Brearley’s founding Headmaster, Samuel A. Brearley, Jr., graduated from Harvard in 1871 and worked as a private tutor until 1880, when he went to study at Balliol College, Oxford. He came to New York in 1884, when it was commonly thought that intellectual activity “took the bloom from ladies,” and opened a school to provide young women with an education comparable to that available to their brothers. An early graduate of the School later wrote that this “first intellectual experience had a novelty and excitement that it is almost impossible for a person born in the twentieth century to understand.”
When Mr. Brearley died of typhoid in 1886, the School consisted of one hundred twenty pupils and a faculty of twenty. James G. Croswell, a Greek professor from Harvard, served as the next Headmaster until his death in 1915. Since 1926, Brearley has been led by women Heads, most recently Millicent Carey McIntosh, Jean Fair Mitchell, Evelyn J. Halpert, Dr. Priscilla M. Winn Barlow and Dr. Stephanie J. Hull.
The School soon outgrew its original quarters on East 45th Street and moved first to West 44th Street and then in 1912 to Park Avenue and 61st Street, where it added a primary program. Brearley commissioned a new building on 83rd Street in 1929, and during its almost eighty years at this location has expanded its library, art and science facilities, added two stories to the building and built a Field House on East 87th Street containing regulation-sized basketball and volleyball courts and other facilities.
The School Seal
The Brearley seal was designed in 1890 and is thought to have appeared in print for the first time on the cover of the school catalogue for 1890–1891. From 1899 though the early part of the twentieth century, the seal was sometimes used in the scroll-like form in which it appears on the Brearley flag (designed by the Class of 1899) and on the portrait that hangs in the Assembly Hall of James G. Croswell, the second Headmaster of the School. The round seal was slightly redesigned in 1946, and the current version, commemorating the School’s founding in 1884, was used for the first time in the 1955–1956 school year.
- An earlier version that appears on the Brearley flag
- The Seal of the
The seal incorporates images of the lamp of truth, the book of knowledge and three beavers. Some believe the beavers have the same heraldic origin as those on the seal of the City of New York, possibly to mark the importance of the beaver fur trade to the economy of early Manhattan.
"By Truth and Toil"
The motto on the Brearley seal, "By Truth and Toil," is also the name of the school song, written in 1901 by faculty member Annie Winsor Allen and originally set to the music of a song composed by Franz Schubert, "The Linden Tree." In 1956, with Mrs. Allen’s enthusiastic approval, Mr. Louie White, head of the Music Department at the time, composed new music for the song that was less somber and more in keeping with the text. "By Truth and Toil" is traditionally sung at ceremonial school events.
- The Brearley beaver appears in many of the pen and ink drawings of life at the School by Eileen Evans, who taught staging and carpentry to Brearley students from the early 1930s to 1979.
The beaver owes its role as Brearley mascot to its inclusion on the school seal. While many schools have the beaver as a mascot, few have carried on this tradition as proudly as the Brearley School. A life-size “Beverly Beaver” cheers on Brearley teams at varsity games and Homecoming, and whimsical line drawings of beavers have been featured in many Brearley publications since the 1930s.
Each class in the Middle and Upper School also has its own mascot (see list below). The first class mascot, “Jimbo the Elephant” is believed to have been purchased in 1915 and possibly named in honor of James Croswell, who had died that year after serving for twenty-eight years as Brearley’s Headmaster. The same Jimbo is now the mascot of the current Class VIII. At the annual Mascot Assembly in May, a tradition that dates back to at least 1923, the Senior Class passes its mascot to the students in Class IV, and both classes sing about their mascot. Brearley students who recently watched a 1934 film that included the Mascot Assembly enjoyed seeing how little it had changed.
- Beverly Beaver can often be found cheering for Brearley athletic teams.
2012 - Jimbo the Elephant
2013 - Theodore the Bear
2014 - Balthazaar the Camel
2015 - Fridgie the Penguin
2016 - Tigger the Tiger
2017 - Socrates the Owl
2018 - Amelia the Duck
2019 - Olaffub the Buffalo