Lawrence University was chartered by the Wisconsin territorial legislature in 1847. It was among the first colleges in the country to be founded coeducational; the first college class of four men and three women graduated in 1857. During these early years, Lawrence was truly a college on the frontier. The city of Appleton grew up around the college in the 1850s. Early curriculum emphasized classical education but grew over time to include a range of disciplines in the liberal arts tradition. The Conservatory of Music was established in 1894 and has been an integral component of the institution since that time.
In 1913, the institution adopted the name Lawrence College to underscore its commitment to undergraduate liberal arts education. The longstanding emphasis on individualized learning at Lawrence stems from a tutorial system first established in the 1930s. Similarly, our Freshman Studies program was created in 1945 and remains a distinctive aspect of the Lawrence curriculum. In 1964, Lawrence consolidated with Milwaukee-Downer College for Women to form the present-day Lawrence University.