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Morrill Act & Land-Grant Universities

This guide is for researchers interested in learning more about the history of the Morrill Act and land-grant universities in the U.S. Each tab contains links to web-accessible resources and tips for finding additional information.

Other things going on during this time period

In 1862 in the midst of the second year of the Civil War, Congress found time to pass three significant pieces of agriculture-related legislation:

-- on May 15th, the United States Department of Agriculture was founded;

-- on May 20th, President Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act, which eventually distributed over 270 million acres of American land to over 1.6 million households; and,

-- on July 2nd, President Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act into law which set aside land in each state to perpetually endow a college to teach subjects in the agricultural and mechanic arts.

In this same year, on July 1st, President Lincoln also signed the Pacific Railroad Act authorizing land grants to aid in the construction of a transcontinental railroad and telegraph lines from Nebraska to California. This brought with it a demand for trained engineers.

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