top of page

Iowa History Daily: March 22 - Origins of Iowa State

Iowa History Daily: On March 22, 1858 the State of Iowa’s General Assembly approved a measure allocating funds to provide for the Iowa State Agricultural College and Farm. Today, approximately 26,000 students attend Iowa State University.

Several counties throughout the state made proposals to host the new institution of higher learning, but Story County ultimately won the bid on June 21, 1859 over Johnson, Kossuth, Marshall, and Polk counties. With the site selected, the state purchased 648 acres at a cost of $5,379. In 1861, builders completed construction on the Farm House (now home to the Farm House Museum).

The following year, the Iowa State Legislature became the first to accept the terms of the federal government’s 1862 Morrill Act. The Morrill Act “allowed Iowa to sell federal land to finance a new college open to all regardless of wealth, race, or gender; offering a practical education in agriculture, engineering, and military science.” The institution admitted the first preparatory class in 1868, with the first formal admit of students in 1869 followed by the first graduating class in 1872.

The very first Iowa State graduation consisted of twenty-four men and two women. The first state-sponsored School of Veterinary Science in the United States opened at the school in 1879. In 1898 the name of the institution changed to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, becoming ‘Iowa State’ for short. The name changed again, to the current Iowa State University of Science and Technology, on July 4, 1959.

The Cyclone name for Iowa State’s athletic teams dates back to 1895, when after the school’s football team beat Northwestern by a score of 45-0. The Chicago Tribune’s headline boasted “Struck by a Cyclone: It Comes from Iowa and Devastates Evanston Town. Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday.” The cardinal-like bird representing the difficult to depict cyclone moniker debuted at the 1954 Homecoming pep rally where seventeen individuals submitted ‘Cy’ as a name for the bird in a contest to name the mascot. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


bottom of page