For the Good of the Farmer: A Biography of John Harrison Skinner, Dean of Purdue Agriculture

For the Good of the Farmer: A Biography of John Harrison Skinner, Dean of Purdue Agriculture

by Frederick Whitford


View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 1 week


The key role that farming plays in the economy of Indiana today owes much to the work of John Harrison Skinner (1874–1942). Skinner was a pioneering educator and administrator who transformed the study of agriculture at Purdue University during the first decades of the twentieth century. From humble origins, occupying one building and 150 acres at the start of his career, the agriculture program grew to spread over ten buildings and 1,000 acres by the end of his tenure as its first dean. A focused, single-minded man, Skinner understood from his own background as a grain and stock farmer that growers could no longer rely on traditional methods in adapting to a rapidly changing technological and economic environment, in which tractors were replacing horses and new crops such as alfalfa and soy were transforming the arable landscape. Farmers needed education, and only by hiring the best and brightest faculty could Purdue give them the competitive edge that they needed. While he excelled as a manager and advocate for Indiana agriculture, Skinner never lost touch with his own farming roots, taking especial interest in animal husbandry. During the course of his career as dean (1907–1939), the number of livestock on Purdue farms increased fourfold, and Skinner showed his knowledge of breeding by winning many times at the International Livestock Exposition. Today, the scale of Purdue’s College of Agriculture has increased to offer almost fifty programs to hundreds of students from all over the globe. However, at its base, the agricultural program in place today remains largely as John Harrison Skinner built it, responsive to Indiana but with its focus always on scientific innovation in the larger world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781557536433
Publisher: Purdue University Press
Publication date: 09/15/2013
Series: Founders Series Series
Pages: 580
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Frederick Whitford works for the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service in the College of Agriculture. He received a BS in wildlife management from Louisiana Tech University, and an MS and PhD in entomology from Iowa State University. He has authored more than 250 research, extension, and regulatory publications, and has delivered at least 4,000 presentations to a wide array of audiences. He has written several other books about the history of Indiana agriculture, all published by Purdue University Press.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xiii

Part 1 Purdue University and John Harrison Skinner: The Institution and the Individual

1 The Evolution of Indiana's Cow College 1

2 The Farmer Earns an Agricultural Degree 9

3 The Transition from Farmer to Livestock Professor 21

Photographs and Illustrations 29

Part 2 Building a Livestock Program from the Ground Up: Only the Best Will Do (1902-1907)

4 An Eye for Livestock 37

5 Astute Judge and Fiery Competitor 53

6 The Teacher, Advisor, and Recruiter 65

7 Using Scientific Studies for Profit 83

8 The Newspaper Writer, Public Speaker, and Farm Advisor 99

Photographs and Illustrations 106

Part 3 The Age of Agricultural Expansion at Purdue University: Building the Agricultural Programs (1907-1928)

9 The Challenge to Grow 125

10 Bringing Expertise to Classrooms and Departments 137

11 The Builder of Barns, Buildings, and Pavilions 163

Photographs and Illustrations 176

12 The Undergraduate Experience 185

13 Farm Boys and Their Necessity for Work 201

14 Staff and Students Drafted for World War I 213

15 Enrollment Bubble Bursts during the Agricultural Depression 223

Photographs and Illustrations 240

16 Footsteps around the Farm 247

17 All Roads Lead to the International Live Stock Exposition 263

18 A Research Reputation Built on Livestock Feeding Experiments 283

19 A Fledgling Graduate Program 301

20 Expanding Purdue's Teaching and Research Farms 311

21 Extension Gives Voice to Research 327

Photographs and Illustrations 372

22 The Dean of Politics 397

23 Two Old Rams Butting Heads 419

24 Offers to Leave for Greener Pastures 447

Photographs and Illustrations 459

Part 4 The Agricultural Executive for Purdue University: Leading the Teaching, Research, and Extension Programs (1928-1939)

25 The Wizard of Depression-Era Budgets 471

26 Maintaining the Status Quo of the Teaching Programs 485

27 A Commitment to Land for Research and Demonstrations 501

28 Riding the Extension Wagon across Indiana 517

29 The Trip to Europe and Accolades for Achievements 531

Part 5 A Career Ends Like It Started-On the Farm

30 Put Out to Pasture 541

31 The Last Farm Visit 549


Hoosier by Birth, Farmer by Choice, Researcher by Passion 553

Photographs and Illustrations 557

Notes 567

Sources 609

Index 616

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews