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Farmers' Institutes records

 Collection 0005-UA

The records of the Farmers' Institutes, a Department of the Maryland Agricultural College, cover the years 1896 to 1910. Document types include correspondence, news clippings, inventories, a scrapbook of programs, broadsides, and syllabi, and a history of the Institutes. The Farmers' Institutes were created by state legislation in 1896 in order to provide agricultural education to farmers throughout the state. Instruction took place in the form of meetings held in each county, with national and international experts on agricultural topics speaking to the farmers on specific agricultural issues. The majority of correspondence and materials are from William L. Amoss's tenure as Director. Amoss served as Director of the Farmers' Institutes from 1896 to 1910.


  • 1896-1910
  • Majority of material found within 1896-1910

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


5.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Farmers' Institute records cover the years 1896 to 1910. Document types represented in the collection include correspondence, manuscripts, scrapbooks, ephemera, newspaper clippings, and posters and pamphlets. The materials cover the establishment and administration of the Farmers' Institute, particularly local meetings and correspondence with speakers, and a history of the Institute. The majority of correspondence is to or from William L. Amoss.

The records also document the annual "Model Farmers' Institute," and include surveys of State Farmers' Institutes.

Administrative History

Under the auspices of the Vansville Farmer's Club of Beltsville, a Farmers' Institute was organized and held its first meeting in Beltsville, Maryland in December 1894. The meeting participants appointed a committee to plan a program to be held in 1896 to bring to the attention of the state legislature the need and importance of an organization committed to improving agricultural conditions within the state, such as those in Vermont, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

A Model Farmers' Institute was held in Annapolis on January 14, 1896, with the goal of gaining financial support from the state legislature. The group was successful and the Maryland State Farmers' Institute was created by state legislation on March 27, 1896, with an initial appropriation of $3,000 per year. The legislature established the Farmers' Institute as a department of the Maryland Agricultural College, and provided for its director to be appointed by college trustees. Each county in the state was to host at least one Institute annually.

William L. Amoss was appointed the first Director of the Farmers' Institute Department of the Maryland Agricultural College (MAC) in 1896, a position he held until 1910. He organized Farmers' Institute meetings in each county, securing speakers, keeping attendance records, tracking subject matter important to the farmers in each locale, and acting as chairman at the meetings. Amoss was responsible for many of the educational trains and boats which traveled throughout the state disseminating agricultural information. He described the Institutes as "a far reaching system of popular education in agriculture," and as "the Adult farmers (sic) school where men or women skilled in all departments of agriculture, and from any section of the globe, will have an opportunity to meet our farmers." Posters advertising some of the earliest meetings included the motto, "No Theory! All Practical!" When Maryland Governor Lloyd Lowndes addressed an Institute meeting in Allegany County in February 1896, he told the assembled farmers he had been "warned . . . not to appear at the farmers' institute (sic) except in the working dress of a farmer." Despite the local flavor of the Institute meetings, speakers were agricultural experts who traveled to all the counties of Maryland, and included farmers, professors of agriculture and home economics, and directors of experiment stations with national and international reputations, including George T. Powell, Director of the Farmers' Institute of New York; R. W. Silvester, President of the Maryland Agricultural College; James Wilson, U. S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1897 to 1913; and James Armstrong, Land Commissioner of Ireland.

William Amoss was dismissed from his post by the MAC Board of Trustees in 1910. Richard S. Hill was appointed to replace him as Director of the Department of Farmers' Institutes and held that post from 1911 to 1918.

The federal Smith-Lever Act, passed in 1914, made funds available for farm and home demonstration agents and established a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture and the land grant institutions that became the Cooperative Extension Service. When the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service was established at the Maryland Agricultural College in 1916, it largely replaced the Farmers' Institute Department.


This collection is organized as eight series:

Series 1
Series 2
Annual Reports
Series 3
State Farmers' Institute
Series 4
Chronological History of the Institute from 1896-1907
Series 5
Model Farmers' Institute
Series 6
Programs and Posters
Series 7
Inventories, Lists, and Indices
Series 8
Newspaper Clippings

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

University of Maryland Libraries received the Farmers' Institute in records 1972. Additional materials were separated from the records of the Agricultural Experiment Station during processing in 1983 and incorporated into the original grouping. The scrapbook which comprises Series III, Folder 1, was transferred to the Farmers' Institute records from the Maryland Manuscripts collection in 1983. During reprocessing of the Papers of William L. Amoss in 2005, a series comprised exclusively of materials related to the Farmers' Institute was separated from that collection and incorporated into the Records of the Farmers' Institute as Series I and Series II. Three documents pertaining exclusively to Amoss's work on the Louisiana Purchase Exposition; files from his home office at Mt. Soma; and a list of the office contents of the Farmer's Market Company of Baltimore were transferred from the Farmers' Institute records to the Papers of William. L. Amoss. The Farmers' Institute records were reprocessed in February 2006.

Related Material

A series comprised exclusively of Farmers' Institute materials was separated from the Papers of William L. Amoss and placed with the Records of the Farmers' Institute. The Papers of William L. Amoss includes material related to his work as Director of the Farmers' Institute from 1896 to 1910. His papers also include correspondence regarding his dismissal from that position.

The Archives of the Vansville Farmers Club include documentation on the development of the state of Maryland's system of Farmers' Institutes.

The Cooperative Extension Service continued the work of the Farmers' Institute. The Records of the Cooperative Extension Service date to its formation in 1914 and include materials related to the Farmers' Institute's mission of educational outreach to farmers.

Bulletins, programs, minutes, and reports of the Farmers' Institute, dating from 1896 to 1949 are also part of University Publications (University Publications, UPUB F10.001). This grouping also includes programs from the annual Farmer's Days held at the College Park campus, which appear to have replaced the Farmers' Institutes.

A Report of the director of Farmers' Institutes to the Governor and General Assembly of Maryland for 1898 can be found in the Maryland Room (Maryland Rare Stacks, S71 .F2 1898).

Processing Information

All items have been placed in acid-free folders. Oversize items have been unfolded and removed to a flat oversize box. Staples and metal fasteners have been removed. Newspaper clippings have been photocopied on acid-free paper where possible.

A series comprised of materials related exclusively to the Farmers' Institutes was removed from the Papers of William L. Amoss and added to the Records of the Farmers' Institute as Series I: Meetings and Series II: Reports. Materials found in the Records of the Farmers' Institute dealing primarily with the personal business of William L. Amoss were removed to that collection.

Guide to the Farmers' Institute records
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742