This Month in MSU’s History: March

Well today is officially the second day of Spring despite the snow. We are currently preparing for our summer archaeological work, which includes surveys and monitoring on at least 7 different construction projects! Its going to be a balancing act- but hopefully by doing lots of prep work we’ll be ready for it. Complaints about the weather can be heard all throughout the campus today, but if we look back historically, they were also complaining about the problematic cold and unending winter- so its not just us! Check out some of the interesting things that were occurring in MSU’s history during March.

On March 15, 1861, the name of the college was changed from the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan to the State Agricultural College. Still quite a long way off from its current name, but getting closer! We would end up changing to Michigan Agricultural College in 1909, Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science in 1925, Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science in 1955, and finally Michigan State University in 1964.

Botanical Laboratory in 1885, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

In March 1890, William Beal’s Botanical Laboratory burnt to the ground. It had once housed the collections of Professor Beal, and served as a botanical museum. The foundation of the building is marked by a plaque now just east of IM West.  Beal argued for replacement of the building, but proposed that it be placed in the center of campus across the street from his house on Faculty Row. However, this encroached upon the Sacred Space and construction in this area was forbidden (Forsyth 1992). A compromise was reached that the building be placed next to the Horticulture building and part of Laboratory Row. The new Botany Laboratory, referred to as Old Botany today, was built in 1892. This time, Beal made sure it was constructed of brick to prevent future problems.

From the March 17, 1893 issue of the Eagle, the early campus newspaper, we learn that during that month the Physical department received a new camera and it was a ‘beauty’, a new banjo/mandolin/guitar club was created, the Engineering society held their first meeting, and the janitor for the Chemical Laboratory was sick. Interestingly enough, there were complaints of the weather begin in the 20’s- a similar complaint many students today have.

From the March 19, 1912 issue of the MAC Record, there is news of a contest to find the best orator on campus, which was officially given to student Aisenstein who had “a powerful voice and a pleasant manner”. Again, there are reports of bad weather that was interrupting the baseball practice, and there were complaints that the MAC team would go into the season without being properly trained.  A new class in ‘Applied Christianity’ was announced this month- open to all men (the first lecture would be on ‘Our Delinquent Boys’).

Campus Archaeology surveying during the 2010 field school under the MSC smokestack

On March 9, 2011 the Michigan State College smokestack, a landmark on campus that was always questioned due to its large lettering of ‘MSC’ along the side, was demolished. The smokestack was part of the Shaw Lane Powerplant which was previously closed. Its demolition opened up new green space. Prior to this demolition, Campus Archaeology surveyed the area to ensure no archaeological features or artifacts would be lost in the process.

And don’t forget, today officially begins March Madness for MSU, who will be playing against 14th-seeded Valparaiso at 12:15pm! Make sure you’re tuning in and supporting our Spartans!

For more great trivia on MSU, check out the MSU Archives Timeline at

Author: Katy Meyers Emery

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