Skip to main content

Henry Sabin Papers

Identifier: 01/01/02/01

Scope and Contents

The Henry Sabin Papers contains biographical materials and a selection of Sabin’s writings. Also included is one piece about Sabin. Please see the inventory for a complete list.


  • c. 1871-1918


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions. Materials are open for research.

General Use, Reproduction, and Copyright Policies

Many items housed in the Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives, including unpublished images and manuscripts, may be protected by copyright, publication rights, trademarks, or model release rights which the library does not own and for which the library cannot grant permission or licensing. Materials currently under copyright are usually still available for research and limited reproduction under Fair Use laws. However, it is the sole responsibility of the patron to determine whether or not their use of a given material falls within Fair Use guidelines and to obtain permission for said use from the rightful copyright owner. If you are unsure where to begin, please consult the Copyright LibGuide. Please note that it is not the library's responsibility to locate or contact copyright holders for a patron, and neither the library nor library employees are responsible for copyright violations of the materials to which they facilitate research access.

Please see our full General Use and Service Policies for more information.

Sensitive Materials Statement

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy or similar laws, and the Iowa Open Records Law (see Iowa Code § 22.7). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Northern Iowa assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

Henry Sabin served as president of the Iowa State Normal School (later UNI) Board of Directors from 1888-1892 and 1894-1898. He was born on October 23, 1829, near Pomfret, Connecticut. He was educated in New England common schools, including Woodstock Academy and Amherst College. After gaining the experience required for teaching, he taught in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois before relocating to Iowa in the late 1860s.

Sabin served as Superintendent of Schools in Clinton, Iowa, from 1871-1887. Working in this capacity, he became aware of American public school system’s inherent problems and committed his life to finding and implementing solutions. During his tenure as superintendent, he was among the final three candidates for the Iowa State Normal School’s first president. In 1878, he was elected president of the Iowa State Teachers Association.

From 1896-1897, Sabin was chair of the National Education Association Committee on Rural Schools. The Committee’s final report recommended consolidation, efficiency, and professional teacher training as solutions for the deficiencies of rural education. Sabin was influential in improving Iowa’s educational standards and the report echoed his belief that, “The school must be the aid, the active ally of civilization, from a humanitarian standpoint as well as from that of the arts and sciences. A human education is necessary to the growth and preservation of a civilization, which is humane in its nature.”

As President of the Iowa State Normal School Board of Directors, Sabin worked closely with President Homer H. Seerley to ensure that teachers and students in Iowa were well-educated and worked to improve state educational standards overall. During his tenure, ISNS secured the ability to certify normal school graduates on the basis of training rather than examination; established the training school for observation and practice teaching; developed special curricula for the training of teachers for different areas of public school work; and procured appropriations for campus improvements and construction projects. Additionally, Sabin was influential in laying the foundation to transition the Iowa State Normal School (1876-1909) to the Iowa State Teachers College (1906-1961).

Following his retirement, Sabin taught at Highland Park College in Des Moines and lectured around the Midwest. He also operated a “Teachers’ Exchange” in Des Moines, assisting teachers in finding positions. Sabin served as editor for Midland Schools (1988-1907) and the Iowa edition of the Western Teacher (1901) and authored two books, Talks to Young People (1899) and Common Sense Didactics (1903). He co-authored The Making of Iowa (1900) and Early American History for Young Americans (1904) with his sons, Elbridge and Edwin. Sabin passed away on March 22, 1918.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 box)


Processing Information

Collection initially arranged and finding aid created by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, late 1970s; prepared for the Web by Graduate Assistant Amy Rekward and Assistant Archivist Dustin S. Witsman, April 2015. Updated by Library Associate Dave Hoing, April 2017, October 2017, and February 2018. Updated by Archival Processor Tessa Wakefield, March 2020. Linear feet updated August 8, 2017.

Henry Sabin Papers
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository