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Maryland Agricultural College collection

 Collection 0222-UA

The Maryland Agricultural College(MAC) was chartered on March 6, 1856 by members of The Baltimore Farmers Club, as a way to educate farmers on agricultural experimentation, scientific education, and leadership and discipline. Through the years, MAC evolved into a more public institution that specilized in agriculture and engineering. Noted early alumni include Harry Clifton Byrd (class of 1908) who later became president of the College, Hershel Allen (1910) who build bridges over the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River, William Cole (1910), US Congressman and judge, and Millard Tydings (1910), MD Senator.

This collection mostly consists of photographs documenting life for early MAC students between the 1880s and 1916. The images cover a broad range of topics, including students and faculty life and studies; buildings and farming on campus, classrooms and laboratories; the campus farm and greenhouses; athletic events -- specifically football, lacrosse, baseball, and track; and the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station. Photographs of particular interest are those capturing the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1912, dormitory life in Calvert Hall, and many of the college's first athletic teams. Also included in this collection are several MAC pennants belonging to Urah Long, Class of 1907; Principles of Soils Management, a textbook used for a soils short course in 1914; the 1892 diploma of Pyon Su, the first Korean college graduate in the United States, and a MAC cadet student uniform worn by John Philip Hanson Mason, class of 1913.


  • circa 1859-1916
  • Majority of material found within 1900-1916

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the special collections reading room staff.


4.16 Linear Feet (2 photo album binders and 2 flat boxes)

5 Folders

157 Photographs : Color and B&W prints

4 Items (Textbook from 1913, student-cadet uniform hat and jacket, two-year certificate, and diploma)

Scope and Contents

The Maryland Agricultural Collection collection consist of materials dating from 1859 to 1916, though the bulk of the materials date from about 1900 to 1916. Most of the collection consists of photographs that detail student life and activities on campus. Photos include student portraits, cadet and military drills, various sports and club teams, graduating class photos, as well as candid shots of classroom scenes, dorm life, and social activities. There are several photos of the buildings, classrooms, greenhouses, farm equipment, and farming experimentation on campus as well. Other materials include a MAC cadet uniform jacket and hat from John Philip Hanson Mason, class of 1913, plus his certificate of proficiency certifying his 2 year course study at MAC, the diploma from Pyon Su, first Korean graduate of an American college or university (1891), and a 1913 edition of "The Principles of Soil Management" by T. Lyttleton Lyon and Elmer O. Flippin, which was used as a textbook in the Soils Short Course held at MAC from Jan 5-March 3 1914.

Biographical / Historical

The Maryland Agricultural College (MAC) was chartered on March 6, 1856 by members of The Baltimore Farmers Club, principally, Charles Benedict Calvert, who later served in the US House of Representatives, as well as other wealthy farmer-Politians, most of which, including Calvert, were enslavers. The college was initially set up for agricultural experimentation, scientific education, and as a place for wealthy planters to learn leadership and discipline. The Maryland founders established five departments within the college: Ancient Languages, Modern Languages, Natural Sciences, English, and Mathematics; students were also required to work on the College farm and adhere to strict discipline. MAC opened its doors to the first 34 students on October 6, 1859. Noted teacher, scientist, farmer, and Quaker, Benjamin Hallowell, became MAC's first president, accepting the position on the stipulation that no enslaved persons would be forced to work at the College. However, Hallowell served as president for only one month before resigning due to illness, making Calvert take over as the acting president. Enslaved persons were then used to both build the College and tend to its farm.

Only two years after opening, the American Civil War broke out, leading to a divide within the College, as many of the trustees and students were enslavers and thus Confederate sympathizers, despite the state of Maryland staying in the Union. MAC students fought on both sides of the Civil War, though considerably more fought for the south. Both Union and Confederate troops camped on MAC grounds during the war. Despite the war, MAC awarded its first two degrees in June 1862 to William B. Sands and Thomas Franklin in Arts and Science respectively.

In 1866, the College failed to open and was on the brink of bankruptcy. The Morrill Land Grant Act was passed by Lincoln four years previously, which stipulated the creation of land-grant colleges through use of federally-owned land. Each state was offered 30,000 acres of federal land to be used to endow a college for "agriculture and the mechanical arts" in an effort to reshape aristocratic colleges into technical schools with a practical emphasis on knowledge, thus opening up education to more people. In February 1864, the Maryland legislature voted to accept the Morrill grant and give the proceeds to MAC, thus saving it from ruin. The adoption of MAC into a land-grant institution satisfied then President Onderkonk who had previously tried to usher in more democratic ideals but had received pushback from the trustees.

During the Reconstruction era, and up to about 1890, MAC was stuck between its old, aristocratic ideals of planter life, and its new identity as a land-grant institution. MAC trustees in particular seemed unable to let go of the former vision of the school. Despite the complete collapse of the Maryland planter aristocracy and low enrollment, they stuck to the classical curriculum and elected eight successive Confederate veterans to head the college, including George Washington Curtis Lee, Robert E. Lee's son. The state of Maryland and surrounding community was so outraged by this decision that Lee declined the position and never actually served as College president. Still, students dressed in military uniforms that were strikingly similar to the Confederate Army's, ran drills, and embraced militarism. The College was briefly advertised as a prep school for other military colleges. Despite its land-grant status, most of the students still came from former Maryland planter families. Many land-grant agricultural colleges, including MAC, found it difficult to teach the trade of farming, as there were no agricultural textbooks other than the Farmer's Almanac, and farming had not yet become an academic discipline. During this period, the college faced much criticism from the farming community, low enrollment, money trouble, lack of development, and drastic changes in leadership and direction.

The Hatch Act of 1887 gave federal funds, initially of $15,000 each, to state land-grant colleges in order to create a series of agricultural experiment stations. Within a year, the experimentation station was in operation on the College campus, bringing prosperity, and eventually reform, to MAC once again as practical agricultural research became a major function of the institution. Headquartered at the Rossborough House, the station built many barns, sheds, and greenhouses for experimentation. Harry J. Patterson led the experimentation station and won recognition for developing new varieties of tobacco and strawberries as well as for his work in soil analysis, entomology, and for pioneering in the control of hog cholera.

During this time, the agriculture and engineering programs expanded and became well respected. MAC produced many outstanding graduates including Harry Clifton Byrd (class of 1908) who later became president of the College, Hershel Allen (1910) who build bridges over the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River, William Cole (1910), US Congressman and judge, and Millard Tydings (1910), MD Senator.

The College suffered a devastating fire that occurred the day before Thanksgiving, November 29, 1912. During the Thanksgiving Ball, a fire broke out, completely destroying the barracks which had been built a century before by Calvert, the administration building, and other offices and classrooms. The total damage was appraised to be $250,000; for the rest of the schoolyear, students lived off of the charity and goodwill from the surrounding towns of College Park, Hyattsville, and Berwin. In this time of reconstruction, HJ Patterson, the leader of the experimentation station, was elected President of MAC. Patterson spent the next four years rebuilding the College, building the five story Calvert Hall dorm in 1914 and the Horticulture building a year later. During his tenure, enrollment expanded, the military drills and uniforms faded out, and students became more free to pursue ideas and participate in town and college life. Students took control of the College newspaper, then called MAC Weekly, and started the first fraternities,Sigma Nu, Kappa Alpha, and Sigma Phi Sigma. In 1916, Charlotte Vaux and Elizabeth Hook became the College's first female students and graduates. That same year the legislature changed the name of the institution from Maryland Agricultural College to Maryland State College of Agriculture, ("of Agriculture" was usually dropped) in order to widen its scope and appeal to city students.


The Maryland Agricultural College records are arranged into three series with the bulk of material in Series 1.

Series 1
Series 2
Series 3

Custodial History

Materials in this collection were received as a series of gifts from photogrophers, former professors, and alumni. In 2011, the University Archivist purchased the Civil War portrait of Rudolph Hitz from a private entitiy. The material from these various donations was grouped into one collection by Library staf.

Existence and Location of Copies

Several photographs within this collection have been digitized by the University of Maryland Libraries. The digitized copies are availabe via UMD's digital collections

Related Materials

Special Collections and University Archives holds a number of related collections that supplement the MAC records including the Department of Horticulture records and the Department of Botany records, two of the University's oldest departments. The Office of the Comptroller records hold the original stock subscription ledger for the Maryland Agricultural College covering the years from 1856 to 1883, among other MAC specific records, and the Office of Registration records contains early student information. For more related resources please contact our University archivist.

Separated Materials

18 photographs and 1 envelope were removed from this collection. These photos were determined to be outside of the time period of the Maryland Agriculture College (MAC).

Processing Information

The Maryland Agricultural College records arrived at the University of Maryland Libraries in numerous accessions from 1972 to 2015, augmented with other donations and purchases. Based on the nature of the collection there was no original order. The accessions were somewhat organized by size and separated into the appropriate boxes, though no intellectual organization seemed to be present.

Complete processing began in October, 2021. The processing archivist organized material by subject matter and date. More detailed information is available at the series level.

Materials were placed in acid free folders and boxes. Photographs have been placed in mylar sleeves and bindered together. Acid-free paper was interleaved between larger photographs that did not fit in binders. Photographs were physically rearranged to match their series order, though all of the larger photographs remain in their original acid-free boxes. Some of the more delicate, older photographs have been fitted to custom boxes to protect them from light and dust.

Guide to the Maryland Agricultural College collection
Marcella Stranieri
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2018-01-31: Finding aid reviewed and minor updates made by Caitlin Rizzo.
  • 2021-11-29: Marcella Stranieri added an item level inventory of this collection and created the three series. She also expanded the abstract as well as several other notes fields.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742