History of Purdue University (Part 1)
From: Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana
General R. P. DeHart, Editor in Chief
B. F. Bowen & Company, Publishers
Indianapolis, Indiana 1909


Purdue University ranks high among the great educational institutions of this country. It was organized under the act of congress, passed July 2, 1862, "to donate public lands to the several states and territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of agriculture and mechanic arts." A long-desired want was foreshadowed, and the means appropriated whereby the advantages of an educational system adapted to the process of developing those elements of knowledge which especially appertain to the agriculturist and mechanic, were ultimately to be utilized.

The fundamental idea which gives form and practicability to the method proposed, assumes that the granting to each state an amount of public lands equal to thirty thousand acres for each of her senators and representatives in congress, a fund is provided sufficient, by the application of the proceeds, to meet every prospective want. The appropriation contemplates the use of land scrip in states where there is a deficiency in the quantum of public lands, in lieu of and representing the equivalent acreage. Under this arrangement. Indiana is entitled to and received her donation in scrip, amounting to three hundred and ninety thousand acres. The proceeds of this scrip are required to be invested in stocks of the United States, or other safe stocks, yielding no less than five per centum on their par value. The fund thus created shall be perpetual, the capital of which shall remain forever undiminished, the interest of which shall be inviolably appropriated by the state. to the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college; the leading object of which 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 mechanic art, in such a manner as the legislature may prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life.

Should any portion of the capital fund thus provided for, or any interest thereon, by any contingency be diminished or lost, such deficiency shall be supplied by the state, so that the capital of that fund shall remain forever undiminished, and the annual interest shall be applied to the purchase, erection and preservation or repair of any building.

The second act of this bill was that, "Any state .which may take and claim the benefit of the provisions of this act shall provide within five years, at least, not less than one college, as described in the fourth section of this act, or the grant to such state shall cease; and said state shall be bound to pay the United States the amount received of any lands previously sold, and that the title to purchase under the state shall be valid."

The state of Indiana, by an act approved March 6, 1865, obligated itself as follows:

"The state of Indiana accepts and claims the benefits of the provisions of the acts of congress, approved July 2, 1862, and April 4, 1864, and assents to all the conditions and provisions in said acts contained."

Following this acceptance a board was organized for the management of this fund. Said board was known as the "Trustees of the Indiana Agricultural College," and it first consisted of the following men: Governor Morton, (ex-officio) president; Alfred Pollard, of Gibson; Smith Vawter, of Jennings; Henry Taylor, of Tippecanoe county, and Lewis Burke, of Fort Wayne. Prior to the first meeting of the board held October 20, 1865, Mr. Pollard removed from the state, and Isaac Jenkinson, of Allen, was elected his successor. John J. Hayden, of Marion, was elected secretary of the board, and James E. Reeves, of Wayne, treasurer. The last named resigned May 1, 1866, and was succeeded by E. B. Martindale, of Indianapolis. This board then remained unchanged until March 7, 1870.

By the authority vested in this board the amount of scrip appropriated to the state was sold April 9, 1867, for the gross sum of two hundred twelve thousand two hundred and thirty eight dollars as the proceeds of the three hundred and ninety thousand acres of land donated by the general government. The accumulations of interest from continual reinvestment, added to the capital stock, increased the fund in 1874 to three hundred sixty-five thousand dollars. The investment was in interest bearing bond of the United States, and increased daily in actual value. This was purely an endowment fund, the interest only of which is intended to be used.

No provision having been made by the act of March 6, 1865, for the location of a college, action in this direction was suspended until May 6, 1869. Meanwhile, an obstinate struggle was carried on between the rival candidates for location, and a diversity of interests were brought to bear in the negotiations appertaining thereto. During that period, in the midst of the prevailing contest, Hon. John Purdue. of Lafayette, proposed to donate one hundred and fifty thousand dollars on certain specified conditions, which was accompanied by an additional donation of fifty thousand dollars, by Tippecanoe county, subject to like conditions. At the date last mentioned, therefore, during a special session of the legislature, the question was settled by the passage of an act accepting such propositions. By the provision of this latter act, the corporate name of the board was changed to "The Trustees of Purdue University." The name of the institution was at the same time changed to that of "Purdue University." The following are among the provisions of this legislative act:

"Section 1. Be it enacted by the general assembly of the state of Indiana, that the donations offered by John Purdue, as set forth and communicated to the present general assembly in the message of the Governor, on the 16th day of April, 1869, and the donations offered by Tippecanoe county and the trustees of the Battle Ground Institute, of the Methodist Episcopal church, as set forth and communicated to the general assembly, at its last session, in the message of the Governor, on the 27th day of January, 1869, be and the same is hereby accepted by the state of Indiana.

"Section 2. The college contemplated and provided for by the act of congress approved July 2, 1862, entitled 'An act donating public lands to the several states and territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts, is hereby located in Tippecanoe county, at such point as may be determined before January, 1870. by a majority of the trustees of the Indiana Agricultural College: and the faith of the state is hereby pledged, that the location of the same shall be made permanent.

"Section 3. In consideration of said donation of John Purdue amounting to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. and of the further donation of one hundred acres of land appurtenant to the institution, and on condition that the same be made effectual. the said institution, from and after the date of its location, as aforesaid, shall have the name and style of 'Purdue University,' and the faith of the state is hereby pledged that the name and style of said institution shall thus be permanently designated with modification thereof.

"Section 5. In further consideration of his donation, John Purdue shall, from and after taking effect of this act, be added as a member of the said trustees of Indiana Agricultural College, and shall also be a member of the said board of trustees of Purdue University. Should he, at any time, cease to be a member, he shall be continued as an advisory member of said trustees, and he shall, during his lifetime, have visitorial power for the purpose of inspecting the property, real or personal, of said university. recommending to the trustees such measures as he shall deem necessary for the good of the university, and investigating the financial concerns of the corporation. And he is authorized to make report of his examination, inspection and inquiries to the general assembly, at any session thereof.

"Section 6. This act shall be subject to future amendment or repeal, except so far as it provides for the acceptance of donations, the location of the college and the name and style thereof and the privileges conferred upon John Purdue."

The Battle Ground donations referred to above, were on condition that the college he located at that point. The county donations required only that it be located within Tippecanoe county. The location was accordingly fixed upon a tract of one hundred acres, near Chauncey (now called West Lafayette), donated by the citizens of that town and vicinity. Subsequently, the domain was enlarged by the purchase of eighty six and one half acres on the north of the original tract. Other extensions were made, making the present amount of land, two hundred and forty one acres, upon which today (1909) stands twenty-nine modern styled buildings, well equipped laboratories, shops, museums, library and reading rooms.

From the foregoing it will be observed that this institution is supported, aside from the private donations of its founders, by four beneficiaries from ccngress, known as the Hatch and Morrill, the Adams and Nelson acts. The amount received annually from the United States as proceeds of the original grant and of the four subsequent acts is sixty-nine thousand dollars ($69,000). Private donations have been received from the liberal hands of Amos Heavilon. from Eliza Fowler and from James Fowler, for the erection and equipment of the buildings.

Then it will be understood that the university, while bearing the name of John Purdue. is an institution exclusively under state control, and that government aid was originally extended, not only to establish, but to aid in maintaining a state institution of a specific kind.

The present value of the non-productive property in buildings and lands and equipment amounts to one million two hundred and fifty three thousand dollars.

The purpose of the university is to afford the young men and women of Indiana an opportunity to acquire a good college education in mathematics, science, literature, and art, and at the same time to secure instruction and practice in such lines of work as will fit them to engage in the practical industries. The instruction is both theoretical and practical. The usual methods of text book study, recitation, and lecture are employed, but the student is required to put into practice, so far as possible, the instruction which he receives. In all courses of study the work of the class-room is supplemented and practically exemplified by practice in the laboratories. This university now embraces six special schools, as follows:


A School of Agriculture, including horticulture. animal husbandry and dairying.


A School of Science.


A School of Mechanical Engineering.


A School of Civil Engineering.


A School of Electrical Engineering.


A School of Pharmacy.


In March, 1870, the board was partially re-organized. M. L. Pierce, of Lafayette, succeeded Mr. Jenkinson; Rev. Thomas Bowman. of Greencastle, succeeded Mr. Vawter: Dr. Joseph H. Tuttle. of Crawfordsville. Mr. Lewis Burke and John Purdue became trustees by act of the legislature. Mr. Pierce was elected both secretary and treasurer, succeeding- Messrs. Hayden and Martindale (resigned). In November. 1870, Dr. Tuttle and Henry Taylor resigned and were succeeded by John R. Coffroth and John A. Stein, both of Lafayette. January, 1871, Mr. Stein was elected secretary of the board, and by subsequent re-elections both were long retained in office. By an act passed January 31, 1871, the number of trustees was increased to nine, including the Governor (ex-officio member and president of the board), the act also provided that three of the trustees should be members of the State Board of Agriculture, to be appointed by the Governor, on the recommendation of the state board. The three trustees appointed under this act were I. D. G. Nelson, of Fort Wayne; John Sutherland,. of La Porte. and L. A. Burke. of New Harmony. The board was constituted as follows: Governor Baker; John A. Stein, secretary; Martin L. Pierce, treasurer: John Purdue, John R. Coffroth, I. D. G. Nelson, Thomas Bowman. John Sutherland and L. A. Burke. This board, with the few changes later made in its composition. purchased the present site of the university, planned and constructed its first set of buildings (the main building excepted) and made provision for the opening of the institution.

Governor Hendricks succeeded Governor Baker, in 1873. Dr. Bowman resigned in May, 1873, and was succeeded by Judge H. P. Biddle, of Logansport, who resigned in November following and was succeeded by Col. B. C. Shaw, of Indianapolis, who resigned in October, 1874. Mr. Nelson also resigned in 1874, and was succeeded by Austin B. Claypool, of Connersville. Mr. Burke resigned in June, 1874, to accept the position of farm superintendent.


It was the purpose of the trustees in charge to open the institution in October, 1873, but on account of unforseen events and delays it was impossible to do so. In order to obviate any trouble or irregularities with the general government at Washington who had designated a limit of time in which it should be open to the public, and which date was fixed at not later than July, 1874, a provisional beginning was ordered, and Prof. J. S. Hougham took charge of the first class, March 2, 1874, and on that day began the first regular term of Purdue University. The following faculty had been selected the summer before:

A. C. Shortridge, president; J. S. Hougham, professor of physics and industrial mechanics; W. B. Morgan, professor of mathematics and engineering; John Hussey, professor of botany and horticulture; H. W. Wiley, professor of chemistry; Eli F. Brown, professor of English literature and drawing.

The plan of the trustees, when first organized, was to have special schools, as follows: School of natural science, including physics and industrial mechanics, chemistry, natural history. Second - a school of engineering, including civil engineering mining engineering, architecture. Third - school of agriculture, including horticulture, veterinary science. Fourth-school of military science. Detailed courses of study were announced in agriculture, chemistry, engineering and physics and mechanical engineering.

On this plan the university was conducted for two years, but there seemed little demand for the special courses. The only students for the special courses were those who entered chemistry-nearly all entered the preparatory classes.

It should be stated in this connection that when the board expected to open the university in 1873, that they had secured Prof. Richard Owen, of the State University, at Bloomington, and he had been elected president, and he was to enter upon his duties on three months' notice. He resigned March to, 1874, however, and Superintendent Shortridge, of Indianapolis, was elected to succeed him, June 12, 1874.

At the close of the first year Mrs. Sarah A. Oren was appointed professor of botany, and Professor Hussey was transferred to the added chair of Latin and modern languages.


By an act of the legislature passed March 9, 1875, the board of trustees had to be re-organized. This act reduced the number of trustees to six, two to be nominated by the state board of agriculture, one by the state board of horticulture, and three to be selected and appointed by the Governor. It also provided that the secretary and treasurer should not be members of the board. This law took effect August 24. 1875, and the board was reorganized August 31, 1875.

President Shortridge resigned November 5, 1875. to take effect December 31, 1875, and Professor Hougham became acting president. E. E. White was elected president February 17, 1876, entering his office May 1st, of that year. He submitted a plan in June, his first year, for the organization of studies which met the approval of the board and which was in operation many years, giving general satisfaction.

The university was divided into three departments - the college of general science. special schools of science and industry and the University academy. The college was first organized with but one course of study, the scientific course, so arranged as to be a general preparation, not only for industrial pursuits. but for the course in the special schools.

In 1879 the college was made to embrace three courses - the scientific course, the agricultural course, and the mechanical course. and the special school of agriculture, with its "Experimental Station,- Station,"chool of mechanics. with its workshop, were put into successful operation. It required four years to "work out- the pout"outlined in 1876.

The act of 1865 provided that if Mr. John Purdue should cease to be one of the trustees, that he should continue to be an advisory member during his lifetime. His trusteeship expired in 1875. and he then served the university as advisory trustee until his death, September 12, 1876.

With the passing of the years, the institution grew in public favor and had larger numbers of students and from a larger radius of territory. The June register for 1887 shows that at that date, in the college course, there were two hundred and thirty students; in the preparatory course, one hundred and sixty two - a total of three hundred and ninety two. The number graduating in the eighties was from twelve to fifteen.

In 1883 Professor J H Smart, former superintendent of public instruction, was elected president of Purdue University and served until his death, 1900. He was succeeded by the present president, Winthrop Ellsworth Stone, Ph. D., LL. D.


While it is not within the province of this work to go into the financial details of this institution, as it will be of little value or interest to the average reader, but it may be said in passing to another feature of this great and constantly growing educational institution that, in 1873, the state made its first appropriation, consisting of sixty thousand dollars - one half payable that year and the balance in 1874. This was designed for the construction of a college building, the purchase of apparatus, the improvement of grounds and for other purposes. The following shows the various state appropriations to the present (1909):













Improvements as follows





Mechanical Laboratory





Electrical Laboratory





Station Equipment










Buildings, etc.










Repairs and Improvements





Engineering Dept.





Elect. Engineering





Repairs ($3,500 per an.)










Agricultural Bld'g.





For Maintenance Agric. Dept.





($10,000 per an.)










Power and Heating Plant





Physics Building





Street Improvements





Maint. of Sc. of Agric.










Chemical Building





Civil Eng. Building










New Experiment Station Bld'g.....










Additional Maintenance





Shops, Draw. Rooms. etc.





Stock Judg. Pavilion





Farm Mechanics' Building



Beginning with 1875, the legislature made an annual allowance of twenty thousand dollars for the maintenance of the university, which, in 1885, was changed to thirty thousand dollars per annum. Under these allowances three hundred and twenty thousand dollars was appropriated.

In 1895 these allowances were discontinued and a tax of one twentieth of a mill assessed for maintenance - in 1903 this was raised to one tenth of a mill.

In 1905, five thousand dollars for the current year and twenty five thousand dollars per annum thereafter was appropriated for the development of agricultural science and dissemination of agricultural information.

In 1909 the appropriation was increased to seventy five thousand dollars per annum.

In 1889 five thousand dollars per annum was appropriated for the work of the farmers' institutes, which was, in 1901, made ten thousand dollars per annum.


The university is now equipped with more than a score of substantial buildings, of which the more important are included in the following:

ELIZA FOWLER HALL, the gift of Mrs. Eliza Fowler, of Lafayette, is a decorative and dignified stone building surmounted by a red tiled roof, situated at the wooded center of the campus. It contains a large auditorium, in which are held all public exercises of the university, including frequent lectures and concerts. A large three manual pipe organ, the gift of Mr. James M. Fowler, of Lafayette, adds to the value of the building as a refining and cultivating agency. In the building are also the rooms of the trustees, the president, and the faculty.

THE NEW AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION BUILDING, provided for by an appropriation of a recent legislature, is just completed. It is of two stories and a basement, constructed of brick with stone trimmings and a tile roof, with reinforced concrete floors, iron and slate stairs, and is of fireproof construction throughout. It is one of the largest buildings on the campus, and one of the best buildings in the United States devoted exclusively to experiment station work.

THE MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM, erected in 1908, in memory of almost a score of students who lost their lives by a railroad accident in October, 1903, is a large structure of dark colonial brick with Bedford stone trimmings and a tile roof. It has a ground area of one hundred and sixty five by eighty five feet, with a front projecting portion seventy by thirty five feet. It contains a gymnasium hall with an unobstructed floor area of one hundred and sixty by eighty feet, and an overhead running track of nearly five hundred feet. The basement, fourteen feet in height, provides for a sixty by thirty foot swimming pool and bath, dressing, and locker rooms, with a provision for two thousand lockers. The building contains, also, trophy, lounging, and committee rooms, and offices for athletic organizations.

THE LADIES' HALL, situated a little southwest of University Hall, is a two story brick building of attractive appearance. On the lower floor are the rooms of the departments of Art and Household Economics, while the rest of the building is occupied as a dormitory for women students.

UNIVERSITY HALL is a large three-story brick structure with a basement sufficiently high to be used for class rooms. It contains a large assembly room, the halls of the literary societies, the library and reading room, recitation rooms, and the offices of the registrar and of the bursar.

PURDUE HALL is a large four story brick building, situated just north of University Hall, containing recitation rooms and offices for the mathematical and other departments.

THE CHEMISTRY BUILDING, completed in 1907, is a stone and brick rectangle, one hundred and fifty six by seventy feet, with three working floors and an attic, well lighted and ventilated. It contains five general students' laboratories, seven special laboratories, and five private laboratories and offices; a lecture room seating four hundred and forty, and three class rooms; also, a department library, two balance rooms, and supply rooms.

CENTRAL POWER, HEATING AND LIGHTING PLANT. - This building contains the extensive apparatus for generating light, heat, and power for the university buildings and laboratories. The installation represents the most recent approved engineering practice and, aside from its direct utility, is a valuable feature of the equipment for instructional purposes.

AGRICULTURAL HALL is a two story structure of briok and stone over a high:basement. The building contains offices for members of the agricultural faculty, class rooms and laboratories for instruction in the various agricultural branches. There are also, among other rooms, an assembly hall and a room for the agricultural society.

SCIENCE HALL is a two story building devoted to the work of the department of biology. The building provides general, special and research laboratories, museums, and offices for instructors.

THE PHARMACY BUILDING is a brick, two stories in height. It contains a lecture room, balance room, storerooms, office, pharmacognosy and prescription rooms, and general laboratories, furnishing accommodations for one hundred and thirty students.

THE CIVIL ENGINEERING BUILDING is a stone and brick structure of two main stories and a top or attic story. The first story is devoted chiefly to the field instrument room, and drafting and computing rooms for the use of the sophomore class in surveying, topography, and railway curves. The second floor includes a large assembly room, recitation rooms and offices for the departmental staff. The third floor consists of two large drafting rooms for the use of the junior and senior classes in civil engineering. These drafting rooms are lighted both from the sides and from above. The upper floor also contains a blueprint room, a photographic dark room and offices for the instructors in charge of the advanced drafting room work.

THE ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING BUILDING is devoted to the work in electrical engineering. It is a three story structure of dressed stone and brick, to which is joined a one story brick structure with basement. The first floor of the main building contains a room for standard instruments, a calibration room, a special laboratory. a research laboratory, a seminary room. and offices. The second floor contains the rooms for electrical design, beside lecture and recitation rooms, and offices. The third floor is occupied by the telephone and photometric laboratories. The one story wing of the building includes the general dynamo laboratory, a lecture room with seating capacity for three hundred persons, and apparatus and stock rooms.

THE PHYSICS BUILDING is a new stone and brick building of two stories over a high basement, containing the laboratories and class rooms of the department of physics. The building is a model of arrangement and adaptability for instructions in physics. In the basements are three large laboratories fitted with stone piers, a dark room, a storage battery and workshops. The first of the main floor is occupied by two general laboratories for physics measurements, an instructor's office, the apparatus room, and several small laboratories for independent work. On the upper floor are the lecture rooms, with a capacity of three hundred, fitted with all the useful appliances for lecture demonstration; the preparation room; four recitation rooms, and the offices of the department. The wiring and switchboard afford unusual facilities for the manipulation of electric currents of all kinds.

THE AGRICULTURAL ANNEX is a laboratory for instruction in farm mechanics and farm implements.

DAIRY CATTLE BARN AND JUDGING PAVILION - This dairy barn exemplifies the modern features of a sanitary barn for dairy cattle. The floors and mangers are concrete. Patent stalls of the Drown type; the King system of ventilation; good light, drainage, and facilities for sanitary handling of milk, are features of the structure. The judging pavilion connected with the barn is fifty feet in diameter, steam heated, comfortably seated, well lighted, and adds greatly to the facilities for instruction in animal husbandry.

OTHER FARM BUILDINGS are a cattle barn with lots and sheds especially designed for experimental steer feeding; tool barn with a large assortment of farming implements; horse barn, with abundant storage for grain and hay; sheep barn, affording accommodations for both breeding and feeding sheep; a modern piggery, with provisions for experimental feeding and breeding herds; seed room for storing and assorting farm seeds.

THE MECHANICAL ENGINEERING BUILDING is occupied by the departments of mechanical engineering and practical mechanics. It consists of a three-story brick and stone front, to which are joined several one story wings.

The building contains offices, recitation rooms, lecture rooms, model and instrument rooms, and several large drawing rooms; also a wood working room, a foundry, a forge room, and an engineering laboratory. An annex, which in effect constitutes a portion of this building, is devoted exclusively to the work of locomotive testing.

[ To Part 2 of Purdue University History.]

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