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Hugh Hammond Bennett papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0164

Scope and Content

The collection (1808-1960, undated) contains Hugh Bennett's articles, speeches, manuscripts, correspondence, field diaries, conference materials, writings about Hugh Bennett, and publications by others on conservation. The bulk of the collection contains written materials by Bennett relating to soil conservation produced during his career working under the United States government.

The records from the Soil Conservation Service include reports, photographs, newspaper clippings, editorials and other publications. Some of these records are from the Soil Conservation Service, while others deal with the Soil Conservation Service.

Most of the correspondence relates to Bennett’s professional work while at the Soil Conservation Service. The correspondence series also includes correspondence with other organizations, individuals, and government agencies.

The series on the reorganization of the Soil Conservation Service contains reports, correspondence, statements, speeches, articles and remarks by others regarding the reorganization of the agency begun in the 1930s and not completed until the 1950s. The series also includes materials related to Bennett’s retirement in 1951.

The bulk of the collection consists of various publications and writings. The manuscripts and notes include Hugh Bennett's drafts, notebooks, notes, and manuscripts (some possibly unpublished) for his writings, books and speeches. This series includes drafts and proofs of Bennett's book Elements of Soil Conservation. The field diaries and notebooks contain Bennett's notes on plants, soils, erosion, observations from regions in the United States and worldwide including Brazil, South Africa and Cuba, and a variety of other observations and notes. The Panama field diary (Box 17, Folder 3) is also available online: The collection also includes Bennett's articles, interviews and many of his speeches and lectures. Also included are writings by others on conservation.


  • Creation: 1808-1964, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Hugh Hammond Bennett (1881-1960) was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina on April 15, 1881. He received a B.S. (1903) from the University of North Carolina with an emphasis in chemistry and geology. Often considered the father of soil conservation, Bennett dedicated his career and life to preventing the loss of the nation’s soil, educating the country about the serious consequences of soil erosion, and convincing the federal government to give the problem national attention.

Bennett joined the Bureau of Soils of the United States Department of Agriculture as a soil scientist in 1904. From 1909-1928, Bennett supervised soil surveys in the eastern and southern areas of the United States, and portions of the central and southwestern regions. In addition to being in charge of the Chugach National Forest Commission (1915), Bennett also studied soils in the United States territories and abroad including the Guatemala-Honduras Boundary Commission (1919), the Rubber Commission sent to Central and South America (1923-1924), and an agricultural and soil survey of Cuba (winters, 1925-1932).

Having advocated soil conservation since 1905, by 1929 Bennett had convinced enough Congressmen of the critical need for increased work on soil conservation, and Federal funds were allotted to the research and implementation of erosion control. From 1928-1932 Bennett was placed in charge of soil erosion for the Bureau of Chemistry and Soils which, along with the Bureau of Agricultural Engineering, directed soil erosion experiment stations. In 1933, Bennett organized the Soil Erosion Service for the Department of the Interior. The Soil Erosion Service was renamed the Soil Conservation Service and transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture in 1934. Bennett served as its director until 1951 and retired in 1952.

Bennett was active in professional organizations and received many honors during his lifetime. He was a founder and fellow of the Soil Conservation Society of America, president of the Association of American Geographers in 1943, and honorary president of the International Union for the Protection of Nature.


15.75 Linear Feet (37 document boxes and 2 half-document boxes)


The collection is organized in thirteen series:

Series 1, Soil Conservation Service

Series 2, Correspondence

Series 3, Reorganization of the Soil Conservation Service

Series 4, Manuscripts and Notes

Series 5, Articles

Series 6, Speeches and Lectures

Series 7, Interviews

Series 8, Field Diaries

Series 9, Writings about Hugh Bennett

Series 10, Personal and Family Items

Series 11, Conferences

Series 12, Secondary Material on Conservation

Series 13, Notes, Newspaper Clippings, Newsletters and Photographs

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

MS-0164. Hugh Hammond Bennett papers, 1808-1964, undated
February 19, 2020
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672