Ask Abe: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

An Alum

When was the first class held at the UW?

Abe

Need a hint? It was the same year that the safety pin and dry cleaning were invented (separately, but coincidentally). No? It was one year before San Francisco and Los Angeles were incorporated. Give up? The first classes at the University of Wisconsin were held on February 5, 1849, in a small building on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and East Johnson Street. The first class, comprising 20 boys and young men aged 11 to 22, paid $20 per year to study math, grammar, geography, penmanship, and Latin. Although John Lathrop, the first chancellor, didn’t arrive until the following winter and the first true class wasn’t held until August 5, 1850, that first, chilly day in February of 1849 is still celebrated by alumni across the world as Founders’ Day.