William Arnon Henry


F.B. Morrison

A MOST any pleasant day in Balboa Park, San Diego. California, one may see inspecting the botanical and zoological treasures, a tall, white-haired man with the sensitive face of an idealist, but, with the high-bridged nose and firm mouth of the doer. Strangers often ask his name for William Arnon Henry is still a courtly and arresting figure as he nears his eightieth birthday.

Often '-Dean Henry," as he is still known, will be leading a small group of absorbed visitors about the park. If you join the group, you will be richly repaid, for he knows all the interesting facts concerning the plants and animals in the great park. Your leader will delight in unfolding to you some of the mysteries of life, with a clearness and enthusiasm that, will make you realize he was a speaker who could fire the imagination of his audience. You will be surprised at his remarkably keen power of observation. He will see many details that you will likely overlook.

If you sit down for a quiet, chat with Henry, you will find he is keenly interested in people and their opinions. While he never displays idle curiosity, he is such a good listener that before long, he will know who you are and also have your opinions on many important questions. When you part, even though you may not be interested in agriculture and may have never heard of Dean Henry, you will realize that you have been talking with one who has been an outstanding leader of men.

The life story of Dean Henry is one to inspire the youth of our land-it is so typically American. Born on a farm near Norwalk, Ohio, on the sixteenth of June, 1S50, his impression-able boyhood days were lived during the strenuous and stirring times of the Civil War.

He was still in his early teens when his father was called into the Union army. Heavy responsibilities then fell upon the boy, which undoubtedly aided much in developing the great, capacity for work for which Henry was later noted. 'From his boyhood experiences he learned the worth of perseverance, industry and initiative.''

All who knew the beloved dean in the years of his prime were impressed with his enthusiastic industry.' He liked to work, and particularly to do a task just as well as it was possible to perform it. Moreover, for him to set his mind on a goal meant that sooner or later that goal was reached. Uncontrollable events and circumstances, the indifference and misunderstanding of others, lack of money and unforeseen responsibilities - such obstacles as these might impede him. But he usually reached his objective in the end. It has been said of him that. Impatient in small things, in large affairs his patience amounted to genius.

Henry was what we Americans love to call ''a self-made man." His parents endowed him with a heritage of good ancestry, trained him well in the fundamentals of character and high ideals, and instilled in him a, desire for a thorough education. Since the family resources were not sufficient, to meet the expenses of a college education, it was necessary for him to work his way thru college.

After a period of study in Ohio Wesleyan University he had to interrupt his course to earn money, and served as principal of high schools in Indiana and Colorado for five years. He tells with a smile how lie and two or three of his older students in Colorado "batched it" in order to cut their expenses to the minimum.

In 1876 he entered Cornell University and completed the course in agriculture four years later, receiving the degree of bachelor of agriculture. Henry's life should be an especial inspiration to lads who see before them no easy road to a college education. Undaunted by difficulties, he began his course at Cornell when already 26, several years older than most men are on graduation. Yet when he retired at 57, he had gained an international reputation.

At Cornell he supplemented the funds lie had saved while teaching by doing jobs of various kinds, including tending furnaces and running a student club. His ability was soon recognized in the department in which lie was specializing, and during the latter part of his course, he served as student, instructor in botany. Even then it, was necessary for him to economize to the utmost, so for more than a semester lie slept on the floor in a corner of the laboratory.

During the last summer of his college course he gained valuable experience as an assistant to Professor C. V. Riley on the United States Entomological Commission at Washington, D. C. It was at this time that. Henry first, came into contact, with Dr. Babcock, beginning a friendship that later brought this great agricultural chemist to Wisconsin.
Henry desired to have a chemical analysis made of some secretion of silkworms, so sent it to the professor of agricultural chemistry at Cornell. He in turn gave it to young Babcock to see what he could do with it. This led to their becoming good friends when Henry returned to the campus the next autumn.

Just at, the time of Henry's graduation from Cornell, the regents of the University of Wisconsin were looking for a man to take the position of professor of botany and agriculture. The late Judge E. W. Keyes, president of the board of regents and also leader of the majority party in the state, had the following to say regarding his first meeting with Henry:
''We wanted a young man who possessed the attributes of success: who would not only do his duty well in his special calling, but would also be a competent helper to the board of regents in the new movement to revolutionize this branch of the university and make it meet the demands of the advanced farmers of the state.

"We also desired a person who would combine the qualifications of a teacher and the business tact to manage the University Farm. Up to this time, the farm had been managed in a very slatternly manner and was badly run down at the heel.

"The president finally reported to me that his correspondence had resulted in finding a young man from Cornell, who might fill the bill, and that he was in the city ready to be sized up. Soon Henry was appointed to take the combined position of "professor of botany and agriculture" at Wisconsin.

It is a treat to hear Henry tell about his early years at Wisconsin. The ''and agriculture" part of his title meant little, because there was no experiment station, no agricultural college-not even so much as a department of agriculture in the university. It. was understood by both the regents and by Henry that he was to develop the work in this new field. How- ever, neither knew quite how to go about the task and at, first the new professor busied himself largely with teaching botany and getting acquainted with Wisconsin conditions.

Henry's career furnishes an outstanding example of a man whose farsighted vision and keen judgment led him to make the radical change from his first specialty. Though trained as a botanist and horticulturist, when he became acquainted with Wisconsin conditions he came to the conclusion that, except in a few favored localities, horticulture could not, be the dominant industry on account of the climate.

He saw that for years grain, particularly wheat, had been the leading cash crop, but that. due to the depletion of fertility, and the ravages of the chinch bug, the yield of wheat, had declined below the point of profit. He came to the conclusion that the future for the agriculture of the state lay chiefly in the development, of livestock farming, particularly dairying, for it was evident that the climate and soil of Wisconsin was particularly adapted to an extensive development of this industry.

Therefore he threw his great, energy into the development of dairying and other phases of the livestock industry, instead of his "first love," horticulture.

At the time Henry took up his work in Wisconsin, the preservation of green forage by ensiling it was just beginning to attract attention. Henry believed that such' preservation of green, succulent feed offered great possibilities in livestock farming. Professor I. P. Roberts of Cornell University, his former teacher, came to the same conclusion almost simultaneously.

In 1881 these two men built at their respective institutions the first silos used for experimental purposes in America. The pioneer investigations of Henry on the value of silage for live- stock, together with the studies of Professor King,' whom lie later brought to Wisconsin, on the construction of silos and the ensiling of fodders, were of inestimable, value in convincing farmers that they could increase their net returns by the use of corn silage, one of the cheapest of feeds.
At first, the majority of farmers scoffed at the idea of ensiling corn fodder. Statements were widespread that silage would eat away the teeth of cows, would upset their digestion, and could not but lead to disaster. Henry patiently told them of the excellent results he was securing with silage, giving facts and figures to prove his statements. He continued to talk silos and silage at every opportunity, and without, question his wise leadership in those early days is the primary reason why Wisconsin now has over 112,000 silos, more than are found m any other state in the Union.

At first Henry had practically no funds for his investigations and indeed all facilities were most meager. When he began his career at Wisconsin, a table, two chairs, a little stationery, an ink stand, and some record hooks made up the office equipment of the agricultural department. The only office was on the second floor of the dwelling house at the university farm. The cheap pine table which served as his first desk is now on display in the agricultural library of the university.

Realizing the need of funds for investigations, Henry took up the matter with friends in the legislature and a bill was introduced to appropriate the modest sum of $3,000 for investigations of the ensiling of fodders and the manufacture of cane sugar from sorghum. This was the first attempt to secure an appropriation for research in the university, and naturally it met, with much opposition. Henry delights' in telling how 'one of the legislative leaders leaned across the aisle and remarked to his boon companion, "Let's kill this pup before it gets to be a dog."

Undoubtedly the "pup" would have been killed, and thoroughly killed, had it not been for Henry's inspirational zeal and enthusiasm. He convinced the hard-headed legislators that it was good business for the state to support agricultural investigations, and the appropriation was granted.

By 1883, Henry had thoroughly gained the respect of the agricultural leaders of the state. Governor Jeremiah Rusk, himself a prominent agriculturist, in his annual message recommended the establishment of an agricultural experiment station at the university, calling specific attention to the value of the work done by the agricultural department, of the university, and mentioning Professor Henry by name. This station was established the same year by the university board of regents, and Henry's title was changed to "professor of agriculture."

Though Henry gained, almost at, the outset, the firm support of the agricultural leaders of the state, including such men as Rusk and W. D. Hoard, the rank and file of farmers were less ready to listen to the apostle of scientific farming. Many disheartening moments came to the teacher of the new gospel.

Fortunately, he had the gift of a silver tongue, and also possessed a great genius for making friends. So Henry "stumped the state," preaching scientific agriculture, on every possible occasion. Though farmers often came to scoff, they were usually won by the magnetic personality and enthusiasm of the speaker.

Even within the university itself there were numerous skeptics who laughed at, the idea of scientific agriculture and particularly at higher education for farmers. It was true that at, this time there were practically no students in agriculture. Henry never admitted, however, that agriculture would not. soon take rank with the other professions, and stoutly maintained that farmers would in time see the value of "book farming." His saving sense of humor often aided him over the rough going.

Since it appeared impossible at that time to induce many farm boys to take a regular university course in agriculture, the idea came to certain of the regents that the university should provide a brief non-degree course for farm boys. Henry's colleagues in other departments of the university laughed at this idea and even his associates in the agricultural department predicted it would be a failure. However, he at once saw the great possibilities, and declared it must be made a success.

As a result in 1885 the first agricultural short course in America was established under his direction with 19 students. This new development in agricultural education met with ridicule and scorn on the part, of the educators in some of the other states. However, it proved to be such a. potent agency for agricultural improvement that practically every state in the Union finally adopted a somewhat similar plan.

The first short course students went home and told their friends about the practical instruction they had received, and Henry in his trips about the state urged fathers to send their sons down to Madison for the winter. As a result, the enrollment grew steadily. It would be difficult today to measure the benefit that this work has been to the state and nation. In Wisconsin more than 7,000 students have received this valuable instruction, and nearly all of them have gone back to put into actual practice the scientific facts they have learned. Now, in any section of the state, you will find that the great, majority of the agricultural leaders have been students at the agricultural college at some time or other.
In 1887 the Hatch Act which granted $15.000 annually to each state for the agricultural experiment, station, was passed by congress. This provided for the first time fairly adequate funds for the investigations Henry desired to carry forward. Naturally, he was appointed the first director of the experiment station. Later, with the growth of the agricultural department under his energetic leadership, the college of agriculture was established in 1891, and Henry was made its first dean.

In 1888 one of the most important steps in the development of dairying was taken, when Henry went to New York to persuade his friend, Dr. Babcock, to come to Wisconsin as agricultural chemist, to fill the position left vacant by the resignation of Dr. Armsby to become director of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Experiment Station.
The association of these two men meant much in the development of agriculture. In temperament they were admirable supplements to each other-Henry, forceful and aggressive, and Babcock, shy and retiring. While Henry enjoyed getting out into the state to meet the fanners and become intimately acquainted with their problems, Babcock dreaded a public address, and preferred the seclusion of his laboratory.

Not long after Babcock came to Wisconsin, Henry, on returning from a farmers' meeting, went. into the chemical laboratory and told Babcock that he must work out a simple test for butterfat. He emphasized that without such test, dairying was on an insecure basis, and the widespread development of creamery buttermaking would be doomed to failure.

As a result of the keen vision of the one and the research genius of the other, the Babcock test, which was of such momentous value to the dairy industry, was developed. Undoubtedly, it was Henry who first "sold" the agricultural college-and possibly the university as well-to the people of the state. Until he arrived with his conviction that the college and the farmer would be mutually helpful, the university had little relation to the state at large. Henry focused attention on the possibilities of the, university as a service agency for the whole citizenry.

To attain this result he used every means at his command-lectures, bulletins, letters, press articles, interviews-he knew the worth of each. But he was not satisfied to rest when all the usual channels had been tried, for he was a constant seeker After new ideas. Not only did he start the first agricultural abort course for farm boys, but soon after the Babcock test was invented, in 1S90. the first dairy course in America was begun along similar lines. In 1904, three years before he retired, Dean Henry was instrumental in starting the first Wisconsin farmers' course.

When Henry transferred his main interests from botany and horticulture to animal husbandry, it was no half-hearted transfer. He threw his whole soul into the new field. He delighted in digesting and compiling all the data available on any question.

This led him early to begin the building up of an agricultural library at the university, which under his care grew until it was without an equal in the West. Appreciating thoroughly the necessity of being familiar with scientific work in foreign countries, he saw to it that the library had complete files of the important scientific journals published in foreign lands.
Burdened with such numerous and exacting administrative duties as fell to his. lot, most men would have concluded they had no time for research themselves; not so with Henry. His keen mind found many practical problems in animal husbandry on which there was no information. Some of these he set out to solve, and soon gained a firm reputation as a careful investigator. He was among the earliest to study such problems as the effect of protein, carbohydrates, and minerals on the growing pig, the relative value of whole corn and cornmeal for feeding swine, the value of cooked and uncooked feed, and the value of skimmilk and many other important feeds in stock feeding.

In his writings and addresses Henry continually emphasized the importance of efficiency in farming, and particularly in animal husbandry. Standing out as the first great popular teacher of scientific stock feeding, it was but natural that many calls came from other states for him to tell in his interesting manner some of the newer facts farmers were ready to hear.

In particular, emphasis was placed, time and time again, on the fundamentals necessary for profit in dairying-the right kind of cows, the proper feeds, and good care. By fact and figure, it was shown so all could understand, that the poor producing cow was a robber, not paying for her keep, but, eating up the profits earned by her more efficient, stable, mates.

The merits of the new Babcock test were explained to farmers and buttermakers. Farmers were urged to weigh the milk from their cows, test it, and know, instead of guess, at. the production of each cow. Buttermakers were exhorted to make their payments to farmers on the only fair basis, the amount of butterfat actually delivered, as proved by the simple fat test.

Not only was Henry a champion of efficient production, but he was also a firm believer in co-operative effort among farmers. He delighted to tell his audiences about the great strides Denmark was making in co-operation, exhorting them to follow the example of their fellow dairymen across the water.

The heads of the agricultural colleges in other states before long came to recognize one of Henry's outstanding abilities. He was a rare judge of men, and could recognize and bring out latent ability in younger and untried scientists. He is, therefore, famous in college annals for the men he "picked" and induced to come to Wisconsin as his associates. On account of his administrative abilities and the manner in which be built up the Wisconsin College of Agriculture, Henry finally came to be spoken of as "The Dean of Deans."

As an author, the dean's lasting fame rests on "Feeds and Feeding," first published in 189S, and now in its nineteenth edition. It. is still used as a textbook in practically every agricultural college in the United States When one of the national farm papers a few years ago wished to determine what books had proved most helpful to American farmers, inquiries were sent to more than a thousand farm people in various districts of the country. In the ballot, "Feeds and Feeding" received more than three times as many votes as any other book. Energetic to the extreme, Henry never spared himself, but gave every ounce of his strength to the up building of the agriculture of his state. Due primarily to this, his health at fast broke under the strain, and in 1907, he retired from his university duties, being succeeded by his colleague, H. L. Russell, whom he had recommended to the regents of the university for the post.
For some years after his retirement, Henry spent much time at Blue Hills Farm, near Wallingford, Connecticut, which he and his son developed as an extensive fruit farm. Here in the out-of-doors he loved so well, he regained his health to a great degree."

Few persons who find the present parcel post a great convenience realize that Henry was to a considerable extent responsible for the passage of the parcel post, bill in 1912. Convinced of the value of parcel post to farmers, Henry went to Washington several times at his own expense to "lobby" for the bill.

Appreciating thoroughly the force of concerted action, he wrote to every farm publication of note in the United States to request that they further the cause. He asked them to announce to their subscribers a "Parcel Post Day," to be held March 1 1912 Each person interested in the parcel post development, was urged to write letters to their congressmen on this day, expressing their desire for the legislation.

As a result of this clever plan, the lawmakers at Washington were fairly deluged with a mountain of mail from all the rural districts of the country. They soon saw that there was nothing for them to do but to vote for the bill, and parcel post, became an established thing in America.

It was but natural that honors came to Dean Henry as a result of his accomplishments. In 1904 he received honorary doctor's degrees from the University of Illinois and the University of Vermont, and in 1907 the Michigan State College conferred on him the same distinction. Finally, the regents of the University of Wisconsin named the main entrance to the campus of the College of Agriculture in his honor-The Henry Quadrangle. At the entrance to the quadrangle a massive boulder bears a bronze tablet with the following inscription:

"THE HENRY QUADRANGLE-In Recognition of the Pioneer Services of Dean William Arnon Henry to the Science and Practice of Agriculture in This University, the State and the Nation From 188O to 1907, This Approach to the College of Agriculture Has Been Designated By the Regents The Henry Quadrangle."

Like a good novel, Dean Henry's life is closing with "a happy ending." In a pleasant bungalow in California amid a garden blooming the year around with the flowers he loves-he has gone back to the botany study of his youth-Wisconsin's beloved first dean lives in memory the days of his mighty past.

F. B. Morrison is chief of the Animal Husbandry Depart merit of Cornell University at Ithaca, New York. Previous to that he was director of the Experiment Station at Geneva, New York, and before that vice-director of the Wisconsin Experiment Station. It was here that he came into close association with W. A. Henry. Later, when Dean Henry retired Professor Morrison carried on his work in the nutritional field. The combined success of the work of these two men is probably best told by the simple statement that the book Henry and Morrison "Feeds and Feeding'' is recognized as a standard, authority the world, over. Certainly no one is better qualified to give -us the story of W. A. Henry.