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Friends, two Hebrew synagogues, one
Swedenborgian, and two German Reformed. The beautifui Garfield Memorial Church on Vermont Avenue,
erected in honor of President Garfield, is interesting to visitors as occupying the site of the little chapel of the Disciples' Church, in which he worshipped during his official residence in Washington.
Two years after the granting of a city charterDecember 5, 1804—the City Council of Washington passed an act to establish “a permanent institution for the education of youth in the city of Washington.” This act provided for a board of thirteen trustees to superintend the public schools, and for the support of such schools appropriated the proceeds of taxes on slaves and dogs, the excise fees, etc., in amount not to exceed fifteen hundred dollars yearly. President Jefferson was elected president of the first board (which was organized on August 5, 1805), and in a letter dated at Monticello August 14th of that year gracefully accepted the position.
The original plan of this board was not for a system of public schools but for a great national university, the primary department of which was to be “schools for teaching the rudiments of knowledge necessary to the common purposes of life,” and this plan seems to have been followed by subsequent boards and by the corporation for forty years. An academy was organized, to consist of as many schools as circumstances should require, and which for a number of years consisted of but two-one in the eastern quarter near the Capitol, and the other in the western district near the White House. These schools recognized two classes of scholars: “pay pupils,” who paid five dollars per quarter for tuition, and in addition to the ordinary branches were instructed in geography and the Latin language; and the children of indigent parents, who were educated free. There was a principal teacher for each school, who received a salary of five hundred dollars per year with the “tuition money until the number of pay pupils should exceed fifty; out of this sum he was to pay the salaries of assistant teachers, rent of school-house, fuel, and other expenses. For many years succeeding boards of trustees and the corporation endeavored to conduct the public schools upon this basis—with but indifferent suc
There was the fatal distinction between pay pupils” and “pauper pupils," and there was, too, the indifference of the people and of Congress to the necessity of popular education, which was shown in the reluctant and parsimonious appropriations of the City Council, and in the entire absence of appropriations by Congress.
By 1840, however, the increase of children of school age in the city was so great that the people became aroused on the subject. Mayor Seaton even made the subject a topic of discussion in his message of that year to the city councils—without result. He returned to the subject in his message of 1841, and startled the city by the statement that of the 5,200 white children of school age, but 1,200 were attending either public
or private schools. The discussion excited by this action resulted, in 1844, in the adoption of a much more liberal policy by the city. The annual appropriations were increased from an average of $1,511 to over $5,000, the money, after 1848, being raised in part by a tax of one dollar on every free white male citizen in Washington. In 1848 the old system was finally done away with by an act providing for the abolition of all tuition fees. It appears by a report of a committee to the Common Council that in 1842 there were but two public schools in the city, with an average attendance of one hundred scholars each, and that the two school-houses were uncomfortable and unsuitable. The schools from this time forward were placed on a much better footing. By act of November 1, 1848, the trustees were authorized to establish a High School, which however was not done. In 1860, under the amended city charter, an act was passed levying a tax of ten cents on every hundred dollars for the support of public schools, which was cheerfully acquiesced in by all classes of citizens. Under the operation of this law new school-houses were rapidly built, and furnished with improved apparatus. Up to 1866 the citizens of Washington had expended $918,090.89 on their public schools.
In 1869 the office of Superintendent of Public Schools was created, and Mr. Zalmon Richards was appointed the first incumbent. He was succeeded in 1870 by Mr. James Ormond Wilson, who resigned in 1885, and was succeeded by Mr. William B. Powell the present incumbent. In September, 1873, a