Brief Penn State History

Centre Furnace ironmasters James Irvin and Moses Thompson’s longest-lasting contribution to the economic well-being of Centre County was not iron, but support of agriculture and education. In 1855 their offer of land and money beat out six other counties vying for the attention of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society. The Society built their Farmers’ High School on 200 acres of Centre Furnace land donated by Irvin and Thompson, and financially supported by them and several Bellefonte men. That Farmers’ High School is now The Pennsylvania State University, all located on what were once Centre Furnace lands. The original offer letter from James Irvin is in the Penn State archives, but you can read a transcription.

Brief Timeline of Penn State History

  • 1855 Pennsylvania Agricultural Society decides to create a Farmers’ High School, and chooses Centre County
  • 1859 First class of students enters the Farmers’ High School
  • 1862 Name changed to Agricultural College of Pennsylvania
  • 1863 Main Building completed
  • 1874 School becomes the Pennsylvania State College
  • 1953 Name officially changed to The Pennsylvania State University