In 1850, the state constitutional convention called for the foundation of an Agricultural School under the provision of Article 13, Section 11 – the Morrill Act enacted under Abraham Lincoln’s administration. Interestingly, it was first suggested that this Agricultural School would be part of the University of Michigan. In fact, then-president Henry Tappan lobbied for this school to be built in UM’s own Ann Arbor. However, John C. Holmes of the Michigan State Agricultural Society opposed this, on the ground that the school’s students may end up being neglected by UM. Luckily for him, then-Michigan Governor Kingsley S. Bingham saw things his way, mandating a bill commissioning the establishment of what was then called the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. Eleven years later would be a moment in history for the school – it saw its first batch of graduates, as well as the Michigan Legislature that allowed it to offer four-year curriculum courses and grant degrees on par with more established universities.
The beginnings of the Agricultural College were surprisingly humble. Under its first president, Joseph Williams, a member of Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa in addition to being both an accomplished farmer and attorney, it started out with only three buildings and five professors, as well as a student body of 63. Luckily, Williams made the best of the situation, hiring a host of competent professors in the college’s first year. These professors then proceeded to set up sophisticated science laboratories in its College Hall, complete with equipment such as microscopes which were then thought to be state-of-the-art. Needless to say, Michigan Agricultural College flourished under President Williams’s tenure; even relatively early on in its existence, it boasted a wide array of theoretical and practical academics.
The Michigan state legislature passed a bill in 1855, which