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Series XI, USDA History Collection

USDA History Collection

Series XI. Personal Papers, ca. 1900-1990. ca. 58 cubic ft.

SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE | Container List   ||   Collection Map  

Papers of staff of the Agricultural and Rural History Section, and other USDA employees, including research notes, manuscript and typescript drafts of books and reports, speeches, subject files, notes and transcripts of interviews, copies of articles and reports, as well as some personal items such as letters, resumes, appointment books, and photographs.

The papers are arranged alphabetically by the last name of each individual. The section on small collections contains personal papers that do not fill up one full box. These papers are grouped together, in alphabetical order at the end of the series.

Baker, Gladys L., 1910-1991.    Papers, ca. 1940-1983.   ca. 6.0 cubic ft. | Container List

Biographical Note

Gladys Baker was born in 1910, and raised in rural Iowa. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 1939. Baker was head of the War Records Project in USDA, which was created in 1942 to organize the records created during World War II. She became an expert in the history of federal agricultural programs, and remained an historian at the Agriculture and Rural History Section (and its predecessors) from the post-war period until her retirement in 1982.

Baker was the senior author of Century of Service: the First 100 Years of the United States Department of Agriculture, and was President of the Agricultural History Society in 1970. Gladys Baker died in 1991.

Scope and Content Note

The personal files of Gladys Baker contain correspondence, notes, memoranda, articles and drafts of articles, interview transcripts, charts, and reports dealing with Baker's research and writing about the history of the USDA and its activities. Included are materials from Baker's work with the War Records Project and with the Agriculture History Committee.

The files include materials for an "Organizational History," (probably Century of Service) particularly organizational charts that show the structure and duties of past and present bureaus and sections of the USDA. Some of the bureaus covered are the Rural Electrification Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Economic Research Service, the Bureau of Animal Industry, and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Also included are research materials on the effects of wartime agricultural laws and activities on the average American farm, with transcripts and notes of interviews with residents of rural areas; and copies of Baker's study into wartime agricultural and departmental changes, "Factors Relevant to Reorganization for War."

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Brewster, David E.   Papers, ca. 1965-1975.   ca. 1.7 cubic ft. | Container List

Biographical Note

David Brewster joined the Economic Research Service in the mid-1960s as historian for the National Economic Analysis Division, part of the Economics, Statistics, and Cooperative Service. In 1980, Brewster worked for the Secretary's office, helping with policy planning. In 1981, Brewster returned to ERS, where he became an administrator and historian.

Scope and Content Note

Brewster's files contain correspondence, notes, speeches, articles and published matter, reports, and memoranda dealing with his work in the Secretary's office, and his research into the history and development of small farms and family farms. The material originating with the Secretary's office deals with the formation of work processes, policy statements, and department-wide memoranda from the Secretary of Agriculture. There are also several published articles by Brewster's peers on a variety of agricultural and managerial subjects.

The majority of Brewster's files relate to research and development of family farms and small farms. There are reports, minutes of meetings and conferences, and a variety of writings by Brewster and his peers. This section contains drafts of speeches, informal talks by Brewster, articles intended for publication, and typed and handwritten notes on USDA documents and congressional legislation concerning small farming. Of special interest are a series of reports done by students at Virginia Polytechnic and State College on the state of small farms in several southern states.

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Johnson, Sherman E.   Papers, ca. 1960-1970.   ca. 0.5 cubic ft. | Container List

Biographical Note

Sherman Johnson was born in Minnesota in 1896, attended the University of Minnesota for his undergraduate and masters degree in economics, and went to Harvard University for his doctorate. Johnson taught at several universities before he was appointed the Regional Director of the Federal Land Purchase Program for the Northern Great Plains in 1934. He joined the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) in 1936, and became head of the Division of Farm Management and Costs in 1937. During the Second World War, Johnson also headed the Division of Production and Supplies in the Office of Agricultural War Relations, and after the war was the Assistant Chief for Economics of Production for the BAE. After the 1953 departmental reorganization, Johnson became the Director of Farm and Land Management for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and then a Chief Economist in 1957. In this position, Johnson did foreign advisory and coordinating work. He was active in international agriculture until his retirement from the USDA in 1965.

Scope and Content Note

These files contain, correspondence, memoranda, articles, notes, reports, and charts. The majority of the material is correspondence, including a file of letters that were "carbon copied" to Johnson, dealing with administration and international activities in the Economic Research Service (ERS), and a chronological file of Johnson's correspondence for 1964.

Other material includes: ERS international activities and programs; employee surveys; correspondence, vouchers, and other records relating to a meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Agency for International Development program to develop international agriculture, called the Productivity Project.

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Moncure, Robert.   Papers, ca. 1940-1980.   ca. 0.6 cubic ft. | Container List

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence, memoranda, reports, charts, articles, and notes on a variety of agricultural subjects, with an emphasis on international agriculture. Much of the material deals with Moncure's work with the Office of Foreign Agricultural Relations and the Foreign Agricultural Service, including correspondence with Jane Porter and other USDA historians about his career.

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Porter, Jane M.   Papers, ca. 1925-1985.   ca. 15.5 cubic ft. | Container List

Biographical Note

Jane M. Porter was an historian and staff member of the Agricultural and Rural History Section for many years. She was a co-author of Century of Service: the First 100 Years of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Scope and Content Note

Research materials collected by Porter, including correspondence, memoranda, notes, articles, reports, and published items, relating to the history of the Extension Service; materials on the foreign aid activities of the USDA, including the Technical Assistance Program; and materials about former USDA employees, including retiree newsletters and memoir's by Porter about her personal contacts with individuals such as Emerson Brooks.

The bulk of the Extension Service materials are organized into chronological files (giving a history of the Service by decades), and then by subject (such as "Programs" and "Administration and Policy). Additional files include a large group of Extension Service circulars from the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Following Porter's research materials are travel files; miscellaneous files on agricultural subjects including agricultural trade; other correspondence, charts, administrative material and personnel files; and a bound Extension Service Manual from 1926.

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Rasmussen, Wayne D.   Papers, ca. 1920-1980.   ca. 12.8 cubic ft. | Container List

Biographical Note

Wayne Rasmussen was born February 5, 1915, on a ranch in south central Montana. He earned a bachelor's degree from Montana State College, and a master's degree and doctorate from George Washington University. Rasmussen started working with the USDA as a records manager in 1937, and moved to a historian position with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in 1940. Rasmussen continued as a USDA historian with the Agricultural and Rural History Section (ARH) in the Economic Research Service (as it eventually became), and was its chief from the early 1960s until his retirement in 1986. He was a co-author of Century of Service: the First 100 Years of the United States Department of Agriculture.

In addition to his work with the USDA, Rasmussen was a lecturer in American History at the USDA graduate school, President of the Agricultural History Society (1964), and taught classes at American University and the University of Maryland.

Scope and Content Note

The documents in this subseries include notes, correspondence, memoranda, published material, articles, and reports relating to many aspects of Wayne Rasmussen's long career with the USDA. The Subject files contain research material of agricultural subjects, and are filed in alphabetical order. There are significant materials on the United States bicentennial celebration and the development of living historical farms. There are also extensive research materials on the history of the Extension Service. These files contain previous histories about the service and documentation from USDA files. Also included are an inventory of Extension Service materials in the National Archives, copies of the "Report of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents" ranging in date from 1923 to 1939; and a volume titled "Farmers Cooperative Demonstration Work for 1910," a compilation assembled by the USDA Office of Extension Work in the South in 1921, containing original and copied correspondence, reports, memos, maps, charts, stories, plans, and photographs.

The Administrative/Writings files contain correspondence, memoranda, notes, reports, published materials, and drafts of articles written by Rasmussen and his colleagues; also materials on his administrative duties as head of ARH and academic lecturer. There are drafts of the History of American Agriculture, a series of lectures and short articles that were intended to be published together (drafts of each section were labeled "chapters"). Some research material on Latin America is also in these files.

Travel files contain itineraries, reports, correspondence, notes, speeches, and other materials relating to Rasmussen's foreign visits and international meetings, especially trips to India and Iran. There are also dissertations collected by Rasmussen on agricultural development. Photographs found in these papers, relating to Extension work, travel, and the staff of the ARH have been removed to Series VII.1.

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Starch, Elmer A., 1898-1982.   Papers, ca. 1910-1972 (bulk 1931-1972).   ca. 12.5 cubic ft. | Container List

Biographical Note

Elmer A. Starch, known within the USDA as "Mr. Great Plains," was born in Minnesota, educated at the University of Minnesota Farm School, and received a degree from the University of Minnesota in 1926. He worked with M. L. Wilson at Montana State College, and was Regional Director for the Great Plains with the Resettlement Administration in the 1930s. In 1939, Starch served as the Executive Secretary for the Northern Great Plains Council, an informal organization made up of directors of agricultural and extension agencies at federal, state, and local levels. In 1946, when the Council merged with the Southern Great Plains Council, Starch became Executive Secretary of the new organization.

The Council disbanded in the latter part of 1946, and Starch worked with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in Eastern Europe until 1947. He then returned to the USDA as Coordinator for the Great Plains. Later Starch served as leader of a USDA mission to Turkey, and was Agricultural Advisor to the government of Tunisia from 1957 to 1960, involved in the food-for-work program, reforestation, and the training of village agricultural advisors.

Between 1960 and 1963, Starch traveled to areas in Africa and the Middle East as a consultant on agriculture-related programs and problems. He retired in 1963, but continued to write on the Great Plains and international development. He died in 1982.

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Elmer A. Starch include handwritten notes and manuscripts of Starch's writings; published articles, booklets and pamphlets used as research material for those writings; reports, correspondence, press releases and speeches; and transcripts of oral history interviews and taped discussions with other agriculturalists. The bulk of the material dates between 1930 and 1970.

The two main topics are Starch's involvement with the Great Plains Council in the 1930s and 1940s, and his international work. The Great Plains material documents Starch's and the USDA's efforts in the Great Plains to counteract the consequences of the dust bowl and to reinvigorate Great Plains agriculture at the start of World War II. There are also sections on Starch's involvement with Montana State College and the M. L. Wilson Symposium, and a large section on his development of a book, "Saga of the Sage." Some of the Great Plains material is the output of several agencies and organizations working with Great Plains agriculture, but have uncertain connections to the Great Plains Council of the USDA.

Many of Starch's writings relate to his work in foreign agricultural development during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Also among the papers are a general studies section, material on other agricultural topics such as water development, and a section of important letters and speeches by him and by other agriculturalists and researchers.

Starch's papers also contain articles and tape transcripts separated into specific folders and titles. Most of the articles are by other researchers, and many of those have handwritten comments by Starch. Some folders hold several articles, with a small "table of contents" at the beginning of the folder for reference. This material dates from the 1960s and 1970s.

There are also four reels of audiotape, books ranging in dates from 1790 to 1914, and some photographs.

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Wells, O. V., 1903-1986.   Papers, ca. 1930-1975.   ca. 1.7 cubic ft. | Container List

Biographical Note

O. V. (Oris Vernon) Wells was born in Mississippi and raised in New Mexico, and was educated at New Mexico State College and Harvard University. Wells was hired as a junior agricultural economist with the USDA Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE), and in 1933 he was promoted to Assistant to the Principal Economist of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. He became a division head in the BAE in 1938. During World War II, Wells was the Assistant Chief of the BAE, acting as Statistical Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture and the War Food Administration. He became Chief of the BAE in 1946.

Wells served on the Board of Directors of the Commodity Credit Corporation. With the reorganization of the USDA in 1953, Wells became the Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service where he stayed until 1961, when he retired from the USDA.

Wells also worked with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, assisted in compiling the FAO's First World Food Survey, and provided documentation for the International Emergency Food Conference in 1946. He was an advisor to the U.S. Delegation to FAO conferences from 1953-1959. When Wells left the USDA in 1961, he became an Assistant Director General, and later Deputy Director General, of the FAO.

Wells retired from the FAO in 1971. In retirement he reviewed books and articles, wrote pieces relating to his early years in the Depression-era and war-time USDA, and worked on international food problems with charitable foundations. Wells died in 1986.

Scope and Content Note

The papers of O. V. Wells contain mostly published material, including his writings for the USDA, transcripts of speeches and radio interviews. There are published articles and papers by him for the whole span of the collection, with a complete bibliography of Wells' writings from 1930-1961, and a partial bibliography from 1961-1974. Writings before his retirement in 1971 mostly focus on statistics and agricultural economics; later writings are more diverse, including book reviews and an obituary of Mordecai Ezekiel. Of special interest are of copies of speeches made as Deputy Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization. Several drafts of most speeches appear, along with Wells' corrections to each draft. There are also letters regarding Wells's work for the Ford Foundation, and requests for information from students writing on the history of the USDA.

There are two folders of biographical material, including the nomination packet in Wells' name for the Edward W. Browning Award of the American Agricultural Economics Association. This includes a full biographical story and several letters of commendation by people such as Earl Butz and Nathan Koffsky. One reel of audiotape records the 16th session of the Food and Agriculture Organization Conference of November 1971. It includes the announcement of Wells' retirement and tributes to him by others.

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Wiser, Vivian.   Papers, ca. 1945-1990.   ca. 3.0 cubic ft. | Container List

Biographical Note

From a biographical sketch found in Series II, Class File, folder "Wiser, Vivian. 1977-1994":

"Vivian Wiser was born on a small farm in western New York. She is a longtime resident of the Washington area, attending local schools. She received her Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Maryland. She has been employed in the Federal Government for 33 years, working at the National Archives for 11 years and in the history group of the Department of Agriculture for 19 years. She is a co-author of Century of Service: the First 100 Years of the United States Department of Agriculture and has published bulletins and articles in historical journals. One of these articles discusses the origins of the Beltsville Research Center. Her bulletin on the inspection and quarantine of imported plants and animals has been widely distributed."

Scope and Content Note

These papers include both published and unpublished writings by Wiser and others. Also included are research materials, which hold notes, charts, articles, photocopies of relevant USDA letters and memoranda (possibly from ARH's history collection), and other correspondence. Most of these materials date from the 1970s and 1980s, but samples of Wiser's publications go back to the mid-1940s. There are also copies of speeches, book reviews, and informational talks. Of special interest is a draft of a history of personnel administration in the USDA.

The greatest amount of research materials in this collection is made up of sources compiled for research into the history of women in agriculture and in the USDA. There are also significant research materials on Maryland history and agriculture, blacks in the Farm Security Administration, and quarantine policies. The Personnel Administration history is a marked up draft; the corresponding research material can be found in Series IX, subseries 4. The published articles by Wiser's peers cover a range of subjects. Two histories by ARH interns, with some minor corrections by Wiser, are included in the section of non-Wiser publications.

Wiser's published articles appeared in USDA publications such as the National Food Review, Agricultural Economics Research, and Associates NAL Today, and non-USDA publications like Maryland Historical Magazine, Medical History, and Agricultural History. They include research articles, sidebars on famous agriculturalists, book reviews, and transcripts of speeches. In this collection, Wiser's articles are arranged first, followed by articles by peers, research materials, speeches and other minor writings, and the draft history of Personnel Administration .

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Small collections, ca. 1920-1990.   ca. 3.2 cubic ft. | Container List

This section includes a file of papers by the staff of the Agricultural and Rural History Section (ARH) and others, and other records and manuscripts of USDA staff. The papers include studies, reports, speeches, bibliographies, and other items. Most of the materials are in print or near-print format such as mimeograph or photocopy. Some of these papers be found in other sections of this series as well. Writers of these articles include, Gladys Baker, Wayne Rasmussen, Jane Porter, Douglas Bowers, Everett Edwards, and John Brewster.

Most of the files in this section are published articles by ARH members with large amounts of materials in other sections, but these articles were filed together. However, there are also small sections of personal papers, interfiled with the published articles in alphabetical order. Personal papers for any individual are generally less than one document box in volume, so are filed here in the small collections. Following the alphabetical files, there is a copy of a history of the USDA during the administration of President Lyndon Johnson which was written by the ARH staff.

Most of these papers are published items. Those sub-collections that include other personal material are describe below.

Cavin, James P., b. 1905.   Papers, ca. 1940-1960

James Cavin started at the USDA in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) in 1936. He was transferred to the National Defense Advisory Commission in 1940, where he was associate head of the Food Price Division of the Office of Price Administration, 1941-1943. In 1946, Cavin became head of the Division of Statistical and Historical Research in the BAE. From 1951 to 1954, Cavin was out of the USDA, but returned to head the same division, now within the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). He moved to Economic Research Service (ERS) when it was founded in 1961 to become Deputy Director of the Economic and Statistical Analysis Division, and the next year he was promoted to Director. He retired from the USDA in 1967.

Cavin's files contain memos, notes, reports, charts and correspondence on topics such as agricultural policies, and concerting Cavin's work during World War II, especially relating to the production, rationing, and pricing of sugar, flax, and automobiles. There are a few documents from his time at AMS in the 1950s.

Ezekiel, Mordecai, 1899-1974.    Papers, 1942

One folder regarding Ezekiel's preparation and results of a talk at the Eighth Pan-American Child Congress. Contains proceedings, correspondence, drafts, and notes.

Stine, O. C., 1884-1994.   Papers, ca. 1920-1950

Oscar Clemen Stine was born in 1884 in Sandyville, West Virginia. He received his Ph.B. from Ohio University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1921. Stine started working at the USDA in 1916, as an economist in the Office of Farm Management. In 1921, he moved into the Division of Statistical and Historical Research of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE). Stine was appointed assistant chief of the BAE in 1946, in charge of prices, income, and marketing.

O. C. Stine was active in several professional organizations, and taught at the University of Florida, Hampton-Sydney College and Southern Illinois University. After his retirement from the USDA in 1953, Stine moved to his West Virginia farm, called Elmwood, which dated to 1797. He died on March 28, 1974.

Stine's files contain correspondence, memoranda, notes, articles, and reports regarding his research into various subjects such as World War II and tobacco. There is also a report resulting from his visit to farms in Russia. One folder contains "Personal Correspondence."

Upchurch, M. L.   Papers, ca. 1940- 1970

Melvin L. Upchurch worked in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in the 1940s, and moved to the Agricultural Research Service in the next decade, where he was head of the Western Field Research Section. He was Assistant Director of the Farm Economics Division for the ERS during the 1960s, and Director of ERS's Farm Production Economics Division.

Upchurch's papers contain published material, speeches, notes, memoranda, and correspondence. Subjects cover agricultural censuses, farm technology, research, and development.

West, Quentin M., 1921-1996.    Papers, 1970-1976

Quentin West was born in Morgan, Utah, in 1921, and received his undergraduate and master's degrees in agricultural economics from Utah State University. His doctorate in the same subject was from Cornell University. He became interested in the international aspect of agricultural economics while working in Peru with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture in the early 1950s. So he joined the USDA and served as administrator of Foreign Economic Development and Economic Research Service. He then founded and directed the Office of International Cooperation and Development, and worked as special assistant for International Science and Technical Cooperation for Secretary Bob Bergland in 1977 and 1978. He retired from the USDA in 1981 and rejoined the Inter-America Institute, and then became a consultant on international agricultural projects while in partial retirement. He died in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 2, 1996.

This material contains copies of West's speeches made between 1970 and 1976. They are arranged chronologically, with a tabbed set of contents, along with location where speech was made, at the start of each year.

Worden, Gaylord.    Papers, ca. 1970-1980

Worden's files contain manuscripts, notes, and correspondence on a variety of research and administrative subjects. Most of this material deals with farm definition and how it changes over time.

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