McGuffey Museum opens new exhibit: “The Remarkable Stantons”

President Robert Stanton

President Robert L. Stanton, circa 1866

Written by Stephen Gordon, McGuffey Museum and Toni Saldivar, League of Women Voters of Oxford

The story of Rev. Robert L. Stanton, D. D., a former Miami University president, and his family is depicted in a new exhibit opening Friday, April 18, at Miami’s William Holmes McGuffey Museum.

“The Remarkable Stantons, Miami University and the ‘Magnificent Dwelling’” captures the lives and experiences of a family who helped lead institutions, influence social movements and foster land exploration throughout the 19th century.

Stanton served as president of Miami from 1866-1871.  During that time, he built a private residence in Oxford designed to welcome students and guests.  His "magnificent dwelling,” an Italianate-style brick structure dating from 1868, still stands on the corner of Spring and Oak streets and is a remarkably intact vestige of "Old Miami."  It is the oldest house in Oxford built specifically to serve as a university president's home.  Known today as the Stanton-Bonham House, the building functions as university office space.

The Stanton exhibit profiles Stanton’s life as a dedicated church leader and educator, as well as the lives of other members of his family: his brother Henry Brewster Stanton, orator for the American Anti-Slavery Society and politician; his son, Robert Brewster Stanton, Miami University valedictorian, class of 1871, intrepid explorer and civil engineer; and, most important historically, his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founder and leader of the woman suffrage movement whose work would lead toward women winning the constitutional right to vote. 

Bob Stanton

Robert "Bob" Stanton, circa 1890

“The Remarkable Stantons” tells the story of a socially engaged 19th century American family committed to the advancement of religious activism, higher education, westward exploration and social justice.

The exhibit coincides with the 50th anniversary commemoration of Freedom Summer.  During those tense summer days in 1964, students from across the nation came to Oxford to train for voter registration drives in Mississippi.  The students were housed and trained on the Western College campus, now the western program of Miami University. 

Unbeknownst to those young people from northern states, Stanton, more than a century earlier, had ministered, as an abolitionist and a unionist, to antebellum congregations in Louisiana and Mississippi.  During the Civil War, while on the faculty of Danville Theological Seminary in Danville, Ky., he made frequent visits to Washington, D.C., and became a friend to President Lincoln.

Stanton's brother Henry worked bravely toward a political solution to slavery.  He lived to see the freeing of slaves and their enfranchisement as voters through constitutional amendments.  

Black women and white women, however, after the Civil War were still denied their rights as citizens.   Henry's wife, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, brought her campaign for women rights to Miami in 1870.  These Stanton activists and reformers foreshadowed many of the human rights achievements of the 20th century and helped foster the dreams of those young Americans who gathered on the lawn of Western College fifty years ago.

The exhibit, free and open to the public during museum hours (1-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday), will be available for viewing through October 2014.  McGuffey Museum is located at 401 E. Spring Street in Oxford.

The exhibit is co-sponsored by McGuffey Museum and the League of Women Voters of Oxford.