Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture records
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture was established in 1785, when John Beale Bordley proposed to members of the American Philosophical Society that they form an American agricultural society in the British pattern. On the first of March the Society held its charter meeting with twenty-three members present. Charter members include prominent judges and lawyers (John Beale Bordley, Richard Peters, James Wilson, and Edward Shippen), military leaders (General John Cadwalader, Colonel George Morgan, Colonel John Nixon), doctors (Benjamin Rush, John Jones, George Logan, Adam Kuhn), and politicians (Samuel Powel, George Clymer, Henry Hill, Philemon Dickinson, Samuel Vaughn, Lambert Cadwalader, Tench Francis, Charles Thompson). Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine became members later in that year.
In its early years the Agricultural Society met on the first Monday of each month, when six or eight prominent men would come together to discuss agriculture and rural affairs. These men hoped to encourage new developments in agricultural practice through experimentation and scientific research. In the patriotic spirit of the time, early members were concerned that America not fall behind England's rapid agricultural advances. Central to their concerns were crop rotation, soil fertility, and animal husbandry. Prizes or premiums were offered for agricultural accomplishments in order to stimulate experimentation. Papers published by the Society (among them the ground breaking "Address to American Farmers," and George Morgan's "Plan for a Farm Yard") had broad circulation and were widely influential in American farming practice.
One of the most concrete accomplishments of the early Society was the construction of a permanent bridge over the Schuylkill river, the first of its kind in America, and the longest covered bridge in the world. The Society drew up the plans for the bridge and raised the $300,000 necessary to fund the project. Completed in 1804, the Schuylkill bridge facilitated the transport of farm produce from Chester and Lancaster Counties into the Philadelphia Market.
Though a few truly gifted scientific minds (such as Morgan and Bordley) did make considerable advances in theories of agriculture, the group never realized its goal of offering leadership to the common farmer. Throughout its early years the Society was riven by political conflict between Federalists and Anti-Federalist, and several times members left the Society to start rival groups. In the period between 1793 and 1805 meetings were held only periodically, and the activities of the Society were for the most part abandoned.
In 1805, after the death of President Samuel Powel and of Vice President and founder John Beale Bordley, the Society was reorganized under the leadership of Richard Peters. Once again, a handful of wealthy patrons of agriculture gathered monthly to discuss agricultural methods. The practice of offering awards and premiums was revived. The first Agricultural exhibition was held in 1822, featuring cattle, farm products, and machinery. In this, the most fruitful period of its history, the Philadelphia Society tested, identified, and analyzed seeds and plant specimens. They also served as a distribution center to make foreign seeds available to American farmers for experimentation. The Society researched methods of animal husbandry and soil fertilization, investigated outbreaks of plant and animal disease, and encouraged the development of labor-saving machinery. During this period five volumes of Memoirs were published (in 1808, 1811, 1814, 1818, and 1826), each containing significant agricultural articles of the time. From 1816 to 1829 the Society published an almanac to propagate scientific developments in agriculture among working American farmers.
After the death of Richard Peters in 1828, John Hare Powel was elected president, followed by Nicholas Biddle from 1831 to 1844 and James Mease from 1844 to 1846. Throughout this period the Society continued to offer premiums for plant breeding and farm management. From 1838 to 1856 they sponsored annual exhibitions. These exhibitions featured livestock, displays of agricultural implements, and a plowing match. In 1847 members established the Farmer's Club as an auxiliary to the Society. This group initially met at the farms of different members to inspect the farm and then to discuss agricultural issues of current interest. Later the Club functioned primarily as a social gathering.
This early period was the most intensely active and the most fruitful of the Society's history. The Society's members from this time were among the most influential thinkers in experimental agriculture. The scope of their vision of agricultural progress as well as their insistence on rigorous experimentation and scientific method laid the groundwork for the rapid advance of American farming practice in the nineteenth century.
From the beginning the Agricultural Society believed one of its primary tasks to be the establishment of a network of agricultural organizations in the region and across the country. As S.W. Fletcher writes in his history of P.S.P.A.:
In 1855 this ambition was partially realized with the founding of the "Farmer's High School," now Penn State University. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine also owes its existence in part to the influence and support of the Philadelphia Society. Benjamin Rush delivered the first series of lectures on veterinary medicine to the Society as early as 1807, and another series was attempted by James Mease in 1813, though it was not until 1883 that the Society's ambition to start a Veterinary school was formally fulfilled through the founding of the Veterinary School. Throughout this time the Society toyed with the idea of a model farm or "Pattern Farm," which would serve as a working laboratory for agricultural experimentation. This project never came to fruition, but the principles behind it were realized with the establishment of agricultural experiment stations across the region in the late nineteenth century.
It was a comprehensive and far-seeing program for the advancement of Pennsylvania agriculture in several other ways, including the organization of county agricultural societies, the establishment of pattern farms, the endowment by the state of professorships in agriculture and its supporting sciences at colleges, elementary teaching of agriculture in the public schools, and specialized instruction in agriculture at institutions of college grade. (Fletcher, 73)
The Society also played a role in the organization of state and federal departments to oversee agriculture. In 1851, the establishment of the Pennsylvania State Agricultural Society represented the achievement of a long-term goal for the Society. At the same time, the role P.S.P.A. had played in collecting and distributing agricultural knowledge was made obsolete by the growth of this network of governmental and academic research institutions. County and regional organizations drew membership away from the Philadelphia Society, and more authoritative regional and federal associations sapped their influence on the national agricultural scene. The State Society encroached on the local functions of P.S.P.A. when it took over the task of sponsoring the annual agricultural exhibition (later the State Fair).
The onset of the Civil War also disrupted the Society's activities. One member recalls: "The bitter discussions over the incidents of the Civil War 1860-1866 caused the attendance at the meetings to fall off to nothing. Consequently there were no more meetings held during that period. & It is a curious fact that these horny fisted Farmers of the Agricultural Society were to such a large proportion, Southern sympathizers" (Letter from Burnet Landreth to George Curwen, May 12, 1926). Toward the end of the century meetings became irregular and eventually ceased altogether in 1885.
While its activities were sometimes erratic and its projects often never realized, during its most productive period the Society did vastly influence the development of agricultural education and research in the nineteenth century. The primary achievements of these early members were neither their activities nor their projects. Their legacy to American agriculture was instead the direction of their vision, toward scientific experimentation and research, formal agricultural education, and a strong role for government agencies in the advancement and supervision of agricultural progress.
In 1909 Leonard Pearson (Dean of the Veterinary School) discovered several cartons of books and papers belonging to the old Society in the basement of the newly built Furness Library. This discovery inspired the five members of the old Society who were still living to meet once again. Twenty years after the last meeting of the Old Society, the modern P.S.P.A. was born. Membership rapidly expanded, and the group soon adopted the By-Laws established in the 19th century.
From the time of its reinception, the modern Society (or junior Society as one member termed it) was preoccupied with its early history and self-consciously worked to mimic the activities of the older group. Many of the junior members were descended from charter members, and an effort was made to enroll members with such legacy. Their concern and care for the early Society's library and artwork reflect this veneration as well.
By the 1920s and 30s, however, the junior Society began to redefine their role in regional agriculture to better suit the twentieth century. The Society showed an active awareness of agricultural issues of the time. In 1920 a special committee was formed to investigate Bovine Tuberculosis. This committee recommended that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania reimburse farmers whose cattle had been destroyed because of Tuberculosis. In the late 1920s the Society sponsored agricultural prizes for Potatoes and Hickory Nuts in order to encourage progress in plant breeding and fertilization. In 1932 the Society revived the custom of honoring achievement in agriculture with annual awards. In the early 1940s the practice of invited guest speakers to lecture on topics of agricultural interest was resumed.
In honor of the Society's 150th anniversary in 1935, Rodney H. True, of the Library and Archives Committee, presented a paper on the early history of the Society. This paper was printed as a pamphlet, entitled, "A Sketch of the History of P.S.P.A." This historical sketch revived interest in the history of the Society, and inspired John Okie to propose a wider scale reprinting of the work in 1936. This project gradually evolved "due to a desire to offer something more, a greater value." The Society undertook to produce a larger volume, including the Sketch, but also complete with illustrations, reproductions of original letters, and transcriptions of manuscript material. This expanded history would be the sequel to the earlier volumes of Memoirs published by the Society in the nineteenth century. "It is proposed to add considerably to the original pamphlet, making of it a bound book such as might be designated Memoirs VI" (from an undated [1937?] memorandum by J. M. Okie). The writing, publication, and sale of Memoirs VI became the focus of John Okie's efforts and the center of much of the Society's business for the next several years. After publication of this volume in 1939, Okie collected reviews and letters responding to Memoirs, and bound them together as the two volume Comments on Memoirs VI. At the time of his death in 1947, Okie was gathering material for a proposed seventh volume of Memoirs.
The Society began to build up a collection of agricultural books in the early nineteenth century. Under the direction of Dr. James Mease, foreign and American agricultural books and pamphlets were assembled. Other works were contributed by correspondents. In 1825 a catalog of the library was assembled and published. In 1888, around the time that the Society began to dissolve, P.S.P.A.'s library of more than 500 volumes was deposited with the University of Pennsylvania and housed in the Furness library (now known as the Fisher Fine Arts Library). At the same time a fund was established for the purchase of additional books to expand the collection over the years.
At the time of the revival of the Society the collections were removed to the basement of the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, where the Society then held their meetings. In 1922, 121 volumes were purchased in England on the recommendation of Rodney H. True. These books were housed in the Main Library, as opposed to the Veterinary School library, where there were an additional 610 volumes (Hoopes, Librarian's Report, 1926).
In 1935, several months after the 150th anniversary celebration, John Okie discovered the manuscript material of the early Society. He removed the material to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where he had it conserved according to contemporary practices. Despite the Historical Society's wish to keep the manuscripts in their library, the collection was returned to the library of the Veterinary School in 1939.
In the mid-1950s the library was moved from the Veterinary School Library to the Rare Book Collection, where some cataloging and conservation work was done. Also under discussion was whether the library fund, administered by the University of Pennsylvania, would finance the history of the Society to be written by S.W. Fletcher. In the early 1960s the collection was moved to Van Pelt Library where further conservation and indexing was accomplished.
In the early 1980s, during the renovation of Horticulture Hall in Fairmount Park, three hundred 19th century agricultural books were found mildewing in boxes in the basement. After some confusion about the ownership of the library, P.S.P.A. paid the City of Philadelphia $1.00 for the collection, which was then distributed among interested agricultural organizations.
In the late 1970s, the University of Pennsylvania refused the addition of Amos Kirby and James Hornor's collections of Agricultural books to their holdings in the Rare Book Collection. The library then stated that it would accept only books printed before the 19th century (Letter from S. C. Loveland to S. Forde Hansell, July 17, 1980). Then President James Hornor, believing that the collection should be housed in a single library, offered the Society's book and library collection to the American Philosophical Society on permanent deposit in 1978 (letter of Whitfield J. Bell to James Hornor, October 5, 1978). This incited intense debate and some tension between the Society and the University of Pennsylvania and prompted a legal investigation into the ownership of the collection. The Society voted on a resolution to give the collection to the University of Pennsylvania in December of 1980. The difficult situation was finally resolved in a meeting between P.S.P.A. and the Penn Library. "The books now on deposit at the University Library will remain there in the care of the University as they have in the past. The University Library, from time to time, will accept additional historical and contemporary books, manuscripts, and papers which the Philadelphia Society deems important to add to the collection. It is thought that such additions will not exceed ten volumes annually" (letter from S.C. Loveland to Joan I. Gotwals, Dec. 15, 1980). In 1986 the Society raised funds and received a Pew grant for the restoration and conservation of their library and archives.
In the 1970s the Society briefly moved its headquarters to the historic Kidd-Fling House, which it shared with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The group remained active in local agricultural events and fairs, and in 1976 was involved in Philadelphia's celebration of the American Bicentennial. This included their participation in a documentary film project on the history of Pennsylvania agriculture. In 1985 P.S.P.A. celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary by organizing a forum of speakers on the topic of international issues of food and hunger. This event marked a considerable change in the scope of the Society's activities, with the shift of its focus to the international community, and the combination of scientific research and social policy. The success of this event brought the spotlight back on the Society within the Philadelphia community, and revitalized the interest of the membership in hosting presentations by outstanding speakers, field trips and distribution of information via their website.
While P.S.P.A. members of the second half of the century are still not farmers, they are less often patrons of agriculture, or farm hobbyists. Rather they are the journalists, politicians and businessmen shaping American food industry. They might work for the U.S.D.A., for Agricultural and Veterinary schools, or in Agribusiness, such as Campbell Soup, or Dupont. The younger generation of members have global interests that tie together farming, world politics, and economics.
These letters date primarily from the early nineteenth century, and include correspondence with foreign and American agricultural societies, as well as letters among significant social and political figures. Major correspondents who wrote representing the Society include Nicholas Biddle, John Beale Bordley, Richard Peters, James Gowen, James Mease, Algernon S. Roberts, Robert Vaux, and Richard Wistar. American agricultural societies include the Agricultural Society of Bucks County, the Agricultural Society of South Carolina, the Berkshire (Mass.) Agricultural Society, the North Carolina Agricultural Society, and the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture. Foreign organizations include Accademia economico-agraria dei georgofili of Italy, the Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle of France, the English Board of Agriculture, and the Royal Agricultural Society of Jamaica. Political correspondents include U.S. Presidents George Washington, John Quincy Adams, and James Madison. Many of these correspondents are Quakers. The one woman correspondent was Hannah Barnard, a notable Pennsylvania farmer.
Communication with the Society consists of queries by farmers, recommendations for farming practice, and data collected during practical farming experiments. Topics of concern to nineteenth century farmers include the Hessian fly, crop rotation, fertilizer, and the benefits of planting clover. Letters of particular interest include one in which Henry Wynkoop recommends fertilizing with "Plaistre of Paris" (Wynkoop, 1787.) In 1787 Elias Boudinot wrote to communicate "some Experiments I have made on the Culture of the very useful Grain, Indian Corn." George Logan wrote to recommend that hard spirits be banned from the farm. Instead he praises Small Malt Beer, for which he includes a recipe (George Logan, 1787). All of the letters in this series have been cataloged on RLIN and are listed individual in the index following the container list. Photostat and typescript copies of some material may be found in the John Okie Papers with added historical notes.
In 1793, John Beale Bordley copied correspondence with the Society into a bound folio entitled "Communications." These letters date from 1785 to 1789 and include letters not on record elsewhere. In 1805, after Bordley's death, George Clymer reported that he had received from John Bordley's executor "the book to record the correspondence of the Society & which [was] found among Mr. Bordley's papers" (Society's Minutes, I, 155).
Bound volumes of minutes date from 1785 to 1846. Additional loose papers date from as late as 1864. During the second half of the nineteenth century these minutes relate to such topics as sorghum cane, the distribution of seeds by the National Government, the establishment of the new Veterinary School, plans for cattle shows and exhibitions, et cetera. Minutes of various committees date primarily from the early nineteenth century and include such committees as Cattle, Crops, and Agricultural Implements. Minutes often contain transcriptions of communications presented before the Society. A bound volume entitled "Pattern Farm" refers to the Society's ongoing project of establishing model farms for the purpose of experimentation and research. This book is mostly blank and contains only a few pages of notes. The "Pattern Farm" project was never realized.
The general correspondence of P.S.P.A. reflects the changing concerns of the Society from its early years to the present day. The twentieth century letters represent the correspondence of the Society with members, with guest speakers and honorees, and with academic, scientific, and research institutions concerning topics relating to agriculture. Most correspondence was handled by the secretaries of the Society. The earliest Secretary was R. Francis Wood, who carried on almost no correspondence other than administrative during his term from 1909 to 1915. The same is true for his successor, John E. Lloyd, who served from 1915 to 1920.
The bulk of this material dates from the 1930s and early 1940s, when the Society expanded its vision of the role it would play in national agricultural concerns. The establishment of various committees (to advise state legislature or to participate in agricultural events, for example) gave the Society exposure to many individuals and institutions involved in agriculture nationwide. The reestablishment of the practice of having monthly speakers and awarding medals annually prompted additional correspondence. The Society's 150th anniversary celebration sparked interest in the history of agriculture and in other agricultural organizations across the country. George Curwen (Secretary from 1918 to 1939) and John Okie (Assistant Secretary from 1923 to 1939) both carried on extensive correspondence during this period. Letters John Okie wrote in his official capacity often led to the establishment of more personal correspondence, some of which continued well after he resigned his position in the Society. For this reason, correspondence sustained by John M. Okie alone has been moved to Series III, the John M. Okie Papers.
The correspondence of L. Wayne Arny, who served as Secretary from 1939 to 1956 or 7 does not seem to have survived. R. Henry Morris III was Secretary from 1958 to 1961, and Mark Allam briefly served from 1961 to 1962. In 1962 William White was elected and served until 1983. Ralph E. Bartholomew is the most recent known Secretary; he was still in office in 1986.
Letters concerning the Hickory Nut Contest in the late 1920s include correspondence with J. F. Jones, and J. Russell Smith. In the 1930s the Society established a Committe to investigate illness in dairy cattle. Several of the correspondents at this period were cattle breeders or veterinarians involved with research on Bang's Disease ( Brucella Abortus ) and Bovine Tuberculosis. Among these were T. E. Munce, E. S. Deubler, E. T. Gill, Miller Freeman Barnes, J. H. McNeil, and John R. Mohler.
Other correspondents include Agricultural and Historical Associations. Among these are the Agricultural History Society, the Maryland Agricultural Society, the Massachussets Society for Promoting Agriculture, the New York State Agricultural Society, the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and the New Jersey State Agricultural Society (see also Phillip Alampi). The Society also corresponded with the South Carolina Society for Promoting Agriculture (see also William Hayne Mills) and attended their 150th anniversary celebration. The Society was often in contact with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society concerning joint activities, the loan or retrieval of books, and the establishment of their shared office space in the Kidd-Fling House.
The Society had many contacts in the field of agricultural education, and was particularly involved with Penn State College (later Penn State University), which it had helped establish. Correspondence with other academic institutions include the Philadelphia High School of Agriculture and Horticulture, the Universities of Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, Rutgers, the Hampton Institute, and North Carolina State College School of Agriculture. Individuals involved in agricultural education include Raymond A. Pearson, president of the University of Maryland, R.D. Hetzel, the President of Penn State, E.K. Hibsham, R.L. Watts and E.L. Nixon also of Penn State, C.C. Palmer, and C.A. McCue of the University of Delaware, William Hayne Mills of Clemson College, and Charles Shreiner of the Church Farm School.
In the media, P.S.P.A. corrseponded with the Pennsylvania Farmer, with Wheeler McMillen of the Farm Journal, and most recently with John Hoskyns-Abrahall, the director of film project on the history of Pennsylvania agriculture. Among research institutions and associations are the International Congress of Soil Science, the National Farm Chemurgic Council, the National Research Council, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Soil Conservation Society of America, and the U.S.D.A. Correspondence with Pew Charitable Trust (also Glenmede) relates to a grant to fund the conservation of the Society's library and papers.
Other significant correspondents include Effingham B. Morris, U.S. Senator George Wharton Pepper, President Dwight Eisenhower, Morris T. Phillips, Abram Bunn Ross, Carl R. Woodward, and Jacob G. Lipman. For an index of significant correspondents, refer to Appendix B.
Administrative correspondence includes letters between executive officers of the Society, including the Secretary and sometimes committee chairs. These letters are organized chronologically and provide an overview of the Society's projects and concerns from its revival in 1909 to present day. These letters cover such topics as the Sesqui-centennial Fair (1925), the Hickory Nut Contest (1926), the First International Congress of Soil Science (1927), the 150th Anniversary Banquet (1935), the Agricultural History film project (1974), the move to the Kidd-Fling House (1984), the Bicentennial Forum (1985), and the application for a Pew grant (1986). Other letters relate to planning meetings and events, deciding on speakers and honorees, or discussing issues of rules and membership.
Letters written by officers of the Society before they were elected (and therefore before they had administrative responsibilities) are filed with General Correspondence. Administrative Correspondence among members of subcommittes (Membership, Library and Archives, etc.) are filed with the records of the particular committee. Treasurer's correspondence is filed with the Financial Records. Refer to Appendix C for a list of the officers of P.S.P.A. and the dates of their terms.
Circulars were sent to the membership once or twice a month to give notice of meetings, schedules of outings and events, and general Society news. When new members were elected, short biographies were published in these newletters. Background information on speakers as well as the topics of their speeches was also distributed. These circulars are a good source of information and dates for activities and events.
In 1928 the By-Laws of the Society state that resident membership is limited to one hundred (this was later adjusted to 115). New members must first be proposed, and then this proposal must be seconded by at least two other members. Biographical information and the letters of recommendation are reviewed by the Committee on Membership at their meeting. Members judged appropriate by the committee are then presented for election at the next luncheon meeting. In addition to resident members there were also Honorary Members and Life Members. Over the years, a catagory of Inactive members was also created. By 1983 the Committee on Membership had been renamed the "Admissions Committee."
Though the Society has always been to some degree a group of gentlemen farmers, shifting trends in membership give us an idea of the changing face of the Society, reflecting its goals and interests. When the Society was first revived in 1909, membership was primarily doctors, academics, and those interested in Colonial Philadelphia. In a 1934 letter, Edward Hoopes expressed his concern about membership: "while county agents are mighty fine fellows and have excellent agricultural knowledge, they are not just the types from whom we want to draw our membership. We, as a society, are not agriculturalists, but rather patrons and benefactors of agriculturalists. We want a businessman who is interested in agriculture because he owns a farm as a hobby, not his farm manager who may have a much greater knowledge of farming than the owner" (in a letter to George Curwen, November 30, 1934). By the late twentieth century, the membership is primarily those involved in research, agricultural agencies, or agribusiness.
Typically, member files might contain one or more of the following: proposals for membership (filed under the name of the proposed member); c.v. or resume; admissions committee worksheet (including biographical data); notification and acceptance of election; questions about billing; change of address; nominations to committees; letters of resignation; obituaries and condolence letters; related clippings. For a list of members names found in these files, refer to Appendix D. (N.B. This is not a comprehensive list of members. Additionally, individuals listed in this file may never have actually become members.)
In addition to member files, this series also contains correspondence between members of the committee, member lists, directories, and membership ledgers.
The expansion of the Society's library, as well as the preservation of existing volumes, has been a central concern of the Society since the 19th century. After the revival of the Society in the early twentieth century, responsibility for the collection was shared between elected officers of the Society and librarians at the University of Pennsylvania where the collection was housed. Charles Seltzer and Edward Hoopes were the first twentieth century curators of the library. Edward Hoopes continued as Librarian until 1937 when he was succeeded by Louis A. Klein. Rodney True of the Morris Arboretum and John Okie were also involved in the purchase of books and periodicals for the Society's library. There seems to have been no librarian after Louis A. Klein's death in the early 1950s. More active in the 1960s was the "Archivists Committee," for which Amos Kirby served as chairman. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Samuel Loveland served as the Chairman of the "Library, Art, and Property Committee."
Letters relate to the purchase of new volumes, the conservation of manuscripts, insurance on the library and portraits, the housing of the collection, and some discussion of the publication of the Sketch and Memoirs VI. Correspondence includes letters among members, with book sellers, and with librarians at the University of Pennsylvania. During this period, the Librarians of the Society were advised in their purchase and storage of books by the University of Pennsylvania Librarians at both the Main Library (Asa Don Dickinson, and later C. Seymour Thompson) and at the Veterinary School (V. G. Kimball). At the end of this subseries are lists of library aquisitions, agreements with the University of Pennsylvania, a catalog of the Horticultural Hall library, and legal documents regarding the loan of these books. (N.B. Some of the book transactions made by John Okie in an unofficial capacity may relate to the Society's library; this information may be found in the John M. Okie Papers.)
In addition to the executive officers of the Society, other permanent committees include: the Activities Committee, in charge of organizing outings and events; the Board of Managers; the Executive Committee; the Nominating Committee, in charge of the election of officers. Temporary committees were periodically appointed to decide on matters of special concern. Special Committees represented in this series are (alphabetically) the Bicentennial Committee, the Committee on Agricultural Policy, the Committee on Bovine Tuberculosis, and the Committee on the Congress of Soil Science. This series contains notes and minutes from the meetings of these committees, as well as lists of committee appointments.
During the early years of the twentieth century, the Secretary of the Society was also responsible for keeping financial records. By the early 1920s, however, a separate position was created for the Treasurer. Edward Hoopes served as the first Treasurer from 1920 to 1937. Robert Ligget followed him from 1937 to 1942, when Jay V. Hare took office. Sometime between 1942 and 1947 Edward Woolman was elected and served for several years. By 1956 Edward W. Coslett, Jr. had taken office and served until 1968, when he was succeeded by Paul Hand, who served at least until 1986.
Among the duties of the Treasurer were billing members, recording disbursments, paying bills, and filing yearly financial reports. The treasurer's correspondence records the financial component of the Society's many projects and events, including the awarding of cash prizes, and publication of Memoirs VI and Sketch of the History of P.S.P.A. Also included in the Treasurer's correspondence are records of fundraising efforts for the Hayward Memorial, furnishing of the Kidd-Fling House, the Bicentennial Forum, and the library conservation project.
Early in the twentieth century, proceedings of monthly luncheon meetings were taken down in minute books. These bound volumes apparently contain a complete record of meetings from 1905 to 1982. Later volumes are interleaved with invitations, programs, and photographs. In addition this series contains other loose leaves of minutes, dating up to 1985. Attendance lists were taken for billing purposes. Such special meetings as the 150th Anniversary banquet the Bicentennial Forum and the Vox Populi Meeting required extra planning. Material related to these meetings includes notes, invitations, publicity, and guest lists. Also included are miscellaneous guest lists and calendars.
The Society regularly invited guest speakers to lecture on topics of interest. Speeches were also given by officers at special events and by award recipients. An examination of the speech topics over the years reveals trends in American agriculture. Several speakers in the late 20s and early 30s addressed the topic of blueberry and cranberry culture. Illness in cattle was also a popular topic at this time. By the 1950s the primary topic was soil conservation. Later addresses concern the scientific developments in agricultural research and the business aspects of farming. A chronological (but not complete) list of speakers with the titles of their speeches may be found in the appendices.
Early speeches (1911-1935) have been transcribed along with introductions and question and answer sessions. In later years copies of speeches were sometimes provided by the speakers themselves. Material related to speeches includes biographies of the speakers, notes, and figures. Letters to and from speakers regarding the logistics of their speeches are filed with general correspondence. Though there were apparently speeches given between 1940 and 1959, the collection contains no material related to the speakers or their speeches during this period. Unidentified speeches are filed with Collected Agricultural Material, though they may in fact have been delivered to the Society at some point.
In 1932 the Society revived the practice of awarding medals annually to recognize achievement in the field of agriculture. Related material includes biographical material on the honoree, invitations, programs, photos, citations, guest lists, and menus. (N.B. Speeches delivered at award banquets are filed with Speeches.) Also included is correspondence with engravers regarding medals and certificates. In 1914 the Society instituted a prize for potato growing and in 1934 the Society honored the achievement of Harry Hayward by establishing a memorial in his honor. The Society also offered scholarships for students pursuing the study of agriculture.
Over the years the Society undertook several long-term projects outside of their usual activities. Some material relating to these projects has survived, including grant proposals for the library conservation project, the film proposals for "Two hundred years of Pennsylvania Agriculture," the Kidd-Fling agreement, and the Schuylkill Valley Nature Center Farm Proposal.
Other activities of the Society included outings and visits to local farms and businesses, including Hershey, Walker-Gordon Dairy, and a trip to visit homes on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This series comprises material relating to a few of these outings, including schedules, maps, brochures, and itineraries.
This series contains articles and clippings related to P.S.P.A., including S.W. Fletcher's extended work "Early American Agriculture." Also included are a tin sign reading "Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture," several medals, and photographs from the 1930s, as well as from a more recent banquet.
Officers of the Society often collected copies of articles, speeches, brochures, and pamphlets related to their research interests. Among these papers are promotional materials relating to agricultural industries, U.S.D.A. reports, the minutes of the Pennsylvania Rural Progress Association Country Life Conference in 1912, and a collection of papers relating to wax coatings on vegetables, which seem to have been gathered by R. Henry Morris III in his professional capacity with the U.S.D.A.
John M. Okie (retired from the real estate department of Girard Trust) became a member of P.S.P.A. in 1916, and served as the Assistant Secretary of the Society from 1922 to 1938. He was awarded the Society's medal in 1935, at the 150th anniversary of P.S.P.A. He was very active in the affairs of the society, and initiated projects to restore the gravestones of Elizabeth and John Beale Bordley, to donate a plaque commemorating University of Delaware Professor Harry Haward, and to publish Memoirs VI. It was John Okie who made the discovery of the original letters and papers of the Society's early members in 1935. Okie took on the task of rehousing, transcribing, and cataloging these manuscripts, eventually producing bound volumes of typescript copies of these papers, to be found at the end of Series III. Okie was also responsible for "silking" a volume of early minutes, and for the housing of early papers in bound volumes. In February of 1938 John Okie resigned from his formal positions in the administration of the Society, feeling slighted that his labor with the manuscripts had not been rewarded with a Life Membership in the Society (he had been offered an Honorary Membership instead). Despite continuing tensions between him and the officers of the Society, John Okie continued to devote his time and labor to researching the history of P.S.P.A. During this time he compiled fifteen bound volumes of material related to his research, including transcripts of research letters, excerpts from the Society's papers, photographs, memoranda, and research notes. Several of these are general volumes, others relate to specific figures from the history of the Society, including John Beale Bordley, John and George Morgan, George Logan, James Mease, George Clymer, Colonel Pickering, Elias Boudinot, Nicholas and Craig Biddle, and Richard Peters. Another volume is a collection of research material on the connection between Craig Biddle and the Farmer's Club of Pennsylvania.
Through his research for Memoirs VI, Okie corresponded with several prominent figures in the field of agricultural history, including Carl R. Woodward of Rutgers and W.H. Mills of Clemson University. Mr. Okie contacted many libraries, Historical Associations, and Agricultural Societies. Among these, the most substantial correspondence was with the Pennsylvania State College Library, the Illinois State Historical Library, the Massachussets Society for Promoting Agriculture, and the McCormick Historical Association. In his search for biographical material on the Society's early members he contacted the descendents of such figures as Craig and Nicholas Biddle, Captain John Morgan, and John Beale Bordley. This historical correspondence is certainly the most interesting portion of the John Okie Papers, and deserves attention from scholars wishing to pursue the history of the society.
Gift of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture.
Select material (Boxes 1-20, 24, 26) from this collection has been digitized and can be viewed online in Colenda.
More detailed information regarding the correspondence (boxes 1-16) can be found in Franklin.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Rebecca C. Smith, Anthea Waleson, and Margaret Kruesi
- Finding Aid Date
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