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Historical Timeline

Maryland Institute's history celebrates an institution that continually re-invented itself to meet the challenges of changing times. Twice burned to the ground and twice rebuilt, it survived multiple wars and as many serious depressions to become one of the nation's leading art schools. This is how its story unfolded.

1824-1835: The Beginning—Expanding Education in Baltimore

Port of BaltimoreBy the 1820s Baltimore was the fastest growing city in the young nation, third largest overall. It was a-buzz with the triumphant visit of the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824 and the completion of a 170 foot monument honoring George Washington the following year (the first city in the nation to do so!). Merchants and manufacturers flocked to its harbor—lined with sailing vessels, steam boats and new factories signaling the arrival of the industrial revolution in America.

A handful of visionary Baltimoreans grasped the opportunity that lay before them, and moved to educate people for the new age.

1824 The first mechanics’ institutes founded in London and Philadelphia—a movement sparked by the Industrial Revolution “to provide instruction…in the principles of science…[and raise] artisans to their proper place in a democratic society.”
1825 John H. B. Latrobe, ca. 1830First meeting held proposing the formation of a “Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts” in Baltimore. A key leader was the prominent lawyer and inventor, John H. B. Latrobe (1803-1891), son of celebrated architect Benjamin H. Latrobe, and an accomplished artist himself.
1826 Maryland Institute charter granted on January 10, to: “encourage and promote the Manufactures and the Mechanic and useful Arts, by the establishment of popular lectures…a library and cabinets of models and minerals; by offering premiums for excellence in those branches of National Industry deemed worthy of encouragement; by examining new inventions…and by such other means as experience may suggest.”

AthenaeumInstitute begins in The Athenaeum, southwest corner of Lexington and St. Paul streets, which included a lecture hall, library, reading rooms, instructional space. Annual membership fee of $3 entitled “bearer and one lady” to lectures, library and industrial exhibitions. The Maryland Institute’s first lectures focused on chemistry, mineralogy, architecture, history, music, and the arts. School of Drawing established; fine arts classes open to women.
1827 Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad established. Maryland Institute and the B&O shared leadership; students worked for the B&O and other railroads as draftsmen and engineers.
1828 Maryland Institute establishes a High School to educate young mechanics under the direction of William Barton Rogers, one of its most popular science lecturers; he later founds M.I.T. in Boston.
1835 Athenaeum destroyed by fire on February 7, during civil unrest brought about by national economic collapse. Maryland Institute’s programs are discontinued for 12 years.

The History of MICA continues in Part II: 1847-1878.

Credits: Early 19th century engraving of Baltimore courtesy of Enoch Pratt Free Library, Central Library/State Library Resource Center, Baltimore, Maryland ; portrait of Latrobe from reproduction in "John H. B. Latrobe and His Times," by John E. Semmes, 1917; other images MICA Archives.

Related Links and Information

  1. MICA's Many Names

    Names MICA has operated under throughout its history

    • 1826 - Founded as Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts
    • 1849 - Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts and the School of Design
    • 1878 - Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts and the Schools of Art and
      Design
    • 1921 - Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts [used for Market Place School] and Maryland Institute School of Fine and Practical Arts [used for Mt. Royal School]
    • 1959 - Maryland Institute, College of Art
    • 2000 - Maryland Institute College of Art [comma eliminated from college's name]
    • 2007 - College officially adopts ‘MICA' acronym as its institutional logo/graphic identity