During the 19th century, Glasgow was a busy and prosperous industrial city. There was a large demand for designers and architects to support its businesses and growing population. The Glasgow School of Art opened in 1845 in Ingram Street just east of Glasgow City Centre. It moved to Corporation Galleries on Sauchiehall Street in 1869. The School focussed on teaching its students how to draw well and how to create marketable designs. A large number of plaster casts and library books were purchased to help teach and inspire them.
During this period, GSA was part of a network of design schools set up around the UK. Each year, students from across the country would submit examples of their work to local and national competitions. The best students would receive medals for their work. Charles Rennie Mackintosh studied here from 1883-1894 and won many awards and prizes. By the 1890s, GSA students were winning more medals than any other art school in the country.