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