FSU 101: Intro to Florida State History

Have you ever wondered about the long and storied history of Florida’s oldest university and how it came to be known as Florida State University? Well, you’re in luck – welcome to FSU 101: Intro to Florida State History, and class is now in session.

1851 – The Florida Legislature votes to establish two seminaries of higher education, which led to the establishment of the West Florida Seminary in Tallahassee.

West Florida Seminary Seal
West Florida Seminary Seal

1858 – The West Florida Seminary absorbs the Tallahassee Female Academy (formerly the Misses Bates School) and the institution becomes coeducational.

1861-65 – During the Civil War, formal military training began at the seminary and it was briefly renamed The Florida Military and Collegiate Institute. Cadets from the institute defeated Union forces at the Battle of Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865, and because of this victory, the FSU Army ROTC is one of four in the United States permitted to display a battle streamer.

1883 – 1901 – This period was a time of great transition for the West Florida Seminary. In 1883, the West Florida Seminary became part of Florida University (the first state university in Florida), and became the institution’s Literary College. In 1885, the university was briefly recognized by the Florida Legislature as the University of Florida (yes, you read that right!), but the name was repealed in 1903 and transferred to the former Florida Agricultural College. In 1901, the university was reorganized into Florida State College.

Florida State College Seal
Florida State College Seal
Florida State College for Women Seal
Florida State College for Women Seal

1905 – The Buckman Act goes into effect and segregates all universities in Florida by race and gender. The Florida State College is briefly called the Florida Female College, before being officially titled the Florida State College for Women in 1909. FSCW was the pinnacle of women’s education in the south during this period, and by 1933 had grown to be the third largest women’s college in the United States.

1946-47 – With the influx of soldiers returning from WWII and the G.I. Bill going into effect, the Tallahassee Branch of University of Florida opened on the campus of FSCW. Male students were housed in barracks at Dale Mabry Field, west of Tallahassee, and bussed into campus. This area became known as West Campus, and later became the location of the Tallahassee Community College. In 1947, the two schools officially merged and became the Florida State University.

Florida State University Seal, 1947
Florida State University Seminoles, 1947

1947 – With the inclusion of men to the student body, FSU now has varsity sports teams and needs a mascot. Final potential mascots included the Crackers, Statesmen, Tarpons, and Fighting Warriors, but eventually students chose to adopt the Seminoles.

There you have it – a very brief crash course in the long history of Florida State University. To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Protocol Digital Collections or like the Heritage Protocol Facebook page.

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