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Nils A. Olsen papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0006

Scope and Content

The Nils A. Olsen Collection is comprised primarily of papers dealing with Olsen's connection with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, United States Department of Agriculture, from 1925 to 1935. Olsen was an assistant to the Bureau Chief from 1925-28, and was Bureau Chief from 1928 until his resignation in April, 1935.

The greater part of the collection involves a diary kept by Olsen from 1925-1935, dealing with affairs of the Bureau, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the government. His writings reveal warm friendships with three Secretaries of Agriculture; William Jardine, Arthur Hyde, and most significantly Henry A. Wallace of Iowa, whom Olsen had known for many years.

Olsen had worked with Wallace's father, Henry C. Wallace, when the elder Wallace was Secretary of Agriculture (1921-1924). The main object of their collaboration, a foreign service for the Department of Agriculture, was finally realized in 1930, after a long battle with the Department of Commerce. This battle involved Herbert Hoover both as Secretary of Commerce and as President, and probably accounts for Olsen's intense dislike of Hoover. Olsen's disfavor was not partisan: important New Dealers such as Rexford Guy Tugwell and Henry Morganthau, Jr., also drew his fire.


  • circa 1925-1965, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Nils Andreas Olsen was born in Herscher, Illinois, on August 31, 1886. He received a bachelor's degree (1907) from Luther College, did master's work (1907-1908) at the Johns Hopkins University, and received his master's degree (1909) in economics from the University of Wisconsin. He was an instructor in history and economics at Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania, and at Harvard University until 1912 when he undertook the management of several farms. Olsen entered the United States Department of Agriculture in 1919 as an assistant agricultural economist, and ultimately assumed the leadership of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of New York. His main duties with the Society included the management of the farm mortgage division.

He died in Bronxville, New York, July 27, 1940. He was unmarried.


1.68 Linear Feet (4 document boxes)


The collection is arranged in three series:

Series 1, Diary, 1925-1935 (chronological)

Series 2, Correspondence, 1925-1965, undated (alphabetical)

Series 3, Biographical Material, 1925-1965, undated (alphabetical)

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

MS-0006. Nils A. Olsen papers, circa 1925-1965, undated
May 21, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

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