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Department of Agricultural Engineering records

Identifier: ua-00339

Scope and Content

The Department of Agricultural Engineering records are primarily composed of correspondence between the department head and faculty and local, state and national groups and organizations. The collection is arranged in the following series:
  1. American Society of Agricultural Engineers
  2. Agricultural colleges and universities and state extension services
  3. Companies involved in engineering activities
  4. County extension agents in Minnesota
  5. The United States government, particularly the USDA
  6. International faculty colleagues and project administrators
  7. Minnesota state agencies involved in public engineering projects
  8. Professional, fraternal and civic organizations
  9. The University of Minnesota
  10. Arthur Schwantes File
Materials in the University of Minnesota series is arranged in four sub-series: Lectures; Projects; Minutes and Correspondence. The Correspondence sub-series is further subdivided between Agricultural Engineering and other agriculture-related departments at the University, and departmental correspondence with individuals and businesses. The bulk of general correspondence is represented in the detailed contents list as “Correspondence” and sections of the alphabet , ie, ”A-C”. Some general correspondents are identified by name: these individuals often worked on a volunteer basis for the department monitoring well levels or soil gauges.

Much of the correspondence is written or signed by William Boss, second head of the Department of Agricultural Engineering from 1919 to 1938. There is also extensive correspondence between the succeeding department head, A.J. Schwantes, between 1920 and 1941 when he was a professor in the department.

In addition to the correspondence-based series, the collection includes both a Publications and a Project series, as well as a Subject File series including correspondence, clippings, reports and memos. The Arthur Schwantes series contains materials generated in the department by Dr. Schwantes prior to the time he was department head focusing on research conducted on boulder and stump removal and text and photographic materials on land clearing and model farms.

Collection bulk dates are 1920 to 1945; collection date range is 1912-2004.


  • 1912-2004
  • Majority of material found within ( 1920-1945)


Language of Materials

Collection material in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Historical Note

Agricultural Engineering and Physics was first listed as a Course of Study for the University’s College of Agriculture in the 1908-1909 Catalogue. Professor John T. Stewart was Chief of the Course of Study (also referred to as the Division of Agricultural Engineering), and the courses included agricultural engineering, farm engineering, and forest engineering.

The 1908-1909 College of Agriculture Catalogue noted that Agricultural Engineering “does not offer a course that will make expert draftsmen or engineers…Its object is to combine in each of the courses offered such features of engineering as will enable the student to perform the more simple engineering operations…”

Work in Agricultural Engineering also included field work at the University’s experiment stations and farm. The 1909-1910 Board of Regents Biennial Report highlighted drainage work done by the division at the Crookston and Grand Rapids facilities. The Biennial Report also noted that “the engineering, mechanical, and shop work at university farm has been consolidated in this division for purposes of better co-ordination and administration.”

At their January 24, 1919, meeting, the University Board of Regents voted “to approve the plan of separation of the Division of Agricultural Engineering into two divisions to be known respectively as Division of Farm Engineering and Division of Drainage, as recommended by the Dean of the Department of Agriculture.” These two divisions were part of a new administrative organizational structure within the College of Agricultural, Forestry, and Home Economics, and they were combined to form the Agricultural Engineering Group. Questions then arose within the College about this organizational structure for professional courses in science related to agriculture, and at the Regents Agricultural Committee meeting on September 21, 1923, the Committee voted to abolish the Agricultural Engineering Group. Agricultural Engineering returned to a Division within the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics.

The 1924-1925 President’s Report announced a new degree – bachelor of science in agricultural engineering – that had been developed jointly by the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics and the College of Engineering and Architecture. The President’s Report noted that the degree “is to be administered jointly between the two colleges, and the students will receive training in fundamental agricultural subjects and engineering applied to farm problems.” The degree was developed in response to increased demand for “knowledge and training in engineering fields connected with agriculture.”

The teaching and research focus of the Division of Agricultural Engineering in its early decades was on improving and increasing production and making farm work less arduous. From the 1920s to the 1990s, the bachelor of agricultural engineering degree with its professional curriculum, as well as the agricultural engineering and agricultural engineering technology major, covered fields of study such as rural electrification; farm structures; farm mechanics; land reclamation; soil and moisture control; farm power and machinery; marketing of agricultural products; and production of plant, animal, food and related biological material.

At their March 9, 1995, meeting, the Board of Regents Educational Planning and Policy Committee voted to recommend a name change from the Department of Agricultural Engineering to the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. The full Board approved the name change at their meeting on March 9, 1995.

The 1996 College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences (COAFES) Catalogue described the biosystems and agricultural engineering curriculum as including “emphases in environment, agricultural systems, and biological systems.” The undergraduate degree continued to be a joint program between COAFES and the Institute of Technology.

As part of a system-wide reorganization (“Strategic Positioning” and later “Transforming the U”), announced in September 2004 by President Robert Bruininks, the number of colleges on the Twin Cities campus was reduced by three. The Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering was to be part of a new college that would integrate the College of Natural Resources with the academic units of COAFES “to create a new, expanded college focused broadly on food systems, environmental science, policy and renewable resources.”

At their June 10, 2005, meeting, the Regents approved the recommendations for the strategic positioning process. On July 1, 2006, the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering became the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering in the new College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

Division and Department Names
  1. Agricultural Engineering, 1909-1919
  2. Agricultural Engineering Group (Divisions of Farm Engineering and Drainage), 1919-1923
  3. Agricultural Engineering, 1923-1995
  4. Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, 1995-2006
  5. Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, 2006-
Division and Department Heads
  1. John T. Steward, Professor and Chief, 1909-1919
  2. William Boss, Chief, 1919-1938
  3. Harry B. Roe, Acting Chief, 1938-1939
  4. Arthur J. Schwantes, Chief and Head, 1939-1964
  5. Landis L. Boyd, Head, 1964-1972
  6. Arnold Flikke, Head, 1972-1983
  7. Fred Bergsrud, Head, 1983-1987; Interim Head, 1991-1992
  8. George Foster, Head, 1987-1991
  9. Vance Morey, Head, 1992-2001
  10. Kevin Janni, 2001-2006


41.7 Cubic Feet (34 (33 record cartons; 1 oversize))


The Department of Agricultural Engineering records are primarily composed of correspondence between the department head and faculty and local, state and national groups and organizations.

Processing Information

This collection was processed with funds provided by the State of Minnesota through the Minnesota Historical Society from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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Department of Agricultural Engineering records, 1912-2004
Susan Hoffman and Valerie MacDonald
March 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area