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Florida State University History

Find resources to learn about the history of Florida State University and its predecessor institutions.


Welcome to the Florida State University History research guide where you will find a brief overview of the history of the institution now known as Florida State University, as well as a variety of resources you can use to learn more about university history over the years. 

All of the physical books, manuscripts, and collections listed in this guide are available through the Special Collections & Archives Research Center Reading Room, which is located on the main floor of Strozier Library on Florida State University’s Tallahassee campus. The Reading Center Research Room is open Mondays-Thursdays from 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 

The Heritage Museum located in Dodd Hall is part of Heritage & University Archives and is currently open from Monday - Thursday, 10AM - 4PM when classes are in session. The Museum may be closed for special events, so please check the calendar on the Libraries main page.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the Archives or the Museum.

Overview of Florida State University's History

Throughout the course of its history, what is now known as Florida State University has functioned as various educational institutions. The school was created in 1851 when an act that called for the establishment of two seminaries of higher learning, one to the east and one to the west of the Suwannee River, was passed by the Florida legislature. The first iteration of the school opened in 1855 and was alternately called "The City Seminary" and "Tallahassee Male Seminary." In 1856, it was renamed the "Florida Institute." In 1857, the school was designated as the official seminary west of the Suwannee River; at that point, it was renamed "West Florida Seminary.”

The owl symbol depicted below is from an illustration in the 1901 Argo yearbook, and was reused in various forms throughout the university's history in publications, architecture, and student and affiliated groups, as well as the following university seal. 


West Florida Seminary picture, owl on tree branch with moon in background West Florida Seminary




In 1901, the school was renamed "Florida State College" in order to reflect changes that had been made to the curriculum.  By this time, the school had expanded, boasting clubs and organizations, participation in intercollegiate athletics, and dormitories.

Florida State College seal, owl with torches and school name

 Florida State College



In 1905, the Florida legislature passed the Buckman Act in an attempt to reduce duplication in Florida's institutions of higher education. As a result, Florida State College was renamed "Florida Female College" and was transformed into a college exclusively for women. In 1909, the name of the institution was changed to the more grammatically correct "Florida State College for Women."

Florida State College for Women seal, three torches and name

 Florida State College

 for Women



With the end of World War II and the Congressional passage of the GI Bill, there was an enormous influx of male students looking to earn a college degree. In 1947, Florida's governor signed a bill transforming both Florida State College for Women and the University of Florida (which had been exclusively for male students) back into coeducational institutions. The Florida State College for Women was renamed "Florida State University," a name it still is called today.

Florida State University logo


 Florida State University



For more information in the history of what is today Florida State University, visit

Heritage Protocol & University Archivist

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Sandra Varry

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Guide Authors

This guide was formatted and edited by Mary Kate Downing (2016).

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