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George McMillan Darrow Papers


The Papers of George M. Darrow, 1835-1980, occupy 13 linear feet, or 21 document boxes, 4 pamphlet boxes and 1 map folder. The collection was donated to the National Agricultural Library of the United States Department of Agriculture by George M. Darrow prior to January 19, 1981. The collection was arranged and described by Sara B. Lee in 1997. A revised print version and this web version of the finding aid were produced by Marianne C. Riley in 2001.

Finding Aid File


Biographical Sketch

February 2, 1889 Born George McMillan Darrow on a dairy farm in Springfield, Vermont
1910 Graduated from Middlebury College, Vermont with a B.A.
1911 Obtained Master of Arts degree at Cornell University, New York in horticulture
July 1, 1911 Began employment with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a scientific assistant in pomology in the area of fruit research; first assignment was to assist in transportation, handling, and storage investigations in careful handling and precooling studies with sweet cherries, loganberries, and prunes
1911-1957 Authored over 230 published works while in the service of USDA
Winter of 1911-1912 Assigned to careful handling studies of citrus for USDA in Florida
1912 Started first work in fruit production research with a four-year study of the physiographic regions of Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia; mapped the fruit regions and described the fruit varieties in each state
1915-1919 Authored twelve USDA Farmers Bulletins relating to the culture of berries and fruits
1916 Began study of cultural practices and varieties of berries in each producing section of the United States
1918-1919 Served in the military at Fort McPherson, Georgia as a hospital sergeant
1919 Resumed studies of cultural practices and varieties of berries in each producing section of the United States
1919 Married Grace Chapman (1890-1977); they would have six children together over the years
Fall of 1919 Surveyed cultural practices in cranberry fields of Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wisconsin
Winter of 1920 Made first strawberry crosses
Spring of 1920 Became associated with Dr. Walter Van Fleet, who had done strawberry and raspberry breeding at the USDA's Plant Introduction Garden at Glenn Dale, Maryland
1922 Continued strawberry breeding work at Glenn Dale, Maryland after Dr. Van Fleet's death
1927 Received a Ph.D. in plant physiology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland
1928 Leader of small fruit investigations for USDA
1929 Released the Blakemore Strawberry, the first of his more than 24 berry cultivars
1931 Published Response of Strawberry Varieties and Species to Duration of the Daily Light Period
1932 Moved strawberry work to the newly opened U.S. Horticultural Station at Beltsville, Maryland
1937 Continued the USDA blueberry breeding program after the death of its leader, Dr. Frederick Coville
1945 Appointed Administrative Head of USDA's Small Fruits Research Section, Plant Industry Station, Beltsville, Maryland
1946-1955 Placed in charge of the research of all deciduous fruit production in USDA
1948 Received the Wilder Medal of the American Pomological Society for outstanding work on small fruits
1949 Elected President of the American Society for Horticultural Science
1952 Served as official U.S. Delegate for the 13th International Horticultural Congress in London, U.K.
1954 Recipient of the USDA Distinguished Service Award, "For leadership and research contributions to the breeding and improvement of small fruits, thereby providing more dependable, productive, and better quality varieties of value to both the producer and consumer."
1956-1957 Surveyed the native strawberries of Chile
March 31, 1957 Retired and became a USDA consultant
1957 Pioneered a "pick-your-own" strawberry farm with his sons
Late 1950s & Early 1960s Researched and wrote the book The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology
1963 Conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by North Carolina State University
1966 Publication of The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology
1968 Received the American Horticultural Society's Liberty Hyde Bailey Award
1970s Became an active breeder of daylilies, registered over 50 cultivars
June, 1983 Died in Maryland
1993 Became the eighth inductee into the American Society for Horticultural Science Hall of Fame for extraordinary contributions to horticulture
1996 Inducted into the Prince Georges County, Maryland Hall of Fame
Memberships: The American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Genetic Association
The American Hemerocallis Society
The American Horticultural Society
The American Pomological Society
The American Society of Horticultural Science
The Botanical Society of Washington
North American Strawberry Grower's Association
Washington Academy of Science

Scope and Content Note

George M. Darrow (1889-1983), who was known as the foremost American authority on strawberries, worked for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for forty-six years (1911-1957) as a pomologist and small fruits breeder. The collection spans the years 1835-1980, and contains materials relating to his scientific career and the literature he contributed to the field. There are manuscripts, correspondence, galley proofs, a book, publications such as articles and reports, photographs, field notes, papers related to physiology, and miscellaneous items. The materials are in good condition and make up ten series.

The bulk of the collection consists of notes, rough drafts, galley proofs, manuscripts, and illustrations for the book The Strawberry: History, Breeding, and Physiology (Series I, 1915-1960s). Encouraged by his friend Henry A. Wallace, former Vice President of the United States and former Secretary of Agriculture, Darrow researched and used his years of experience plus previously taken notes to write this book after his retirement. There is correspondence relating to Darrow's inquiries about information for the book and colleagues' positive responses to the book. This is located in Series VIII. Of great importance is Darrow's copy of the book with corrections in pencil. This work, now a classic, quickly sold out after its publication of only 5,000 copies in 1966.

Darrow was a prolific author. Throughout his career, he wrote over 200 research or review articles, bulletins, and book chapters. A majority were USDA publications and reports. A work called Response of the Strawberry Varieties and Species to Duration of the Daily Light Period (USDA Technical Bulletin #453) became influential after it was published in 1934. This is included in the four bound volumes of Darrow's publications, as well as in the folders of individual articles in Series II. Most of the volumes (1914-1945) contain issues of the Farmers' Bulletin or USDA circulars or leaflets. Part of this series contains many small fruit reports from 1915-1940. Subjects of publications include strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and other small fruits.

Additional Darrow manuscripts are present in the collection (Series III, 1908-1967). Darrow wrote Small Fruit Growing in response to a request by Jacob Lipman, editor of the John Wiley & Sons agricultural series, who thought that there was a need in 1923 for a text on small fruits. There are notes and a manuscript of this textbook. Furthermore, there are notes, photographs, and a manuscript relating to strawberries that seems to be from the 1920s or 1930s. Additionally, there are notes, correspondence, rough drafts, and illustrations for Breeding and Improvement of the Raspberry and Blackberry in North America.

Darrow was constantly looking for ways to improve strawberries. He was responsible for the development of twenty-eight cultivars of strawberries, twelve of which are still of major importance. His field notes (Series IV) contain items such as notes on strawberry selections (1923-1931); planting plans on graph paper (1917-1923); notes, articles, and reports on strawberry varieties (1938-1960s); and breeding notes (1908-1934).

Another accomplishment that made a profound impression on small fruit scientists was Darrow's establishment of a foundation of genetic material that would figure prominently in breeding new strawberry varieties. He realized that improvement in small fruits had to occur by developing new varieties. In order to do this, he thought that scientists should possess an extensive knowledge of the make-up of a strawberry plant. While a USDA employee, he attained a Ph.D. in plant physiology and genetics. His knowledge is evident in Series V, 1907-1960s, which consists of notes and text for a physiology slide presentation.

While doing research, Darrow amassed a collection of publications. These are written by many different authors on various fruit-related topics and can be found in Series VI, 1835-1980.

Besides collecting publications, Darrow also acquired photographs and illustrations (Series VII). Most are undated. Significant items represent fruit development, strawberry history from 1912-1916, strawberry varieties, and maps of where strawberries were grown. Also, this series includes four black and white photographs of Darrow. There is a photograph of Darrow with a microscope, c.1940; a portrait possibly done at his retirement in 1957; a photograph with Dr. John R. Magness, former Chief, Fruit and Nut Crops Research Branch, taken in 1974 when Darrow was 85; and a photograph of Darrow and his wife Grace, c.1974.

Darrow's correspondence was mainly professional in nature (Series VIII). However, within these letters, he occasionally remarked about his family or personal life. Correspondence is separated chronologically for the years 1925-1977. Significant people he corresponded with frequently warranted division into separate folders. These persons include J. Harold Clark, 1933-1941, who was associated with cranberries, rhododendrons, and azaleas; Albert Etter, 1922-1964, who was called the "historian of the strawberry in the United States"; A.B. & Everett Howard, a father and son team who were involved in fruit and farm work; Robert D. Reid, 1940-1964, who studied diseases of strawberries; Harlow Rockhill, 1922-1944, breeder of strawberries, bush cherries, plums, and peach-plum hybrids; and A.B. Stout, 1952-1957, who worked at the New York Botanical Garden. Correspondence on a specific topic was placed into subject categories, such as Daylilies, 1966-1972; Everbearing Strawberries, 1920-1952; Strawberry Selection, 1925-1934, and Strawberry Varieties, 1920-1946. Correspondence about The Strawberry: History, Breeding, and Physiology, 1962-1968, is also included.

Throughout the course of Darrow's work, he used index cards to write citations. Some of these citations also have abstracts. The dates of the citations he recorded range from 1903-1962 (Series IX).

Lastly, there are miscellaneous materials (Series X). Some significant folders have the following information: a biographical article on Darrow; the Darrow Brothers Strawberry Farm, the first pick-your-own strawberry farm; the 1980 Darrow Exhibit at the National Agricultural Library; a report on Plant Exploration in Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia in 1957 following a trip made by Darrow prior to his retirement; the itinerary of a two-month trip to the western United States in 1957; strawberry conferences (1953-1956); and small fruit conferences (1957-1970).

Series Description

Series I. The Strawberry: History, Breeding, and Physiology. 1915-1960s. 7 boxes.

Includes correspondence, notes, rough drafts, manuscripts, and illustrations for chapters of The Strawberry: History, Breeding, and Physiology. Some correspondence and photographs relating to a specific chapter of the book remain in the chapter folders, since it is important to read the correspondence or view the photograph with that particular material. Otherwise, the majority of the correspondence can be found in Series VIII. Materials are arranged in the following order: chapter of book, illustrations, subject area notes used as references for the composition of the book, galley proofs, and Darrow's copy of the book.

Series II. Publications Authored by Darrow. 1914-1972. 4 boxes.

Consists of rough drafts and printed copies of Darrow's shorter writings and reports. Arranged by subject. Also includes four bound volumes of his writings, arranged separately.

Series III. Manuscripts. 1908-1967. 1 1/2 boxes.

Contains correspondence, notes, rough drafts, and photographs. Includes three Darrow manuscripts: an untitled strawberry book; Small Fruit Growing; and Breeding and Improvement of the Raspberry and Blackberry in North America.

Series IV. Field Notes. 1893-1972. 1 1/2 boxes.

Includes notes, reports, articles, statistics, photographs, and publications related to Darrow's daily work on strawberries. Arranged by subject.

Series V. Physiology. 1907-1960s. 1 box.

Contains articles, notes, and photographs and text for a slide presentation of strawberry physiology. Arranged chronologically.

Series VI. Miscellaneous Publications. 1835-1980. 4 boxes.

Consists of articles, reports, and publications about strawberries, small fruits, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes and nuts, apples, forestry, flowers, gardens, institutions, and other miscellaneous publications. Arranged by subject.

Series VII. Photographs. c.1910-c.1974. 1 box and 1 map folder.

Includes black and white and color photographs of various sizes. Most are undated. There are some negatives. Many relate to strawberries, however, there are photographs of other small fruits. Arranged by subject. This series also contains four black and white photographs of Darrow at different times in his life. Three are oversized and are housed separately in map case A19 in Special Collections.

Series VIII. Correspondence. 1895-1977. 3 boxes.

Consists of letters written by Darrow to colleagues, other researchers, professors, nurserymen, institutions, and publishers. Includes letters to Darrow from these individuals. Arranged three ways: chronologically by year, alphabetically by person, and then alphabetically by subject.

Series IX. Abstract Cards. 1903-1962. 1 box.

Contains 5"x8" index cards with citations and/or abstracts. Some are in pencil and some are typed. Many include Darrow's notes. Arranged alphabetically.

Series X. Miscellaneous. 1914-1980. 1 box.

Covers various subjects such as trip itineraries, a biography of Darrow, the Darrow Brothers Strawberry Farm, fruit notes, USDA notices to fruit growers, reports, and conferences. Arranged by subject.

Digitized Selections


Information for the Biographical Sketch and the Scope and Content Note was taken from the following sources:

Cullinan, F.P. "George M. Darrow." The Papers of George M. Darrow. Special Collections, National Agricultural Library. Series X, Folder 189: Biography of Darrow, c.1965.

Darrow, George M. The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966. Chapter 13.

Fusonie, Alan E. "Dr. George Darrow: Legacy and Foundation for Tomorrow's Strawberries." Advances in Strawberry Production. 9 (1990): 44-47.

Galletta, Gene J. "George McMillan Darrow (1889-1983)" HortScience. 28:11 (Nov.1993):1080.

Keese, Susan. "Bloomin' Beautiful: A Spectacular, Easy to Grow, No-Fuss Garden Plant? Yes, Really. Olallie Daylily Gardens in South Newfane Offers Thousands of Them." Vermont Magazine. March/April, 2001. Accessed September 6, 2001

Olallie Daylily Gardens. "Farm History: Dr. George M. Darrow." Accessed August 30, 2001 from

Additional Resources: George M. Darrow publications available online:

Darrow, George M. and Albert E. Longley. "Cytological Studies of Diploid and Polyploid Forms in Raspberries". Journal of Agricultural Research. 27:10 (March 8, 1924): 737-748.

Darrow, George M. "Sterility and Fertility in the Strawberry". Journal of Agricultural Research. 34:5 (March 1, 1927): 393-411.

Darrow, George M. "Experimental Studies on the Growth and Development of Strawberry Plants". Journal of Agricultural Research. 41:4 (August 15, 1930): 307-325.

Darrow, George M. and A. E. Longley. "Cytology and Breeding of Rubus macropetalus, the Logan, and Related Blackberries". Journal of Agricultural Research. 47:5 (September 1, 1933): 315-330.

Darrow, George M. The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology (PDF|12.19MB). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966. Formatted for the web by USDA: Plant Genome Data and Information Center. Last updated June 17, 1999.

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