Seaman A. Knapp

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Seaman A. Knapp
Seaman Knapp.jpg
Seaman A. Knapp
Born(1833-12-16)December 16, 1833[1]
DiedApril 1, 1911(1911-04-01) (aged 77)
ResidenceVinton, Iowa
NationalityUnited States
CitizenshipUnited States of America
ChildrenBradford Knapp Seaman Knapp II
Scientific career
Memorial plaque to Knapp at the Agriculture Department building, where a pedestrian bridge is named for him

Seaman Asahel Knapp (December 16, 1833 – April 1, 1911) was a Union College graduate, Phi Beta Kappa member, physician, college instructor, and, later, administrator, who took up farming late in life, moving to Iowa to raise general crops and livestock.

The first seeds of what would later become an abiding interest in farm demonstration were planted after he became active in an organization called "The Teachers of Agriculture," attending their meetings at the Michigan Agricultural College in 1881 and the Iowa Agricultural College in 1882. Knapp was so impressed with this teaching method that he drafted a bill for the establishment of experimental research stations, which later was introduced to the 47th Congress, laying the foundation for a nationwide network of agricultural experiment stations.

Knapp later served as the second president of Iowa Agricultural College from 1883 to 1884,[2] but his interest in agricultural demonstration work did not occur until 1886, when he moved to Louisiana and began developing a large tract of agricultural land in the western part of this state. He founded Vinton, Louisiana, naming the town after his hometown Vinton, Iowa.[3]

The boll weevil inflicted immense suffering on southern farmers after it entered the United States in 1892. Its steady onslaught on southern cotton fields sparked an interest in farm demonstrations as a way to show farmers how to deal with the pest most effectively. This, in turn, provided the foundations for formal Cooperative Extension work, which followed in 1914.

Knapp could neither persuade local farmers to adopt the techniques he had perfected on his farm nor enlist farmers from the North to move to the region to serve collectively as a sort of educational catalyst. What he could do, he reasoned, was to provide incentives for farmers to settle in each township with the proviso that each, in turn, would demonstrate to other farmers what could be done by adopting his improved farming methods.

The concept worked. Northern farmers began moving into the region, and native farmers began buying into Knapp's methods.

By 1902, Knapp was employed by the government to promote good agricultural practices in the South.

Based on his own experience, Knapp was convinced that demonstrations carried out by farmers themselves were the most effective way to disseminate good farming methods. His efforts were aided by the onslaught of the boll weevil, a voracious cotton pest whose presence was felt not only in Louisiana but also throughout much of the South. Damage associated with this pest instilled fear among many merchants and growers that the cotton economy would disintegrate around them.

In the view of many, a farm demonstration at the Walter G. Porter farm, now a National Historic Landmark in Terrell, Texas, set up by the Department of Agriculture at the urging of concerned merchants and growers, was the first in a series of steps that eventually led to passage of the legislation that formalize Cooperative Extension work.

USDA officials were so impressed with the success of this demonstration that they appropriated $250,000 to combat the weevil — a measure that also involved the hiring of farm demonstration agents. By 1904, some 20 agents were employed in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. The movement also appeared to be spreading to neighboring Mississippi and Alabama.[4]

Knapp is commemorated in Washington, D.C. by a bridge linking the U.S. Department of Agriculture Administration Building to the U.S. Department of Agriculture South Building across Independence Avenue.[5] He is interred at Iowa State University Cemetery, Ames, Story, Iowa, USA, (see 'find-a-grave; Seaman Asahel Knapp').

Bradford Knapp, a son of Seaman Knapp, was the President of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now known as Auburn University from 1928 to 1933 and the second president of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

See also[edit]

Kenyon L. Butterfield


  1. ^ Bailey, J.C. (1971). Seaman A. Knapp: schoolmaster of American agriculture. Arno Press. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  2. ^ , Iowa State University, retrieved 2009-01-27 Archived 2009-04-01 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Vinton, Louisiana: Founded by famous ag innovator". Advocate. Baton Rouge. 2013-02-18. p. 6D. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ Smith, Jack D., "Information and Inspiration: An Early History of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System," Unpublished Manuscript, March 29, 1989. pp. 13-16.
  5. ^ Milner, John D. (June 22, 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination: U.S. Department of Agriculture Administration Building". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-05-10.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Adonijah Welch
President of Iowa State University
Succeeded by
Leigh S. J. Hunt