Penn Founding Date

Seal University of Pennsylvania 1755

Seal University of Pennsylvania 1755

Penn began operating as an academy or secondary school in 1751 and obtained its collegiate charter in 1755.

1750 appears on the first iteration of the university seal. Sometime later in its early history, Penn began to consider 1749 as its founding date and this year was referenced for over a century, including at the centennial celebration in 1849.

In 1899, the board of trustees voted to adjust the founding date earlier again, this time to 1740, the date of "the creation of the earliest of the many educational trusts the University has taken upon itself"... retroactively revised the university's founding date to appear older than Princeton University, which was chartered in 1746.

The trustees were able to claim the year 1740 because it was in that year that George Whitefield and his followers began construction on the building which would later become the university's first campus. By including George Whitefield in the university's history, Penn was able to lay claim to the title of 'America's first university.'

~ VanJessica Gladney