USDA Bureau of Animal Industry Guinea Pig Records

Guinea pig birth record, 1926.

Introduction

The USDA Bureau of Animal Industry Guinea Pig Records contain the birth records of guinea pigs bred by the Bureau’s Animal Husbandry Division for its early 20th century animal genetics research. The records span the years 1906 to 1915 and 1926 to 1933. There are no records from 1916 to 1925. The records are in fair condition. Researchers may use the collection without restrictions.

The date and source of the materials’ transfer to the National Agricultural Library’s Special Collections is unknown. Emily Somach, Special Collections staff member, completed processing and production of the collection finding aid in 2018.

Historical Sketch

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) in May 1884. The BAI was authorized to carry out scientific studies and administer regulations and statutes protecting the public from contaminated meat, eliminating domestic animal diseases, and improving the country’s livestock populations. In 1901, the BAI appointed George M. Rommel as its first expert in animal husbandry to study animal nutrition. In 1907, it formally established the Animal Husbandry Office, and then raised it to division status in 1910.

Congressional funding for animal husbandry research began in 1904 with the Agricultural Appropriation Act, which allocated $25,000 to the Animal Husbandry Division to investigate issues relating to animal breeding and feeding. In 1910, Congress provided more funding to the BAI to develop experimental farms, which further aided the Animal Husbandry Division’s work and became one of the most important features of the Bureau.

The Division’s genetic studies on guinea pigs began under the supervision of Dr. E. H. Riley in 1906, with a strong focus on the effects of inbreeding. Guinea pigs were chosen as research subjects because they were easy to care for and were prolific breeders. Dr. Riley eventually resigned from the project in 1913 and Dr. Sewall Wright took over the work from 1915 to 1925.

The Bureau of Animal Industry, and consequently its Animal Husbandry Division, were abolished in 1953 when the USDA established the Agricultural Research Service.

Scope and Content Note

This collection comprises two binders of guinea pig birth records produced by the Animal Husbandry Division as they carried out genetic studies. The records in this collection document the exclusive mating of sibling guinea pigs and contain information about multiple generations and families.

One binder spans the years 1906 to 1915 and generations 1 through 10. The second binder spans the years 1926 to 1933 and generations 23 through 30. Records covering the years 1916 to 1925 and generations 10 to 22 are not included in this collection.