The University of Chicago was founded on July 10, 1891. The school was established with a donation from oil magnate John D. Rockefeller.
University’s first president was William Rainey Harper, who had held the position at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for 10 years before coming to Chicago. He is considered one of the most influential leaders in American education and served as president until 1906. Harper’s vision for the new university was that it should be modeled after German universities, which emphasized research and graduate study over undergraduate instruction.
Early on, the university had no official mascot but adopted Vulgarian, a bearded character dressed in a robe and sandals, as an unofficial mascot sometime around 1907 (there are two conflicting versions of how this happened). In the early 1920s, students began referring to him as “Uncle John” or “Uncle Vulgarian.” In 1925 at a football game against Ohio State University, students chanted “Uncle John” so loudly that OSU fans heard them and thought they were yelling “Ouch my toe!”
The first classes at the University of Chicago began in October 1892 with an enrollment of 361 students. The school grew quickly and within 10 years had 2,000 students enrolled in its programs. In 1896, a
1 million gift from John D. Rockefeller allowed construction on Rockefeller Hall to begin and by 1911 the building had been completed. By this time, enrollment had reached 4,000 students and a separate campus was built for women at 58th Street and Ellis Avenue (now South Woodlawn Avenue) called “University College” (later renamed “Woodlawn”).