The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn



At an 1844 public meeting in the growing city of Brooklyn, a group of prominent citizens called for a new kind of school: one dedicated to the rigorous education of young women. While schools for young women already existed in Brooklyn, they failed to provide high school or collegiate-level courses. This new school would change that.

Following several more meetings and extensive fundraising, the Brooklyn Female Academy (BFA) was established in 1845. The new school welcomed students from Brooklyn and throughout the United States.

More than 170 years later, the BFA—now known as The Packer Collegiate Institute—continues to thrive and be a center of education in Brooklyn. But like Brooklyn itself, the institution has transformed over the centuries. Packer is now a coeducational school offering pre-K to twelve curriculum.

The story of Packer is more than the story of a school. It is one of social and economic transformation in Brooklyn and the United States. It is the story of the development of urban growth and institution-building, of the evolving status of American women, and of the changing beliefs about the nature of education and its role in American society.

Through the scope of Packer, we can learn much about the social history of the United States over the course of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Explore this site to discover these stories through photographs and archival documents that chronicle generations of Packer history.

Notice announcing meeting to establish a young ladies' institute in Brooklyn, 1844/12/19

Notice announcing meeting to establish a young ladies' institute in Brooklyn, 1844/12/19Full record

[Class photo, 1857], 1857

[Class photo, 1857], 1857Full record

Related documents
  • Letters from David G. Cartwright to Charles E. West, 1869/02/20

  • Packer Collegiate Institute 75th anniversary booklet, 1928