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Have you ever pictured what it was like growing up in a different decade or going to class in a different era?  Our 125-year history as a school provides a lot of options to ponder this question.  What about the beginning, our founding year?  Let’s have a look back at the ‘then’ to see how different it is from the ‘now.’  

1896, near the turn of a century, was a year of breakthroughs and firsts. It was the year of the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens. It was the year of the Quadricycle, the first Ford vehicle ever developed, and the X-ray was another first, a breakthrough in medical technology. The invention of the radio was under development by Marconi, Tesla and others, with the first wireless telegraphy patent awarded in 1896. Read the History Channel’s 8 most Groundbreaking Inventions of this time period, from the late 1800s to early 1900s  

As noteworthy as they were, it would take time before these innovations would circulate across the United States and to its territories.  When Reverend James Menaul opened Menaul School in 1896, New Mexico was not even a state. Albuquerque, New Mexico, then part of a US territory and outpost for the military (and only recently accessible by railroad), was still on the fringe in the beautiful but rugged west. Progress was on the doorstep, however, and once that door opened, the next 125 years would be flooded with incredible and exponential advances in technology. 

The delightful fashions of1896

If you were a student in 1896, let’s see how the experience may have been: 

  • You probably arrived at school by horse, carriage, bicycle, or walking.  
  • The Tootsie Roll was the newest candy craze.  Have a candy crush? Find out when your other favorite candies and sweets were invented here. 
  • You may have heard of basketball but probably hadn’t played it yet – it was invented 5 years earlier. Basketball fan? Read the National Geographic’s article on the History of Basketball. 
  • You may have enjoyed classical music, local folk music or marches.  (John Philip Sousa wrote “Stars and Stripes Forever” in 1896). 
  • In geography class, you would learn about the independent countries in the world, at that time around 50. 
  • Menaul School included a farm, horse stables, ~200 acres, and you could help fund your tuition with payments of grain or livestock.  


In its 125 years as a school, Menaul has been around for the invention and development of countless things, many of which we can’t imagine life without: vacuum cleaners, air conditioning, hair dryers, washing machines, penicillin, airplanes, ball point pens, zippers, credit cards, satellites, seat belts, computers, the internet, and more.  

To say that the entire world changed over this time span is not an overstatement. Menaul School has seen 2 world wars, 2 pandemics, 22 US Presidents, and 50+ Olympic games. It has seen the advancement of calling people on the phone – from the landline to almost 30 different versions of the iPhone released to date. It has seen the evolution of enjoying music from vinyl records, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, Mp3 players, iPods, to streaming iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora.  

Fashion in 2021

In the time we have been a school, we went from horse carriages to electric cars, from Five and Dime stores to Amazon Prime, and from VCR players to streaming Netflix. We went from a population of ~153,000+ in the territory (per the 1890 Census) to 2.1 million people in the officially recognized state of New Mexico, and from a world of 50 independent countries to a world of close to 200. 

Through these years of rapid growth, progress, and expansion, Menaul School has been a steady presence. The school is a staple in the community, a center for education in times of conflict and peace, of chaos and calm. Read more about our history here!  

Donaldson Hall 1960

Of course, now the campus looks very different than it did in 1896. The lessons and curriculum have been modified, and we use laptops and iPads now instead of chalk boards. The style/fashion has evolved as well (scroll through the graduating class photos in Donaldson Hall to see dress and hairstyles of various decades!).  So how can we, in 2021, connect with that heritage, that origin back in 1896?   

Menaul School: a New Mexico Icon

Looking out the window of Donaldson, we can still find reminders of our past. The massive trees on Menaul’s front lawn were there from the beginning, our roots. The bricks from aptly named “Old Brick” were there as well, our foundations.  And if they could talk, they would love to tell you the story of how far we have come. They have seen a city grow around them and a school flourish. They have witnessed all these inventions and innovations as silent observers, landmarks. They have seen the world change. And as we embrace this ever-advancing concept of modernity and usher in our World Smart education for 21st Century Global citizens, we are thankful for them – our roots and foundations – the landmarks that remind us of our long history.  

Watch our 1940s webinar

Visit our Get to Know Us page to schedule a tour, call, or view our materials!  

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