Ask Abe: First Class

An Alum

How many students attended the first classes at the UW?

Abe

The UW’s first day of classes was held on February 5, 1849 — a day that has become ingrained in Badger history as Founders’ Day. To celebrate, Wisconsin Alumni Association chapters around the world host events that bring Badgers together. On that first day of classes in 1849, 20 students gathered in the Madison Female Academy (ironically, because the academy voted to allow the UW men to occupy a floor of its building, yet the UW itself didn’t fully allow women to attend for another 25 years). All of the original 20 students were from Wisconsin, with the exception of William Stewart, who was from Ancaster, Canada. Fourteen were from Madison; two were from Platteville; and one each was from Sun Prairie, Whitewater, and Lake Mills. The youngest student was Charles Fairchild 1857, MA1861, who was barely 11; and the oldest, Charles Wakely 1854, MA1857 (the founder of the alumni association) was 22. They were two of only five from the original class to graduate. The other graduates from that very first day in the UW’s history were Levi Booth 1854, MA1858; James Flower 1856, MS1859; and Hayden Kellogg Smith MA1867.