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19th Century Cadet Drawing Exercises
Online Exhibit

The Institute's 19th century curriculum included mandatory classes in drawing, architectural history, and civil engineering. The VMI Archives contain several hundred examples of drawings that were completed as course assignments---among them are beautifully rendered watercolors and detailed pen & ink studies. Our collection also includes mathematical exercises required in the geometry sections taught by Francis H. Smith, VMI's first Superintendent.

Much of this coursework was overseen by Colonel Thomas Hoomes Williamson, Professor of Engineering and Drawing for 47 years. He was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1813, received his early education in Norfolk, and entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1829. He resigned before graduation, choosing to enter the profession of Civil Engineering.  Francis Smith recruited Williamson to teach architecture and engineering at the newly established Virginia Military Institute; the two men had been roommates at West Point. Williamson arrived at VMI in 1841 and in 1850 he published An Elementary Course of Architecture and Civil Engineering, the text used by several generations of cadets. Except for his service with General Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War, Williamson remained at VMI for the rest of his life, retiring in 1887. He died in March 1888.