William Kirsch Papers, 1921-1954

Summary Information
Title: William Kirsch Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1921-1954

  • Kirsch, William, 1889-1956
Call Number: Wis Mss VN

Quantity: 3.7 c.f. (9 archives boxes, 1 volume)

Archival Locations:
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Papers of William Kirsch, a statistician, agricultural economist, and pioneer in the cooperative movement in Wisconsin. Included is personal and business correspondence, notes, articles, background information, and clippings. The bulk of the collection concerns Wisconsin agriculture, particularly marketing practices, the cooperative movement, and investigations of monopolistic practices in the dairy industry, particulary in the cheese industry. Correspondence includes letters from Senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr., and Congressman Merlin Hull on government hearings and actions affecting Wisconsin agriculture.

Language: English

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-wis000vn
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William Kirsch, statistician, agricultural economist, and pioneer in the cooperative movement in Wisconsin, was born in Lodz, Russia. He went to Belgium with his parents at the age of fourteen, studied there and in Germany and France, and came to the United States when he was nineteen. After working in New York factories for two years he returned to Belgium; but stayed only six months before deciding to live permanently in the United States.

After another year of factory work in New York City he moved to Wisconsin with the intention of specializing in agricultural economics. While completing a degree at the University of Wisconsin, Kirsch accumulated four years of practical experience working on farms, chiefly in Sheboygan County. For two years he was an assistant to Charles McCarthy in the Legislative Reference Library, doing research and helping to draft agricultural legislation. For some years he also lectured in a graduate course, Economic Institutions, at the University of Wisconsin.

In 1920, Kirsch became associated with the Wisconsin State Department of Agriculture, at that time called the Department of Markets. As economic advisor to the Department he became a specialist in cooperative marketing and in the investigation of monopolies. He was in great demand as a speaker, and worked and wrote assiduously on any matter concerning the restraint of trade in the milk and cheese industry in Wisconsin, constantly urging improved standards and cooperative marketing.

Kirsch worked with the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department in gathering information on monopolistic practices in the dairy industry, especially in cheese marketing. In 1942 he wrote a series of articles for the Capital Times of Madison concerning Federal indictments involving monopolistic practices of the large cheese companies. After Judge Patrick Stone charged that Kirsch was using the newspapers to argue the state's case and that of the small cheese companies, Kirsch agreed to discontinue the articles. However, he resumed publication several months later.

In 1954, Kirsch retired as chief statistician with the Department of Agriculture, and died two years later. During his thirty-four years with the Department he often translated pertinent articles and letters, as he spoke six languages and could read several others. His reputation as an advocate of cooperative marketing was well known; in fact, he helped to establish the Pure Milk Products Cooperative in Wisconsin. He also wrote the county history sections for the Third County Agricultural Statistics Series, published between 1952 and 1955.

Kirsch strongly believed in business competition, but with the restraining hand of government always present. He argued that business competition without some control by government tends gradually to become monopolistic. To advance his thesis he published a book in 1952, Monopoly and Social Control (Public Affairs Press, Washington, D.C.), under the pseudonym Henry A. Wells.

Scope and Content Note

The William Kirsch collection is organized in two series: Correspondence and Research Files.

Correspondence, 1921-1922, 1924, 1931-1954, in the Kirsch Papers represents both personal and business activity, and is concerned almost entirely with Kirsch's absorbing interest in Wisconsin agriculture, and especially in marketing practices. In the 1930's he carried on much correspondence concerning problems of the Milk Pool in Wisconsin. The following decade he wrote and received many letters relating to anti-monopoly indictments against the large cheese companies, price controls in dairy products, advertising in the dairy industry, and agricultural production and marketing in Wisconsin.

Kirsch often corresponded with Senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr., 1936-1946, and Congressman Merlin Hull, 1939-1945, in reference to government conferences, indictments, hearings, and appropriations affecting Wisconsin agricultural production and marketing. His other correspondence was usually with state or Federal officials interested in the cheese anti-monopoly suits, cheese grading, or standardization of farm products. These included Thurman Arnold of the Justice Department and Donald Montgomery, consumer's counsel for the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Research Files contain a variety of information relating to the milk and cheese industry of Wisconsin--minutes of meetings, resolutions, background information and notes made by Kirsch, copies of articles and speeches, and clippings. These materials have been left under the topics in which Kirsch had kept them, although within each topic they are now arranged chronologically, usually by months.

Box 9 contains information gathered by Kirsch concerning production and trade practices relating to various agricultural products in Wisconsin, such as pea canning, tobacco surveys, and malt and barley investigations. Since Kirsch was also interested in the promotion of the Great Lakes Seaway he kept a file of miscellaneous information concerning this project.

Volume 1 contains clippings relating to agricultural industries and marketing in Wisconsin in the early 1930's.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs. William Kirsch, Madison, Wisconsin, October 14, 1957.

Processing Information

Processed by Margaret R. Hafstad, December 4, 1962.

Contents List
Series: Correspondence
Box   1
1921-1922, 1924, 1931-1937
Box   2
Box   3
1942-1954; undated
Series: Research Files
Milk and cheese industry of Wisconsin
Box   4
Statements, articles, information, resolutions, 1921, 1924, 1932-1947
Box   4
Farmers Call Board: minutes, May 28, 1921, and miscellaneous information, , undated
Box   5
Reorganization of the Cheese Federation, 1932
Box   5
Cheese codes, 1933
Box   5
Milk pool cooperative, 1935-1938
Box   5
Muenster cheese investigation, 1938
Box   5
Foreign type cheese--Justice Dept. and Federal Trade Commission, 1938-1944
Box   5
Weekly butter, shortening, cheese reports, 1941
Box   5
Cheese distribution in Chicago, undated
Box   6
Cheese market committee, 1931
Box   6
Cheese complaints and indictments, 1940-1945
Box   6
Complaints re government anti-trust suit, 1915, 1950
Box   7
Clippings re Plymouth Call Board, 1931-1932
Box   7
Clippings re cheese monopoly investigations, 1933-1950
Box   7
Clippings of Kirsch's articles and releases, 1939-1917
Box   7
Clippings re foreign type cheese indictments, 1911
Box   7
Clippings re American cheese indictment, 1942
Box   8
U.S. vs. Wisconsin Cheese Exchange, Exhibits, 1-571
Note: Many numbered exhibits are missing.
Box   9
Malt and barley investigations, 1939
Box   9
Pea canning information, 1937-1941
Box   9
Tobacco survey, unfair trade practices case, 1950
Box   9
Great Lakes Seaway, miscellaneous information, 1941-1946
Box   9
Kirsch's article comparing agriculture in Wisconsin and Russia
Note: Written in longhand, in Russian.
Box   9
Miscellaneous reports and news releases
Volume   1
Clippings, 1930-1932, re agricultural industries and marketing in Wisconsin