1845-1850: As early as 1845, F. G. Folsom taught classes in bookkeeping and penmanship in Oberlin. With the growth of business and industry there was a demand for clerks, office workers, and bank employees. Before typewriters, legible as well as so-called "ornamental" penmanship were taught as an end in themselves. All records, accounts, correspondence, diplomas, and other documents were written by hand. So-called "ornamental" penmanship was beyond neat and legible penmanship. Mastering the art required hours of practice to learn to execute the scrolls, flowing lines, shaded letters, flowers, and even animals--all drawn/written with pen and ink. Marriage licenses, diplomas, calling cards, and other more official documents were often done in "ornamental" penmanship. Students paid so much a lesson or for a course of lessons and Folsom taught for a period of approximately five years.

1877 - W. F. Lyons had an attack of writer's cramp (the carpal tunnel syndrome of its day!) and had to give up teaching penmanship. Thus, he sold out to McKee who continued to operate the school as the Oberlin Business Institute. Penmanship was the main subject and McKee was listed as principal.

1880 - Uriah McKee, who was concentrating on the teaching of penmanship, opened a business department.

1883 - A new department was added: shorthand and typewriting--all the latest technology! Regular courses in bookkeeping and arithmetic were also ex panded and strengthened according to the school's advertisements.

Spring 1884 - John T. Henderson attended the school. He came from Berea University, Berea, Ohio (now Baldwin-Wallace) where he had been studying and teaching. His main reason for attending was to study "ornamental" penmanship under McKee who excelled in the field.

Sept. 1884- After completion of the penmanship course, Henderson began work as a teacher at the school. Later, he bought half-interest in the school from McKee. At that time it was called M'Kee's Oberlin Bussiness College.

1889 - J.D. Yocom, Secretary. During the early years of Henderson's long association with the school, Yocom was associated with the school as part owner and teacher. Yocom had studied at Western Reserve Law School and was described as a capable and effective teacher. He was associated with the school until approximately 1925.

1892 - McKee's health failed and he gave up the school. J. T. Henderson purchased McKee's interest in the school.

1894 - Since that time the school was managed by a Board of Directors.

1895 - The school was incorporated under the same name, The Oberlin Business College, under which name it remained until 1929, when the name was changed to The Oberlin School of Commerce.

1896 - After being at several locations, the school moved to a more permanent home on the second floor of the Beckwith Building. Oberlin's Post Office was situated on the first floor for many years. The School office and accounting department as well as cloak rooms and rest rooms took up the space in the Beckwith Building.

1908 - An advertisement for OBERLIN BUSINESS COLLEGE in the HI-O-HI pictures J. D. Yocom, as secretary, and J. T. Henderson as president of the school. Fall term would begin on September 8, 1908. According to the ad, "new features for the coming year will be a course on Investments taught by President Henderson."

1910 to 1928 - GEORGE L. CLOSE was associated with J. T. Henderson as an outstand ing commercial teacher. He was secretary and treasurer of the school, had served in World ~ar I, had married Henderson1s daughter, Alice, and was the father of William and James Close. In 1928 he was killed in an auto accident.

1914 - After the Hobbs Building was constructed on South Main Street adjacent to the Beckwith Building (which housed the Oberlin Business College), additional rooms were available in the Hobbs Building for the shorthand department. The shorthand department was reached by a covered walkway between the two buildings. The typing department was situated in the south section of the Beckwith Building and just adjacent to the covered walkway. At this time, approximately 300 students were enrolled annually.

1915 - The Oberlin Business College was placed on the accredited list of Ohio Colleges and authorized to give a two-year training course for commercial teachers. Such a course could lead to a state certificate. This was authorized by the State Department of Public Instruction. Oberlin Business College was the first business school to be placed on the accredited list of Ohio colleges and was the only one for some time. The course was offered for twelve years (until 1927) and many graduates of the course received the state certificates and were employed to teach commercial subjects in high schools throughout Ohio and several other states. The teacher training course was discontinued in 1927 when the State Department of Public Instruction ruled that all commercial teachers must have a four-year college course in order to be certificated to teach commercial subjects in Ohio high schools.

1916 - The Oberlin Business college was under the management of the following Board of Directors: J. T. Henderson, President; J. D. Yocom, Vice-President;G. L. Close, Secretary; C. A. Barnett, J. F. Campbell, Hon. A. R. Webber, and Dr. Lyman B. Sperry.

1921 - An article in the Oberlin News, April 6, 1921, carried the headline BUSINESS SCHOOL STILL GROWING. According to the article, the Oberlin Business College had taken over the second floor of the Hobbs Building a few years before and was now adding to the second floor of the Beckwith Build ing with room to accommodate fifty more students (for those who pursued the two-year Business Administration Course.) Further remarks: that Oberlin Business College was "one of the biggest and best colleges in the country." Later, "Much of the credit for its success goes to President Henderson, who has devoted his life since early manhood to the building up of a business school which is second to none....he has been ably assisted by J. D. Yocom, Vice-President, and George L. Close, secretary, the three men combining in a very unusual way, both teaching and business ability."

1921 - Oberlin News, August 24, 1921, headline read, BUSINESS COLLEGE AC~UIRES HAMMOND LAW LIBRARY. The article stated that the "fine law library belonging to the estate of C.A. Hammond" would now be the property of the Oberlin Business College. The teaching of business law was an important subject and at that time had been taught at the school for more than ten years by C. R. Summers, a local attorney.

1926 - J. H. Kutscher, A.B., joined the staff of the Oberlin Business College as Secretary and Principal. Kutscher was a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and had taught commercial subjects at Schenley High School in Pittsburgh for seven years. He had also taught at Spencerian School in Cleveland and had worked as bookkeeper and teller at a bank in Cleveland. He thus combined both business and teaching experience. He had been president of the National Association of Commercial Teachers and was also an officer in Ohio Business Schools Association.

1927 - E. K. Etoll was asked to join the staff at the Oberlin Business College full- time after a successful summer's work recruiting students. He was in charge of school athletics and from 1929 to 1939 was in charge ofregistration and placement as well.

1928 - Tragedy struck for those most closely associated with the school. From 1910 to 1928, George L. Close was associated with J. T. Henderson as commercial teacher and secretary of the Oberlin Business College. Oberlin College Alumni Magazine, December 1928, carried the following notice: "George L. Close, husband of Alice Henderson Close, died October 30 in Oberlin Memorial Hospital as a result of an auto accident the week before. He was Secretary of the Oberlin School of Commerce and an influential and highly respected citizen of Oberlin. Survived by his wife and two sons: Willian, - age 9 and James - age 6 mo."

1928 - The two-year business administration course was added. The 15-month secretarial course was also lengthened into a two-year secretarial course and included other business subjects.

1928 - (or 1929 - available information differed) Name of the school was changed to THE OBERLIN SCHOOL OF COMMERCE, INC.

1931 - THE OBERLIN SCHOOL OF COMMERCE REMINDER, Volume V, Number 7, July 1931, read that "Nearly ten thousand young men and women have been students in this school during the past forty-seven years and Mr. Henderson has had the rare privilege.. .of knowing all of these young people....From present indications, the coming school year, which will open Tuesday, September 8, 1931, will prove a banner year." This was the closing of Henderson's 46th year as teacher and president of the Oberlin School of Commerce. Students needed to be high school graduates and entrance was only at the beginning of a term. All work was conducted in regularly organized one-hour classes.

(The U.S. was in the depths of the Great Depression and jobs were scarce. However, the school managed to recruit a sizable number of students for training so as to be ready for whatever jobs were available. The school took seriously its promise to help qualified students to obtain work.)

1935 - Robert R. Barr began teaching at the school. He was a 1931 graduate of Oberlin College and had had business experience as well as having taught in commercial schools. He began work at the school in January 1935, teaching advanced accounting, psychology, marketing, etc.

1936 - The OBERLIN SCHOOL OF COHMERCE was admitted for membership to the American Association of Junior Colleges--a membership which it held for many years.

1939 - The end of an era--J. T. Henderson died in early August at the age of 77. His obituary noted that he had been head of the business school for almost fifty-six years. It was stated that Henderson was elected president of the People's Banking Company when it was established in 1906 and still held that office at the time of his death.

1939 - The Oberlin Times, September 7. The headline read: SCHOOL OF COMMERCE OPENS UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT. New officers: J. H. Kutscher, president; E. E. Etoll, vice-president & treasurer; R. R. Barr, secretary. Kutscher started work at the school in 1926 and had been in charge of the educational program at the school since 1929. He was a member of Oberlin Village Council (later, its chairman).

1943 - E. E. Etoll died.

1946 - January - Stockholders' Meeting: R. W. Soens, formerly employed by H. M. Rowe Publishing Company, elected vice president. It was stated that he had a wide acquaintance with business schools and had at one time operated a business school in Duluth, MN. Mrs. Soens taught in the secretarial department.


1952 - As retiring president of the Oberlin School of Commerce, J. H. Kutscher sold his interest in the school to Carl S. Tumbleson, a man who had more than thirty years' experience in business school operation.


1973 - Apparently changing times, among other reasons, resulted in the closing of The Oberlin School of Commerce after so many successful years. The headline in the News-Tribune, December 12, 1973, read: SCHOOL OF COMMERCE CLOSES AFTER 128 YEARS.

Click here to see a brief history of the Oberlin School of Commerce.

Click here to read memoirs of a former Oberlin School of Commerce Student