THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Reference.--C. H. Greathouse: Historical Sketch of the Department of Agriculture, in Year Book of the Department for 1897.-- American Law Review, 30:787.-- Nature, 64:372.-- Science, 9:199; 13;321. -- National Geographical Magazine, 14:35.
Popular Science Monthly, 53:307.-- Forum, 25:341.-- Living Age, 224:579.-- Engineering Magazine, 1:772.-- Chautauquan, 14:229.
WHILE the title of the department of Agriculture indicates what is perhaps the most important field of its activities, its functions have been extended to include the whole range of rural industry, and some branches of administration only very indirectly related to agricultural interests.
It is but a few years since the department was organized as one of the principal executive departments; but its beginnings can be traced from an earlier time. Even during the colonial period there were some desultory instances of government aid and encouragement to agriculture, both by the colonial authorities and the British Parliament. Soon after the national government was organized some attempts were made to establish a board of agriculture; but neither the first proposal in 1796 nor a second effort in 1817 were successful. Some of the United States consuls introduced, on their own initiative, some new plants and new breeds of animals; and a few special reports on agricultural topics were published as congressional documents. But no systematic work was done and no official organization established for fifty years after the adoption of the constitution.