F. H. King Papers, 1883-1929

Scope and Content Note

A large number of these papers relate to a controversy between King and Milton Whitney, chief of the Bureau of Soils of the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington. King had been agricultural physicist at the University of Wisconsin from 1888 to 1901, when he resigned to accept a position in the Federal Department. There he made investigations in soils for the bureau, and prepared for publication a bulletin in six parts, only three of which were actually published. Because of dissensions within the bureau and controversies regarding the value of the “suppressed” part of the report, King resigned in 1904 and returned to Madison.

Among the papers are letters from Whitney; from James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture; Harvey W. Wiley, chief of the Bureau of Chemistry of the department; Cyril G. Hopkins, of the University of Illinois College of Agriculture; H.G. Wheeler of the Rhode Island College of Agriculture; Charles E. Thorne, of the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station; E.W. Hilgard, Dean and Director of the University of California College of Agriculture; J.W. Nelson, J.O. Belz, and Oswald Schreiner, employees in the bureau; and Henry C. Adams of Madison, member of Congress from the 2nd District.

In addition to the controversy described above, some of these letters, particularly those of Dean Hilgard and Congressman Adams, deal with general policies and political connections of the department, technical matters on soils research, the Adams Act for aid to agricultural research, extension of agricultural experimental work in the United States, and other allied subjects.

A small collection of correspondence with the W.D. Hoard Company of Fort Atkinson around 1908 is mostly devoted to discussions of the preparation, publication, and distribution of King's books on Ventilation and Farmers of Forty Centuries.

Additional papers, presented by Mrs. King in February 1946, consist mainly of letters written to her by Professor King in 1909 while traveling in China and Japan collecting data for Farmers of Forty Centuries (1911). There is also correspondence with Herbert Quick, editor of Farm and Fireside and R. Patrick Wright of Glasgow, Scotland, regarding publication of articles; with Thomas C. Chamberlain on scientific problems and publications; with Charles Van Hise and others regarding the purchase of a tract of land owned by King adjoining the Agricultural Campus; some biographical sketches of King; and a small volume of notes made by King in 1902 while on a field trip to Goldsboro, North Carolina.