Posted by: Laura | March 1, 2013

Happy 125th Anniversary to the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station!

An Experiment Station research farm in winter (University Photographs, box 529).

An Experiment Station research farm in winter (University Photographs, box 529).

This Friday, March 1, 2013, the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station (IAHEES) celebrates its 125th anniversary! Since its inception, the Experiment Station has existed under the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and although it serves as the research arm of the College, the Experiment Station also supports programs in almost every other college at Iowa State and at a number of off-campus research facilities in the surrounding area. During the earliest years of its existence, Experiment Station research focused on soil, crops, horticulture, and dairying. Today, research conducted by Experiment Station staff has a broad scope and is multidisciplinary in practice reflecting the complexity of agricultural problems facing scientists and farmers today.

Early experiment station field (University Photographs, box 529; also available online through Digital Collections)

Early experiment station field (University Photographs, box 529; also available online through Digital Collections)

The IAHEES was founded at Iowa State as a result of legislation (known as the Hatch Act) passed by the U.S. Congress on March 2, 1887 which provided funding for agricultural research at land grant colleges. The exact date, almost a year later, that the Iowa General Assembly approved the terms of the Hatch Act is a little less definite since different sources from that time cite slightly different dates.  However, the Acts and Resolutions Passed at the Regular Session of the Twenty-Second General Assembly of the State of Iowa…, published under the authority of the State of Iowa and printed in 1888, says that the acceptance of the terms of the Hatch Act was on March 1, 1888. This is the date we are using. If anyone has reason to believe it was in February or on March 2nd or March 3rd as several other contemporary sources cite, please let us know!

The University Archives has a variety of books and records documenting the history and activities of the Experiment Station. Records in the University Archives are listed here. These include News Clippings, Biographical Files, Annual Reports, Newsletters, Subject Files, Administrative Records, Research Project Records, and others.

9-2-4_experiment station_3-4-1_72dpi

Photograph from the “Study of the Horse as a Motor”. The contraption to the left is probably the dynamometer, which “furnishes constant resistant to each of two horses”. (from Report of Progress 1923). The repoRS 9/2/4, box 3, folder 4)

Interested in the details of studies done at the experiment station, especially from the early years? The Research Project Records (RS 9/2/4) and the Research and Demonstration Farms Records (RS 9/2/10) contain a variety of records related to a select number of projects.  For instance, the “Study of the Horse as a Motor” (RS 9/2/10, box 3, folders 3-4) contains photographs, annual reports, news clippings, dynamometer blueprints, news releases, and data from horse and mule pulling tests.

Photograph of terrace work on an Iowa farm in June 1931 for Project No. 232, "Studies on Soil Erosion on the Marshall Silt Loam in Page County, Iowa." (from RS 9/2/4, box 3, folder 4).

Photograph of terrace work on an Iowa farm in June 1931 for Project No. 232, “Studies on Soil Erosion on the Marshall Silt Loam in Page County, Iowa.” (from RS 9/2/4, box 3, folder 4).

In addition to the records, there are many publications available in Special Collections and the General Collection which can be found through the University Library’s search system. There are hundreds of them, so you should have a decent idea of what type of topics you are interested in!  Even by 1909, the annual report was divided by section such as agricultural engineering section, husbandry section, and others.

To get an idea of the early experiments done at the experiment station, good places to look is also the annual reports (RS 9/2/0/1) and the Bulletin (call number S542 Io9b; also available in microfilm).  The first bulletin from 1888 describes the background and organization of the experiment station. The second bulletin (September 1888) contains six reports which give an idea of the variety of studies already taking place during the first few months of the experiment station’s existence:  “Corn Tassels, Silks, and Blades,” “Proposed Chemical Work: Fodder Analysis,” “Grasses and Other Forage Plants,” “Chinch Bug Remedies,” “Arsenic Experiments,” and “Promising New Cherries.” Another fun aspect of the early bulletins in the University Archives is that they were once owned by Samuel W. Beyer, geology and mining engineering professor and dean at Iowa State (1891-1931). Beyer was also a major figure in Iowa State athletics, bringing Homecoming to Iowa State among many other contributions.

Another interesting set of publications are the Wartime Farm and Food Policy Publications (RS 9/2/0/5) which contain Pamphlet No. 5, Putting Dairying on War Footing. This publication caused a controversy at Iowa State because it promoted the production and consumption of oleo margarine instead of butter. The resulting backlash by the dairy industry forced the college to publish a revised edition which in turn resulted in the departure of several researchers in protest. This publication can also be found online.

Not able to make it to the Special Collections Department or the University Library? A variety of photographs and publications (such as the Research Bulletin) related to IAHEES can be found online  here in Digital Collections as well.

Interested in visiting the University Archives to learn more?  Then take a look at the finding aids for the records related to the Experiment Station, come visit the Special Collections Department (open M-F, 10-4), and request the boxes from the collections you would like to see!

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