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John Pfeffer papers

Identifier: MC 85


Johnny Pfeffer worked as the first janitor of Beloit College from 1866 until 1917. This collection primarily consists of newspaper articles, photocopies of newspaper articles, and transcriptions of a few letters. There is also a copy of the 1895 Codex. In addition to those paper materials are a number of photographs of Pfeffer.


  • 1864-1959

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research; however, certain materials are very fragile and require Archives staff for handling, or use may be restricted altogether.

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1829 in Germany, John Barvel Pfeffer served Beloit College as a janitor for over 50 years. As one of nine children, Pfeffer learned to fend for himself from a very early age. At 14 he dropped out of school and worked at his trade, before moving to the United States in 1850. He moved to Beloit in 1851 and worked at various jobs until becoming employed at Beloit College in 1866.

Affectionately dubbed by 19th-century students as the "professor of dust and ashes", he lovingly served the college until his death in 1917. As a janitor, one of his duties was to ring the school bell ushering students to classes, which he did until the bell was replaced by an automatic bell. He was known for occasionally ringing the bell late or slowing it down in order to help a student running to class.

See the Beloit College Archives page on Pfeffer for a more detailed biography.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


John Pfeffer papers
Alice Mitchell'13
April, 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Beloit College Archives and Special Collections Repository

700 College St.
Beloit WI 53511 USA