Special Collections Department
403 Parks Library
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-2140

RS 16/3/11
Perry G. Holden (1865-1959)
Papers, 1906-1967

Descriptive summary


Holden, Perry G. (1865-1959)






1.21 linear ft. (1 half-document box and 1 oversized box)

collection number:

RS 16/3/11


University Archives, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.


Administrative information


Open for research

publication rights:

Consult Head, Special Collections Department

preferred citation:

Perry G. Holden Papers, RS 16/3/11, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.


Biographical note

Perry Greeley Holden was born in Dodge City, MN on October 13, 1865. After graduating from Michigan Agricultural College in 1895 with a Master of Science degree, he took a job at the University of Illinois as the first Professor of Agronomy in the United States. From 1901-2 he was manager of Funk Bros. Seed Co., helping establish their reputation as purveyors of hybrid seed.

In 1902 he started a ten-year appointment at Iowa State College, initially holding the position of vice-dean of agriculture. In 1906 he became the first director of Iowa extension, eight years before the Smith-Lever Act established a national extension program in 1914. He also established demonstration farms throughout Iowa counties. In 1904 he instituted his "corn gospel trains" which promoted the growth of hybrid corn throughout the state.

In 1912 Perry ran in the Republican primaries for governor of Iowa. After being defeated he took a job as the Agricultural Extension Director with International Harvester Co. in Michigan. Here he worked persuading farmers in America to diversify and engage in scientific agriculture. His special interest was in alleviating the suffering in the South caused by the boll weevil through diversification.

Perry Holden retired in 1932 and helped his wife with her egg business on their Michigan farm. The majority of his personal and business papers were donated to the Michigan State College Library shortly before his death in 1959. These papers are currently held in Michigan State University's Archives and Historical Collections Department.

[note: see also the ISU Masters thesis by Everett G. Ritland (1941) entitled "The Educational Activities of P.G. Holden in Iowa."]


Collection description

This collection represents an incomplete but interesting selection of personal materials on Perry Holden. It includes correspondence and letters, unpublished materials, newspaper clippings referring to Holden and his work, addresses given in his gubernatorial race, and duplicate family albums which he compiled during his retirement in Michigan.

The letters range from 1908 to 1958 and deal mainly with his career at Iowa State College; staffing needs, costs of extension, and plans for teaching. Some of the main
correspondents include; Ralph K. Bliss (later Head of ISU Extension), A.B. Storms (University President), and Charles F. Curtiss (Dean of Agriculture). Most of his unpublished writings, as well as the newspaper clippings, address his interests of hybrid corn, extension, and his gubernatorial run in 1912.

The family album containing duplicated images and text offers a unique resource. It includes personal family history, photographs, reminiscences of family members, poetry, copies of awards, certificates of marriage, and degrees. It also contains letters and articles about Perry Holden and his career written by various friends, many of whom were also prominent in agricultural education. Contributors include; Henry A. Wallace, W.H. Smith, E.J. Bodman, A.E. Winship, M.L. Wilson, E.T. Robbins, H.S. Mobley, M.L. Mosher, A.H. Snyder, and the Honorable Bert Cooper. Various newspaper clippings and articles also give biographical information on friends of Perry Holden such as Oscar Herman Benson and R.K. Bliss.



The collection is listed chronologically.


Container list







Newspaper clippings and printed materials








Addresses and speeches




Photographs (5)

1941-1943; n.d.



Family album