Victor M. Rice – Bicentennial Biography No. 193

Victor M. Rice was born in Mayville on April 5, 1818 to William and Rachel Waldo Rice. He studied in local schools and later attended Alleghany College in Pennsylvania. In 1842 after graduating from college, Rice began studying law in Mayville and was admitted to the bar, though he did not follow the profession. Instead, in 1843, he moved to Buffalo and became a teacher at Buffalo High School.

While living in the Buffalo area, Rice also spent time as editor of the Cataract and the Western Temperance Standard, and then returned to teaching.

In 1851, Rice was elected to the New York Assembly, where he served as chairman of the committee on public education. In 1852, Rice was elected city superintendent of schools in Buffalo and his talents as an organizer and administrator of education became well known. In 1853, he was chosen president of the State Teachers’ Association, and in 1854 was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction, to which position he served until 1868.

It’s said that among his many accomplishments, Rice’s greatest achievement was in 1867, when he convinced the state legislature to abolish tuition rates, making  public education through secondary school free to all residents of New York State.

Other accomplishments included the Office of School Commissioner, which was created upon his advice, and the creation of the Code of Public Instruction, which was to be followed by all teachers in the state.

He also published a report on the State of Education in the United States and Other Countries in 1867, which was read by education officials throughout the country.

Rice died in Oneida  on Oct. 17, 1869.

Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit or contact your local historical society.

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