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The Morrill Act, Celebrating Land-Grant Universities

In 1862, Justin S. Morrill sponsored an Act establishing Land-grant institutions with the purpose of educating young Americans in agricultural and mechanical sciences.

About This Guide

This Guide will provide information about the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, information on land-grant institutions in the United States, Agricultural resources available online and at the MSU Libraries, and various other information regarding the mission of land-grant institutions.

The Morrill Act

Original Corn Club Boys

Justin S. Morrill

Morrill, Hon. Justin Smith of Vt.


Justin Smith Morrill a Representative and a Senator from Vermont; born in Strafford, Orange County, Vt., April 14, 1810; attended the common schools and Thetford and Randolph Academies; a merchant’s clerk in Strafford 1825-1828 and in Portland, Maine, 1828-1831; merchant in Strafford 1831-1848; engaged in agriculture and horticulture 1848-1855; elected as a Whig to the Thirty-fourth Congress and as a Republican to the five succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1855-March 3, 1867), when he became Senator; author of the Tariff Act of 1861 and of the land-grant bill, which bears his name; chairman, Committee on Ways and Means (Thirty-ninth Congress); elected as a Union Republican to the United States Senate in 1866; reelected as a Republican in 1872, 1878, 1884, 1890 and 1896 and served from March 4, 1867, until his death; chairman, Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds (Forty-first through Forty-fourth Congresses), Committee on Finance (Forty-fifth, Forty-seventh through Fifty-second, Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Congresses); regent of the Smithsonian Institution 1883-1898; trustee of the University of Vermont 1865-1898; died in Washington, D.C., December 28, 1898; interment in the City Cemetery, Strafford, Vt.

From: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

The Morrill Act and Mississippi State University

Stephen Dill Lee, first President of Mississippi A&M College, 1880-1899

Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College

The University began as The Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi, one of the national Land-Grant Colleges established after Congress had passed the Morrill Act in 1862. It was created by the Mississippi Legislature on February 28, 1878, to fulfill the mission of offering training in "agriculture, horticulture and the mechanical arts . . . without excluding other scientific and classical studies, including military tactics." The College received its first students in the fall of 1880 in the presidency of General Stephen D. Lee. In 1887 Congress passed the Hatch Act, which provided for the establishment of the Agricultural Experiment Station in 1888. Two other pieces of federal legislation provided funds for extending the mission of the College: in 1914, the Smith-Lever Act called for "instruction in practical agriculture and home economics to persons not attendant or resident," thus creating the state-wide effort which led to Extension offices in every county in the State; and, in 1917, the Smith-Hughes Act provided for the training of teachers in vocational education.

From: General Information on Mississippi State University