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Research-minded men at the land-grant colleges attempted, simul. taneously with their efforts toward station-founding soon after the ending of the Civil War, to organize an intercollegiate association devoted to promoting efficient experimentation. The movement to establish a permanent organization of college officials made its first significant appearance when the Friends of Agricultural Education convened at Chicago in 1871. The initial proposal to hold that convention originated with Willard Flagg, secretary of the board of trustees at the Illinois Industrial University, and Manly Miles, professor of practical agriculture at the Michigan Agricultural College. The two men, both busily engaged in conducting field tests at their respective colleges, conferred and agreed that a conference of collegiate experimenters would provide timely aid to all who were encountering difficulties in obtaining accurate data.

Flagg and Miles saw clearly that their proposed conference could lead not only to systematizing current procedures but also to holding regular meetings in future to develop and administer an expanded program of intercollegiate experimentation. When the two planners attempted to prepare an invitation list, however, they discovered that they did not know the names of the men who held the professorships of agriculture and the farm superintendencies in many of the landgrant colleges throughout the Nation. Accordingly, the pair decided to communicate with the college presidents, and through those officials extend an invitation to the experimenters on each faculty (7, p. 312).

Meanwhile, Willard Flagg, intent on encouraging a station movement, secured the official support of John M. Gregory, president of Flagg's institution, who decided to contact the presidents directly and include them as participants. Consequently, the Gregory call addressed a much broader constituency than that originally anticipated by Secretary Flagg or desired by Professor Miles. President Gregory (7, p. 215) invited to the convention the following:

Presidents of Agricultural Colleges, Professors of Agriculture, or other persons in the United States or British Provinces who are engaged or interested in promoting the art or science of Agriculture by experiments in the field or laboratory, for the purpose of organizing, consulting and cooperating in the great work of advancing the cause of Agricultural knowledge and especially by experimentation with similar crops under similar conditions at all the Agricultural Colleges.

This invitation indicated that the discussions would stress subject matter of occupational concern to agricultural experimenters; yet it did not limit attendance to practitioners nor confine the discussion to problems in scientific research. On the contrary, Gregory presented first of all to the college presidents the opportunity for organizing, consulting and cooperating in the great work of advancing the cause

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* Italic numbers in parentheses refer to Literature Cited, p. 79.

of agricultural knowledge and education.” The course of the resulting convention, which included an articulate representation of educationminded presidents as well as a group of experiment-minded professors, soon revealed that politeness alone did not prompt President Gregory to urge presidential participation.


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Early in the sessions at Chicago, Flagg introduced a proposal to create a formal association (7, p. 221). "Some of us,” he remarked, "had a plan under consideration of forming a permanent organization, to meet from year to year, or oftener, for the purpose of continuing consultation, experimentation, and comparison of experimentation, and the continuous laying out of experiments to be performed in common. . . ." An organization concentrating on this single objective, though immediately attractive to the technical experimenter, would obviously have a limited appeal for the presidents. At this point Flagg raised an alternative possibility, one dear to President Gregory's heart. "Perhaps," he added, "the organization ought to go further. Perhaps it ought to be an organization of the Agricultural Colleges and Technological Schools.” This proposition delighted the presidents and the several college trustees present. Nevertheless, it evoked an outspoken division of opinion among the conferees, and it placed Flagg and Miles in opposing camps.

Professor Miles unflinchingly contended that the proposed association ought to deal exclusively with the technical problems implicit in conducting research and, therefore, should limit its membership to the personnel performing the investigations. "It seems to me almost impossible,” he announced, “for anyone to discuss this subject of experimentation unless they [sic] are actually engaged in it; they cannot see the force of the arguments; they cannot understand them.” Furthermore, Miles disapproved the creation, within a land-grant association of versatile activities, of a section for experimenters and their technical concerns; such a section “would . . . be subject, to a certain extent, to that wider organization. ." Having listened to the presidents, as one by one they pleaded for a permanent association enabling college educator-administrators to discuss problems not pertaining to research, Miles recommended, “Make the larger organization an independent one; and then arrange to have the meetings [of the experimenters at the same time and place” (7, p. 309).

Thus Miles sensed from the outset that an incompatibility of interest between the professional researchers and the professional educators would mark the career of a comprehensive association of landgrant college officials. Lest the presidents accuse him of harboring a narrow-minded antagonism against them, Miles hastened to welcome the college leaders. “We would like to have the Presidents here every time,” he declared. Nevertheless, he unrelentingly maintained his position that the association should single-mindedly serve “those who are engaged in experimenting” (7, p.312).

Flagg disagreed, however, with the Miles analysis. He did not detect any immediate disadvantage in extending membership to all persons interested in land-grant education and especially in the welfare of the Morrill Act colleges. Just as Gregory supported Flagg's sponsorship of the station movement so Flagg sympathized with

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Gregory's wish for a formalized association wherein college presidents could deal with the problems of institutional management. Flagg recognized that the presidents needed an association fully as much as did the professorial experimenters. He, unlike Miles, saw no serious separateness of interest between college administration and agricultural research; he saw both activities as vital and complementary efforts “in the general interests of agriculture” (7, p. 313). All workers for agricultural improvement, he observed, shared a “community of sentiment and community of interest" in the land-grant college enterprise (7, p. 299).

Yet Flagg reserved final judgment. The study of agriculture had thus far attracted so few professional devotees, he believed, that a sense of unity should bind them together. "There are not so many of them, as yet,” he reminded the convention, “that they would stand in one another's way.” Further developments, however, could change the course of association. "The time may come," he conceded, "when it will be necessary to go either into separate sections in the same convention, or else to form a separate convention of experimenters” (7, p. 307).

The professors at the Chicago convention found themselves torn between the divergent viewpoints. They could not easily deny that presidential jurisdiction did properly apply to the research activities of the staff members who, not acting independently of the colleges, used college facilities in their investigations (7, p. 309). Similarly, did not the responsibilities of the presidential office, alike to the trustees and to the public, require each incumbent to understand the trends of research inquiry and to have a voice in making research policy?

The presidents at the convention did not divide ranks; steadily they pressed their advantage and discouraged the convention from "forming an organization which would favor the Miles position and thus eliminate them from practical participation. “I don't want any one question,” President Adonijah Ś. Welch of Iowa Agricultural College pronounced in positive tones as he strove to prevent the research specialists from organizing an exclusive body, “or any one specific individual purpose, however important, to absorb the energies of the association, but I want it to gather within all the important topics that must occupy the attention of men who have these institutions in their charge” (7, p. 303).

President Gregory, chairman of the Chicago meeting, encouraged a candid discussion of this divisive issue in order to aid the convention's Executive Committee, which he headed, in the framing of a constitution for the projected association. Chiefly responsible, therefore, for carrying out the convention's directive to draft the organic document, Gregory needed to learn the sentiment of the conventioneers regarding objects and membership (7, p. 297). Gregory guided the group by describing the European experience, as follows:

I know that the experimental stations in Europe have an annual meeting of all the experimenters and chemists—those interested, and the rest of the institution is not represented, nor are its interests represented. They meet in the annual Convention to report upon their experiments, and to discuss conditions of experimentation, and to arrange for experiments; and they meet for that purpose alone, and it is a matter which fully occupies their time and attention. The difficulty in an organization which should embrace all the interests that are represented in an industrial institution, would be this: that we would be as we are now, crowded for time.

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Now it remains with this Convention, it seems to me, to determine whether the organization that is proposed to be made, should be an organization like that of the European, for discussion for experiments, reporting experiments, and arranging experiments; or whether it shall be a Convention of educators in these schools who will meet to discuss the general management of schools, experiments included.

The convention did not, despite the specific delineation in the Gregory instruction, make a decision on the controversial theme of constitutional organization. It left the difficult decision as a task for the convention officers after adjournment. Yet those officials did not produce a plan of organization; the Gregory committee presumably found the problem of constitution-making to be equally as difficult in 1871 as that of station-founding. An association did not, therefore, come into existence in the seventies, the decade of discouragements for the college-connected stations.


The revival of the movement to establish an association coincided with the effort of the Teachers of Agriculture to establish Statesponsored stations. The professors who gathered at Michigan State College in 1881, having already declared station-founding to be an urgent need in every State, sought an administrative arrangement that would enable each station to keep informed of work done at all other stations. “At least once a year, their committee report recommended (11) "those having charge of the experimental work shall meet and review the work done, consider what is required, then by mutual agreement distribute new work, according to the means at the disposal or the special facilities of each institution.” Heartily endorsing, in effect, the Miles proposition announced a decade earlier, the Teachers viewed an association of experimenters as a necessary element in the functioning of intercollegiate experimentation at the proposed stations. The absence of a presidential delegation permitted the conference to avoid the friction that the convention of 1871 had generated. The Teachers thereupon passed the following resolutions:

That the agricultural colleges and State experiment stations here represented, so far as the same may be subject to our advice and control, are hereby united as an association for more systematic and efficient experimental work. That each college or station shall report to the Secretary of this association what experimental work it has already done, and what kind and amount of work it is prepared to do .

That all other agricultural colleges and State experimental stations be cordially invited to join this association and co-operate in its work.

In this way the representatives of eight midwestern colleges created an association, regional in fact but national in theory, which anticipated sending reports of research activity to the Department of Agriculture for nationwide distribution. In practice, however, the new organization did not operate as its overly optimistic sponsors had announced in 1881. Though its members met annually until the passage of the Hatch Act, they did not maintain a primary interest in research; instead they soon veered to an emphasis on the problems of college teaching. Their meetings remained informal and did not become national in appeal or scope. Thus the Teachers relinquished leadership in the emerging movement for the Hatch Act, and also in the activities soon to produce a formal and permanent association.


Samuel W. Johnson, 1830–1909

Wilbur 0. Atwater, 1844–1907 America's first advocate of agricultural First director of the Office of Experi

research. His efforts led to the es- ment Stations, and a pioneer in agritablishment in 1876 of the Connecticut cultural experiment station work in Agricultural Experiment Station- the United States. first in the United States.


Willard C. Flagg, 1829–1878

John M. Gregory, 1822–1898 Illinois educator who helped establish First regent of Illinois Industrial Unithe scope of agricultural research. versity, now the University of Illinois,

and eminent leader in agricultural education.

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