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School of Agriculture records

Identifier: ua00343

Scope and Content

The School of Agriculture records consist of correspondence, scrapbooks, student lists, service records of school faculty members, statistics, committee materials, meeting minutes, club record books, materials relating to school activities including livestock judging, cultural programming and sporting events, records of student projects and yearbooks from the School of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, also known as University Farm.

The collection contains eight series: History, Correspondence, Club Files, Miscellaneous, Reports, Student Projects, Publications and Scrapbooks.

Series 1, History, includes histories of events leading up to the establishment of the school and the early years of the school’s operation. The series includes the Juanita Sheppard collection, compiled by a former School of Agriculture faculty member, containing correspondence, historical plans for a Home Economics building, and drafts of “Home Economics at the University Farm from 1894-1914” with notes. Other materials include texts of bills and memorials concerning the establishment of the School of Agriculture and experiment stations, papers relating to the Morrill Act, biographical materials on early supporters and administrators of the School, including C.P. Bull, J.D. Scofield, Charles Lacy, D.D. Mayne and Andrew Boss, and information files for classes graduating between 1890 and 1958. Of special interest in the “class of” materials is correspondence between Superintendent J.O. Christianson and former students who had joined the military, and between godparents and students still at the School.

Series 2, Correspondence, includes general correspondence, as well as correspondence between the School and specific organizations, individuals, and topics. The series is arranged alphabetically. Significant subject areas include scholarship information, the correspondence of J.O. Christianson, the principal and superintendent of the school between 1929 and 1960, committee correspondence concerning curriculum and facilities, and the department of Home Management and Practical Nursing. Most correspondence in the series dates between the early 1930s and late 1950s.

Series 3, Club Files, contains materials generated by the numerous student clubs that formed the backbone of social and cultural life at the School. Clubs provided opportunities for students to socialize, create small communities based on mutual interests and learn skills that would have useful application in the community. Subject areas represented in addition to agricultural include sports, theater, public speaking, student council, literature and religion. Materials in the Club Files include photographs, newsletters, announcements and flyers, minute books, constitutions, membership records and activity reports.

Series 4, Miscellaneous, contains school artifacts, including pennants and cushions, bulletins and programs for all-school special events such as commencements, dances, and sporting events.

Series 5, Student Projects, contains record books of student projects performed over summer break. Project reports were created by course instructors, and become increasingly detailed over time, giving information about student garden, home, animal husbandry and crop projects, which were graded and for which students earned credit towards graduation. Notebooks for 1920s through the 1940s contained detailed comments by instructors on student projects: several have plant samples collected by the students and preserved by the project instructors. Notebooks from the 1950s contain more information about the overall program administration, including enrollments by county, directory information, sample forms and sample project ideas.

Series 6, Reports, contains reports from student and faculty committees looking at different aspects of campus life, including governance, transportation, and student jobs and veterans issues. Notable in this series are the Survey of Schools of Agriculture reports, which provide narrative information about each of the schools of agriculture and popular perceptions of the time about secondary agricultural education on the St Paul campus.

Series 7, Publications, consists of runs of yearbooks and newsletters from Minnesota’s schools of agriculture, including The Senior and The Agrarian yearbooks and AgReview monthly newsletter from University Farm School in St. Paul; The Aggie (supersedes the Red River Aggie) yearbook from the Northwest School of Agriculture in Crookston, and the Aggie Cultural yearbook from Southern School of Agriculture in Waseca. The series also contains two volumes on self governance for boys and girls rooming in farm school campus housing, and miscellaneous US Department of Agriculture publications on secondary education and agriculture.

Series 8, Scrapbooks, includes scrapbooks from clubs, anniversary celebrations and the graduating class of 1904. In addition to photographs in scrapbooks, small amounts of individual photographs will be found in folders in the Club Files and Correspondence series.


  • 1854-1961


Language of Materials

Collection materials 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

The University provided agriculture education at multiple levels during its early decades but made a concerted effort in the late 1880s under President Cyrus Northrop’s leadership to establish a technical high school-level curriculum in agriculture. On the recommendation of a committee chaired by President Northrop, the Board of Regents approved the opening of the School of Agriculture at its March 6, 1888, meeting. The 1887-1888 Board of Regents Biennial Report to the Governor stated, “…young men should be trained to the work of the farm, and it is evident that some school in which they can be thus trained, and can acquire at the same time a good general education while keeping in mind their purpose to become farmers, is very desirable…”

The School of Agriculture opened on October 18, 1888, on the University Farm in St. Paul, with 17 students registered for the fall term. The School’s administrative home was the College of Agriculture, and the School would remain a part of the College’s administrative structure throughout its existence.

The University Announcement for 1888-1889 described the School of Agriculture’s two-year program: the first year covered subjects such as English, arithmetic, algebra, botany, and mechanical drawing with lectures in farm management, farm architecture, and horticulture; and the second year covered geometry, civil government, political economy, agricultural chemistry, and animal physiology with lecture in grains, soils and fertilizers, stock and dairying, horticulture, and veterinary.

Admission was given to “students who have completed a common school course in English, Arithmetic, U. S. History and Geography, as prescribed by the State department of public instruction. Students will be received without examination in subjects for which they can furnish the certificates of high schools or of county superintendents.”

William W. Pendergast was selected as the first principal, and he reported after the School’s first year of operation that it had “an enrollment of 76 and the number is constantly increasing.” In 1891, the program was expanded to three years to include laboratory work in chemistry, zoology, and botany.

Women were accepted into the School’s program starting in October 1897. Men and women shared course work in the sciences, with the women taking courses separately in “sewing, cooking, laundering, physical culture, home economy, and household arts” (Board of Regents Report to the Governor, 1899).

By 1900, the School was described in the annual Course Catalog as “a training school for practical farm life and in domestic economy” open to both young men and women. In the 1938 course catalog, the School’s purpose is described as “neither a high school nor a college but rather a vocational agricultural school, the objective of which is to give a practical education to young men and women. It offers a course of study designed to fit young men and young women for successful farm life, and aims to give its students the necessary preparation for useful citizenship.” Additional branches of the School of Agriculture were opened in Crookston (1906), Morris (1909), Grand Rapids (1921), and Waseca (1952).

At their meeting on May 12, 1960, the Board of Regents, on recommendation of the President, voted “to authorize the beginning of a four-quarter Technical Certificate Program in Agriculture in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics in place of the present St. Paul School of Agriculture, effective with the academic year 1960-61.” The 1958-1960 President’s Biennial Report noted the program’s discontinuation was made in response to the School’s students and alumni demanding college credit and that “it is expected the change to a college program will serve to expand the usefulness and influence of the old School of Agriculture program.”

School of Agriculture Principals and Superintendents

  1. Warren W. Pendergast; Principal; 1888-1893
  2. Henry W. Brewster; Acting Principal and Principal; 1893-1900
  3. Frederick D. Tucker; Principal; 1900-1903
  4. Dexter D. Mayne; Principal; 1903-1929
  5. J.O. Christianson; Acting Principal, Principal, Superintendent; 1930-1960


33.4 Cubic Feet (28 boxes (26 record cartons; 2 oversize))


The School of Agriculture records consist of correspondence, scrapbooks, student lists, service records of school faculty members, statistics, committee materials, meeting minutes, club record books, materials relating to school activities including livestock judging, cultural programming and sporting events, records of student projects and yearbooks from the School of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, also known as University Farm.

Source of acquisition

The collection was transferred to University Archives from 1953 to 1981.

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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School of Agriculture records, 1885-1961
Archives staff; updated by Karen Spilman
updated June 2005
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