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Records of the School of Home Economics

Identifier: PI-003

Scope and Contents

The records of the School of Home Economics are comprised of institutional papers as well as student work and memorabilia dating from 1887 to 1959. There are several bound collections of alumnae records and reports, but the majority of these series are made up of loose papers. The three larger bound alumnae records suffer from red rot and should be handled with care.

Through the study of these records, one will gain an understanding of the rigorous efforts made by Charles Pratt in hand selecting professionals who he felt would be able to translate their success in the fields of dressmaking, food preparation and the like into a well-rounded curriculum for the departments of domestic arts and sciences. Also detailed within the records are the careers of several notable Pratt alumni, many of whom went on to teach at the Institute. Though often fragmented and without provenance, the materials included in the records of the School of Home Economics illustrate many significant beginnings – the formation of several renowned programs at Pratt Institute, as well as the early days of women participating in higher education and acquiring the tools to create meaningful careers for themselves.


  • 1887 - 1959
  • Majority of material found within 1888 - 1915


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, contact the Archivist, Pratt Institute Library.

Biographical / Historical

The departments of Domestic Sciences and Domestic Arts were established at Pratt Institute during its first complete school year in 1888 with the goal of “affording women a thorough training in those branches of science and art which pertain to good housekeeping and home-making.” The title “Department” was later replaced with “School” in 1909 - creating two distinct schools within Pratt Institute. One year later in 1910, the School of Household Arts and Sciences was founded under the direction of Isabel Ely Lord – the former director of the Pratt Institute Library. Dressmaking, millinery and laundry services were a major focus of the school, while the science of homemaking was taught through courses in food preparation, furniture selection and home nursing. In 1941, the title changed once again to the School of Home Economics. The school would continue to offer degrees in fine arts and sciences, dividing the offered courses into six areas of study: costume (fashion) design and construction, dietetics, cafeteria management, and homemaking. Additional facilities were acquired, including a “practice house” for homemaking students to explore the arts of interior design, dining service and practical home economics.

Enrollment declined steadily through the late 1950s, resulting in the closure of the school in 1961. Several courses were transferred to the Pratt School of Continuing Professional Studies, while others laid the foundation for new programs – most notably the bachelor’s degree in fashion design from the School of Art and Design (now two independent schools as of 2015). Courses in applied arts eventually moved to the Pratt-Phoenix School of Design upon its merging with Pratt Institute in 1974.


2.6 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials



The records of the School of Home Economics document the history of the school, beginning with relevant correspondences and reports from the year leading up to its founding in 1888. The evolution of the school is traced through the merging of the schools of Domestic Science and Domestic Arts into the School of Household Science and Arts, which later became the School of Home Economics in 1941.A combination of institutional records, student workbooks, memorabilia, course descriptions and alumnae news depict the school’s growth and eventual decline during the mid-1950s, just a decade prior the school’s absorption by two other schools within Pratt Institute in 1961.


The series are arranged alphabetically by material type and content, so records pertaining to one individual or area of the institute may exist simultaneously within several different series. Most materials are arranged chronologically within series and subseries.

The records are arranged in six series, one of which has been further arranged in subseries. The series and subseries arrangement of the records is as follows:

Series 1: Alumnae News, 1910-1944

Series 2: Correspondence, 1887-1915

Series 3: Memorabilia, 1893-1959

3:1 Ethel C. Phelps, 1903-1905

3:2 Sample Book, 1893

3:3 Sample Book, 1897

3:4 Work Book, 1910

3:5 Students, 1897-1947

3:6 Institutional, 1909-1959

Series 4: Poems and Songs, 1902-1932

Series 5: Publications, 1903-1945

Series 6: Schedules and Reports, 1891-1957

Related Materials

Alice E. Fitts Papers (Collection No. 021)

Isabel Ely Lord Papers (Collection No. 011)

Jessie Griffith Stone Papers (Collection No. 020)

Julia Ruhfel Papers (Collection No. 022)

New York School of Applied Design for Women Collection (Collection No. 017)

Pratt Institute Photograph Collection (Clothing – CL)

Pratt Institute Photograph Collection (Costume Design – CD)

Pratt Institute Photograph Collection (Foods – FD)

Pratt Institute Photograph Collection (Hygiene and Home Nursing – HHN)

Pratt Institute Photograph Collection (Millinery – MI)

Vertical Files - Exhibitions – World’s Fairs (1) (1890-1897)

Harmful Language Statement

If you encounter any pejorative language (i.e. racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic) or content in the finding aids or within the content of the collection, please send an email to with the relevant details. For more information about how the Pratt Institute Libraries are addressing offensive language and content across its catalogs and databases, please see the Libraries' Harmful Language Statement:

Guide to the Records of the School of Home Economics
Ruby Johnstone
January 2016
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Repository Details

Part of the Pratt Institute Archives Repository

200 Willoughby Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11205 United States