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Photographic portrait of Charles Wesley Emerson wearing a coat with a large furry collar. Charles Wesley Emerson was born in 1837 and raised in Vermont. He began preaching at age 19 at the Congregationalist Church in West Halifax, Vermont, and continued to preach at the Unitarian Church in Chelsea, Massachusetts, while attending the school of oratory at Boston University. Although he carried the title of “Dr.,” Emerson did not earn a doctoral degree, but earned several honorary degrees that provided him with the title. Emerson founded the Boston Conservatory of Elocution, Oratory, and Dramatic Art in 1880 with 10 students at 13 Pemberton Square. Emerson’s school opened one year after Boston University’s school of oratory closed, following the death of Lewis B. Monroe, Emerson’s mentor and former professor. The college’s curriculum was rooted in the theories and writings of Delsarte and Swedenborg, which Emerson studied under Professor Monroe. In 1881, Emerson changed the name of the school to the Monroe Conservatory of Oratory; the school was renamed the Emerson College of Oratory in 1891 after several students and alumni demanded the name be changed to honor its founder. By 1902, Dr. Emerson was in ill health and officially resigned his position as president of the College by the end of the year.

1880 - 1908

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