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Home / USDA Division of Agricultural Engineering Records

USDA Division of Agricultural Engineering Records

Electric Ice Cream Cabinet in Remote Country Store, circa 1930s


The USDA Division of Agricultural Engineering Records contains materials on the subjects of agricultural engineering, rural electrification, irrigation, drainage, farm buildings, farm power and machinery, crops and crop conditioning, harvesting, care and handling of products, and road construction. The materials span the years 1913 to 1981, with the bulk produced from the 1920s to the 1940s. The materials are in fair to good condition. Researchers may use the collection without restrictions.

The National Agricultural Library’s Special Collections received the materials prior to 1995 from M. Conner Ahrens, former assistant chief of USDA’s Farm Electrification Branch. Ahrens was writing a book on the history of rural electrification to be published by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. It is unknown whether the book was published. The original collection was arranged and described in 2018 by Sara Lee, Special Collections Archivist.

Historical Sketch

1898 Agricultural engineering research began in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Experiment Stations, Division of Irrigation Investigations
1915 Division of Agricultural Engineering created within the Bureau of Plant Industry’s Office of Public Roads and Rural Engineering
1931 Agricultural engineering attained bureau status and included the Divisions of Irrigation; Drainage and Soil Erosion Control; Mechanical Equipment; Structures; and Plans and Services
1939 Bureau of Agricultural Chemistry and Engineering created
1943 Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering established
1953 Agricultural Engineering Research Branch became part of the Agricultural Research Service
1957 Agricultural Engineering Research Branch became its own division with four branches including Crop Production, Livestock Engineering and Farm Structures, Harvesting and Farm Processing, and Farm Electrification

Scope and Content Note

The USDA Division of Agricultural Engineering Records contain photographs, glass and acetate negatives, and films related to agricultural engineering and rural electrification. Some of the subjects include irrigation, drainage, farm buildings, farm power and machinery, crops and crop conditioning, harvesting, care and handling of products, road construction, and farm electrification.

In addition to photographic formats, the collection includes print materials on agricultural engineering and farm electrification written by various authors. There are also speeches and papers by Arthur William Turner, assistant chief, Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering in 1943.

Container List

Box 001 – Glass negatives and photographs

Farmhouse interiors – sinks, tubs, showers, and stoves

Pumps – windmill-powered and water pumped into houses

Electric light and power plant machinery including generators

Box 002 – Photographs

Irrigation of fields and pumping plant for irrigation

Stump removal

Grain elevators in action

Milk separators and milk coolers

Stock tank water warmer

Interior of dairy barns

Assorted farming devices

Box 003 – Photographs

Farm scenes – dairy, pigs, cows, rabbits, hay

Grain elevators, grain conveyors, electric heaters, potato handling equipment

Milk houses

Poultry and egg packing plants

Water troughs and tanks (sheep and cows included)

Box 004 – Photographs

Indoor plumbing – kitchens, washing machines, water heaters, pump for electric water system

Egg handling machine, egg cooler, egg heater

Pig and chicken brooders

Box 005 – Photographs

Water pumps, water storage, wells

Indoor plumbing – bathrooms

Box 006 – Photographs

Indoor plumbing

Dryers – hay, seed, and cotton

Cotton storage houses

Egg incubators

Wooden fences and farm gates

Cold storage rooms and buildings

Box 007 – Negatives and Photographs

Painting of buildings

Electric motor equipment – cord dryer, crosscut saw

Product demonstrations

Electric fences

Stable lights

Plumbing and pumps

Box 008 – Photographs

Cold storage, refrigeration, milk coolers

Outdoor lighting

Water heaters

Feed grinders, grain elevators

Kitchen interiors

Dairy – bottle washer, utensil sterilizer, auto feeding device

Results of 1934 survey of farm houses indicating the percentage of families using various methods of water retrieval and clothes washing techniques

Box 009 – Photographs

House interiors - light switches and fixtures, vacuuming, stoves, kitchens

1919 motor driven water pump

Box 010 – Photographs

Cold storage plants

Photographs of scenes from movie “Turn on the Water” (cows, mother bathing daughter)

Water related equipment such as portable well rigs (labeled “resettlement project”), lawn watering, outdoor laundry, springhouse, waterwheel, hydraulic rams, and bathroom plumbing

Duplicate of survey of farm houses found in Box 8

Box 011 – Negatives

Home lighting – dining room and living room scenes

Machinery – assorted

Hand pumps, wells, windmills


Potato processing

Box 012 – Photographs

Apple processing

Grain elevator, corn cribs, hay driers

Water systems, watering troughs (heated, insulated)

Family around table with ceiling light fixture


USDA building in Washington, DC

Box 013 – Photographs


Greenhouse images

Pig and chicken brooders

Examples of indoor lighting

Household appliances such as sewing machine, waffle iron, Western Electric washing machine (advertisements)

Dairy farm – interior of cow milking barn (some from Bethesda, Maryland)

Ping pong table

Box 014 – Negatives and Photographs

Water power - hydro-generator, water wheel

Fences - wooden, wire, gates

Grain separator

Spinning Mule

Bushel baskets in cold storage

House foundations

Box 015 – Negatives


House construction - interior and exterior – roofing, plastering, walls, framing, bathroom construction

House construction – Paul Deadwyler houses in Maysville, Georgia

The Stout Institute (architecture school) – models of farm houses

Dairy barn and milk house

Multiple interior shots of various rooms

Vine-shading studies test house

Irrigation – pipes, trenches

Commercial cold storage buildings

Box 016 – Negatives

House construction

House interiors - normal and under construction

Testing equipment

Singer House, Steckelberg farmhouses

Box 017 – Photographs

Farm equipment – tobacco, corn, grain equipment; soil sterilizer; hay dryer, egg warmer

House interiors (some duplicates from earlier boxes) – washing machines; toaster; electric heater (General Electric photographs)

Chicken houses

Meter boxes

Laying cables, telephone poles

Box 018 – Photographs

Harvesting ice

Hand pumps

Water power on farms – dams, flumes, water wheels

Box 019 – Negatives and Photographs

Wisconsin Power & Light Company Photograph Album – electricity on the farm including electrical appliances, household appliances, farm equipment and machinery


Coal bin


Box 020 – Print Materials

Box 021 – Print Materials

Box 022 – Print Materials

Box 023 – Glass lantern slides and short films

Box 024 – Photographs

Kitchens – ovens, water heaters, sinks, flat iron

Laundry related – washing machines, buckets, ringers

Stump harvesting – 1921 Capstan stump harvester, 1922 Hamilton stump saw machine, Bissell stump harvester, Williamson stump puller, 1927 Paul Bunyon hammer

Use of explosives for stump removal

Rail fences

Hand power techniques – corn sheller, cream separator, churn

Milk cooler, pre-electrification


Thresher explosions

Road construction (dirt roads)

Gas generator

National Rural Electrification Project – Group photograph of Project Lighting Committee and others (names listed)

Drawing entitled “Sowing by Hand”

Box 025 – Photographs

Farmhouses – Farms Project - bad water system for farm house, painting of house exterior, electricity including light in bathroom, light switches, and ironing

Chick brooder, checking eggs

Shelling corn, corn crib, wheat bins

Grain elevator


Box 026 – Negatives and Photographs

Stump removal

1934 Farmhouse heating survey

Rammed earth buildings

Men working in the fields


Hand drill and drill press, electric grinder to sharpen tools


VA soil pasteurization studies

Examples of farmstead lighting

Box 027 – Photographs

Corn, cane and bean harvesters

Care and handling of products – packaging of tomato plants for shipment (1941 FSA Resettlement Project); tobacco cropping

Rural and community organization – first subsistence homestead unit

Field crops – field of cotton ready to be picked in Georgia - mother and children

Fruits and nuts


Removal of stumps with mechanical equipment

Farmstead planning

Removal of tree by poisoning

Potato planters,

Corn and cotton planters

Grain seeders, drills

Seeding machinery

Drage, floats and smoothers

Box 028 – Photographs

Harrows and rollers

Subsoilers (drawings of early colonial plows included)

Plows and ridging devices - many kinds, 1919, 1920s, 1930s

Cultivating cotton, corn, sugar beets, tobacco

Tillage – tillage machinery, charts about effectiveness of tillage tools


Box 029 – Negatives

Barn and shed exteriors

Greenhouse interiors

Farm house exteriors

Farm machinery

Streams, waterways or machinery relating to waterways from Washington DC; Delaware; and Trenton, New Jersey

Box 030 – Negatives

Farm houses and barns, including G.L. Blood’s property in Wichita, Kansas

Box 031 – Negatives


Land clearing

Farm machinery

Torsion dynamometer

Barn exteriors

Box 032 – Photographs

Land clearing exhibit by the Division of Agricultural Engineering at Minnesota State Fair, 1921


Exploding stumps of trees and blasting boulders

Experimental dirt road

Combine thresher

Farmsteads – trees, windbreaks, and winter scenes

Model of farm layout

Secretary Wallace and Dr. Charles Edward Munroe, Bureau of Mines

Plowing fields – tractors

Various pieces of farm equipment

Box 033 – Negatives and Photographs

Farm houses

Tractors and combines

Threshing – machines, explosions, extinguishers

Box 034 – Negatives

Houses – Revolutionary War era, modern 1913 homes

Box 035 – Negatives

Houses and farmsteads – remodeling


University of Georgia, Athens - equipment & material experiments

Photo of birthplace of Elias Howe, inventor of sewing machine

Milking cows

Box 036 – Photographs

Farmhouses – new construction and remodeling

Heitmiller House remodeling, Beltsville, Maryland

House of Jonathan Harrington - Revolutionary War era

Farmhouse built of 3 refrigerator cars - 1939

University of Wisconsin – farm equipment

Box 037 – Photographs

Farmhouses (interior/exterior) - remodeling and reconstruction

Box 038 – Photographs

Farmhouses (interior/exterior) - remodeling and reconstruction

New construction

Sketches of houses

Box 039 – Photographs

Barns (interior/exterior) – dairy, cattle, sheep and goat

Barn equipment, stalls and stanchions, manger and gutters

Hoghouses, poultry houses, small animal and crop storage

Hay and feed storage barns; grains, seed, and corn cribs

Hydro thermograph

Photographs of slides about dairy production

Box 040 – Photographs

Food storage, granary, shed, cribs

Experimental steel cribs

Box 041 – Photographs

University of Maryland farm


York temperature control unit and other experiments

Sketches of granaries

Barns and storage buildings

Box 042 – Photographs


Corn cribs

Root and fruit storage

Box 043 – Print Materials

Speeches and papers by A.W. Turner, Assistant Chief, Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering

Box 044 – Print Materials