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In 1891 William Marsh Rice and 6 Houston trustees establish Rice University's foundation when they sign a charter to create a tuition-free Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art and a free public library. Rice provides an initial endowment of $200,000 but insists that no further steps to be taken to organize this institution until after his death.

Rice continues to build the endowment through gifts of cash and property, including nearly 50,000 acres of Louisiana timberland. In 1896, after the death of his 2nd wife, Elizabeth Baldwin Rice, the founder draws up a new will that leaves most of his large estate to his Institute. In 1898 the trustees build the Institute's 1st building, a small care-taker's cottage on a 7-acre lot in downtown Houston that Rice reserves as the future site for his William Marsh Rice Institute.

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