The history of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can be traced back to the 1861 incorporation of the "Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Society of Natural History" led primarily by William Barton Rogers.
Construction of the first MIT building was completed in Boston's Back Bay in 1866 and would be known as "Boston Tech" until the campus moved across the Charles River to Cambridge in 1916.
At the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1875, Runkle was impressed by the work of the Russian Victor Della-Vos, who had introduced a pedagogical approach combining manual and theoretical instruction at the Moscow Imperial Technical Academy. Runkle became an advocate of this approach, introducing it at MIT.
MIT's financial position was severely undermined following the Panic of 1873 and subsequent Long Depression. Enrollments decreased sharply after 1875 and by 1878, the university had abolished three professorships, reduced faculty salaries, and there was talk among members of the Corporation of closing the Institute. In 1879, Runkle retired from a nine-year tenure as the MIT's second president trying to weather these challenges, but the board of trustees (the "MIT Corporation") was unable to secure a new successor and elected the seventy-five year-old founder William Barton Rogers back to the post in the interim under his stipulated conditions that he be allowed to resign upon the discovery of a successor and $100,000 ($2,303,000 in 2009) be raised to fund the Institute's obligations.