William C. Hansen Papers, 1964-1973

Scope and Content Note

The Papers contain very little about John E. Olson's personal life other than a folder at the beginning of the collection with some biographical and personal material and another small series at the end of the collection containing material from his 1949 campaign as a Democrat for a Wisconsin State Senate seat. The major portion of the Papers are the records of eight cooperatives in which he was an active member: Dairyland Power Cooperative, Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, Wisconsin Association of Cooperatives, Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives, Insurance Cooperative Agency, Badger Electric Cooperative and Barron Electric Cooperative. The records were collected by Olson during his term as an officer or director of the several cooperatives and span thirty-three years of cooperative development in Wisconsin and adjoining states. John Olson played a pioneering role in the cooperative movement and because of this his records document the organization of cooperatives, the role of the federal government in supporting and regulating electric cooperatives, the relationship between rural electric cooperatives and urban public utilities and the development of electrical generation from hydro-electric power through coal and into the nuclear age with Dairyland's Genoa plant. Cooperative policy regarding these topics and the many aspects of operating electrical cooperatives on a daily basis is contained in the records of these organizations.

Board of Directors' minutes, committee minutes and reports, engineering reports, financial statements, special reports and district and annual meeting material make up the major portion of the records of each of the cooperatives represented in the collection. The records from each of the cooperatives are thus very similar. Correspondence is uniformly sparse throughout the collection. When correspondence is available, there are generally large gaps. In every case, the records reflect the activity within each organization with which Mr. Olson concerned himself either as a director or as a committee member.

The records of the various cooperatives vary in quantity and completeness. Those from Dairyland Power Cooperative are far more extensive than those of any other of the cooperatives from which Olson preserved records. They represent the many facets of an electric cooperative more effectively than the more limited material from Barron Electric Cooperative, Badger Electric Cooperative or the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives. Within the records of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative are the plans for its division into the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association and the Rural Electric Supply Cooperative, and within the Wisconsin Association of Cooperatives records are the merger plans with the Wisconsin Council of Agriculture which resulted in the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives.