Georgia Institute of Technology’s Old Legislative enactment (Georgia School of Technology)

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Sign detailing the establishment of Georgia Tech.

Establishing a school of technology in Georgia was first speculated as early as the 1870’s[1], mainly through editorial text on circulating newspapers. Specifically, Macon Editorial’s accurate prediction that technical education would be an important part of the blueprint for this region’s development was the most pivotal push for a school of technology. As the notion’s popularity gathered momentum through passing years, Nathaniel Harris finally capitalized on the public demand and ran for state legislator to his political advantage by promising a school of technology in Macon, Georgia. Eventually through legislative committees for the school which Nathaniel Harris helped proclaime the city of Atlanta, Georgia best suitable for the institution under its legislative guidelines.


Georgia School of Technology Model

A resolution in 1882 established a legislative committee to investigate the possibility of opening a school of technology in Georgia. The committee consisted of seven members and was headed by Harrison himself; none of the members were engineers, manufacturers, nor technologically inclined, yet they attempted to conjure a model on which to found Georgia Tech. Various schools were surveyed: Boston Tech (now MIT), The Worcester Free Institute of Industrial Sciences (now Worcester Polytechnic Institute), Steven's Institute of Technology, and New York’s Cooper Union. Top two contenders to model Georgia Tech after were narrowed down to Boston Tech and Worcester; in the end, Worcester was finally chosen. According to reports of the Legislative Committee on School of Technology (1883)[2], Worcester was preferred over Boston Tech due to its emphasized value of shop work in the training of engineers. Therefore, Georgia Tech was affiliated with an engineering emphasized background from the very beginning. An engineer's work ethic was highly approved by Georgians by moral and practical purposes due to the circumstances in the time period branching off the New South Creed philosophy. [3]. One of the North's trademarks was the youth's industrial trait and dilligent attention to work. Many hoped Georgia Tech’s attempt at the same emphasis would boost the southern economy by incorporating future engineers to promote manufacturing and industry development in the South during the Post-Industrial Revolution Era.

The second most appealing trait of Worcester that the committee supported was the self-sufficiency of the school. One of the school's sources of income was profits made from selling items made in the shop by Worcester students themselves, making the Washburn shop at Worcester a virtually self-sufficient manufacturing operation. Thus, after critically surveying various educational institutions, the committee’s report to the legislature proposed that a school of technology be established along the lines of the Worcester Free Institute.

So similar were the schools' ideologies that it was agreed upon to even match the course of study (see section V under Legislative Process for Establishing Georgia School of Technology). The first classes to be proposed and taught were the following[4]

The following descriptions in italics are directly from respective inter-college home pages of Georgia Tech linked by their hyper text titles:

  • Mechanical Engineering: "Instruction in this department embraces Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. In Theoretical Mechanics the principles of Statics and Dynamics will be thoroughly taught and illustrated in a wide range of problems. Special attention will be given to such topics as the simple mechanical powers, the centre of gravity of surfaces and solids, the laws of friction, the pressure of liquids, the centre of pressure of immersed surfaces, moving bodies, projectiles, impact of bodies, motion of liquids, etc. In Applied Mechanics such subjects will secure attention as the strength of beams, pillars and girders, the strength of boilers, pipes, and cylinders, the construction of gears, link and valve motions in engines, the transformation of energy, tractive power of locomotives, work of steam in the steam cylinder, and other problems relating to motors and machinery."[5]
  • Mining Engineering (Geology and Minerology, current day Environmental Earth and Sciences): "These subjects will be taught by text-books, lectures, the use of charts and speciments, and by surveys. Special reference will be had to the location and development of mining industries and to the mineral resources of the state."[6]
  • Chemistry: "The course embraces inorganic, organic, analytical and industrial chemistry. Instruction will be given by text book, lecture, class illustration and laboratory practice. The elementary principles will be carefully taught early in the course, and the facts of Chemistry illustrated and impressed by experiments performed by the student under the instruction of the professor. Qualitative and quantitative and blow-pipe analysis, assaying and metallurgy will receive careful attention in their proper order, and no effort will be spared to acquaint the student with the philosophy of chemistry and its application to the industrial arts."[7]
  • Establishment of the School of Design (Drawing): "Free-Hand and Mechanical Drawing are taught throughout the course. In Free-Hand Drawing carefully planned exercises in Outline, Shading and Coloring will be assigned; special attention being given to drawing from working models and to sketching directly from nature. In Mechanical Drawing instruction will be given in the use of instruments, in the theory and practice of Orthographic, Isometric and Perspective Projections, and Shaes and Shadows, and in making detailed and finished working drawings of machines from specific descriptions; also in the construction of gear tooth and cam outlines, the use of the Odontograph, the principles of Sterotomy and special problems in machine movements."[8]
  • Establishment of the Department for Teaching the Art of Weaving and Spinning Textiles: Was later merged and altered then abolished with other curriculum.
  • Establishment of the Department of Mathematics:"In Mathematics the APPRENTICE CLASS will complete Algebra and Plane Geometry. It is very desirable that students should have some preliminary training in Algebra."
    • In the initial years of Georgia Tech, the succession in years of attending were divided in junior, middle, and senior classes. The following is work per division of class expected by the Math department of the school.
The Junior Class will complete Geometry, Trigonometry, Surveying and Orthographic Projections. The theoretical work will be supplemented by practice comprehending Farm Surveying, Leveling and Topographical work."
The Middle Class will complete Shades, Shadows and Perspective in Descriptive Geometry, Analytical Geometry and part of Calculus. Practice in field work will be continued."
The Senior Class will complete the Calculus in the first half year."[9]

Legislative Guideline for Establishing Georgia School of Technology

Though a bill to implement the recommendations of Harris’ committee was defeated in 1883, a similar measure was adopted by the General Assembly two years later. The bill established a school of technology, nominally as a branch of the state university, and created a commission to decide on the location and precise character of the school, and thereafter became its board of trustees. The legislative notion consisted of 12 sections.

The following are overview summaries of section on the main legislation establishing the Georgia Institute Technology. For exact phrasing and wording, cite the primary source.

Section I:[10] The school of technology will be in connection with the State University as forming one the departments of a technological school for the education and training of students in the industrial and mechanical arts.

Section II:[11] The Governor shall appoint five discreet persons, residents of the state to be known as Commission on the School of Technology, who shall serve without pay except their actual expenses while away from their several places of precedence attending to the duties of such Commission. The Governor may from the five select a member to be as chairman and secretary. The Governor has power to prescribe rules and regulations for their government, may accept resignation of any member, and is required to fill any vacancies in the Commission of the School of Technology.

Section III:[12] It is the Commission of the School of Technology’s duty to procure grounds and buildings necessary for the establishment of the Technological School. The grounds must be located within or next to the corporate limits of that city or town which shall offer the best inducements for such a location. The committee must give preference to such place which will have easy access to all the people of the state, take regard to appropriateness, eligibility, and healthfulness of the surroundings. Once the selection is made, it will be held final.

Section IV:[13] After the Commission has acquired the land for establishment, they will be required to erect suitable buildings for the School of Technology, or in the case they acquire grounds with pre-constructed buildings, must remodel the surrounding by additional buildings or demolishing previous buildings. Cohesiveness for uniform infrastructure is mandatory. Next, the Commission must then make means to obtain necessary machinery, tools, power, fixtures, tools, equipment, appliances, and any other apparatus required to carry into effect the intention of the Act.

  • Bruce and Morgan, a civic architectural firm was selected to design the first two buildings. One was a high Victorian styled academic building containing classrooms, laboratories and administrative offices. The other was a high Victorian styled shop building containing a foundry, forge, boiler room, and engine room to support the learning of wood work and metal work with a view to designing and building working engines. The Shop Building also served as the school's physical plant. [14]

Section V:[15] A course of practical training in the use and manufacture or tools and machines for wood and iron working must be provided for all the students in the institution. The curriculum shall be as near as practicable in consistent with the branches then taught in the Worcester Free Institute of Industrial Science at Worcester, Massachusetts. No student shall be permitted to remain in the institution unless satisfactory progress be made by him in the opinion of the faculty.

Section VI[16] When the School of Technology is established, it must be a part of the University of Georgia and under the control and management of its Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees shall have authority over time to add such special features to the course and to open such other departments of training and instruction as they shall deem the progress and advancement of the times require. They shall also have the authority to ordain and established such rules and by-laws for the regulation of the school and the teaching, training, and governing of the students as in their opinion to secure the success of the institution.

Section VII[17] The Officers of the Institution must include a president, a Superintendent of the Manual Department, a Secretary, a Treasurer of the Faculty, professors, teachers, and instructors as necessary. The Chancellor of the University of Georgia shall have the general supervision on the School of Technology. The officers shall be selected and their salaries fixed directly by the Board of Trustees.

Section VIII[18] During the establishment of the infrastructure and architecture of the buildings, the commissioners may procure the service of a suitable person who shall have been a student in good standing of a smiler school to aid them in the building process at a salary fixed by the Commission. The selected person will become under the employment of the institute for the first year as the Superintendent of the Manual Department of the institute.

Section IX[19] When the necessary buildings are completed and the machinery, tools, and appliances are placed as required by this act, the school will officially be ready for the reception of students. Commissions will notify the Board of Trustees of the University of Georgia and shall turn the school over to their control and management.

Section X[20] There may be one beneficiary from each Representative in the General Assembly from every county in this state selected by the Board of Education in each county by competitive examination. Their interest will be given preference to entrance. The tuition in the school shall be free to all students who are residents of the state of Georgia. The rates of tuition to other than residents of Georgia shall not exceed one hundred and fifty dollars per annum.

Section XI[21] The five Commission members shall become, as soon as the school is turned over to the Board of Trustees of the University of Georgia, the Local Board of Trustees for the School of Technology. They shall always be charged with the immediate control, supervision, and management of the School, subject only to the General Board of Trustees of which consists of ex-officio members.

Section XII[22] The sum of $65,000 or so however much may be reasonably necessary will be appropriated for the establishment of the institution. To carry this Act into effect, the Governor is authorized to draw this warrant on the Treasurer of the State in favor of the commission for such required funds by writing under work in progress. Provided this sum will only be available after the first day of January, 1887 and shall then be paid only out of any funds in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.

Establishment of School of Technology in Atlanta

In October 1886, the Board of Commissions voted to locate the School of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Twenty-three ballots had be cast before a majority of the commissioners agreed on Atlanta, Georgia, where the city had offered $100,000 to help establish the school. This value was one-third larger than the original state appropriation [23]. On January 27, 1887, the Board accepted an offer of 4 acres of land from the Peters Park Company and purchased an additional 4.75 acres at the corner of North Avenue and Cherry Street. Construction of the academic building and shops began soon thereafter, along with the grading of North Avenue, which remained unpaved after the school opened. By October 1888, The buildings were ready for occupancy by a student body of 130 men and faculty, consisting of 5 professors and 5 shop supervisors. See site for The Atlanta Constitution’s account of the opening Ceremonies.[24]


  1. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  2. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  3. (2004). In “The Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Retrieved October 1, 2010 from
  4. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  5. (1888). In “Prospectus.' Retrieved October 2, 2010 from
  6. (1888). In “Prospectus. Retrieved October 2, 2010 from
  7. (1888). In “Prospectus. Retrieved October 2, 2010 from
  8. (1888). In “Prospectus.' Retrieved October 2, 2010 from
  9. (1888). In “Prospectus. Retrieved October 2, 2010 from
  10. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  11. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  12. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  13. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  14. (2004). In “The Library of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Retrieved October 1, 2010 from
  15. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  16. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  17. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  18. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  19. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  20. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  21. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  22. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
  23. Dress Her in White and Gold J.W. Heisemen
  24. A Documentary History of Georgia Tech's Beginnings 1977 [171 section 5th floor]
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