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Ralph Edward Hodgson Papers


The Ralph Edward Hodgson Papers span the years 1926-1977. The collection is 4 linear feet and occupies 10 archival boxes. Materials in the collection are in good condition. There are no restrictions on use and reproduction. The collection was arranged and described by Constance M. Maas and Sara B. Lee in 2007.

Finding Aid File


Biographical Sketch

Ralph Edward Hodgson was born in Arean, Wisconsin, in 1906. He received both his bachelor of arts and doctorate degrees at Kansas State University. He worked for the United States Department of Agriculture from 1930 to1973 and held progressively more responsible positions in professional, scientific, and administrative work in connection with dairy and animal husbandry, focusing on dairy cattle breeding, feeding, and management. From 1930 to 1954 Hodgson worked in the Bureau of Dairy Industry (BDI), beginning as a dairy husbandman, moving on to principal dairy technologist and concluding his tenure with BDI as an assistant chief. As part of his work, Hodgson traveled to seven countries in Latin America in 1942 and 1943 to conduct studies on dairying. In 1954 Hodgson began working with the Agricultural Research Service serving first as the Chief of the Dairy Husbandry Research Branch and later, in 1958, as the Director of Animal Husbandry Research Division. In 1971 he received the Distinguished Service Award of the American Dairy Science Association.

Hodgson was associated with virtually every important international activity involving the dairy or livestock industry during his career and served as the liaison officer and chairman of the U.S. delegation to the 13th through 17th International Dairy Congresses. The author of more than 100 technical and semi-technical publications, Hodgson authored, coauthored, or edited a number of textbooks, including a book on dairying in tropical America. He was a member of many professional societies associated with the American Dairy Science Association. He was Chairman of the Committee to organize the World Conference on Animal Production in the United States. He was a unique man for his profession, always having his sights properly set on the needs of the dairy farmer. He died in 1990.

Scope and Content Note

The Ralph Edward Hodgson Collection consists of 4 linear feet of autobiographical and biographical information, writings, studies, speeches, trip reports, bulletins, reprints, and publications.

Of significance to those interested in Hodgson's life during his formative years is his 1970 autobiographical work titled "From the Sands of Mazomanie: A Story of a Wisconsin Farm Boy" (Series I, Box 1, Folder 4). Hodgson's purpose in writing the autobiography was to convey the interesting tales of growing up and working on a diversified livestock and dairy farm in America's heartland during the early twentieth century. He and his family lived in rural Dane County, Wisconsin where growing up on a farm meant hard, manual labor, and lack of material goods, but also the joy of living close to plants, animals, and people. Throughout his childhood years, he saw the coming of electricity, the automobile, the tractor, and the milking machine.

Hodgson was a prolific writer and the majority of this collection consists of his publications, manuscripts, notes, speeches, reports, and trip itineraries (Series II). Topics of writings include cattle breeding, grassland farming, dairy research programs, forage crops, and the nutrition of dairy cattle. He co-authored frequently with Joseph Carlton Knott, Ollie Ezekiel Reed, and H.K. Murer. Knott, dairy husbandry, Washington Agricultural Experiment Station, played an important role in the research in the land-grant college system, working in cooperation with the state experiment stations (Box 5, Folder 223). Reed, Chief of the Bureau of Dairy Industry for all but the first two years of its existence, was widely known for his work on breed improvement through production testing and fostered the development in this country of high grade cheese and butter (Box 10, Folder 373). Murer was a dairy chemist, Department of Dairy Husbandry, Washington Agricultural Experiment Station, State College of Washington.

During the early 1940s, Hodgson conducted studies of Gulf and Caribbean lands (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama) and South American countries of Colombia and Venezuela (Series III). In 1961, Hodgson and Reed wrote a handbook for the people of these countries to improve their dairy industries and food supply. The publication was a cooperative project of the Interdepartmental Committee on Cultural and Scientific Cooperation in which the Bureau of Dairy Industry and the Office of Foreign Agricultural Relations of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Central Translating Division of the United States Department of State participated. Hodgson's collection contains a manuscript of "A Dairy Handbook for Tropical America." (Folders 373-377). Included in the manuscript are original, black and white photographs illustrating different aspects of dairying and animals.

A list of photographic negatives of animals is included in this collection (Series IV). It is a substantial list of negative numbers and captions. Dates range from 1904-1951. Subjects relate to Hodgson's work with USDA on animal nutrition and other studies. The whereabouts of the negatives is unknown, but the captions tell the story of animal work in the USDA during the twentieth century. There are also portraits of Hodgson and photographs of him attending meetings throughout his career.

Series Description

Series I. Personal and Biographical Information. 1929-1975. .25 boxes.

Series I consists of Hodgson's autobiography, biographical information presented when Hodgson was Guest of Honor at the 1957 Dairy Shrine Club annual meeting, and college theses. All materials are arranged chronologically.

Series II. Writings. 1926-1977. 7.75 boxes.

Series II consists of Hodgson's personal, scientific writings as well as those he authored with others. The types of writings include studies, papers, notes, manuscripts, reports, speeches, bulletins, reprints, and publications. Occasionally, there is correspondence about a specific writing and it is housed in the folder with that writing. The materials are arranged chronologically. Hodgson's writings that lacked a date or publication year were placed at the end of the series. If the writing had a date handwritten on it by an unknown person, the writing was filed chronologically, but is noted by parentheses around the year.

Series III. Studies on Dairy Industries of Tropical Countries and Final Publication. 1942-1976. 2 boxes.

From the summer of 1942 until the fall of 1943, Hodgson studied the dairy industries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela by visiting these countries and writing reports on their dairying systems. He and Ollie Ezekiel Reed of the USDA Bureau of Dairy Industry, Agricultural Research Administration co-authored a publication geared toward helping the people residing in these countries to improve the breeding, feeding, and management of dairy cattle as well as the production, processing, and distribution of milk and milk products. This 1961 publication was titled "A Dairy Handbook for Tropical America." There is a typescript copy of the publication in English with original photographs and a published version in Spanish. Materials are arranged by country followed by the final publication folders.

Series IV. Photographic Materials. 1951-1962. 2 folders.

Series III consists of a list of photographic negatives mostly related to cattle in general. Other animals described are buffalo, horses, poultry, sheep, and swine. The photographic negative numbers are listed first and followed by caption descriptions. The caption descriptions include the subject, location, and date. Occasionally, the name of the animal owner is included. There are also portraits of Hodgson and photographs of him attending meetings throughout his career.


Hodgson, Ralph Edward.
"From the Sands of Mazomanie: A Story of a Wisconsin Farm Boy." July 20, 1970

Hodgson, Ralph Edward.
"Dr. Joseph Carlton Knott, The Land Grant College Man." Presented at the dedication of the Joseph Carlton Knott Dairy Research Center, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington. July 18, 1919.

Hodgson, Ralph Edward and Ollie Ezekiel Reed.
"A Diary Handbook for Tropical America." 1961.

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