Morrill Act Virtual Exhibit


In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law, giving 10,000 acres of federal land to the states to sell, on the condition that the states would use the funds to establish public universities. This included the University of Illinois, and 150 years later, the university invites you to celebrate our long history as a public land-grant university, and discuss the opportunities and challenges that the future holds. For a schedule of events, visit

University Hall

The First University Building

The University of Illinois began in 1867 as the Illinois Industrial University. The first building, University Hall, was built in 1868. Its five stories featured classrooms, a chapel, clubrooms, a power plant, and dormitories for about 130 students. A windstorm destroyed part of the building in 1880, and lacking sufficient funds to repair the damage, the University demolished it in 1881.

College of Agriculture

The First Agriculture Building

Many land-grant institutions placed a special emphasis on agriculture and engineering. Soon after the University of Illinois opened, it began offering courses in elementary and advanced agriculture. The first agriculture building on the University of Illinois campus was dedicated on May 21, 1901. Today it is known as Davenport Hall.

Engineering Experimental Station

Engineering Experimental Station

In 1903 the University of Illinois became the first land-grant institution to organize a separate and distinct Engineering Experiment Station. These photographs are from the first bulletin, published in 1904; they illustrate concrete testing.

Jonathan Baldwin Turner

Jonathan Baldwin Turner

A noted farmer and lecturer, Turner was one of the leading voices in the social movement of the 1850's that led to the passing of the Morrill Act and the creation of land grant universities.

Justin Smith Morrill

Justin Smith Morrill

Morrill was a Vermont senator who fought for land-grant institutions and eventually proposed the Land-Grant Act to Congress in 1861.

Key players in the Morrill Act shown through Billy Morrow Jackson's "Ag Time" Painting

Billy Morrow Jackson's "Ag Time" Painting