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

RS 9/1/12
Charles F. Curtiss (1863-1947)
Papers, 1885-2009, undated

Descriptive summary

creator: Curtiss, Charles F. (1863-1947)
title: Papers
dates: 1885-2009, undated
extent: 0.21 linear feet (1 half-document box)
collection number: RS 9/1/12
repository: University Archives, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University.


Administrative information

access: Open for research
publication rights: Consult Head, Special Collections Department
preferred citation: Charles F. Curtiss Papers, RS 9/1/12, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.



Charles F. Curtiss (1863-1947) served as the first Dean (1902-1932) of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University. A graduate of Iowa State, Curtiss was a respected livestock breeder and agriculturist. During his tenure at Iowa State, Curtiss was instrumental in developing the four-year curriculum in agriculture. He helped develop the Departments of Agricultural Engineering and Agricultural Journalism and played an integral role in the start of the extension program. This collection includes biographical information, correspondence, and published and unpublished works of Charles Curtiss.


Biographical note

Charles Franklin Curtiss was born on December 12, 1863, in Nora, Illinois. When he was two years old, the Curtiss family moved to Story County, Iowa. He received his B.S. (1887) in scientific agriculture and his M.S. (1894) from Iowa State College (University) and later his Ph.D. (1907) from Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State University).

Curtiss joined the faculty of Iowa State in 1891 as Manager of the Iowa State Experiment Station Farm and formulated the first four-year curriculum in agriculture for the college. He was promoted to Assistant Director (1890-1897) of the Iowa Experiment Station. He served in this position until taking over as Director (1897-1932) of the Experiment Station and Secretary of Agriculture at Iowa State following James Wilson's leaving. Curtiss served as department head (1896-1902) before becoming the first Dean of Agriculture (1902-1932) for the college.

Curtiss introduced new crops to the state of Iowa, such as soybeans and alfalfa, which increased production across the state. He was an active promoter of soil conservation, farm mechanization, and pest control. Within the College of Agriculture, Curtiss established the agricultural engineering, journalism, and education departments. Under him, Iowa developed the first cooperative county extension service and also worked to expand 4-H across the state. At Iowa State, Curtiss led numerous campus livestock judging teams and he pushed for building new agriculture-related buildings, such as the Meat Laboratory and barns.

Curtiss also served professional organizations during his career. He acted as Director of the International Livestock Exposition for several decades starting with its inception in 1900, was Vice President of the American Society of Animal Nutrition, and also was Director (1904-1913) of the Iowa State Highway Commission alongside Anson Marston, (Iowa State's Dean of Engineering). This commission was the precursor to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Curtiss and his wife, Olive Wilson, were married in 1893 and moved into the Farm House on the Iowa State campus in 1897. Together they raised three daughters: Ruth, Edith, and Helen. He also managed the Rookwood Farm, located south of campus, where he raised show swine, beef cattle, sheep, and horses. Following his wife's passing in 1943, Curtiss continued to live at the Farm House until his own death on July 30, 1947. Curtiss and his wife were both interred at the Iowa State University Cemetery. Following his death, Agricultural Hall was renamed Curtiss Hall in his honor.


Collection description

This collection (1885-2009, undated) contains biographical information, correspondence, publications, and newspaper clippings. Correspondents include members of agricultural organizations; Iowa State faculty; Charles E. Friley, Iowa State president; M. L. Wilson, Director of Extension for the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and John R. Howard, first president of the American Farm Bureau. A file of correspondence regarding the Rookwood (Curtiss) Farm includes letters with J. B. Davidson discussing silo construction. Also included are several publications by Curtiss regarding land conservation, the effect of gasoline on corn production, and the impact of machines on the 1880s agricultural depression.



This collection is organized alphabetically.


Container list







Biographical information

1918-2009, undated



Biographical information: family








Correspondence with Charles E. Friley, M. L. Wilson, and John R. Howard




Correspondence with Frank C. Pellet




Correspondence: Rookwood Farm (Curtiss Farm)




Honors and recognitions

1909-1934, undated



Newspaper clippings and press releases

1885-2012, undated







Reports to the Board of Trustees