Charles Farquharson Stewart Sharpe Papers

Photograph of farm field with irrigation Introduction

The Charles Farquharson Stewart Sharpe Collection occupies 5 linear feet and consists of 12 manuscript boxes. Dr. C.F. Stewart Sharpe of Falls Church, Virginia, donated his personal papers to the National Agricultural Library on July 1, 1991. The papers were arranged and described by Anne B.W. Effland, Agricultural and Rural History Section, Economic Research Service, USDA, and completed on August 16, 1991.


Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library (NAL) acquires, arranges, describes, preserves and makes available rare materials significant to the history of agriculture. Materials are obtained through donation or active collection in accordance with the established Special Collections collection development policy. Special Collections staff organize and describe materials according to archival principles and create descriptions and indexes to enhance access. Staff do not edit or otherwise modify the original materials. The views expressed in the collections do not necessarily reflect the policies of the National Agricultural Library or the United States Department of Agriculture.

Biographical Sketch

Charles Farquharson Stewart Sharpe, known to his family, friends, and coworkers as Stewart Sharpe and professionally as C. F. Stewart Sharpe, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, on October 21, 1907. He received an A.B. in English and Economics, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Geology from Columbia University in 1928, 1931, and 1938, respectively. Following completion of his doctoral program, Sharpe worked as an assistant soil conservationist in the Climatic and Physiographic Division of the Soil Conservation Service, USDA, from 1935 to 1938. He became an associate soil conservationist in 1938 and acting head of the Physiographic Section in 1941. Following the outbreak of World War II, when work in the Climatic and Physiographic Division ceased, Sharpe entered the Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Service as a geographer. He remained in that position from 1943 to 1945. During that time he served as acting head of the Terrain-Hydrology Section of the Europe-Africa Division (1943-1944) and editor for the Joint Intelligence Study Publishing Board (1944-1945). In 1945, this work was transferred to the Office of the Special Assistant, Research and Intelligence, U.S. Department of State, where Sharpe continued to serve as a geographer. He held that position until 1948, when he became a technical editor with the Central Intelligence Agency. While with the Department of State, Sharpe served as deputy editor in chief (1945-1947) and editor in chief (1947-1949) for the Joint Intelligence Study Publishing Board.

Sharpe retired from government service in 1969. He is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and a member of the Association of American Geographers, the Association of Engineering Geologists, and the American Geophysical Union. His special fields of work have included mass movement of soil and rock, soil erosion, and accelerated erosion. Sharpe married Lois Kremer, who also holds a Ph.D. in geology, in 1936. They have two sons.

An oral history interview with Dr. Sharpe is available at the Agricultural and Rural History Section, Economic Research Service, USDA

Historical Sketch

The records in this collection document work carried out by the Climatic and Physiographic Division of the Soil Conservation Service, USDA. Beginning in 1935, that division pursued research in climatology, geomorphology, and erosion history to support the larger mission of the Soil Conservation Service to understand and reduce soil erosion in the United States. Charles Farquharson Stewart Sharpe worked on the geomorphology, or physiographic, studies of the division. The purpose of the physiographic work was to determine the processes causing natural and accelerated erosion. Division research scientists studied a number of sites around the nation, each site representing a different climatic and physiographic region. Reports compiled by these research scientists provided conservationists with fundamental information on the processes of erosion in different regions and recommendations for technical approaches to reduce the effects of that erosion. Although terminated in 1943 by wartime budget and personnel shortages, the division completed studies at three locations: Polacca Wash Navajo-Hopi Indian reservation, an arid site in northeastern Arizona marked by channel erosion; Spartanburg, South Carolina, a site in the humid Piedmont Southeast marked by deep gully erosion; and a series of sites in the karst limestone region of Kentucky marked by sink-hole erosion. Projects to study slope movement in the Appalachian Plateau region in southeastern Ohio and erosion of wind-blown silt (loess) soils in northwestern Mississippi never produced final reports, but are documented in the papers of this collection.

Further details on the work of the Climatic and Physiographic Division will be found in reports included in the collection.

(Based on information in the article "Soil Geomorphology Studies in the U.S. Soil Survey Program," by Anne B. W. Effland and William R. Effland, Agricultural History, 1992.)

Scope and Content Note

The Charles Farquharson Stewart Sharpe Papers contain records accumulated by Sharpe from 1935 to 1943, when he worked as a soil conservationist in the Climatic and Physiographic Division of the Soil Conservation Service, USDA. The papers fill 12 archival manuscript boxes and consist of copies of articles, translations, and publications relating to geomorphology and erosion; correspondence and other records produced in the course of work for the Climatic and Physiographic Division; research notes and draft reports of physiographic studies in which Sharpe was involved; copies of published reports authored by Sharpe; and photographs and lantern slides documenting soil erosion studies. Materials appear in manuscript boxes in several formats, designated in the inventory by the following abbreviations: FF (file folder); Item (loose materials); Env (envelope); Box (small box within the manuscript box).

Series Description

The collection is divided into nine series most of which were created by Sharpe when he organized his files for donation to the National Agricultural Library.

Series I (Box 1) consists of typed copies of articles of interest to Sharpe. The articles include notices on mass movement phenomena in the United States, Uganda, Italy, Jamaica; articles on frost heaving, landslides, climate of the post-glacial United States based on pollen analysis, land "sculpture," potholes, loess formation, clay slips, surface configuration of South America, rock formations of the Appalachians, and Alaskan tundra; historical mentions of mass movement in the United States; and abstracts of articles from the Bulletin of the South Carolina Academy of Science relating to Soil Conservation Service gully erosion studies in South Carolina. Some of the articles are translations.

Series II (Boxes 1-2) contains translations of foreign works related to geomorphology. Translators were available to the Climatic and Physiographic Division through New Deal work programs. Titles and authors are indicated in file folder titles.

Series III (Box 2) includes loose publications, generally reprints of articles and papers collected by Sharpe, 1925-1949. Most relate to geologic and climatic research.

Series IV (Boxes 2-4) consists of correspondence to and from Sharpe (and in some cases other Climatic and Physiographic Division staff) regarding administrative activities, research work, preparation of reports, and presentation of results as academic papers.

Series V (Boxes 5-8) contains plans, data, background material, maps, illustrations, related articles, and drafts of reports for the four projects of the Climatic and Physiographic Division on which Sharpe served as a staff scientist. They include the Mississippi Loess study, the South Carolina Piedmont study, the Polacca Wash study, and the Ohio/Appalachian areas study (Muskingum watershed).

Series VI (Box 8) includes notes, drafts, and reviews of smaller publications/research projects in which Sharpe was involved while with the Soil Conservation Service.

Series VII (Box 9) contains office files, conference plans and notes, and files collected by Sharpe in preparing for an oral history interview with Anne B. W. Effland, Agricultural and Rural History Section, Economic Research Service, USDA, June 1991.

Series VIII (Box 10-11) consists of files on such media techniques as microfilm, bibliofilm, and a carbon transfer map delineation process, as well as records of photographic work, aerial photos, and lantern slides related to the research of the Climatic and Physiographic Division.

Series IX (Box 12) includes two files of research notecards related to the work of the Climatic and Physiographic Division.