Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Omnibus College

In 1922, professor William Marion Goldsmith of Fairmont College took four of his students on a road trip as part of an extended study program. The next year Goldsmith bought a bus and was approached by co-ed Martha Foster who wanted to join the program, and the omnibus college was born. In 1926, Fairmont College became The Municipal College of Wichita of Kansas and the omnibus program expanded to hundreds of students. By 1934 over 85% of the omnibus students were women. Traveling with teachers, drivers, support staff and chaperons, the women travelled over North America studying and earning college credits in their chosen field. Botany students collected plants along the road, geology students chipped rocks, journalism students wrote about their trips. This trip must have been for history students. The third photo in the collection is labeled "Pittsburg Landing." Pittsburg Landing, also known as the battle of Shiloh, took place in April of 1862. The picture of the ladies standing around the tables is labeled, "K. P. detail at Chattanooga." In front of the tent, "Louise S." Note the black cooks in the first picture.


  1. What beautiful and interesting photos - and what a great program!

  2. My mother toured the United States as an Omnibus College student for six weeks in the summer of 1932 when she was 19. It was a defining experience in her young life. I have a journal/scrapbook of her trip with photos similar to those shown here. It's fun to learn more about the program, which ended in bankruptcy in 1935, according to a Lawrence Kansas newspaper.

  3. Going through my parents personal affects, I've found a 12x7x2 inch photo album full of stock Omnibus College photos (decorative boarder with the words Omnibus College) from all over the country. I was puzzled as to its origin. There were a few papers loose in the book that referred to my aunt Winifred Eastwood (b. 1908). The back of the album has personal pictures, none of which are identified. It also contains material dated 1931 (theater tickets) and 1933 (Chicago Century of Progress ticket). A small "Sing Along with the Omnibus College" songbook is included. Some of the photos show groups of young women and their "buses."
    Some of the greatest joys of my life have come from traveling. This was a perfect opportunity for the "girls" of the day to experience such a great education. This sounds like my aunt - always the adventurous one.
    Mark Eastwood