Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #139

Close to 150 years ago on July 2, 1862, an act of Congress, known as the Morrill Act, gave to each state in the Union 30,000 acres of public lands for each Senator and Representative in Congress "for the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts in such manner as the legislatures of the states may respectively prescribe in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life." The act made instruction in those branches of learning related to agriculture and the mechanic arts obligatory. It also made instruction in military tactics obligatory. It made the inclusion of other scientific and classical studies permissive, optional, with the states. The states may, out of this Morrill fund, establish and maintain an Agricultural and Mechanical College only, or they may make the Agricultural and Mechanical College the nucleus of a University organization which shall include agriculture and mechanics as one of its colleges. The University of Kentucky is the outgrowth of the Agricultural and Mechanical College which was established under the provisions of the Morrill Land Grant Act.  Under this allotment Kentucky received 330,000 acres.

Original college building at Woodland Park, A&M.  Classroom building at Woodlands.
 When the Morrill Act passed Congress, the country was in the midst of the Civil War. Educational matters occupied their attention but little. Nonetheless, A&M College became a publicly chartered department of Kentucky University (now Transylvania University) under a cooperative plan authorized by the legislature in 1865. The purpose of this plan was to unite sectarian and public education under one organization. This experiment was tried for a number of years. In the meantime, the federal funds authorized under the Morrill Act were used to develop agriculture and mechanic arts in Kentucky University.

Early view of the UK campus
In 1878, when the people of Kentucky decided to establish a state institution of higher learning, the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was separated from Kentucky University and reestablished on land given by the City of Lexington and Fayette County. Thirty years later the legislature changed the name of the institution to the State University of Kentucky, and gave it additional financial support. In 1916 the name was again changed, this time to the present title, and additional maintenance was arranged by legislative act. 

The Experimental Farm at Kentucky State University, 1899
In the early days of Agricultural Colleges not much agriculture was actually taught because little was known beyond farm experience.   The realization of the scarcity of scientific data gave great impetus to investigations and to the study of sciences related to plant and animal growth.  Recognizing the need for investigation, Congress through the Hatch Act, approved in 1887, appropriated to states $15,000 each for the purpose of establishing experiment stations.  However, the Kentucky Experiment Station was established in December 1885 with Dr. Scovell as director, who continued in that capacity until 1912.

“America’s system of public universities is the legacy of the Morrill Act of 1862 which established new public institutions in each state through the grant of federal lands. The original mission of these new institutions was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education. The Morrill Act provided a broad segment of the population with a practical education that had direct relevance to their daily lives,” from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

To read the original Morrill Act please visit

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.