Title

Exhibit - Life at MAC in 1886

From 1885-1889, Edwin Willits was President of MAC, whose official name from 1861 to 1909 was “The State Agricultural College.” Outside of East Lansing in 1886, the Michigan School of Mines opened in Houghton, Michigan, Professor John Dewey initiated the Michigan Schoolmasters’ Club, and an average of 55.6% of college students were coming from farms.

Of the 24 Faculty and Officers of the State Agricultural College, there was one woman, a librarian. That year, professors made a salary between $1200 and $2000, while instructors made $500. There were 295 students enrolled: 11 Post Graduates, 33 Seniors, 24 Juniors, 59 Sophomores, 144 Freshmen, and 24 “Special.” The 1886 Class Motto was: “We Build for Life.” Although President Willits proclaimed, “We pride ourselves on the industrial morale of the institution,” he also noted the overall weak grammar skills of the applicants to MAC.

At the time, MAC featured a botanical laboratory, a chemical laboratory, a zoological laboratory, a museum of mechanical inventions, a general museum, a small astronomical observatory, a veterinary, a mechanical laboratory and workshop, and a college farm, which included apiaries, a greenhouse, a botanic garden, an arboretum and sample grounds, a fruit garden, a vegetable garden, two vineyards, an experimental hedge, and orchards. The Armory was also completed in 1886, and it served as an all-purpose indoor gym for basketball, baseball, wrestling, boxing, gymnastics, and track & field. During the beginning of Spring Term, the Department of Veterinary Science “took possession of our new quarters, ‘The Veterinary Laboratory’” (25th Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture of the State of Michigan from October 1, 1885, to September 30, 1886:lxvi).

The Library was open 62 hours each week, 10 hours per day each weekday and 2 hours each Sunday. The Library contained 180 periodicals and 9,820 total bound books and pamphlets, of which 2,900 were checked out during the year and only 3 were lost. The Botany and Forestry department reported their course enrollments as follows:
•Spring 1886 = 44 students in Physiological Botany and 2 Advanced Students;
•Summer 1886 = 99 students in Structural Botany, 21 students in Seniors Elective Grasses, and 4 advanced students; and
•Autumn 1886 = 79 students in Systemic Botany, 22 mechanical students in Study of Woods, and 3 advanced students.

In 1886, Spring Term classes began on Wednesday, February 24; Spring Term exams were on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 18 and 19, followed by a one-week recess in May; Summer Term began on Wednesday, May 26; Commencement was on Wednesday, August 18, followed by a one-week recess in August; and the new school year began with entrance exams on Tuesday, August 24, and ended with Autumn Term exams on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 16 and 17. Upon completion of the Autumn Term, students received a 14-week recess so that upper-level students might have opportunities to teach in winter schools.

“Testimonials of good character” (MAC Annual Catalogue 1885-1886:24) were required for admission, as well as an entrance examination covering arithmetic, geography, grammar, reading, spelling, and penmanship. Spring entrance exams were even more comprehensive, also covering “algebra to equations of the second degree, including the theory of radicals; and in grammar upon an equivalent to the whole of Whitney’s Essentials of English Grammar; and in ancient and medieval history upon an equivalent to the first four sections of Swinton’s Outlines” (MAC Annual Catalogue 1885-1886:24). Students were required to be at least 15 years old to attend MAC and were required to spend at least nine calendar months of at least four years studying there.

Though there was no tuition charge, MAC charged a matriculation fee of $5, and a graduation fee of $5. Dorm rooms ran about $3-$7 for a single occupant and about $10.50 for double occupants; the rooms were unfurnished and carried a $2.50 board charge per week and a $250 “incidentals” bill per term. Textbooks and drawing instruments cost about $12 per year.

Students were required to complete farm labor for three hours every day because “four years of study without labor, wholly removed from sympathy with the laboring world, during the period of life when habits and tastes are rapidly formed, will almost inevitably produce disinclination, if not inability, to perform the work and duties of the farm” (MAC Annual Catalogue 1885-1886:21). Juniors worked on the gardens and grounds, sophomores worked on the farm, and the others were assigned where needed. Graduate students, however, were not expected to complete these labor requirements.

Extracurricular opportunities included a Natural History Society, College Cornet Band, and YMCA. The 1886 spring field meet was held on May 14 and 15; MAC hosted 30 athletes from Olivet and 35 athletes from Albion for “friendly but spirited contests” designed to foster a “feeling of brotherhood” (Widder 2005:374). The male athletic contests at the field meet included: wrestling, baseball, running, jumping, boxing, kicking, shot putting, and football. During the 1886 spring field meet, the MAC Aggies lost their football game to Olivet with a score of 0 to 8; a month later, the poor team lost again to Albion with a score of 0 to 79. It should be noted, however, that Olivet and Albion each enrolled about 360 students compared to MAC’s 295 students. In 1886, the baseball team also created the MAC Club, the first athletic association on campus, whose manager was responsible for “selecting players, arranging practices, and disciplining team members” (Widder 2005:373).

The year 1886 was the year of the infamous Samuel Johnson affair in which 18 seniors were suspended for the year because they considered Samuel Johnson an inferior lecturer and therefore played practical jokes upon him, including asking questions in class deliberately meant to stump him. More specifically, “in 1886 eighteen seniors were suspended for refusing to tattle on classmates who soiled Johnson’s classroom by putting hydrogen sulfide in the stove” (Widder 2005:117).

Unfortunately, during 1886, there was also an outbreak of typhoid fever, resulting from the old, open wells, which resulted in the death of one male student.

Alexandra O. Conell

Related Objects

"A Day's Tramp", 1886
"A Day's Tramp", 1886
April 13, 1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
"Medley", 1886
"Medley", 1886
April 3, 1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
"Methods of Preserving Wood", 1886
"Methods of Preserving Wood", 1886
October 30, 1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
"Michigan Agricultural College Botany" report by Frank J. Stahl
"Michigan Agricultural College Botany" report by Frank J. Stahl
November 10, 1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
"On the Red Clover", 1886
"On the Red Clover", 1886
1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
"Physiological Botany", 1886
"Physiological Botany", 1886
1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
"Six Weeks of Microscopic Botany", 1886
"Six Weeks of Microscopic Botany", 1886
November 3, 1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Beal and students in lab, date unknown
Beal and students in lab, date unknown
Date: 1880-1889
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Bid of Gallup and Spross on Ice House, 1886
Bid of Gallup and Spross on Ice House, 1886
November 13, 1886
Text: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Campus Scenery circa 1886
Campus Scenery circa 1886
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Candidates for officers commission under Lieutenant J.A. Lockwood, 1885-1886
Candidates for officers commission under Lieutenant J.A. Lockwood, 1885-1886
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Clarence H. Judson autograph book pages, 1884-1886
Clarence H. Judson autograph book pages, 1884-1886
1885
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Class of 1886 40th Reunion, 1926
Class of 1886 40th Reunion, 1926
June 20, 1926
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Class of 1886 Class Picture
Class of 1886 Class Picture
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Class of 1886 Indoor Class Picture
Class of 1886 Indoor Class Picture
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Class of 1889 as sophomores, 1886-1887
Class of 1889 as sophomores, 1886-1887
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Coal Contract, 6-21-1886
Coal Contract, 6-21-1886
June 21, 1886
Text: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Experiments with Ensilage during 1881-1883
Experiments with Ensilage during 1881-1883
1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Group of students on the steps of a building, 1885-1886
Group of students on the steps of a building, 1885-1886
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Horticultural Labor, Summer 1886
Horticultural Labor, Summer 1886
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Ice House Building Contract, 1886
Ice House Building Contract, 1886
November 13, 1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
MAC Baseball Team Photograph 1886
MAC Baseball Team Photograph 1886
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
MAC Commencement Invitation and Program, 15-18 Aug., 1886
MAC Commencement Invitation and Program, 15-18 Aug., 1886
August 15, 1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Mechanical students in front of the Iron Shop, 1886
Mechanical students in front of the Iron Shop, 1886
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Physiological Botany Notes, 1886
Physiological Botany Notes, 1886
1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Portrait of Frank R. Whiting, 1886
Portrait of Frank R. Whiting, 1886
December 25, 1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Samuel Johnson Case Scrapbook
Samuel Johnson Case Scrapbook
1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students posed for a class photo, 1886
Students posed for a class photo, 1886
1886
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Walter W. Remington M.S. Thesis, 1886
Walter W. Remington M.S. Thesis, 1886
1886
Text: pdf
MSU Archives and Historical Collections