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Washburn celebrates namesake's 215th birthday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Washburn University is celebrating the 215th birthday of its namesake and mascot Saturday in the Memorial Union.

The Topeka school started in 1865 as Lincoln College but changed its name three years later after receiving $25,000 from Ichabod Washburn. He developed a machine and technique that made wire stronger and easier to produce. The company he and his son-in-law ran was the primary domestic producer of piano wire and the crinoline wire used in hoop skirts.

As an abolitionist, Washburn liked what the fledging Kansas school was doing. The school included men, women and an African-American in its first enrolled class. The college also offered scholarships to honorably discharged Union soldiers among others.

Washburn lived in Massachusetts and died before getting a chance to visit the campus.