WSU came into being as a result of the Morrill Land-Grant Acts of 1862 and 1890. This legislation allowed for the creation of land-grant colleges in the U.S. using the proceeds of federal land sales.
Washington State College was established as a public research university on 28 Mar 1890, barely five months after Washington statehood. By law, the mandate of such institutions was "to teach practical disciplines related to agriculture and the mechanic arts for the nation's industrial and working classes."
(Did you notice I used the correct color for this post? :-)