Leland Stanford and Jane Lathrop Stanford moved to California, from Wisconsin, after the Gold Rush. Leland Stanford worked on building the transcontinental railroad westward, which afforded him enough wealth to become a multimillionaire. Leland Stanford became a Republican governor of California and was instrumental in keeping the state in union during the U.S. Civil War.
Leland Stanford and Jane Lathrop Stanford only had one son, Leland Stanford, Junior, after years of miscarriages. Leland Stanford, Junior died from typhoid fever at the age of sixteen and in 1885 his parents decided to found and to name a new university after him. The university would be built on acres of farmland that the Stanfords owned in Palo Alto.
On October 1, 1891, the Leland Stanford Junior University opened offering free enrollment to all applicants. Male and female students only had to pay for their textbooks and for their board. The Stanfords made the university enrollment free to encourage educational pursuits of students far away from established Ivy League schools like Harvard or Yale. Students were only required to take English and all other courses were optional.
After the university was constructed, the Stanfords created a neo-classical art musuem which housed thousands of art pieces. Two thirds of the art musuem building, on the Stanford campus, and hundreds of antique art prices had been destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake.
“The Stanford Family” exhibit is at the Iris & B. Gerald Center for the Visual Arts within Stanford University.
Documentary, “Becoming Stanford: The Making Of An American University”