Origins of Colgate University Skip Navigation


As we strive to push the boundaries of research, technology, and the arts, and to build a diverse population of globally minded students and alumni, we never forget our rich history.

Historic image of Colgate

Colgate’s Origins

Hamilton, N.Y., was still a frontier settlement in 1817 when 13 men met to found the Baptist Education Society of the State of New York. The founders are said to have backed up their experiment in education with 13 dollars and 13 prayers.

The state legislature chartered the society in 1819; that same year, Hamilton was selected as the site for the society’s school. Four years later, New York City Baptists, convinced of the benefits of education in the country, decided to consolidate their seminary with the Hamilton school. Young men “not having the ministry in view” were first admitted in 1839.

Prominent soapmaker William Colgate and his associates, who had founded and nurtured the seminary, turned their attention upstate to what became known as the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution. In so doing, a Colgate family connection was established, and it continues to this day.

The institution’s name was changed to Madison University in 1846 after the state legislature granted the institution a charter to confer degrees. The university would again be renamed in 1890 — as Colgate — in grateful recognition of the nearly 70 years of interest and service shown by members of the Colgate family.

Colgate is the 66th oldest college in the United States.
The university owns a 75-million-year-old dinosaur egg.
The student newspaper is the oldest college weekly in America.
Lucky 13
Colgate was founded by 13 men who offered $13 and 13 prayers.