A Unique Sales Pitch
Although his school income came almost solely from tuition charges, W.N. Ferris was selective in whom he enrolled.
Several times during the second decade of his school's history, he published this warning: Who Are Not Wanted.
"Young men who wish to have a good time through the avenues of dissipation are not wanted at the Ferris Institute. This school is not a reformatory. It is a school that prefers to enroll young people who desire to do something and be something. Young men who persist in visiting saloons and other places of dissipation cannot attend the Ferris Institute. Young women who wish to devote their time most exclusively to social enjoyment are not wanted. Parents who have tried other schools and met with failure are not encouraged to send their children here. The Ferris Institute does not care anything about whether its candidates are backward or advanced in their attainments. It does demand that its students at least possess a wholesome appetite for work."
In answer to a letter of inquiry, Ferris was prompt to reply:
"You say you wish to become a language teacher. I should say that the Ferris Industrial School is not the place for you to come. I would say to go to the State Normal School or to the University. It is true they might have difficulty in getting you a position, but we might not be able to give you the language training you desire . . . ."
To another prospect he wrote, "This is not the school you want to attend because life is too short for us to waste in training any man for the work of teaching what is ordinarily called artistic penmanship. The rubbish that is written on this subject and printed in the ordinary business college's catalogs and circulars should be made a thing of the past . . . .
"C.A. Wessel has charge of penmanship. He is a fine penman, but he is not allowed to use his time in making eagles, snakes, and other wild animals."
To one student he wrote, "We can accommodate you in everything except Greek. I could hardly afford to start a class for one student in that subject."
Another student was told that he could not expect anything at the Industrial School in regard to music. "I am satisfied that I shall not hire the man who was recommended to me. I cannot afford to hire a teacher by the month anyway, because there is not sufficient demand for music in the school at present," he said.
Later he did offer classical Greek for the college preparatory students and a comprehensive course in music and drawing.