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Series I. Documentary Files

Subseries in Series I

The Documentary Files contain materials on the history of the USDA and agriculture in the United States, including letters, memoranda, press releases, speeches, reports, minutes, charts, statistical tables, printed materials, clippings, and papers and articles by USDA staff and others. Most of the materials are from the 20th century; items of earlier date are generally copies or transcriptions from other sources.

These files formed the backbone of the materials kept by the Agricultural and Rural History Section (ARH), and they comprise the largest series in the USDA History Collection. ARH began assembling this file during World War II, and continued until the office was closed in 1994. (Volunteers made small additions to the files until they were transferred to NAL in 1997.) The files were organized into six chronological groups, each group arranged according to a detailed subject outline.

Many of the materials found here are secondary sources including published reports, clippings, transcriptions and photocopies. However, the Documentary 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 memos with manuscript comments and corrections. Detailed scope and content notes are included in the sections of this finding aid pertaining to each subseries.

Organization

Following the system established by ARH, Series I is organized in six subseries by time period. Each subseries was originally set up to document a certain span of years: the first subseries covers 1914-1939, the second covers 1939-1949, and so on.

However, many items that date either earlier or later than the specific time periods designated have been found in each section. Usually the material pertains to the subject and/or time period of the file and provides background material, or a retrospective view of the topic.

For instance, almost all the material in the Documentary Files pertaining to Henry A. Wallace (Secretary of Agriculture, 1933-1940), is filed in the first subseries, which nominally covers the years 1914-1939. However, many items included there relate to his youth and early career, and others date from later years, up to and even beyond his death in 1965.

Therefore, in describing these subseries, the first set of span dates indicates the actual dates of materials found; the "bulk" dates indicate the time period that each part of the files was intended to cover.

Subseries 1. ..................... 1822-1995 (bulk 1914-1939)
Subseries 2. ..................... 1907-1982 (bulk 1939-1949)
Subseries 3. ..................... 1939-1992 (bulk 1949-1956)
Subseries 4. ..................... 1957-1977 (bulk 1957-1977)
Subseries 5. ..................... 1906-1995 (bulk 1977-1988)
Subseries 6. ..................... 1920-1997 (bulk 1989-1994)

Bulk Dates

1822-1997 (bulk 1914-1994)

Format

approximately 360 cubic ft.

Items in Series I. Documentary Files

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FSA Labor camp maps

Map from a report on Farm Security Administration labor camps. This map shows the locations of Migratory Labor Camps, and Farm Labor Homes proposed, under construction or occupied; as well as other facilities in California.
FSA Labor camp maps

Map from a report on Farm Security Administration labor camps in California and Arizona. This map shows the layout of a labor camp in Thornton, San Joaquin County, California.
Cotton Mattress Making, cover

Cover of a USDA circular promoting home production of cotton mattresses. This program not only created a market for a surplus commodity, it helped low-income rural families make a useful product that could improve their home.
Cotton Mattress Making, p.2

A USDA circular promoting home production of cotton mattresses. Materials needed to make a mattress included "10 Yards--8 oz. Ticking," "50 Pounds Long Staple Cotton," "Mattress Roll Needle," and "Thread for Making Roll." Page 2 of 4.
Cotton Mattress Making, p.3

A USDA circular promoting home production of cotton mattresses. Page 3 of 4.
Cotton Mattress Making, p.4

The final stage in the process involved giving the mattress a vigorous pounding with stout sticks. From a USDA Circular. Page 4 of 4.
FSA Labor camp maps - Arizona

Map from a report on Farm Security Administration labor camps. This map shows camps under construction, proposed camps, part time, full time, and seasonal camps in Arizona.
FSA Labor camp maps - Ceres

Map from a report on Farm Security Administration labor camps in California and Arizona. This map shows the layout of a labor camp in Ceres, Stanislaus County, California.
FSA Labor camp maps - Yuba City

Map from a report on Farm Security Administration labor camps in California and Arizona. This map shows the layout of a labor camp in Yuba City, Sutter County, California.
Ezekiel memo, chart, May 9, 1933. USDA History Collection

Chart attached to draft of memo to Secretary Henry A. Wallace from Mordecai Ezekiel, May 9, 1933, illustrating numbers of employed and unemployed people in the industrial sector of the economy, including manufacturing, mining, transportation, trade…
M. L. Wilson cartoon. USDA History Collection

Dr. Milburn Lincoln Wilson, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture.  Behind the plowshare on an Iowa farm he built the foundation for an agricultural career that has advanced him from ordinary farmer to a recognized authority on wheat production and…

Embroidered patch for Victory Farm Volunteers.

"Many boys and girls are proudly wearing a new emblem on their sweaters this Fall. Look for the big C with the letters VFV in the center. The C indicates that this group is a youth branch of the United States Crop Corps, and the letters VFV stand for…
Cotton Mattress Letter

Letter from an Extension Service official in Washington to his counterpart in Louisiana, discussing the Cotton Mattress program, and a demonstration that had been recently held in the USDA Administration Building.
Ezekiel memo, May 9, 1933

Draft of a memorandum to Secretary Henry A. Wallace from his Economic Advisor, Mordecai Ezekiel, May 9, 1933. Ezekiel presents an estimate of employed and unemployed people in the industrial sector of the economy, including manufacturing, mining,…

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