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HENRY ELIJAH ALVORD
1844 MA – 1904 MO
KANSAS CITY STAR
Kansas City, Jackson Co., MO—1 October 1904
Major Henry E. Alvord Dead
The End to an Agricultural Department Official in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS, MO., Oct. 1—Major Henry E. Alvord, chief of the dairy division of the United States Department of Agriculture, died to-day at the Baptist hospital, as the result of a stroke of paralysis. Major Alvord, who was here attending the sessions of the International Pure Food congress, was stricken last Wednesday while in the live stock Forum at the World’s fair. He was taken to a hospital, where he lingered until to-day. Major Alvord, who was 70 years old, was a graduate of West Point. He attained his rank in the Civil War.
From: ICE AND REFRIGERATION, Volume 27, Nos. 1 to 6, July to Dec. 1904. Chicago & New York: Nickerson & Collins Co., 1904. Online at Google Books.
HENRY E. ALVORD, DECEASED.
Major Henry E. Alvord, chief of the dairy division, United States Department of Agriculture, died at St. Louis, Saturday, October 1st, of paralysis. He was stricken while on duty at the exposition on Wednesday preceding and gradually failed. He was over 60 years of age, having been born in Greenfield, Mass., in 1844. At the time of his death he was probably the best known American in dairy circles. He graduated from Norwich University. Vermont, in 1862, taking the degree of bachelor of science, and later the degree of civil engineer. For the promotion of research and instruction in aid of agriculture he was granted the honorary degree of doctor of laws by the above university.
He served in the Union army during the civil war and received the commission of major, by which he was known throughout the country. He was professor of agriculture in the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Agricultural Colleges, president of the State College of Maryland and director of agricultural experiment station at Houghton Farm from 1880-85 and of the state station in Maryland from 1887-92. In 1895 he organized the dairy division of the United States Department of Agriculture, of which he has since been the chief. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was president of the American Society for the Promotion of Agricultural Science in 1885 and president of the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations. 1894-95.
He has for many years believed that agriculture could be taught by the correspondence method, and might well be called the father of this system. He gave it the first practical test. Over twenty years ago he was at the head of the agricultural department of Chautauqua University. The following are some of Major Alvord’s dairy writings:
American Chapters in Sheldon’s “Dairy Farming.”
Butter, Cheese and Condensed Milk Factories, Agricultural Volume, Twelfth United States Census.
The Dairy Herd—Its Formation and Management, 1896.
Creameries—Organization, Equipment and Management, 1896.
By-Products of the Dairy, 1897.
Breeds of Dairy Cattle, Illustrated, 1898.
Dairy Development of the United States in the Nineteenth Century.
Dairy Products at the Paris Exposition, 1900.
Dairying at Home and Abroad, 1902.
The Water Content of Creamery Butter, 1903.
The Statistics of the Dairy, 1904.
Numerous contributions to State Annual Agricultural Reports.
Numerous contributions, essays, etc., for State Dairy Associations.
Contributions to American and Foreign Dairy Journals and to Ice And Refrigeration.
It was for the purpose of carrying out his favorite idea that modern methods and the results of recent Government investigation should be brought more directly home to the farmers that he consented to take charge of the work of the Government dairy division. His lectures will be read with interest by the farmers throughout the country. Of special interest also were the experiments, carried on under his supervision, in the cold curing of cheese, published in Bulletin No. 49 of the bureau of animal industry, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.
See also: Caroline B. Sherman, “A Young Army Officer’s Experiences in Indian Territory,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 13 (June 1935).
CAPTION: “Major Alvord, a Civil War veteran, arrived at Massachusetts Agricultural College to teach Military Science in 1869.”
Educator Henry Elijah Alvord, son of Daniel Wells and Caroline Clapp Alvord, was born on March 11, 1844, in Greenfield, Massachusetts. After attending public schools, Henry Alvord entered Norwich University in Vermont in 1860. During the Civil War he reached the rank of major in the U.S. Army’s Second Massachusetts Cavalry. Returning to Norwich, he completed a bachelor’s degree and a civil engineering degree and received an honorary doctor of laws degree.
Alvord married Martha Scott Swink in 1866. He reentered the peacetime army as a captain in the Tenth U.S. Cavalry. While serving in Kansas and Indian Territory (I.T.), he became interested in and later wrote on the emerging cattle industry in the West. In 1869 Alvord was sent to the Massachusetts Agricultural College at Amherst, where he became the first army officer to serve as a military instructor at a land-grant institution. Leaving the military in 1871, he settled on his wife’s ancestral estate and established one of Virginia’s first herds of registered Jersey cattle. In 1872 Alvord served as a special commissioner to I.T. to bring a Kiowa delegation to Washington, D.C. The delegation refused to leave before talking to their chiefs, Satanta and Big Tree, who were imprisoned at the penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Consequently, Alvord persuaded Texas officials to temporarily release the chiefs.
Alvord was one of the major lobbyists in the passage of the Hatch Act of 1887 and the Second Morrill Act (1890). His work in agricultural and scientific organizations brought him close to the developing land-grant college movement. He helped organize the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations, established in 1887. Considered the association’s “father,” he chaired its executive committee for seven years and became president in 1894.
From 1880 to 1885 Alvord operated the Houghton Experimental Farm in New York. After serving as professor of agriculture at Massachusetts Agricultural College from 1886 to 1887, he was president of Maryland Agricultural and Mechanical College at College Park until 1892. By 1893 he was appointed as a deputy in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 1894 the secretary of agriculture asked him to take the presidency of the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Oklahoma State University) and to direct its experiment station in Stillwater, Oklahoma Territory (O.T.).
As the college’s second president, Alvord immediately tried to improve conditions at the fledgling institution. Among his many recommendations were mandating regular class attendance, reducing preparatory course work from two years to one, adding professors and assistants to accommodate more research and extension work, creating a home economics department, and employing a woman faculty member. The new president chided the board of regents for placing friends into vacancies and questioned certain financial practices. Soon the regents and the president were at odds. In December Alvord submitted his resignation, effective January 17, 1895. Although he served as president for only four months, he had created a course of action for reform.
After leaving O.T., Alvord completed the academic year at the New Hampshire Agricultural College. From 1895 until his death he served as the head of the Dairy Division of the Bureau of Animal Industry of the USDA. He died on October 1, 1904, while visiting the St. Louis World’s Fair.
From Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library, Early Developments in the American Dairy Industry
AAFA NOTES: Henry Alvord and Martha Swink had no children.
Henry’s ALVORD lineage is Henry Elijah 1844 MA1, Daniel Wells 1816 MA2, Elijah 1777 VT3, Caleb 1751 MA4, Elijah 1719 MA5, John 1685 MA6, Thomas 1653 CT7, Alexander 1627 England8.