50 Features of Special Collections: Agriculture Technology

Higgins Collection, 
D-056 Gaar, Scott and Co.; Grand Gold Medal Thresher

Higgins Collection, D-056 Gaar, Scott and Co.; Grand Gold Medal Thresher

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One of the more heavily used manuscript subject areas in Special Collections is Agriculture Technology. Any research or interest in Agriculture, Plant Science, California History and Food Production involves Agriculture Technology. In 1959, F. Hal Higgins, news editor for Caterpillar Tractor Company and a free-lance journalist, sold his collection of primary research material on the history of agricultural technology to the University of California at Davis. This collection of company histories, business files, pamphlets, advertising items, and photographs became the beginning of the agricultural technology subject area.

Higgins Collection, D-056 Berry Steam Harvester

The Floyd Halleck “Hal” Higgins Collection, D-056 is an oft used and referred to collection by researchers and restorers of agriculture technology. The collection is primarily brochures, correspondence, manuscripts, clippings, serials, and posters relating to the development of agricultural machinery in the United States, Canada, and Europe, particularly the history of tractors and combines from 1796-1982. Floyd Halleck Higgins moved to California in 1927 where he became the News Editor for Caterpillar Tractor Company. Higgins began collecting materials relating to the origins of combines and tractors but his interests expanded to include all forms of farm mechanization. In 1933, Higgins became a free lance writer and his articles appeared in Pacific Rural Press , Farm Implement News, Diesel Progress , Rice Journal, and other agricultural journals. He interviewed “the men who were there” to create a historical record supported by material in his ever-growing collection.  Higgins’ personal correspondence and manuscripts are now the F. Hal Higgins Papers and the manuals, catalogs and photographs have been treated as separate collections (see below). The Floyd Halleck “Hal” Higgins Collection, D-056 is over 560 linear feet.

O-011 M:2778, The Cole Manufacturing Co.

The Agricultural Technology Manuals Collection, O-011 is another heavily used and referenced collection by restorers and researchers. It began as a series in the F. Hal Higgins Collection, however, the manuals were used by patrons so often that in 1983 they were removed from the Higgins collections and renamed the Agricultural Technology Manuals Collections. This also made it easier to acquire and catalog new titles. For this collection, a manual is defined as an illustrated handbook used to assemble, operate, repair, or restore machinery. It may include parts books if the parts are depicted together functionally. Except where noted, all manuals are originals, not facsimiles or reprints. The collection is limited to farm machinery (from a simple garden plow to power farming machines) and some construction machinery (primarily road construction). Items date from 1865 to 1982, however, the bulk of the collection covers U.S. manufacturers from 1930 to 1960. The Agricultural Technology Manuals Collection, O-011 is over 70 linear feet.

 

D-582 8:35
“The Aylward Traction Engine and Steam Hay Press pulling the Hay Press on the Streets of Livermore. July 4th, 1892.”

The Floyd Halleck Higgins Agricultural Technology Photographs, D-582 also began as a series in the F. Hal Higgins Collection. Regular patron use of the collection indicated a strong interest in the photographs of tractors and other farm machinery. In order to better serve patrons, Special Collections staff removed the photographs that had accumulated in the Higgins Collection and organized them as the Floyd Halleck Higgins Agricultural Technology Photographs. The collection is 150 linear feet and contains photographs and negatives of farm machinery, equipment dealerships, and people of note in agricultural technology history. The Floyd Halleck Higgins Agricultural Technology Photographs, D-582 is still being processed and the finding aid updated.

Western Machinery Company Archives, D-218

Besides the Higgins collection and it’s offshoots the archival records of selected agricultural technology manufacturers are also included in this subject category. The Western Machinery Company Archives, D-218 contains drawings, blueprints, and use records of agricultural machinery parts produced in the first half of the twentieth century, and the Blackwelder Manufacturing Company Archives, D-326 contains comprehensive documentation of tomato harvesters and other agricultural equipment. This includes the collaboration between Blackwelder and UC Davis in creating and commercializing the first mechanized tomato harvester. A portion of the Agricultural Technology Manuals Collection consists of a set of the Caterpillar Company’s manuals, parts catalogs, and serviceman’s reference manuals for all of their manufactured machines.

Tomato Harvester-Blackwelder/UC, D-326

The Department also collects the personal papers of individuals involved in the research, development, and marketing of agricultural technology. The records of Henn (MC114), Steiner (MC014), and Keast (D-029) give a first-hand glimpse of the development of the industry through the eyes of a company archivist, a service maintenance man, and a master mechanic, respectively, while the Bakken papers, D-004 focus primarily on the role of advertising to market and promote the new machinery of such companies as International Harvester, Best, Oliver, and Minneapolis-Moline. The Leffingwell papers, D-571 contain photographs and research from an agricultural technology historian, author and photographer.

Neubauer Papers, D-109 Box 2 glass slide

The papers of Bainer (D-252), Brooks (D-100), Long (D-307), Neubauer (D-109), and Walker (D-111) contain materials relating to the significant contributions to the field of agricultural engineering by University of California affiliates; noteworthy among these collections are the Walker papers, D-111, which contain extensive materials relating to the development of the sugar beet harvester.

Collections in Agricultural Technology comprise of over 1100 linear feet and cover a date span from 1795 to the present. Most of the materials focus on research and development in the United States and are in the English language, though a small portion of the materials deal with European machines and concerns. Formats represented include pamphlets, correspondence, drawings, blueprints, photographs, microfiche, ledgers, and audiovisual materials.

Leffingwell Papers, D-571