E. W. Hilgard and John Wesley Powell: Efforts for a Joint Agricultural and Geological Survey
- Ronald Amundson and
- Dan H. Yaalon
Eugene W. Hilgard, professor of agriculture at the University of California, was a pioneer in agricultural, or soil, survey. In the mid to late 1880s, he vigorously sought to incorporate agricultural survey within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), then under the direction of Major John Wesley Powell. Hilgard recognized that agricultural survey fell within the USGSs original charge of land classification. Powell considered soil survey to be part of a much larger plan that was needed to develop the water and land resources of the arid American West. Through his early efforts, Hilgard was offered a position in the USGS (1886), which he declined, and he helped to make soil investigations part of the USGSs activities by the end of the 1880s. A bill to appropriate funds for the USGS to conduct an agricultural survey, supported by both Powell and Hilgard, was defeated by Congress in 1888. In 1889, Powell helped lead an effort to appoint Hilgard the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture (which Hilgard also declined), a position that would have given Hilgard power to help develop a national agricultural or soil survey. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, Hilgard was a strong supporter of Powell's attempts to transfer the USGS from the Department of Interior to the newly organized Department of Agriculture (USDA). Ultimately, Powell was attacked by western politicians, who rejected his plans for intensive mapping and land planning and for his attempts to join the USDA, effectively ending Hilgard's dream of a federal program of joint agricultural and geological surveys.Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.
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