On This Date In Twin Cities History - February 18, 1868

On this date in 1868, the Minnesota Legislature passes an act to organize the University of Minnesota.

The 1868 act established the University’s mission, an academic framework, and the governance and duties of University leadership. The act divided the school into five departments: a Department of Elementary Instruction; a College of Science, Literature and Arts; a College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts; a Department of Law; and a College of Medicine.

The University was originally established 17 years earlier on February 25, 1851, but the Regents and Legislature struggled to secure funding, weathered a market crash, and faced disruption from the Civil War preventing the school from opening.  The University of Minnesota is one of the United States’ original land-grant institutions organized under the Morrill Act of 1862.

Under the Morrill Act, each eligible state received 30,000 acres of federal land, either within or contiguous to its boundaries, for each member of congress the state had as of the census of 1860. This land, or the proceeds from its sale, was to be used toward establishing and funding educational institutions.

As of 2020, the University of Minnesota has a total enrollment of over 51,300 students giving it the sixth-largest main campus student body in the United States.  It employs almost 18,000 faculty and staff and offers 150 majors within seven freshman-admitting and five upper-division colleges.

Image: Mechanic Arts Building (Eddy Hall) circa 1893 (MNHS)