Page images

on the ground when a thunder shower suddenly appeared. Commissioner Newton was in his room at the Patent Office. He hastened over to the farm, a mile away, to instruct the workmen how to save the wheat free from any injury. The sun was hot and he was wearing a high silk hat. In moving hurriedly about the grounds he became overheated. His son took him to the little office on the farm and summoned medical assistance. Restoratives were applied, and he partially recovered, but was never well again. He died from the effects of the injury on June 19, 1867.

During Commissioner Newton's time the foundations were laid for the Department library and museum. The first appropriation for the library was $4,000, in 1864, for the library and laboratory jointly. The Glover collection was bought for the museum in 1867 for $10,000.

After Mr. Newton's death Mr. J. R. Dodge, who had succeeded Professor Bollman as statistician, became very prominent in Depart

ment work and so remained for twenty-five years. He edited the Annual Reports and the Monthly Reports and wrote much of the most valuable matter that appeared in them.




John W. Stokes, chief clerk of the Department, was acting Commissioner after Mr. Newton's death till December 4, 1867, when Gen. Horace Capron, of Illinois, who was ap

pointed on November 29, took HORACE CAPRON,

charge. He was a native of Commissioner of Agriculture.

New York, but in early life re

moved to Maryland, where he became a farmer on an extensive scale, applying scientific principles to his operations. In 1847 his receipts amounted to more than $36,000. In 1854 he removed to Illinois. There he continued farming, especially as a breeder of Devon cattle, till the civil war broke out, when he enlisted in the army, where he rose to be a brigadiergeneral. After the war he returned to his farm, and at the death of Mr. Newton was selected by President Johnson to succeed him.

Commissioner Capron in his first report paid much attention to steam plowing, beet-sugar making, and the problem of silk culture. He established a system of exchanges of seeds and plants with many

of the Governments of Europe, Asia, and South America. He had the chemical laboratory fitted up and made a large collection of native grasses and forage and fiber plants from Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. In 1868 the Commissioner was asked by Hon. Seth Green, then fish commissioner in New York, by United States Treasurer Spinner, and others to bring the possibilities of fish culture to the attention of Congress. A number of articles published at this time and in the years immediately succeeding made way for the United States Fish Commission.

The main building of the Department was completed and occupied during Commissioner Capron's term. There was favorable comment upon the fact that the cost was kept within the amount appropriated. This was the first instance of the kind in case of so important a work.

An investigation of Texas cattle fever was made and Mr. Capron recommended the establishment of a division of veterinary surgery. The propagation of cinchona plants was begun with a view to introduce the culture in the warmer sections of the country.

Experimental farm given up-Division of Botany.-From the outset it had been recognized that the experimental farm at Twelfth and B streets was too small because of the mixing of varieties of seeds when cultivated close together. Mr. Stokes, in his report accompanying General Capron's, recommended that the farm be converted into an American arboretum. This suggestion was adopted the more readily because the new Department building was being erected on the grounds.

The Division of Botany had its origin in 1868 in the suggestion of Prof. Joseph Henry, of the Smithsonian, who stated that considerable quantities of botanical specimens were lying at the Smithsonian unmounted and that they could be made available to the Department of Agriculture if there were a botanist. The collection came from the Hayden and other explorations in the West and from the Japan Expedition. It was agreed upon further conference of those interested that a herbarium should be established in charge of the Department of Agriculture. C. C. Parry was appointed Botanist to arrange and care for the specimens and to do other work in that line as it should arise.

The high standing of the Department before the world, as well as the leading position already attained by American agriculture, is indicated by the selection of the second Commissioner to direct the inauguration of improved methods of farming in Japan. That people was then at the threshold of the development which has placed it among the great nations. A commission had been appointed by their Government to develop agriculture, and they chose General Capron as chief adviser. He resigned the commissionership on June 27, 1871.

k in that 1. arrange and Agricultur


Judge Frederick Watts, of Carlisle, Pa., was appointed by President Grant to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Commissioner Capron. He had been on the bench in the ninth Pennsylvania district before the war, but in 1858 abandoned the law for farming. He was a native of Carlisle, and a graduate of Dickinson College. He was the first president of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society, and for twenty-seven years was president of the Cumberland Valley Railroad Company.

Commissioner Watts found in operation the Divisions of Chem· istry, Garden and Grounds, Entomology, Statistics, and Botany.

This brief roster affords an interesting comparison with that which represents the Department organization at the date of the issue of this publication shown on pages 47–55.

In his first report the Commissioner recommended that the number of copies of the annual report for gratuitous distribution be greatly reduced, and that the remainder be deposited with the Public Printer for sale at the cost of printing and postage.

The cultivation of ramie on

an extensive scale had been un1871-1877.

under taken in the South, and Commissioner Watts urged that planters should push this industry together with the raising of jute.

New work undertaken.—The Division of Microscopy was established in 1871 by the appointment of Thomas Taylor, Microscopist. Early among his services was an investigation of the cranberry rot in New Jersey. He also soon made a study of mushrooms, and suggested the cultivation of them as a profitable business. Other subjects investigated by him were mildews on grapes, yellows in peaches, and black knot on plums.

Commissioner Watts was the first to give much attention to timber interests. He had sections of the most valuable trees of the country on exhibition at the Centennial Exposition, and in 1877 secured an appropriation for a forestry investigation. Mr. Franklin B. Hough, of Pennsylvania, was appointed special agent in charge of the work. This was a beginning of the Forestry Division which was fully organized several years later.


Commissioner of Agriculture.

The Centennial Exposition brought large donations from foreign governments for the museum, so that the space allotted to it had to be nearly doubled. Contributions were received from Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Egypt, Norway and Sweden, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. Large additions were also made about this time to the herbarium. Charles Richards Dodge, then assistant entomologist, estimated that the museum collections were worth $100,000. Models of fruits and water-color drawings formed an interesting part of the display.

Weather reporting transferred to the War Department.—Commissioner Watts stopped the publication in the monthly reports of the meteorological summary and notes furnished by the Smithsonian observers without analysis and explanation, and suggested that the work be turned over to the Signal Service of the Army. In response Congress, on June 10, 1872, made an appropriation with which the War Department was directed to collect and publish meteorological information for the benefit of agriculture.

The Division of Statistics at this time had about 3,000 voluntary correspondents. Commissioner Watts in his report for 1876 called attention to the fact that the appropriation for this division had been cut from $15,000 to $10,000, declaring that the work had been thereby greatly crippled. The appropriation was restored to the usual amount the following year. Commissioner Watts complained of delay in the publication of his annual report. He was also hampered by the abolition of the franking privilege for the distribution of the report.

The ravages of the grasshoppers in the West began about this time and the Department sent out $30,000 worth of seeds to the devastated districts. This was under a special appropriation.

COMMISSIONER LE DUC’S TERM. Hon. Wm. G. Le Duc, of Hastings, Minn., was appointed Commissioner of Agriculture by President Hayes, and assumed control on July 1, 1877. He took strong ground against the indiscriminate distribution of common seeds. In his first annual report he cited the sections of the Revised Statutes bearing upon the subject, and pointed out in italics that the distribution “shall be confined to such seeds as are rare and uncommon to the country.” It was plain, he urged, that the law did not contemplate the sending out of such seed as may be bought of seedsmen generally. He made a comparison of the small appropriations for the Department with the sums given other branches of the Government, and asked for more liberal treatment. He also pointed out the need of a general index for the annual reports of the Department. Such an index,

5365—No. 3—07—2

completing earlier indexes, was prepared in 1895–96 in the Division of Publications by George F. Thompson.

Investigation of animal diseases.—Under a special appropriation of $10,000 in 1878 Commissioner Le Duc directed an investigation of diseases among hogs and other domestic animals, and in his annual report called attention at length to pleuro-pneumonia among cattle, which had already secured a wide foothold in this country. The inquiry into animal diseases was kept up during his term with increasing energy. A careful study was made of glanders and farcy. At the same time an investigation of the history and habits of insects important in agriculture was maintained under a special appropriation of $10,000, renewed by succeeding Congresses.

An international exposition at Paris took place at this time and the Department received $15,000 with which to make its exhibit. Professor McMurtrie, the Department chemist, was placed in charge. A creditable showing was made, though, as Commissioner Le Duc stated, the money was available too late to secure the best results.

Experiments with sorghum, and other work.—The production of

sugar, both from sorghum and · WM. G. LE DUC,

from beets, received much atCommissioner of Agriculture.

tention, and under a special 1877–1881.

appropriation for machinery, etc., considerable experiments with sorghum were conducted at Washington. Commissioner Le Duc was unable to obtain there a supply of properly grown canes, and asked for the purchase of 1,000 acres of ground in the vicinity upon which the Department might grow its own material for the experiments, and conduct an experimental farm. He also wished that auxiliary experimental farms should be established in each of the States.

Irrigation, which had received some attention in the report of 1874, was beginning to enlist much interest, and $20,000 was appropriated by Congress in 1880 for experiments with artesian wells.

Commissioner Le Duc got an appropriation of $15,000 for investigation of tea culture, and leased a farm in South Carolina for the purpose of experimenting, and to propagate plants for general distribution. He believed that a few years would develop a large industry of tea growing in the Southern States.

« PreviousContinue »