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This collection contains materials relating to the career of William L. Amoss, who was head of the Farmers' Institutes at the Maryland Agricultural College from 1896 to 1910. Amoss's papers include daybooks, brochures, scrapbooks, reports and photographs, and cover such subjects as farmers' institutes, county fairs, farmers' markets, the Maryland State Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, local farm clubs, the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, poultry, horticulture, and transportation. In 1918 and 1919, Amoss served as Special Field Agent with the U.S. Employment Service of the Department of Labor. His papers from this period include correspondence regarding farm labor shortages suffered during and after World War I in New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. There is also a small amount of personal correspondence that provides some insight into Amoss's family life.
This collection is open for research.
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.
14.00 Linear Feet
The William L. Amoss papers cover the years 1884 to 1936, with the bulk of the material dating between 1896 and 1919. Document types represented in the collection include correspondence, manuscripts, scrapbooks, ephemera, newspaper clippings, and publications. The materials cover topics such as the Farmers' Institutes and their administration; advice on farming and livestock, including letters and articles dealing with diseases of crops and livestock, methods of fertilization, soil testing, and the transportation of farm products; financial and labor aspects of farming, particularly during World War I; Maryland's participation in the Louisiana Purchase Exposition; and Amoss's participation in a number of farmers' organizations and clubs. There is also a small amount of personal correspondence that provides some insight into Amoss's family life.
William Lee Amoss was born October 10, 1859, on Mt. Soma farm in Benson, Harford County, Maryland. He was educated at Oakland Academy and graduated with the equivalent of a high school degree from Eaton and Burnett Business College in Baltimore. In 1904, Amoss married Sarah Evelyn Breed, a native of Cornwall, New York. At the time of their marriage, Breed had been Superintendent of the Southern Industrial Classes of Norfolk, Virginia, a branch of the Hampton Institute, for eight years. The couple had at least one child, a daughter named Cornelia.
After serving for nine years as Secretary of the Harford County Farmers' Convention, Amoss was appointed the first director of the Department of Farmers' Institutes of the Maryland Agricultural College (MAC) in 1896. According to Amoss, his appointment came as a surprise and was accepted "only on the solicitation of friends with whom I had been associated when working for our farmers organizations for a betterment of conditions under which we were living." As director, he organized institutes in each county of the state, recruiting agricultural experts from around the country to speak to local farmers regarding the practical issues they faced every day, covering topics such as using fertilizer, raising livestock, and determining soil acidity, among many others. He reported to MAC President R.W. Silvester in 1907 that the Institutes had "shown [the farmer] that he must look to the Agricultural College and the Experiment Station for scientific information not to be obtained elsewhere." He remained director until 1910 when he was dismissed by the MAC Board of Trustees. The Board cited administrative concerns as the reason for Amoss's dismissal, indicating that the Farmers' Institutes had deviated from the Board's vision for the mission of the College. His dismissal was controversial, particularly with local farmers' organizations.
During his tenure at MAC, Amoss participated in a number of additional activities. He was one of the original founders of and subscribers to the Farmers Market Company of Baltimore City. Incorporated in 1896, it was commonly referred to as the Baltimore Market. Amoss was president of the American Association of Farmers' Institute Workers for the year 1902. In 1903 and 1904, Amoss spent a significant amount of time organizing Maryland's entry for an agricultural exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri.
Amoss's name was submitted for the position of president of the Maryland Agricultural College in 1913 by George Powell, former director of the Farmers' Institutes for New York and president of the Agricultural Experts Association, though he was not ultimately considered. In 1918, Amoss was appointed Special Field Agent with the U.S. Employment Service of the Department of Labor. He dealt primarily with farm labor shortages suffered during and after World War I in New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. He resigned from that position in July 1919.
Amoss also maintained and developed his own farm, Mt. Soma - so named as the reverse spelling of Amos - in Benson, Harford County, Maryland. In his role as a farmer, Amoss continued to correspond regularly with state experiment stations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After his resignation from the U.S. Employment Service, he settled permanently into his work on Mt. Soma Farm with his family.
William Amoss died on December 11, 1933, at his residence on Mt. Soma farm. He was preceded in death by his wife.
The collection is divided into eight series.
The William L. Amoss papers were separated from the records of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and accessioned by the University of Maryland University of Maryland in 1972. Originally, the collection included a series on the Farmers' Institutes. In 2005, that series was separated from the William L. Amoss papers and added to the the Farmers' Institutes records.
A series comprised exclusively of Farmers' Institutes materials was separated and placed with the Farmers' Institutes records in the University of Maryland.
Although the William L. Amoss papers include a photograph series, some photographs originally accessioned with the William L. Amoss papers were separated from the collection in the 1980s and added to the photograph print files. They may be found under the subject heading "Amoss" in the "portrait" portion of that collection. Amoss photographs are also scattered throughout the photograph print files under the headings "University of Maryland -- Agricultural Experiment Station" and "University of Maryland -- Farmers' Institutes."
This collection was originally processed upon accession in the 1970s. The collection was reprocessed in 2005. A series comprised exclusively of Farmers' Institutes materials was separated and placed with the Farmers' Institutes records in the University of Maryland. A new series was created to identify items related to Amoss's family farm, Mt. Soma. The Publications series was re-arranged according to topics. In early 2011, photographs that had been separated from the collection in the 1970s and placed in the Biographical Photographs - Print File collection were reincorporated into the collection. In October 2011, photographs that had been moved to the Subject Photographs - Print File collection were returned to the Amoss papers. These photographs are unprocessed.
During reprocessing, items were re-foldered and re-boxed, staples and other metal fasteners were removed, oversize items were separated to oversize boxes and folders, and newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper. Scrapbooks with glued-in clippings were interleaved with acid-free paper.
Part of the Special Collections and University Archives