Earlier this year, Dr. Annie Segan joined us on the Depression Era Iowa Facebook page. Her note: “I am a daughter of photographer Arthur Rothstein. This Facebook page honors my dad’s prolific and extraordinary photographic legacy.”
Hired hand with hybrid corn used in test for yield. Fred Ukro Farm.
Grundy County, Iowa. October 1939
Photograph by Arthur Rothstein
In 1939, Arthur Rothstein produced an extensive photo essay on rural and small-town life in Iowa for the Farm Security Administration, part of the US Department of Agriculture. He documented the production of hybrid corn—a subject that had long been a passion of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace. Secretary Wallace’s interest in corn was first stimulated when, as a youngster, he was tutored in plant science by George Washington Carver—then a botanist at Iowa State College and a friend of Wallace’s father who taught there.
Hybrid varieties accounted for less than one percent of Iowa corn in 1933, but nearly one hundred percent a decade later. Wallace’s family company pioneered the development and commercialization of hybrid corn that contributed to significant increases in farm production and profitability. An article in the Iowa State Historical Society journal said that “…Henry A. Wallace, more than any other single individual, introduced hybrid corn to the American farmer and fervently promoted its adoption.”
What a legacy of photos Arthur Rothstein created that will live on for generations. He is featured on the Living New Deal website. His daughter, Dr. Segan, is an associate with the Living New Deal.
On November 27, 2018, the Living New Deal website published my story about the Dexter Public Library.