Skip to main content

Office of the President (Joseph Asbury Pitman)

Identifier: A2.1.5

Scope and Contents

The papers of Joseph Asbury Pitman cover the years of his Presidency of the school, from 1906 to 1937. There are gaps throughout the collection, however, the years from 1912 to 1932 are reasonably well covered. Information concerning the early years of his administration, from 1906 to 1912, are particularly sparse. This was an important period in the development of the school, and this collection should be of interest to researchers tracing that development. As previously mentioned, it saw the transformation from a normal school with a single two year program to a teachers college offering several four year programs, as well as the expansion of the school facility and student population These papers would also be of interest to those examining the history and development of educational institutions and systems. This period saw the introduction of a new administrative unit to the Massachusetts school systems, the Intermediate or Junior High School. Also debated at this time were issues of depth of training, and specialization of teachers, which led to the addition of new programs and the expansion from two to four years of teacher education. There is some information on the influence of federal government policy and the impact of the involvement of the United States in World War I on the field of education. There is also information for those examining issues of gender discrimination with regards to salary in the early twentieth century.


  • 1900 - 1938


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Asbury Pitman was President (Principal) of the Salem State Teachers College, formerly the Salem State Normal School, from 1906 to 1937. His thirty-one year tenure was a “longer period of service than that of any previous principal.” During his administration several changes were instituted at the school, transforming it into an acclaimed teachers college. Pitman was born in the small town of Appleton, Maine, in 1867. Having demonstrated potential of being an “excellent scholar” as a child in the Appleton public schools, he continued his education at Castine Normal School, in Castine, Maine, entering in 1884. Pitman earned his way through school by teaching at nearby schools in need during the winter terms (the Normal School was on a trimester system). This earned him a reputation “as a teacher and a leader.” He was honored for his work by being made salutatorian of his class when he graduated in 1887. He met his wife, Flora Etta Carver, while both were students at Castine. She was class valedictorian when she graduated in 1888. They were married in 1890. After his graduation, Pitman went on to several administrative positions in school systems in Maine, and, after 1891, in Massachusetts before becoming Principal of the State Normal School at Salem in 1906. The period of Pitman’s tenure was a time of great change in the field of education. New standards, new programs, and new curricula were discussed and introduced. Mr. Pitman was at the forefront of these debates, participating on both the state and national levels. Under his administration, Salem Normal School expanded and developed from a school of 170 students that offered only a single program directed towards training elementary school teachers into a state teachers college with 500 students and four four-year courses which conferred a Bachelor of Science in Education. Included in these changes were the development of the first public commercial department in the country; the addition of the Junior High School program, a relatively new administrative division in schools gaining favor at this time, which became the first four-year program at Salem; the creation of the Department of Special Education which trained teachers of children with physical and learning disabilities; and the building of the Horace Mann Training School facility, a laboratory school for practice teachers. Pitman was not only involved at the Normal School level, but also in the refinement of the education system at all levels. He and the faculty of the school aided in the development of curriculum for the elementary, intermediate, and secondary levels, as well. Pitman continued his scholarly work during his tenure as President in order to keep his work up to date and his outlook on education progressive. He took graduate classes at Clark University, Harvard and Columbia. Pitman’s continuing studies brought him in contact with the leading thinkers in the field of education, such as John Dewey. He was also awarded a honorary Ed. D. from Rhode Island College of Education. Pitman was a member of several faculty organizations including the National Education Association, the American Association of Teachers Colleges, and the Massachusetts School Masters Club; he served as president of the latter two groups. He also participated in many local civic affairs and organizations in the City of Salem. Joseph Asbury Pitman died on August 26, 1952.


5.06 Cubic Feet

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Salem State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Archivist
352 Lafayette St.
Salem MA 01970 United States