Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Whether you pronounce the “r” or not, maybe you have wondered where the name of our beloved school came from. Swarthmore was named after Swarthmoor Hall, found in Cumbria, England (in the northwestern Lake District). Swarthmoor Hall served as the site of some of the first Quaker meetings, which took place in the mid-seventeenth century. The house was built by George Fell in 1586, and in 1651 was inhabited by Fell’s son Thomas and his wife, Margaret. George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, found one of his earliest fans in Margaret (marrying her after Thomas’s death), and used the house for his meetings. William Penn visited Swarthmoor Hall in 1670.
Our college was not founded until 1864, but was named in honor of the roots of Quakerism. The idea was Mary Hallowell’s (yes, we have a dorm named after her and her husband), the change of spelling coincided with an American movement towards rational spelling. It seemed obvious that, since it rhymed with “more,” “Swarthmoor” should become “Swarthmore.”
Bonus fun facts: The first president of Swarthmore was Edward Parrish. Another founder was named Samuel Willets.
For more information on Swarthmoor Hall, now a Quaker retreat center and bed and breakfast, see http://www.swarthmoorhall.co.uk/index.htm