost 29 years at the head of Syracuse University and contributing more to its growth than any other chancellor before or after him. In addition to being Chancellor, Day wrote two books and was working on a third at the time of his death. In his memory, Day Hall, a student dormitory, was constructed and dedicated on November 14, 1958.

Scope and Content Note

The entire collection spans the years 1864 through 1961 and includes many different items pertaining to Dr. Day’s personal and professional life during his time at Syracuse University. The Day Papers are a great source of historical value for those interested in Day or Syracuse University under his chancellorship.

The bulk of the Day Papers consist of the correspondence of Chancellor James R. Day from 1896 to 1930, including incoming and outgoing letters. Well-known correspondents include John D. Archbold, Melvil Dewey, J.D. Rockefeller, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry Ford, George Eastman, Frederick Law Olmsted and Elihu Root.

The collection also includes a few annual reports to the Chancellor, minutes of the Athletic Governing Board, and many miscellaneous documents relating to such things as the establishment of the College of Agriculture and the College of Forestry, Board of Trustee meeting minutes, the Will of Margaret Olivia Sage, and a death threat sent to Day in 1908. Also included are personal papers of Day: a scrapbook, the certificate appointing him a Bishop of the Methodist-Episcopal Church, sermons and speeches, including the address given at the Memorial for Theodore Roosevelt, and Day’s book of Rituals of the Methodist-Episcopal Church.


Access Restrictions:

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Related correspondence can be found in the John D. Archbold Family Papers at the Syracuse University Archives. There are also clipping and portrait files for Day held in the Archives.

Day is featured on the Archives' SU History pages: "Chancellors of Syracuse University."

Selected Search Terms


Archbold, John D. (John Dustin), 1848-1916.
Day, James Roscoe, 1845-1923.
Dewey, Melvil, 1851-1931.
Eastman, George, 1854-1932.
Ford, Henry, 1864-1947.
Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1822-1903.
Rockefeller, John D. (John Davison), 1839-1937.
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945.
Root, Elihu, 1845-1937.
Sage, Margaret Olivia Slocum, 1928-1918.
New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University.
Syracuse University -- Chancellors.
Syracuse University -- Trustees.
Syracuse University.

Types of Material


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

James Roscoe Day Papers,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

These papers were received from several sources, but most of them were obtained through the efforts of Dr. W.F. Galpin, University Historian. The records were consolidated into one file in January 1963. In January 1971, Mrs. Donald Bishop donated twenty-four letters to Day including eleven letters from John D. Archbold, which she had purchased at a sale. In June 1975, the Archives received Day's copy of the Rituals of the Methodist Episcopal Church from Chancellor Tolley.

Processing Information

The materials have been placed in acid-free folders.


Correspondence are organized alphabetically by last name with outgoing letters listed under the recipient’s name or subject. The subject files are also arranged alphabetically.

Table of Contents


Subject Files