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Department of Soils records

Identifier: uarc 173

Scope and Content

The Department of Soils records consists of committee, project and research reports, department reviews, planning documents, building information, correspondence, maps, field notebooks, data tables, newsletters, soil surveys, talks and writings, and photographs. Inclusive dates for the collection are 1911-1999.

The collection is arranged into five series: Administration; Correspondence; Departmental Publications; Research and Data; and Subject Files.

Series 1, Administration, contains departmental committee reports, planning documents and departmental reviews, building information and administrative correspondence. Inclusive dates for the series are 1940 to 1980.

Series 2, Correspondence, contains an alphabetical listing of general correspondence, as well as miscellaneous subject correspondence files. Inclusive dates for the series are 1911-1971; bulk dates are 1937-1955.

Series 3, Departmental Publications, consists primarily of a subseries of county soil surveys. The series also contains background materials relating to the surveys, including newsletters. Inclusive dates for the soil surveys are 1927-1984.

Series 4, Data and Research, consists of documents related to the county soil surveys in various formats—surveys, notes, field notebooks, reports, “correlations”, tables, studies and tests—and by subject and geographic location. Inclusive dates for the series are 1916-1980; bulk dates are 1920-1940 for data focusing on geographic location.

Series 5, Subject Files, contains material on miscellaneous subject matter, and historic photographs dated between the 1910s thorough the 1920s.


  • Creation: 1911-1990s


Language of Materials

Collection material in English and Russian

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 College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts section of the 1871 University Almanac included an instruction plan that noted students would study chemistry with the practical application of the “nature and origin of soils and their analysis.”

The study of soils was included under the Agricultural Chemistry Course of Study in the College of Agriculture until the early 1900s, and in the 1906-1907 University Bulletin, Agricultural Chemistry and Soils was listed as a Course of Instruction in the College of Agriculture.

At their April 29, 1913 meeting, the Board of Regents voted to appoint Frederick J. Alway as Chief of the new Division of Soils in the College of Agriculture. Courses offered included soil physics and management, soil fertility and fertilizers, physical properties of soils, and analysis of fertilizers. The President’s Report for 1913-1914 announced the new Division of Soils, “into which the work on soils and fertilizers had been transferred within the Agricultural Experiment Station.”

Extension and research work for the Division included crop and field observations, soil surveys, yield experiments, and crop quality studies.

Starting in the 1920s, the Division’s name was listed as Soils in Course Catalogs and Bulletins for the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics. In the early 1960s, the Division of Soils became the Department of Soil Science.

The 1973 College of Agriculture Bulletin explained that “students interested in soil and water resource management, conservation, tillage, soil fertility, soil mapping, soil morphology, soil organic matter transformations, environmental quality, microclimatology, soil-plant (crop, natural flora) relationships, or research should consider majoring in soil science.”

In 1995, the Department of Soil Science was renamed the Department of Soil, Water and Climate. The Department’s teaching, research, and outreach focused on four interdisciplinary areas: atmospheric science, cropland and natural ecosystem sciences, soil science, and water sciences. The Department’s Extension programs covered subjects such as soil fertility and nutrient management, climatic influence on agricultural production, water quality and pollution, and waste management and utilization.

Division/Department Heads

  1. Frederick J. Alway, Chief, 1913-1942
  2. Clayton J. Rost, Chief, 1942-1954
  3. William P. Martin, Chief and Head, 1954-1982
  4. William Larson, Head, 1982-1989
  5. H.H. Cheng, Head, 1989-2002
  6. E.A. Nater, Interim Head and Head, 2002-2010


16.0 Cubic Feet (16)


Department of Soils records consists of committee, project and research reports, department reviews, planning documents, building information, correspondence, maps, field notebooks, data tables, newsletters, soil surveys, talks and writings, and photographs.


The collection is arranged into 5 series:

  1. Administration
  2. Correspondence
  3. Departmental Publications
  4. Research and Data
  5. Subject Files

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 Soils Records, 1911-1990s
Karen Spilman
June 2011
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area