Illini Legends, Lists and Lore | March 11

Illini Legends, Lists and Lore | March 11

One-hundred-fifty years ago today — March 11, 1868 — the Illinois Industrial University (University of Illinois) celebrated its opening of nine days earlier with inaugural ceremonies. President John Milton Gregory, both members of his faculty, 77 students and a bevy of town folk gathered in a large hall on the third floor of University Hall, known by its moniker "The Elephant."

In "Hot Type", a 2002 book authored by The News-Gazette's Tom Kacich, the weather outside was described as being miserable. The town's newspaper, The Union & Gazette, colorfully described the conditions. "It seemed all the elements in nature had combined to make the day disagreeable and the occasion of a failure, for overhead it was dark and lowering, underfoot an almost unfathomable depth of mud, and between and lying loose was rain and water enough to make ducks or the student of hydraulics supremely happy."

Inside, however, the ceremonies were jubilant. Decorated in red, white and blue, a large portrait of George Washington hung over the speaker's platform. Following a performance of the new University Anthem, speeches were presented by Gregory and Superintendent of Public Instruction Newton Bateman, then the crowd sang "America" and offered a series of toasts.

Other miscellaneous notes about the campus in 1868, plus events that were happening around the world 150 years ago:

The University's library opened with 1,092 total volumes, including 289 books about law and politics, 269 concerning history and biography, 240 general literature volumes, 104 books about education, 92 regarding science, 59 about philosophy, and 39 concerning agriculture.

On May 16, 1868, then again on May 26, President Andrew Johnson was acquitted by one vote in an impeachment trial by the U.S. Senate.

On May 30, 1868, Memorial Day was first observed in the United States.

On July 28, 1868, following its ratification by the necessary three-quarters of U.S. states, the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing to African Americans citizenship and all its privileges, was officially adopted into the U.S. Constitution.

On Nov. 3, 1868, Republican Ulysses S. Grant defeated Democrat Horatio Seymour in the presidential election.

On Dec. 25, 1868, President Johnson granted an unconditional pardon to all Civil War rebels.

Illini Birthdays:

Today: Anthony Young, track & field (34)

Monday: Vern Altemeyer, basketball (80)

Tuesday: Jereme Richmond, basketball (26)

Wednesday: Stanley Ralph, football (61)

Thursday: Janet Rayfield, soccer coach

Friday: Tara Hurless, soccer

Saturday: Sean Streeter, football (49)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is