This week, students, faculty, staff and alumni will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the charter that established the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Feb. 15, 1869, but the document’s history actually begins before that date.
In 1855, Nebraska Gov. T.A. Cumming asked the state legislature to create a state university, and although many charters were issued over the next 20 years throughout Nebraska, none were successful.
In 1867, the state legislature passed an act that named Lincoln as Nebraska’s capital city and set the new capital city as the university’s location. Two years later, the first state legislature met in Omaha and approved the proposed charter for the governor to sign.
Under state legislator August Harvey’s Morrill Act, the university’s charter allowed the state to claim more than 136,000 acres for its campus.
The charter established a university and made it open to all people, regardless of age, gender, color or nationality.
The state legislature gave control of the university to 12 regents, but a state constitution revision later reduced the power to six elected regents.
The charter created six departments including the College of Ancient and Modern Literature, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences, the College of Agriculture, the College of Law, the College of Medicine, the College of Practical Science, Civil Engineering and Mechanics and the College of Fine Arts. They opened in 1871.