Sponsored by Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill, the Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862. Officially titled “An Act Donating Public Lands to the Several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts,” the Morrill Act provided each state with 30,000 acres of Federal land for each member in their Congressional delegation. The land was then sold by the states and the proceeds used to fund public colleges that focused on agriculture and the mechanical arts. Sixty-nine colleges were funded by these land grants, including Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
The Cooperative Extension System was created by the Smith Lever Act of 1914, extending the research done in the Land Grant universities into local communities. Many of the Land Grant Universities, which were created as a result of the Morrill Act, are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the act into law by President Lincoln. NC State University is also celebrating their 125th birthday this year. For more information about the Morrill Act, visit this site: http://www.alumniblog.ncsu.edu/2012/07/02/today-in-nc-state-history-morrill-act-signed-into-law/