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Seaman Asahel Knapp

Hall of Fame Class of 1997

Seaman Asahel Knapp American agriculturist and educator, Seaman Asahel Knapp was born in Schroon Lake, New York, in 1833 and died in Washington, D.C., in 1911. The Seaman A. Knapp School of Country Life, associated with the George Peabody College for Teachers, in Nashville, Tennessee, was named in his honor. After graduating from Union College in 1856, he became a teacher. An incapacitating accident interrupted his career in 1866, and he moved to Iowa, where at various times he was a farmer, a Methodist clergyman, and superintendent of the state school for the blind. Becoming interested in scientific farming and stock breeding, he founded the Western State Journal and Farmer in Cedar Rapids in 1872 and was a co-founder of the Iowa Improved Stock Breeders' Association. He served as the association's first President.

After 1880, Knapp's agricultural pioneering began to gain national attention. A teacher at the Iowa State Agricultural College, he was appointed in 1902 by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture as special agent for the promotion of agriculture in the South. He introduced improved methods of farming into Louisiana, spurred the development of rice culture in the Southwest, demonstrated methods for curbing the boll weevil in Texas, and inaugurated a federal program of farm demonstrations throughout the South.

While he wrote no books (he was the author of numerous articles and many farmers' bulletins issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture), Knapp's legacy was to bring progressive agricultural methods to the American farmer. An agrarian reformer, he wanted to change the pattern of society for the benefit of mankind. He achieved this partly by organizing a system of county farm and home demonstration agents and boys and girls clubs from which developed the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service. As he once wrote, "What a man hears, he may doubt; what he sees, he may possibly doubt; but what he does himself, he cannot doubt." Seaman Knapp's discovery was the realization that the individual lies at the base of any human problem.

 

 

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