Charter Day, officially March 23, the day on which in 1868 Governor Henry H. Haight signed the legislative act creating the University of California, was first celebrated in 1874 when University President Daniel C. Gilman declared a University holiday,
From 1874 to 1891, the celebration of Charter Day was sponsored by the students. A morning program included student oratory, poetry and musical performances, as well as an address from a faculty member, while the afternoon was devoted to dancing. In 1892, the event became a formal, academic ceremony and included a speaker from outside the University as the main attraction of the exercises.
As the University expanded, Charter Day was extended into “Charter Week,” with each campus holding a celebration of its own. However, the practice of declaring a University holiday ended after 1931. The first Charter Day celebration held on the Davis campus occurred on March 25, 1938 with a speech by Claude B. Hutchison, Dean of the College of Agriculture.
Below is a photograph of Charter Day exercises at Davis in 1959.
A Belated Happy 143rd Birthday to the University of California!