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William C. Latta papers



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William C. Latta papers, 1877-2006 | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

By John Michael Foster

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Collection Overview

Title: William C. Latta papers, 1877-2006Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1882-1901, 1922-1936, 1944

Primary Creator: Latta, W. C. (William Carroll) (1850-1935)

Extent: 2.0 Cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: Series 1 materials are arranged as they were found when processed.  The scrapbook is divided among three envelopes.  Series 2 materials are arranged chronologically.  Series 3 materials are arranged chronologically be document type.  Series 4 materials are housed in two separate artifact boxes.  Series 5 materials are arranged by document type.

Date Acquired: 12/09/2005

Subjects: Agriculture--United States--History

Languages: English


Publications, artifacts, scrapbook, and other materials documenting the life, work, and legacy of Purdue Agriculture Professor William C. Latta.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The William C. Latta papers (1877-2006; 2.0 cubic feet) documents the life, work, and legacy of Purdue Agriculture Professor William Carroll Latta.  The collection includes: a scrapbook (1877-1964) of photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and essay pertaining to Latta’s work and achievements; a number of articles published by Latta during his career (1882-1932); miscellaneous published materials pertaining to his tenure at Purdue and professional achievements (1891-2005); and two artifacts, a bottle and coverlet.  The collection also contains several newspaper articles concerning the launch of the Liberty Ship SS W.C. Latta in 1944, as well as a fabric-covered bottle used to christen the vessel.  The Papers are organized into 5 series.

Collection Historical Note

William Carroll Latta was born in Eden Township, LaGrange County, Indiana, on March 9, 1850.  He attended common schools in Noble County between 1858 and 1868 and Ligonier High School from 1867 to 1869, before attending National Normal School (later renamed National Normal School) to train to be a school teacher.  After eight months, however, Latta moved to Michigan.  There, following a year of working and saving money, he enrolled at Michigan Agricultural College (present-day Michigan State University), earning his Bachelor of Science degree in 1877.  He earned a Master of Science from Michigan Agricultural College in 1882.

Shortly before the completion of his graduate work, Latta was offered a job as an instructor and farm superintendent at Purdue University.  Frederick Whitford and Andrew G. Martin write in their biography of Latta: “…until his death in 1935, Professor Latta helped shape what eventually would become a major educational institution known worldwide for its diverse student body, quality education, and wide assortment of agricultural majors and specializations.  He would live to see how his contributions helped to dramatically change the way Indiana’s farming community viewed a Purdue education in agriculture.”

Before the start of the Fall 1882 term, Latta was promoted to replace Professor Charles Ingersoll as professor of agriculture and horticulture.  In his early years at Purdue, Latta brought in new faculty (beginning with the hire of James Troop in 1884), expanded the agriculture course study from three years to four, added practical courses to enhance curriculum, and initiated the Winter Short Course program.  Professor Latta also labored to create outreach between the university through special bulletins (published by Purdue University and mailed to famers), press releases highlighting the work of Purdue researchers, and personal appearances and presentations by the university’s faculty.  He also published several articles about agriculture, mainly for Purdue University, and two books.  Latta’s greatest legacy came as the result of his work with the Farmers’ Institutes, which were the precursor to Purdue’s Cooperative Extension Service.

William Latta married Alta E. Wood (1854-1940) in July 1879.  They had four children: Bertha (1884-1960), Robert (1886-1970), Pauline (1890-1955), and Mary (1894-1973).  All four children attended and graduated from Purdue University.  William Latta was a member of the Tippecanoe County Civic Improvement Association and Trinity Methodist Church, and did work for the Y.M.C.A.  He died on December 22, 1935, at the age of 85.

Subject/Index Terms

Agriculture--United States--History

Administrative Information

Repository: Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Alternate Extent Statement: 3 mss. boxes, 2 artifact boxes, one flat box

Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions:

Purdue University

Photocopied publications in the collection may be under different copyright.

Acquisition Source: Kim Sharp donated artifacts comprising Series 4

Acquisition Method:

Bottle and coverlet donated by Kim Sharp, December 9, 2005.

Acquisition information for other materials in the collection is unknown.

Related Materials: UA 26 College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, Records, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Related Publications: Whitford, Frederick, and Andrew G. Martin. The Grand Old Man of Purdue University and Indiana Agriculture: A Biography of William Carroll Latta. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2005.

Preferred Citation: MSF 218, William C. Latta papers, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Processing Information: All materials are housed in acid-free folders and boxes.

Finding Aid Revision History: Historical sketch of the Agricultural Experiment Station, W.C. Latta, 1939 added to box 2; previously unprocessed as of May 26, 2017.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Scrapbook, 1877-1964],
[Series 2: Publications, 1882-1932],
[Series 3: Photocopied Materials, 1891-2005],
[Series 4: Artifacts, 1934, 1944],
[Series 5: Miscellaneous Materials, 1883-2006],

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