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Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station records

Identifier: ua-00932

Scope and Content

The Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station records contain materials concerning research, administration, operations, teaching, and events at the St. Paul and Greater Minnesota stations between 1883 and 2010. The collection consists of correspondence, much of which is interfiled with minutes, reports, project proposals and agreements, planning documents, conference programs and proceedings, data on crops, land use and station expenditures, staffing and personnel concerns, and documentation about departments involved in station activities, publications and government documents. There is also substantial information documenting the administrative history and findings of agriculture-related research projects funded by federal, state and private sources carried out at the Experiment Stations. The inclusive date range for the collection is 1883-2010; bulk dates are 1924-1999.

The collection is arranged into ten series:

Series 1, Administration, contains correspondence between outstate station directors, departmental faculty, St. Paul station directors and staff, and University administration regarding station activities, programs, buildings and resources, state and federal governments units. The series is broadly organized by subseries identified d by the named department, college or institute that represented the University’s agriculture-related activities. This includes the Department of Agriculture (1872-1963), Institute of Agriculture (1963-1971); Institute of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics (1971-1997); and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science (1997-2006).

Series 2, Alphabetical Reference Files, contain subject-related material generated primarily during and between WWI and WWII and its aftermath (1917-1948). Materials include agreements pertaining to research conducted at the station, correspondence with business, professional and academic associations, conference materials, information on conscientious objectors working at the station during WWII, financial records, historical information about the station and named persons associated with the station, including vice-directors F.R. Immer and F.W. Peck and director Edward Porter, legislation related to agricultural research and production, agricultural fraternities, and station relations with the USDA.

Series 3, Committees, contains correspondence, minutes, and reports for station and University committees, as well as selected staff files of government, professional, and academic association committee work. Bulk dates for the subseries are 1940-2000. There is a substantial amount of correspondence and reports generated by ESCOP (Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy) which coordinated collaborative projects across state borders. The St. Paul Experiment Station Director was a standing member of the committee.

Series 4, Correspondence and Related Materials, consists of professional correspondence and related materials, including memos, brief reports, policy drafts and speeches of MAES directors and administrators from the 1930s through 2010. MAES directors also served as deans of the Department of Agriculture (1921-1963), Institute of Agriculture (1963-1974), Institute of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics (1974-1995), and College of Agriculture, Food, and Home Economics (1995-2006). Researchers will find correspondence from administrators serving in both capacities in this series. Substantial correspondence from William Hueg (Director, MAES, 1966-1975; Dean, IAFHE 1974-1983) and Richard Sauer (Director, MAES, 1980-1988; Dean, IAFHE, 1983-1988), and Eugene Allen (Director, MAES, 1988-1998, Dean, IAFHE, 1989-1995) is included here. Other deans and directors correspondence represented in the series include Harold Macy, Sherwood Berg, and Hubert Sloan; substantial correspondence from Roy L. Thompson, MAES Assistant Director, Signe Betsinger, associate dean of the College of Home Economics and assistant director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, and Richard Anderson, superintendent of the Southern Experiment Station in Waseca can also be found here. Most correspondence relates to administrative or staffing issues, planning and finance.

Series 5, Data, includes raw data for crops and farm products; production data from different demonstration farms across Minnesota; financial data for stations; and descriptive data concerning farm machinery, building and equipment inventories and miscellaneous surveys. Bulk dates, 1922-1943.

Series 6, Organizations, consists of correspondence, reports, minutes, bulletins and brochures documenting communication between government agencies, business and policy groups with regulatory and/or research ties to the Experiment Stations. Bulk dates, 1963-1985.

Series 7, Publications and Reports, is divided into two subseries, Alphabetical and General. The Alphabetical subseries contains historical publications covering research conducted from 1900 through 1945. The General subseries contains branch station annual reports, research reports, and information on professional staff activities in addition to traditional publications. Inclusive dates, 1915-2003.

Series 8, Research, constitutes the largest series in the collection. It consists of research proposals and accompanying correspondence submitted by station and department faculty relating to projects funded initially by the Bankhead-Jones Act of 1935. The act provided funding for agricultural projects at land-grant institutions. In addition to Bankhead-Jones identified projects, the series includes proposals for projects concerning crops, farm machinery, products, and storage, poultry and livestock, horticulture and collaborative work with corporate partners. Other subject matter in the series includes research policy, expenditures, programs and needs. Researchers using the materials should be aware that many of the projects were conducted as collaborations between stations, departments and outside business partners. Only the principal partner is listed in the finding aid arrangement. Subseries consist of the following headings: Animal Research; Drought Research; Home Economics; Mayo Forestry and Horticultural Institute; North Central Experiment Station/Grand Rapids; Northeast Experiment Station/Duluth; Northwest Experiment Station/ Crookston; Potato Research; Sand Plains/Becker; Southern Experiment Station/ Waseca; Southwest Experiment Station/ Lamberton; St. Paul/ Departmental; USDA/CRIS (US Department of Agriculture/Current Research Information System); West Central Experiment Station/Morris; Western Region.

Series 9, Subject Files, includes miscellaneous subject matter dated between 1883 and the late 1990s. Of note are two volumes of diaries written by Edward M. Porter, appointed University Professor of Theory and Practice of Agriculture in 1881 and widely acknowledged as the first director of the College of Agriculture and founder of the School of Agriculture at University Farm in St. Paul.

Series 10, Veterinary Division, contains materials from the veterinary-related activities at the station. The series contains some of the oldest and earliest material in the collection, including 15 folders of correspondence and notes from M.H. Reynolds, animal veterinarian at the University Farm. The series is composed of four subseries: correspondence, manuscripts, clippings and miscellaneous files.

Researchers should also consult the finding aids for the individual Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station collections for additional information about administration, research, campus issues and events, as well as information on the station schools.


  • 1882-2010


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

In 1885, the Minnesota State Legislature directed the University of Minnesota Board of Regents to establish an agricultural experiment station. The 1886-1888 Report of the University of Minnesota noted, “Previous to the last session of Congress no direct appropriation had been made by the general government for the encouragement of experiment work in agriculture…" Professor Edward D. Porter was named head of the Agricultural Experiment Station in 1885, but according to the 1886-1888 Report, he was leading the Station “with no professional assistants, and aided only by unskilled farm labor. It was impossible that much progress in experiment work should be made so long as the station was in this condition, and it was wholly unreasonable to expect much progress.”

The Hatch Act, passed by Congress in 1887, made federal funds available for agricultural colleges to conduct agricultural research. The 1886-1888 Report noted that the funding “opened a new and more hopeful era for progress in scientific investigation of subjects having an important relation to the farming interests of the country. Immediately after the appropriation was made by Congress the regents of the University of Minnesota turned their attention to the thorough reorganization of the agricultural experiment station.”

With the Hatch Act funding, research at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, located with the University Farm on the St. Paul campus and under Professor Porter as director, was carried out through the following Divisions: general field and grain farming, stock and dairying, horticulture, entomology and botany, veterinary, and chemistry.

During the early years, the Station’s research centered on agriculture and included work to develop new varieties of wheat, corn, and other crops; grow apples in Minnesota; investigate soil fertility; livestock breeding; and combat hog cholera.

The Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s research mission centered on agriculture was expanded over several decades to include fields such as forestry, human nutrition, social science, recreation and tourism, and environmental quality.

Agricultural Experiment Station Directors

  1. Edward D. Porter, 1885-1889
  2. W. N. McLain, 1889-1891
  3. Clinton D. Smith, 1891-1893
  4. William M. Liggett, Chairman of Staff, 1893-1896; Director, 1896-1907
  5. Eugene W. Randall, 1907-1908
  6. John W. Olsen, 1908-1909
  7. Albert F. Woods, 1910-1917
  8. Roscoe W. Thatcher, 1917-1921
  9. Walter C. Coffey, 1921-1941
  10. Clyde H. Bailey, 1941-1950
  11. Harold Macy, 1950-1952
  12. Hubert J. Sloan, 1953-1966
  13. Milton F. Kernkamp, Acting Director, 1966
  14. William F. Hueg, 1966-1975
  15. Keith A. Huston, 1975-1979
  16. Richard Sauer, 1980-1988
  17. C. Eugene Allen, Acting Director, 1988-1990; Director, 1990-1998
  18. Michael Martin, Acting Director, 1998-1999
  19. Charles Muscoplat, 1999-2006


90.0 Cubic Feet (90)


The Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station records contain materials concerning research, instruction, operations and events at the St Paul station occurring between 1882 and 2010. Most of the collection consists of correspondence, much of which is interfiled with minutes, reports, project proposals and agreements, planning documents, conference programs and proceedings, data on crops, land use and station expenditures, varietal certification, and documentation about departments involved in station activities, publications and government documents.


The collection is arranged into 10 series:

  1. Administration
  2. Alphabetical Reference Files
  3. Committees
  4. Correspondence and Related Materials
  5. Data
  6. Organizations
  7. Publications and Reports
  8. Research
  9. Subject Files
  10. Veterinary Division

Source of acquisition

The materials were deposited in University Archives from 1951-1986. Two additional accretions were deposited in 2011 and 2012. A third accretion was deposited in 2014.

Processing Information

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

Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Records, 1882-2010
Susan Hoffman
January 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