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New Archives exhibit commemorates Morrill Act

July 10, 2012

In conjunction with the university celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Land-grant Act, a new exhibit showcasing documents and photographs from the early years of the agricultural college that would become Colorado State is now on display in the Archives reading room of Morgan Library.

Visionary legislation

The exhibit features photographs, Experiment Station correspondence (including a request from George Washington Carver for copies of bulletins), county Extension agent reports, radio show transcripts, and a 1912 letter from Congressman Lever describing his proposed legislation to create an extension service for land-grant colleges.

On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a visionary piece of legislation authored by Congressman Justin Morrill from Vermont. The Morrill Act of 1862 provided grants of federal land to each of the states to fund colleges which would offer practical education to anyone who desired it.

Territorial Gov. Edward McCook designated Fort Collins as the site for Colorado’s land-grant college in 1870, six years before Colorado became a state. By 1879, the Old Main building had been completed and three faculty members welcomed five students to the first term of classes at the State Agricultural College of Colorado.

Mission fulfilled

Later federal legislation would assist the Morrill Act colleges in fulfilling their mission: The Hatch Act of 1887 funded experimental research at the colleges, and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 provided an outreach mechanism for extending the results of that research to the people who needed the information. During the next century, Colorado's agricultural college, like many other land-grant institutions, would develop into a major research university.

The exhibit, titled “The Morrill Act in Colorado: Research, Outreach, and Education in Action,” will remain on display in room 202 of Morgan Library from June 29 through July 31. Archives reading room hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For answers to additional questions about the exhibit or the collections, please contact Linda Meyer, archivist of the Agricultural and Natural Resources Archive, at (970) 491-4692 or

Contact: Linda Meyer
Phone: 970-491-4692