UIHistories Project: A History of the University of Illinois by Kalev Leetaru
        F O U N D A T I O N


A World Come Back Together

The year of theIllinois Industrial Universitys charter was a bright year, full of promise. The Civil War had come to a close just two years prior, but the country had already begun to heal its wounds and recover. Many future stars were born this year, including Frank Lloyd Wright [1], Laura Ingalls Wilder [2], and Marie Curie. [3] It was a year of triumph for industry as well, as the first ship passed through theSuez Cannel on February 17 and Pierre Michaux perfected the first mass-produced bicycle. The country also continued to grow as Nebraska was admitted as the 37th state on March 1 and Alaska was purchased for $7.2 million on March 30. Mark Twain even published The Celebrated Jumping Frog ofCalaveras County this year.

When the University finally opened for business a year later, in 1868, it was a time of reconciliation. South Carolina [4], Florida [5], Alabama [6], Louisiana [7], Arkansas [8], and North Carolina [9] were all admitted back into the United States, while Wyoming became a United Statesterritory on July 25. The 14th Constitutional amendment brought tremendous social progress with its ratification on July 28, while the publication of the 1st edition of the World Almanac advanced scholarly knowledge. The tradition of Mardi Gras found its start with the first float-based parade on February 24 and Memorial Day was observed for the first time on May 30. As the doors opened on one land grant institution, President Andrew Johnson signed the second Land Grant Act into law on December 25, granting to southern states the same benefits of the first act that only northern states had previously enjoyed.


The incentives that Urbana and Champaign had offered Springfield were too great for the legislature to pass up and on February 28, 1867, 6 years and 7 days after chartering the Champaign-Urbana Institute, Governor Richard J. Oglesby signed the Griggs Bill into effect, granting the Illinois Industrial University its charter. [10]

On Tuesday, March 10, 1867, the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Industrial University met for the first time, electing John Milton Gregory as the first Regent of the University. [11] They also compiled an inventory of the gifts and property in the possession of the fledgling University. Among the donations were 50,000 pounds of freight shipment by the Illinois Central Railroad Company, $100,000 in Champaign County bonds, and $2,000 in fruit; shade and ornamental trees and shrubbery, to be selected from the nursery of M. L. Dunlap. The University even owned a selection of 25,000 acres in Minnesota and Nebraska . [12] The land and buildings of the main campus were valued at $300,000, [13] while the total valuation of all University property and gifts was $450,000. [14]

Until the first State appropriation of $60,000 in 1869, the Universitys operating costs were paid through the gradual sale of its Champaign County bond holdings. By 1873, with the state budget reeling from the effects of the Chicago Fire, the Universitys budget was reduced to $50,000, and continued to slide to only $11,000 two years later in 1875. The University enacted sweeping budget cuts, including slashing the already meager salaries of high grade professors, of which it had so few, with the result that many left. The Land Grant University was even eventually forced to sell off portions of its lands for whatever money it could raise. [15] As was so aptly put in later years, the first Regent of the University, Regent Gregory, was forced to make his pleas [for money] to unsympathetic and even hostile legislators, from whom he received pennies when he asked for dollars and almost stones when he asked for bread. [16]

On December 1, 1867, Regent Gregory [17] sent a letter to all of the surrounding farmers with a set of 19 questions [18] asking, among other things, the character of surface soil and subsoil, location of the farm, crops taken off, livestock raised, rotations followed, notable successes, pronounced failures, cost per acre of good farming. [19] Of the 5000 copies sent, 34 responses were received. [20] The full contents of the 34 responses may still be found verbatim, in the minutes of the first meeting of the Board of Trustees, pages 216 to 292. The first two pages of the original letter may be found in the Presidents Office Scrapbook, RS 2/1/5.

Gazing Upon the Golden Fields

The Illinois Industrial University officially opened for business on Monday, March 2, 1868, [21] in the Champaign-Urbana Institutes recently-opened building and three students enrolled that day. [22] Only Regent Gregory and two professors had been elected to that point. [23] It opened at a time when the country was in a period of transition between the old education as it was then called, based primarily on a study of Latin and Greek, and the new which had for its basis the application of science to the affairs of daily life. [24] The two schools of thought were at distinct odds to each other, an often-bitter conflict that was summed up quiet eloquently by one student of the time as the old school trains the student to express his thoughts clearly and effectively, the new school gives him some thoughts to express. [25] Regent Gregory took this idea a bit further as he once began a Sunday chapel assembly with it does not make any difference how much good stuff is in a jug, if the stopper is driven so tight it cannot be drawn the whole thing is almost worthless. [26] With this, he was emphasizing the belief of the time that the old school of thought taught men to be masters of their subject able to teach it others, while the new school merely fed them the specific fragments of information they needed to carry out a given profession. In fact, the Universitys first two literary societies were formed by Regent Gregory out of a desire to increase the importance of literary scholarship among the student body. The students were divided in half, with odd numbered students being assigned to the Adelphic and evens being assigned to thePhilomathean. [27]


Finally, on Wednesday, March 11, 1868, the University celebrated its inauguration at University Building :[28] [29]

The platform [erected in front of the building] and walls were suitably draped with the national flag. The wall, in the rear of the platform, was decorated with a picture of Washington, the great Farmer of the Revolutionary period, supported on either hand by the American eagle, and crowned above, in letters of evergreen, with the University motto, of Learning and Labor.

The Honorable S. W. Moulton of Shelbyville presided over the proceedings, which featured music provided by two pianos and a 50-person choir led by George F. Root of Chicago and assisted by R. M. Eppstein ofChampaign. Over the next few years, the campus would grow to include a stock farm, experimental farm, orchards, gardens, nurseries, forest plantations, arboretum, botanic garden, ornamental grounds and military parade ground. [30] The University had been born. [31]

The states earlier lack of support was not so easily forgotten and in his opening remarks, Moulton made it a point to chide the state; as one account of the proceedings summed his remarks up as the progress of the State [in education] had been marvelous. There were still old fogies, but they were passing away, and men with larger culture and more deeply imbued with the spirit of the age were taking their places. [32]

That evening the Trustees met again at 8:30PM and Willard C. Flagg [33] proposed that the phrase Farmers and Mechanics be removed from the outer circle of the Universitys seal, while Samuel S. Hayes[34] moved that it be replaced with the phrase Illinois Industrial University in the top center of the outer ring, while Chartered in 1867 be placed in the bottom center of the outer ring. L. B. McMurray [35] further suggested that the seals motto by changed from Onward and Upward to Learning and Labor. All three changes were agreed upon and immediately enacted. [36] The Trustees had earlier met on the afternoon of May 8, 1867 to vote on one of four proposed designs for the new seal of the University. [37]

[1] Famous architect - June 8
[2] Famous author - February 7 - wrote Little House on the Prarie
[3] Pioneer in early radioactivity - November 7
[4] Readmitted July 9
[5] Readmitted June 25
[6] Readmitted July 14
[7] Readmitted June 25 / July 9
[8] Readmitted June 22
[9] Readmitted July 4
[10] Historic Preservation Report - 1998
[11] 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 5
[12] Illinois Industrial University Catalogue and Circular 1867-79, p19
[13] Illinois Industrial University Catalogue and Circular 1867-79, p19
[14] 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 8
[15] July 1914 alumni quarterly The Grave of John Milton Gregory by William Lamont Abbott, 84, President of the Board of Trustees address delivered Jun 16 at the unveiling of the tablet
[16] July 1914 alumni quarterly The Grave of John Milton Gregory by William Lamont Abbott, 84, President of the Board of Trustees address delivered Jun 16 at the unveiling of the tablet
[17] The term regent later gave way to president
[18] 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 216-292
[19] Powell, 298
[20] 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 216-217
[21] Note that on P.xi, Powell notes that the University first opened for business on March 2, but did not formally open until March 11
[22] Powell P.xi; note that later, on p298, he put the starting number of students at 50
[23] Powell, xi
[24] Charles Wesley Rolfe, class of 1872, quoted in Powell, p 317
[25] Charles Wesley Rolfe, class of 1872, quoted in Powell, p 318
[26] Powell, 318
[27] Powell, 318
[28] For a complete account of the inauguration, see 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 149; Gregorys inaugural address starts on page 174
[29] The original proceedings can be found in RS 2/1/5
[30] Illinois Industrial University Catalogue and Circular 1867-79, p16
[31] 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 149
[32] 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 150
[33] Trustee from 1867 to 1878; specialized in agriculture (p 343 Powell)
[34] Trustee from 1867 to 1870; a most able counselor (p 344 Powell)
[35] Trustee from 1867 to 1873, but rarely attended meetings (p 345 Powell)
[36] 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 195
[37] 1st Board of Trustees Minutes, page 40-41
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