World War I -- Life Histories/Section 019/Charles Riborg Mann

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Charles Riborg Mann was a teacher, researcher, and physicist during World War I. He contributed to War Department decisions on education and U.S. universities during the war.


Charles Mann was born in Orange, New Jersey on July 12th, 1869. His parents were Charles Holbrook Man and Clausine Borchsenius Mann. He married Adrienne Amalie Graf on June 25, 1896. They had two children, Rihorg Graf and Adrienne[1].

He had earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Columbia University by 1891, and he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in 1895. He worked at the University of Chicago from 1896 to 1914 and was promoted from research assistant to associate in physics to instructor before moving up to assistant professor and finally to associate professor[2].

In 1914, he became involved in the Joint Committee on Engineering Education of National Engineering Societies and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in New York City collecting information about the engineering and physics education throughout the country. In 1918, he was appointed a civilian advisor to the Committee on Education and Special Training in the United States' War Department. There, Mann was involved in creating the Student's Army Training Corps. He corresponded with government representatives from the War Department and with university administrators around the country[3]. The committee’s work contributed to the development of relations between the U.S. military and the country’s university systems. Mann sent many reports and telegrams detailing his opinions and actions on the topic of training students for the military while allowing them to continue to attend college[4].

After the Students’ Army Training Corps was dissolved, he was appointed the permanent chairman of the Civilian Advisory Board to the War department and also served as the director of the American Council on Education from 1922-1934. He was president emeritus from 1934 until his death on September 10th, 1942 at age seventy-three.

Social Issues[edit]

The Students' Army Training Corps[edit]

As the United States entered World War I in 1917, it began to prepare itself for the conflict. One method of recruiting and training new soldiers was to turn to the readily available population of young men in the country’s university system.

The Students’ Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.) was created in the summer of 1918 by the War Department after advisement from the Committee on Education and Special Training. This served the dual purpose of providing military training to students in any U.S. university with more than 100 male students in attendance while identifying successful students as officer candidates and of continuing to educate these students in areas that would be useful to the war effort[5]. According to The Daily Tar Heel (the official newspaper of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of the schools with chapters of the S.A.T.C.), “The instruction for S.A.T.C. members will be partly military and partly in allied subjects that have a value as a means of training officers and experts to meet the needs of the service." Members of the corps were drawn from most all of the disciplines available for study at the time with emphasis on European languages, manual design, and hard sciences[6].

During the existence of the S.A.T.C., which lasted until the end of the war, buildings on campuses were converted into mess halls, barracks, and armories. According to the Washington Post, student candidates were “required to live virtually under army conditions.”[7] However, the war was won soon after the initiation of the program and by December of 1918, Mann sent out the announcement to the hundreds of involved U.S. universities that the program was no longer in effect. In the following years many requested the final report of the Corps' effectiveness, which Mann provided[8].

Higher Education in the Early 20th Century[edit]

Charles Mann was a life-long academic. Growing up, he had access to greater education than most people at the time. Being born in the northern part of the U.S. made this possible, though he did leave the country at times while pursuing his education. He died an impressively educated man, holding two post-doctoral degrees: an Sc.D. and an LL.D. in addition to his Ph.D.[9].

Higher education had just begun to blossom when the war began. Just after the turn of the century, “junior colleges” (now called community colleges) started to spring up all over the country, growing from only about twenty in 1909 to almost 300 by the end of the war. Four-year colleges were also growing, but not as quickly and predominantly in smaller areas more rural than where junior colleges were established. These smaller programs continued to be more popular for most of the early 1900s because of their open enrollment, low cost of attendance, and emphasis on technical education.


  1. Who Was Who in America : A Companion Volume to Who's Who in America.
  2. Who Was Who in America : A Companion Volume to Who's Who in America.
  3. Mann
  4. Breen
  5. Mann
  6. "The New Order Brings Many Campus Changes"
  7. "Training Corps at Colleges"
  8. Mann
  9. Who Was Who in America : A Companion Volume to Who's Who in America.
  • Breen, W. J. Uncle Sam at Home: Civilian Mobilization, Wartime Federalism, and the Council of National Defense, 1917-1919. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984. Web.
  • Faughnan, Michael J. "You're in the Army Now: The Students' Army Training Corps at Selected Virginia Universities in 1918." Ph.D. The College of William and Mary, 2008. United States -- Virginia: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. Web.
  • "The New Order Brings Many Campus Changes." The Daily Tarheel, XXVII ed.: 1. 02 Oct 1918 1918. Web. 19 Jan 2015 <>.
  • Mann, Charles Riborg. Box 1, Folders 1-9. Charles Riborg Mann papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Libraries, Chapel Hill, NC. 2 Feb 2015.
  • "Over 1400 Students and Alumni are in Service." The Daily Tarheel, XXVII ed.: 1. 09 Oct 1918 1918. Web. 19 Jan 2015 <;>.
  • "Training Corps at Colleges." The Washington Post (1877-1922): 6. Jul 26, 1918 1918. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post. Web. <>.
  • Who Was Who in America : A Companion Volume to Who's Who in America. 2 Vol. Chicago: Marquis, 1950. Web.