USDA History Collection
Series I, subseries 1. Documentary Files, 1822-1995 (bulk 1914-1939). 23 cubic ft.
The first subseries in the Documentary Files consists of letters, memoranda, press releases, speeches, reports, minutes, charts, statistical tables, printed items, papers and articles by USDA staff, and other materials. Many of the items are secondary sources including published reports, clippings, transcriptions and photocopies. However, these files also include significant sections of primary materials, including original letters, memoranda, draft reports and tables, and items such as review copies of reports or memoranda with manuscript comments and corrections. Of special note are papers of USDA officials including Mordecai Ezekiel and M. L. Wilson, which are located primarily in Section IX (described below) but may also be found in other files throughout this subseries.
This subseries is divided into 10 sections. It covers the work of USDA from about the period of the First World War to the outbreak of the Second World War, with some items dating back to the 19th century. The bulk of the material covers the work of the Department during the Great Depression, particularly from the beginning of the New Deal in 1933 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace, up to the beginning of the war in Europe, around 1939.
Section I deals with US agricultural programs during World War I. It documents the work of the United States Food Administration, and programs designed to increase production and provide aid and relief to U.S. allies. Section II covers the period from about 1920 to 1933. It includes material on plans and programs such as the McNary-Haugen proposal, domestic allotment, and the Federal Farm Board. These files contain original holograph letters from M. L. Wilson to Mordecai Ezekiel, written when Wilson was traveling the country promoting the domestic allotment proposal.
The rest of this subseries is concerned principally with the years 1933 to 1939. Section III covers New Deal plans and programs designed to increase production in agriculture. Much of the material relates to the Agricultural Adjustment Acts of 1933 and 1938, including legislative histories of H.R. 8505 and S. 2787. There is also material on acts regarding specific commodities, including cotton, wheat, sugar, and the corn-hog acts.
Section IV details such topics as the ever-normal granary, price support, crop insurance, non-recourse loans, and parity. Section V covers items pertaining to specific commodities such as corn, cotton, milk and dairy products.
Major topics covered in Section VI include nutrition, plant and animal quarantine inspection, the Hoosac Mills decision, marketing agreements and orders, and flood and drought relief projects. Also of interest are a scrapbook of clippings on the food stamp program, and records of the cotton mattress project.
International aspects of agriculture is the focus of Section VII which includes such topics as international trade, tariffs, and commodity agreements.
Section VIII documents the impact wrought by New Deal programs on farm life and work; topics include changes in farm life, government credit programs, labor, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Works Progress Administration.
Section IX encompasses the administration of USDA and includes speeches, press releases and other papers of Secretaries of Agriculture James "Tama Jim" Wilson, David F. Houston, Edwin T. Meredith, Henry C. Wallace, William M. Jardine, Arthur M. Hyde, and Henry A. Wallace. The Henry A. Wallace material is by far the most vast, and includes clippings, interviews, tributes and other material extending up to the time of his death in 1965.
This section includes the correspondence of advisers to the Secretary such as Paul H. Appleby; speeches of Assistant and Under Secretaries Renick Dunlap, Harry L. Brown, and Rexford G. Tugwell; papers of economic advisor Mordecai Ezekiel, and Assistant Secretary, (later Under Secretary) M. L. Wilson, including correspondence, speeches, press releases, clippings, and a scrapbook. Some items are retrospective in nature, such as interviews with Appleby done in the 1960s or 1970s. The papers of Ezekiel and Wilson include many originals, apparently received from their personal files.
Records of USDA Auxiliary Services include files on the offices of Solicitor, Budget and Finance, Information, and Personnel. The Personnel records include biographical information on many USDA employees.
Also found in Section IX is material relating to the Federal Surplus Commodity Corporation, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, including files of the AAA legal section, and many other agencies. Section IX documents relationships between USDA and states and counties, other federal agencies, and private and public sector organizations.
The Buildings File is an important component of this subseries that was not originally found in the outline. This group of papers and photographs had been collected and maintained in a separate file cabinet, principally by ARH historian Vivian Wiser. These items were deemed a part of subseries 1 when it was discovered that a microfiche copy of the Documentary Files included the materials here, labeled as section IX F. The materials date from 1822 to 1995, with the bulk dating from 1930 to 1990. The earliest materials are copies or transcriptions.
The Buildings File contains information on many of the structures, edifices and properties occupied by the USDA over the years, particularly buildings located in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The materials consist of clippings, published and unpublished papers, notes, memos, correspondence, brochures, pamphlets, maps, and photographs. They document the USDA's physical development on the Mall, from the construction of the Old Administration Building in 1868, to the completion of the Wilson and Knapp Archways, which connect the Administration (now the Whitten) Building to the South Building, in 1937. Materials on art and decoration in the Whitten Building, such as the World War Memorial (1932), and Gilbert White's mural in the main stairwell (1934), are also included. Other buildings occupied by the USDA; research centers, such as Arlington and Beltsville; and the National Arboretum are covered in the Buildings File as well.
During processing, this section was organized into three categories, arranged alpha-numerically. These categories are: General Building Information; Downtown Washington Buildings; and Research Centers.
The Buildings File photographs, dating from ca. 1871 to 1985, have been separated and placed in Series VII, subseries 1. Among the images are the Old Administration Building and Conservatory, the greenhouses on the Mall, the current Administration and South Buildings, experiment stations, the National Agricultural Library, the National Arboretum, and the War Memorial.
The final part of the subseries, Section X, details USDA's involvement with New Deal programs pertaining to land use and resource conservation including basic land use planning documents and items relating to forests, water and irrigation.