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Harry Patterson papers


Harry Patterson papers
Patterson, Harry J.
Collection number:
9 lin. in.
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
University of Maryland
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

Harry J. Patterson was associated with the University of Maryland for fifty years, from 1888 to 1937. He arrived as part of the staff of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and made significant contributions to agriculture in the state of Maryland. Patterson was instrumental in raising awareness throughout the state of the value of research in agriculture for the improvement of the state's economy and tax base. And, through his work on the applications of chemistry to farming, new varieties of tobacco and strawberries were developed. Patterson's most enduring contributions to the state, however, were made between 1913 and 1917 when he served as president of the University of Maryland. In those four years Patterson undertook the rebuilding of the campus after a fire in 1912 and launched the University on a course of expansion, preparing the campus for a shift in status from a small college to a large, public, and modern university. Patterson's papers consist of correspondence; speeches; rosters; and lecture, experiment, and chemical notes.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

Harry Patterson papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Harry Jacob Patterson was born on December 17, 1866 in Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania, the son of William Calvin and Adaline (Mattern) Patterson. When he was three years old, his family moved to State College, Pennsylvania. There his father began 40 years of work as the superintendent of farms and buildings for Pennsylvania State College.

Patterson entered Pennsylvania State College at the age of sixteen. There he studied chemistry, especially its relation to agriculture, and received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1886. He remained at the College to pursue post-graduate work in Chemistry and to work at the Pennsylvania State Agricultural Experiment Station as assistant chemist. He received his Master of Science in chemistry in 1888. That year Patterson left his family and Pennsylvania for Maryland; there he began 50 years of service for the University of Maryland.

For Patterson's first ten years in Maryland, he served as the chemist and vice-director of the new Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station. Recalling his arrival many years after the event, he said, "College Park was nothing more than a farm when I came here, a very muddy one at that." Patterson's arrival at the new station brought himto the forefront in the effort to control San Jose scale in fruit trees, which was then damaging the state's orchards. His early years at the station also saw his marriage to a young Washington woman, Elizabeth Hayward Hutchinson, on October 25, 1895. They had two children: a daughter, Blanche Seely (Mrs. Francis T. Mack) and a son, William Calvin.

During these years of practical work and leadership, Patterson continued his academic training and writing. In the Agricultural Experiment Station's Bulletin and in other journals, he wrote on the work of the station and on his interests in the chemistry of food, fertilizer, and agriculture. He participated in chemical and scientific organizations. He was a member of the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists, the American Chemical Society, the Society of Chemical Industry (London), and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1912 he received his doctorate in chemistry from the Maryland Agricultural College.

Other events of 1912 greatly changed the college and Patterson's career. On November 29, fire destroyed much of the campus, including the dormitory barracks, The president of the college, Richard W. Silvester, resigned. After a brief interregnum, Patterson was elected to the college presidency. He served as president from May 1913 to January 1917, and though he served as president with reluctance, his administration was successful in both restoring the college and preparing it for its future as a university.

Patterson rebuilt the campus. He had a vision of the college as a larger institution that would provide a wider range of educational opportunities to the citizens of the state of Maryland. As a part of this vision, he doubled the size of the liberal arts teaching staff and increased enrollment from 134 to 220 students. He foresaw a time when 1,000 students would be enrolled in the college. However, the greatest changes under Patterson's tenure as president altered the social and organizational character of the college.

In the wake of the fire and subsequent breakdown of the military system at the college, Patterson encouraged the development of a collegial atmosphere. To this end, he permitted Greek letter fraternities on campus to provide for a more student-directed social life. The students also gained control of the newspaper and yearbook, and military discipline was replaced by student government.

Patterson and his wife took a direct interest in the social and personal lives of the students. They often hosted social gatherings for the students and faculty. Patterson also organized the YMCA on campus and was active in the Religious work Council, which later became the Episcopal club.

Under Patterson's tenure as president, the first women students were admitted to the college: Charlotte Vaux and Elizabeth Hook. Dr. and Mrs. Patterson turned the president's house over to the women students as a dormitory. Patterson also worked to expand the curriculum of the college to include such subjects related to agriculture as home economics.

Patterson's outstanding contribution to the college as its president was in creating an organizational structure appropriate for the transformation of the college into a modern university. Patterson prepared the ground for the new charter in two ways. First, he worked to raise awareness throughout the state of the value of research work in agriculture for the improvement for the state's economy and its tax base. Second, he persuaded those who held stock in the college to give their stock to the state, and thus made the college a wholly public institution.

The result of his efforts was a new charter in 1916 that created the Maryland State College of Agriculture. The new charter was modeled on that of the University of Minnesota. The college was divided into five divisions: Agronomy and Animal Husbandry, Horticulture, Applied Sciences, Rural Economics and Sociology, and Engineering. The charter strengthened the president's powers and readied the college for growth beyond its scope as an agricultural college to that of an institution that would serve all the citizens of the state.

Patterson retired from the presidency in January 1917 to return to his work at the Agricultural Experiment Station. Under his tenure as president, the college gained popular support, the campus was rebuilt, and the college was moving socially and organizationally toward the status of a modern university. Patterson continued to serve the college as the director of the station and, from 1925 to 1927, as Dean of the College of Agriculture. After 50 years of service to the University of Maryland, Patterson retired in 1937. Until his death on September 11, 1948, he continued his research and involvement with the university as Professor Emeritus.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The papers of Harry J. Patterson span the years 1886 to 1945 with the bulk of the materials dating from the period 1890 to 1917. The collection consists of correspondence, speeches, notes documenting experiments and chemical formulas, and rosters of individuals and organizations connected with the Agricultural Experiment Station or agriculture in Maryland. Significant correspondents represented in the collection include Harry Clifton Byrd, John M. Okie, G.F. Pollock, John H. Reisner, Thomas B. Symons, and the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The papers of Harry J. Patterson were separated from the records of the Agricultural Experiment Station during processing in 1988. Additional materials were added in 2014 during the processing of the Harry Clifton Byrd presidential files.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Matthew Beacom, April 1989. Addendum incorporated by Tyler Stump, 2014.

Processing note:

Four series were created form the papers of Dr. Harry J. Patterson. All paper clips were removed and replaced by plastic clips over strips of permanent and durable paper. The papers were then placed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes. All duplicates were discarded. Inserts were removed from the notebooks and placed in separate folders.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Henry Allen, July 2004.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection is organized as 4 (four) series.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1926-1942 (0.5 linear inches)

This series contains correspondence to Dr. Patterson from Harry Clifton Byrd, John M. Okie, G.F. Pollock, John H. Reisner, [A. Lee Schrader?], Thomas B. Symons, and the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture. The letters discuss university and agricultural society activities and are arranged chronologically.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Correspondence, 1926-1930 series 1box 1folder 1
Correspondence, 1938-1942 series 1box 1folder 2

Series 2: Speeches, 1942-1945 (1 linear inches)

This series consists of three speeches made by Dr. Patterson. The first is on a religious topic and is entitled, "Religion that Makes a Difference:" those of 1944 and 1945 are on agricultural topics and are untitled. The speech of 1944 was given before the Senior Farmer's Club of Sandy Spring on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. The speeches are arranged chronologically.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Speeches, 1942-1945 series 2box 1folder 3

Series 3: Lecture, Experiment, and Chemical Notes, 1886-1917 (2 linear inches)

Included in this series are lecture notes from a course in dairy farming taken by Dr. Patterson as a student at Pennsylvania State College in the spring term of his senior year, 1886. Also included are seven notebooks recording various tests and experiments performed at the Agricultural Experiment Station and formulas and samples used or studied there. These notebooks are arranged alphabetically by topic.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
[Agricultural Diary], April-October 1893 series 3box 1folder 4
Chemical Laboratory Index Book, July 1888-August 1903 series 3box 1folder 5
Dairy Farming, Lecture Notes, Spring 1886 series 3box 1folder 6
Fertility Plots, Records of, 1907-1911 series 3box 1folder 7
Fertilizer Formulas, 1895-1896 series 3box 1folder 8
Miscellaneous Notes, [1890?] series 3box 1folder 9
Phosphoric Acid Tests, 1897-1917 series 3box 1folder 10
Phosphoric Acid Tests, Inserts from Notebook, 1897-1917 series 3box 1folder 11
Plans and outlines for Experiments, [1890?] series 3box 2folder 1
Plans and Outlines for Experiments, Inserts from Notebook, 1897-1917 series 3box 2folder 2

Series 4: Rosters, 1895-1906 (2 linear inches)

This series contains a roster of student apprentices at the Agricultural Experiment Station for the years 1895 to 1906 and a roster of Maryland farm organizations and their members for the year 1898. The files are arranged alphabetically by topic.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Maryland Farmer Organizations, 1898 series 4box 2folder 3
Maryland Farmer Organizations, inserts from Notebook, 1898 series 4box 2folder 4
Student Apprentices at the Experiment Station, Record of, 1895-1906 series 4box 2folder 5

Related Material

Materials related to the papers of Dr. Harry J. Patterson may be found in the records of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station, Series I, Subseries III, boxes seven and eight. Box seven contains a folder of reports written by Dr. Patterson during the years 1893 to 1920. Box eight contains a folder of speeches made by Dr. Patterson dating from approximately 1890 to 1932. Additional materials may be found in the records of the President's office, Series V.

Two published items by Dr. Patterson may be found in the Maryland Room. Facts Concerning the Maryland Agricultural College and the Appropriation asked for by House Bill No. 266, written by Dr. Patterson in 1914, may be found under the call number LD5 1914. The Relations of the Experiment Station to Extension Work..., a speech delivered at the 29th annual meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Agricultural Science in 1908, may be found under the call number S541.P3. Additional published works by Paterson may be found in the bulletins of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.


Names (Added Entries)