The Founding of Ohio State University

The Ohio State University began life as the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. Governor Rutherford B. Hayes created a board of trustees for the institution in 1870, afterwards construction on the first building began. Ohio funded the founding of the college through the sale of land acquired in the Morrill Act. The Morrill Act essentially gave land to each state who had not seceded from the Union in the American Civil War. Through the act Ohio received a total of 630,000 acres. The legislature profited to the tune of $342,450.80 from its sale. These funds help begin the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College.

The school was originally situated within a farming community located on the northern edge of Columbus, and was intended to matriculate students of various agricultural and mechanical disciplines. Columbus also being located and in the middle of the state and easily accessible by rail and canal came into the decision. The university opened its doors to 24 students on September 18, 1873, including two women. In 1878, the first class of six men graduated.

During the institution’s infancy there was debate over what he purpose of the college should be. Most of the trustees and faculty wanted the school to enhance Ohioans through a broader, liberal arts educations. However, the Ohio Board of Agriculture, specifically its secretary Norton Townshed, preferred a narrower education focusing on new agricultural techniques. Eventually, those who favored a broader, liberal education including English, foreign languages, political science, history and other types of courses won out. This lead to a name change in 1878 at which time the school became known as the Ohio State University, to reflect its wider offering of course work that the University is known for today.