History of UW-Stout

A new digital collection from the University of Wisconsin-Stout Archives looks at more than a century of vocational education in northwest Wisconsin. In 1891, James Huff Stout, heir to the Knapp, Stout and Company lumber fortune, established a school in his home city of Menomonie. Inspired by the industrial arts education movement of its day, the Stout Manual Training School emphasized practical skills for young men and women, including woodworking, mechanical drawing, dressmaking, and cooking.

Students working in the molding room of the metals foundry, ca. 1930. University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Students working in the molding room of the metals foundry, ca. 1930. University of Wisconsin-Stout.

As the school grew, its name changed several times — to the Stout Institute, Stout State College, and later Stout State University — but practical manual training remained its core focus. In 1971, the school was incorporated into the University of Wisconsin System as UW-Stout, with a mission statement dedicated to instruction in “industry, technology, home economics, applied art, teacher education and the helping professions.”

The Archives at UW-Stout recently collaborated with the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center to share online more than 500 photographs illustrating the history of manual training, industrial arts, and domestic science at Stout. The images capture students and faculty in hands-on classes in auto mechanics, bricklaying, construction, cabinetmaking, clothing design, metalsmithing, upholstery, welding, and home economics, as well as practice classrooms for students enrolled in teacher training and early childhood education programs.

A kindergarten class and three teachers tend a garden outside Bowman Hall on the Stout campus, ca. 1900. University of Wisconsin-Stout.

A kindergarten class and three teachers tend a garden outside Bowman Hall on the Stout campus, ca. 1900. University of Wisconsin-Stout.

University Archivist Heather Stecklein shared more details about this digital collection.

How were these materials selected to share online?

Heather: We wanted to use photos that showed students in the process of learning, and we focused specifically on coursework in programs that are typical to our institution’s manual training/polytechnic focus. It was a great opportunity to demonstrate the ways that Stout is special within the larger UW System.

Do you plan to add any more photos or other materials to the online collection in the future?

Heather: We’d love to include more photographs of events and programs unique to Stout and its surrounding area. Notable candidates include images of student projects in progress, images of the nineteenth century lumber industry in the area, and photographs depicting student and community organizations over time.

A student uses a press patented by Robert S. Swanson to create a plastic lampshade, ca. 1958. Swanson began his career at Stout as a student, became a faculty member in Applied Science, and served as the school’s Chancellor during the 1970s and 80s. University of Wisconsin-Stout.

A student uses a press patented by Robert S. Swanson to create a plastic lampshade, ca. 1958. Swanson began his career at Stout as a student, became a faculty member in Applied Science, and served as the school’s Chancellor during the 1970s and 80s. University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Students work with fabric and dress forms in a clothing construction class, 1979. University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Students work with fabric and dress forms in a clothing construction class, 1979. University of Wisconsin-Stout.


Browse and search the History of UW-Stout collection from UWDC.

See more digital collections from UW-Stout, including yearbooks, course catalogs, alumni newsletters, and cookbooks.

For more images of vocational education in Wisconsin, visit the Milwaukee Area Technical College digital photo archives. 

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