Academic Catalog 2020-2021

History of Pratt

On October 17, 1887, 12 young people climbed the stairs of the new “Main” building and began to fulfill the dream of Charles Pratt as the first students at Pratt Institute.

Charles Pratt, one of 11 children, was born the son of a Massachusetts carpenter in 1830. In Boston, he joined a company specializing in paints and whale oil products. When he came to New York, he founded a petroleum business that would become Charles Pratt and Company. The company eventually merged with Standard Oil, the company that made John D. Rockefeller his millions.

Pratt’s fortunes increased and he became a leading figure in Brooklyn, serving his community and his profes­sion. A philanthropist and visionary, he supported many of Brooklyn’s major institutions. He dreamed of founding an institution where pupils could learn trades through the skillful use of their hands and accomplished this dream in 1887 when Pratt opened its doors. Today, Pratt offers students more than 25 highly ranked undergraduate majors and concen­t­rations—more than most other art and design schools in the country--and 30 master’s degree programs. The energy, foresight, and spirit Charles Pratt gave to his dream remain even today. Inscribed on the seal of the Institute is his motto: Be True to Your Work, and Your Work Will Be True to You.  This motto has served as an inspiration to thousands of Pratt students over the years as they upheld the high standards they learned at Pratt and went on to change the world in countless ways.