Mustachioed Mizzou

Historic facial hair of the 1800s

Mustachioed Mizzou

Historic facial hair of the 1800s

Long before stubble-chic and handlebar-ironic came into vogue, Mizzou’s campus was a treasure trove of stylish and innovative beards and mustaches. In honor of the men’s health initiative No-Shave November, we present important men from Mizzou’s early days and their (also important) facial hair.


James Sidney Rollins

After the Geyer Act of 1839 passed, paving the way for higher education in Missouri, Rollins, a new state legislator, drafted a successful bill to establish the location of Missouri’s new state university in Columbia. During the Civil War, Rollins worked for President Lincoln and supported the 1862 Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act. He returned home after the war and became president of the MU Board of Curators in 1869. He founded the Normal College (now the College of Education), raised money for the president’s home and established Mizzou as the state’s federal land grant institution. The “Father of the University of Missouri” resigned from the board in 1886.


John Hiram Lathrop

Born in New York, Lathrop came to Mizzou to serve as the university’s first president in 1841. His term lasted through 1849, and he later served as chancellor at the University of Wisconsin and Indiana University. Lathrop returned to Missouri in 1860 and became MU president again in 1865 but died in office in 1866. Lathrop Residence Hall is the second building named for him. The first was a men’s dormitory and dining club that stood from 1898 to 1961.


William Wilson Hudson

Hudson came to Mizzou in 1843 and was the university’s first professor of mathematics. Sporting a beard worthy of the position, he became the university’s third president in 1856. Hudson served only three years before he died in office. Hudson Residence Hall was named in his honor.


Robert Levi Todd

Little Bob” Todd and his older brother, Robert “Big Bob” Barr Todd, were the two members of Mizzou’s first graduating class. Little Bob, the class valedictorian, became the university’s first official tutor, a 15-year member of the Board of Curators and a 25-year secretary of the Board of Curators. Todd was instrumental in the creation of the Mizzou Alumni Association and was president 1885–86. Todd, first cousin to President Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln, used his connections to prevent the town of Columbia from being burned down during the Civil War.


George Clinton Swallow

Swallow served as a professor of chemistry and geology briefly before becoming Missouri’s first state geologist in 1853. He returned to Mizzou in 1858, and by 1870 he had had become the chair of natural history and agriculture. In 1872 he became the first dean of the College of Agriculture, but he was fired for openly criticizing a shortage of financial support for his new program. Swallow Hall on the Quad was named in his honor in 1930.


Andrew Walker McAlester

Born in Rocheport, Mo., McAlester earned a degree in literary studies from MU in 1864. He traveled the world studying medicine before returning for a master’s degree in 1868. McAlester was appointed chair of surgery and obstetrics in 1873, and in 1880 he became the dean of medicine. The school’s structure and curriculum improved so much under McAlester that he is considered “the Father of the University of Missouri School of Medicine.” Shortly after his death, the medical building was renamed McAlester Hall.


Thomas Jefferson Lowry

Lowry graduated from Mizzou in 1870 and served as engineering’s first dean from 1877 to 1893. According to an 1891 article in The New York Times, Lowry was described as “a little nervous individual, as homely as he is brainy.” The story went on, “A fringe of red whiskers … form an appropriate setting for blue eyes that sparkle whether the owner is talking politics or elucidating intricate engineering problems.”


Luther Marion Defoe

Defoe came to Mizzou as a student in 1881 and joined the faculty as a math tutor in 1892. The heavily mustachioed man became a professor of mathematics and mechanical engineering in 1903 and was so popular with students that he was called “Daddy Defoe” and was recognized as the unofficial dean of men. Defoe Residence Hall was named in his honor in 1940.


Richard Henry Jesse

A professor of Latin at Tulane University, Jesse was hired as Mizzou’s president in 1891. A year later Academic Hall burned, leaving behind the Columns. Jesse convinced the Board of Curators not only to rebuild but also to construct additional buildings on campus. Jesse created MU’s summer school and athletics programs and quadrupled the university’s income. He was so popular that, when he took a leave of absence, students unharnessed his horses and pulled his carriage to the train station themselves. Jesse was president until 1908 and died in 1921. A year after his death the new Academic Hall was renamed Jesse Hall.


Edward D. Porter

Following the passage of the 1862 Morrill Act, there was a great debate in the state over where to locate a land-grant college of agriculture. It was so heated and drawn out that the state nearly lost the money altogether. When MU received the college in a political compromise, legislators accused the university of messing with fund allocation. The college’s first two deans were fired, replaced by Porter. He was pivotal in ending the decades-long argument and establishing the College of Agriculture on a course of research, teaching and service continuing today.


William F. Switzler

At an early age, Switzler worked for newspaper printing companies. He became the editor of Columbia’s Patriot newspaper in 1841 and changed the name to The Missouri Statesman as its co-owner in 1843. Switzler gained renown as a journalist following the Civil War and served several years on the MU Board of Curators. He wrote An Illustrated History of Missouri (1879), A History of Boone County, Missouri (1882) and an unpublished History of the University of Missouri, housed in the University Archives. In 1909, MU’s oldest academic building was renamed Switzler Hall in his honor.


John Carleton Jones

The 10th president of the university served only three years, but he left lasting marks during his tenure. Jones, MU president 1921–23, was responsible for the construction of campus icons Memorial Union and Memorial Stadium. In recognition of the former Latin and Greek professor’s contributions, Jones Residence Hall was named in his honor.

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