James Hulme Canfield

James Hulme Canfield

Portrait of James Canfield

Chancellorship Dates

July 1, 1891 - July 1, 1895


  • Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute, 1864
  • Williams College, 1868


March 18, 1847 - Delaware, Ohio


March 29, 1909 - New York


Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York City, New York

James Hulme Canfield grew up in New York City, attended Williams College in Massachusetts, and was later employed by a railroad construction firm in the West. He went to Jackson, Michigan to study law and practiced law in St. Joseph, Michigan. Starting in 1877, he was a faculty member at the University of Kansas and taught English language and literature, history, and political science for 14 years there before his appointment as chancellor of the University of Nebraska.

Although he occupied the office for only four years, Canfield was the most consequential leader of the early university. During this period, Nebraska entered its first golden age and took a place with Michigan, Wisconsin and California as one of the “big four” universities of the American West.

Canfield was instrumental in the development and improvement of the campus environment. Disappointed in the appearance of the campus upon his arrival during the summer of 1891, he proceeded with a series of improvements that greatly enhanced its attractiveness. Included in these improvements were the construction of paved sidewalks, formal landscaping and the erection of the decorative iron fence that surrounded the original city campus until the 1920s.

Canfield was determined that the new Library building would not be an embarrassment to the university like several of its earlier buildings – most notably University Hall and Nebraska Hall, which were beset by issues arising from their poor construction. He reportedly visited the construction site daily to ensure that quality building materials were used and that the construction was completed to the university's specifications. The beauty and permanence of the old library, now Architecture Hall, are a testament to Canfield's vigilance.

Canfield served as chancellor of the University of Nebraska from 1891 to 1895, when he accepted the presidency of The Ohio State University. If ever a man was loved on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus, it was James H. Canfield.

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