This Day in History
Harvesting Wheat

On a day like today in the 1920’s…

The philosophes of Jefferson’s generation, committed as they were to the notion that the farmer was the favored child of God, were passionately devoted to the advancement of farming through science. The average American farmer, however, had little interest in what science might contribute. As one book on farming, published in 1860, put it: “Scientific agriculture stands today with phrenology and biology and magnetism. No farmer ever yet received any benefit from any analysis of the soil and none ever will.” Two years later Congress, in the Morrill Act, created state universities, devoted primarily to agriculture and the engineering sciences, and in 1887 the Hatch Act set up Agricultural Experiment stations in every state of the Union.

Scientific agriculture has its roll of pioneers and heroes as important to the commonwealth as its explorers and statesmen. Mark Carleton scoured the wilds of Asia for a wheat strong enough to withstand the rust, the droughts, and the blizzards of the Middle West, and returned with the Kubanka wheat and later with the Kharmov wheat. By 1920, over one-third of all American wheat acreage was of the varieties he introduced. Niels Hansen of the South Dakota Agricultural College explored the steppes of Turkestan and inner Mongolia and brought back an alfalfa which would flourish in the American Northwest. From Algeria and the oases of the Sahara came the Kaffir corn, admirably adapted to the dry climate of the Southwest. George Hoffer conquered the rot that destroyed the corn of the Middle West and Marian Dorset found the remedy for hog cholera, while George Mohler stamped out the dread hoof-and-mouth disease. In South Carolina George Coker improved the upland cotton. At the Tuskeegee Institute George Washington Carver developed hundreds of new uses for the peanut, the sweet potato, and the soy bean, which was to be, in time, one of the major American crops. Thus the triumphs of the laboratory were linked with those of the machine shop to revolutionize American farming and to increase the chances for success among farmers such as the Kansans pictured here.

July's Archived Features:

Friday July 1, 2022



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.