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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.

Related U.S. Laws


Icon for 150 years of Morrill Act
The 150th Anniversary of the Federal Land Grant College Act (also known as the Morrill Act of 1862) will occur on July 2, 2012.

On September 11, 1862, the Iowa legislature officially accepted the provisions of the Morrill Act, becoming the first U.S. state to do so.

The Act helped fund educational institutions by granting federally controlled land to the states to create "land-grant" colleges. The states could either develop the land or sell it to raise funding for the colleges. The stated focus of these institutions was the teaching of agriculture and the mechanical arts.

There are also many aspects to the Morrill Act that tend to be forgotten – such as the role it played in engineering education, the creation of the ROTC program, and the history of home economics. The Morrill Act of 1862 also generated considerable controversy, including the fact that it failed to pass before the Civil War but once the southern U.S. states seceded from the Union (and were no longer members of Congress) the Act passed. It also introduced a radical idea --that higher education should be practical and available to the masses, not just the wealthy. In addition, there is some dispute over the true "father" of the land-grant idea - Jonathan Baldwin Turner or Justin Smith Morrill.

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Your Librarian

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Lorrie Pellack
Head, Research & Instruction Services Dept.
150c Parks Library
Ames, IA 50011-2140
Phone: 515-294-5569