UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — There is a longstanding myth that Penn State started out as a high school. But the truth is that from the University's founding, in 1855, it was incorporated as an agricultural college with the power to grant baccalaureate degrees.
The fledgling institution's aim was to encourage the application of science to farming. But many farmers distrusted the traditional college curriculum that emphasized the study of rhetoric, ancient languages, philosophy, and other "classical" subjects. To allay these suspicions, the University’s founders named the college the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.
In the new college's first known official seal, the emblems symbolic of literature and the sciences are prominently displayed with symbols of agriculture. Founding President Evan Pugh and the early Trustees, from the beginning, had determined that the academic program would be conducted on a collegiate level.