So Many Names, Just One College

Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010 10:30 am

Grinnell College has been known by many names, but was it ever called "The People's College"?  This was a question we received recently in the College Archives.  Here is what we found.  Grinnell University was chartered in 1855 by 30 member Electors in the recently established town of Grinnell.  One of the Electors, Henry Hamilton, proposed the name "People's College" because every citizen who purchased land in the town was required to pay an additional $20 to the "Literary Fund of Grinnell University."  In return for their $20 "donation", each land-holding citizen was entitled to have a voice in the management of the Fund, whose stated purpose was "to promote the educational, social, moral, and religious interests of this place, known as Grinnell, Iowa."  However, Hamilton's idea was dismissed by a gentleman named Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, founder of the town, in favor of "Grinnell University".   That remained the official name of the school until 1859, when Iowa College moved to Grinnell from Davenport and the institutions merged.  In 1909, Iowa College took the name we know today: Grinnell College.