A Brief History of CAPN

Note: This is far from being a comprehensive history of CAPN. It results from the personal curiosity of the past Bulletin editor, Alain Gowing, who culled most of this information from the CAPN archives. Any CAPN member who would like to contribute to, modify, or otherwise expand this history is encouraged to do so. Please contact me at mwilson@oregon.uoregon.edu


The Classical Association of the Pacific Northwest (CAPN) was first organized at a meeting at Portland Academy in Portland, Oregon on June 6, 1911. The minutes of that meeting record the establishment of a "self-appointed Committee of Arrangement" whose members were as follows:

Prof. Frank C. Taylor, Pacific University (chair)
Vice-President Louis F. Anderson, Whitman College
Prof. Frederic S. Dunn, University of Oregon
Prof. Henry Franklin Hunt, Tacoma High School
Dr. Andrew Oliver, Broadway High School
Prof. David Thomson, University of Washington
Dr. J.R. Wilson, Portland Academy

At that meeting a Constitution and set of by-laws were proposed and voted upon. Section 2 of the Constitution established the purpose of the organization: "...to further by contact, mutual criticism, and discussion, the effectiveness of classical teachers, and to promote the general state of Classical studies." The initial members came from Oregon and Washington, though the membership eventually expanded to include members from Montana, Idaho, Utah and even Wyoming. For quite some time -- until the 1950s, in fact -- the membership was comprised of a fairly even mix of teachers at both the secondary and university level. Annual dues were initially set at $1.00, though by 1927 it had slipped to 40¢! A few months later, on December 29th and 30th of 1911, a second meeting ("the second annual meeting", as it was called in the minutes) was convened at the University of Washington. For the next few years the Association met annually at locales in either Washington or Oregon.

At the Sixth Annual meeting, on 26/27 November 1915 at the University of Washington, it was proposed that CAPN should merge with the other west coast organizations (the Classical Association of Northern California, the Classical Association of Southern California, and the Classical Association of the Pacific States) to form a single entity called the Classical Association of the Pacific States. CAPS, as it came to be called, thus came into being and CAPN ceased to exist as an independent entity, being referred to instead as the "Northern Section of the Classical Association of the Pacific States." The first meeting of CAPS was held at the University of California, Berkeley, on 12/13 July 1916. The minutes show that the Northern Section boasted about 66 members in 1915/16, though on average the membership fluctuated between 35 and 45 members until ca. 1944, when the membership rose to nearly 60. In 1957/58 the Northern Section had a whopping 112 members; by 1952 it had declined to about 50 and by 1969 risen once again to 121 (CAPN currently has a little less than 150 members).

The various sections met independently over the next few years. Full-fledged CAPS meetings occurred sporadically over the next 20 years or so (e.g., 1919, 1922, 1929, 1932, 1933, 1941, 1945), and in some years there were in fact two separate meetings, an independent Section meeting and a joint meeting of all the CAPS Sections. Occasionally the Northern Section held joint meetings with still other associations, such as the "Department of Classical Teachers" (?) in 1938.

In 1940-41 the Association elected its first president from British Columbia (Prof. O. J. Todd of UBC, evidently the first Canadian member of CAPN as well) and on 26/27 December 1940, the first Canadian meeting was held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The number of Canadian members increased significantly beginning in the late 1950s and 60s, and in 1968 the Northern Section held its first meeting at the University of Victoria.

It is noteworthy that up until the 1950s the papers presented at the annual meetings were delivered by secondary and university teachers alike, and covered a wide range of issues, from pedagogy to philology. But in the 1950s there occurred a marked decrease in participation of school teachers at the meetings (though they continued to be well represented in the membership lists) and, to judge from the programs, philology began to win out over pedagogy. In 1952, moreover, the Northern Section began publishing a biannual Bulletin which included (as it does today) abstracts of the papers presented at the annual meeting.

At the 1952 meeting at the University of Washington the feasibility of maintaining CAPS in its current form was questioned. The issue was put to a vote, with all but one member voting to continue CAPS. But organizing a full-fledged meeting of CAPS clearly had become increasingly difficult, and despite this vote, CAPS had for all intents and purposes ceased to operate as a single entity. The issue was not revisited again, apparently, until 1969 at the annual meeting of the Northern Section in Victoria, BC, when it was moved that CAPS be dissolved and the Northern Section reconstituted as a separate and distinct organization. The motion was approved, and the Classical Association of the Pacific Northwest was reborn.


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