Delaware College Agricultural Experiment Station account books

Biographical and Historical Notes

Following the passage of the Hatch Act in 1887, the United States Department of Agriculture established agricultural experiment stations in connection with state land-grant universities to provide farmers with practical, science-based information. These account books show that Delaware College (now the University of Delaware) operated an agricultural experiment station as early as 1892. In 1907, Delaware College procured a 212-acre farm in Newark for the Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station. Research flourished on this land, where College scientists supplied useful information to farmers for improving agricultural methods in row crops, insect and disease problems in orchard crops, and animal husbandry. A few of the early projects included better ways to grow sugar beets and how the use of red clover would result in soil improvement. College researchers often experimented with different fungicides to control agricultural diseases such as peach brown rot or potato late blight. Today, the primary research is in insect-resistant corn varieties, insect behavior studies, and high-tech management of dairy cows.

It is likely that these account books were kept by Charles Lyndall Penny, a chemist and professor at Delaware College. Penny was born in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania on December 5, 1860 and attended Bucknell University. He published frequently in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers' Bulletin from the 1890s through the 1910s, and studied the use of petroleum products in agriculture extensively. These account books record his work with both gasoline and kerosene. Penny resided at the west end of Main Street in Newark, Delaware, where he died on October, 20, 1925.


University of Delaware Library Special Collections website, "Agriculture" (accessed on June 21, 2018)

University of Delaware College of Agriculture & Natural Resources website "UD Agricultural Experiment Station" (accessed June 21, 2018)

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers' Bulletin 329, Experiment Station Work, XLVII. May 1908.

1920 Federal Census (accessed via on June 21, 2018)

U.S. School Catalogs, 1765-1935, Bucknell University, 1915 (accessed via on June 21, 2018)

Delaware Death Records, 1861-1933 (accessed via on June 21, 2018)

Information derived from the collection.

Scope and Contents

These account books kept by scientist Charles L. Penny record expenses incurred by Delaware College's Agricultural Experiment Station between 1892 and 1916. The volumes also include information on experiments conducted at the station. In 1921, Delaware College was renamed the University of Delaware.

Volume I of these account books was kept between July 23, 1892 and August 10, 1907. A large portion of this volume records the Experiment Station's debts to Charles L. Penny, including his payment for chemicals, agricultural equipment, and travel expenses to Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware City, and other locations. It is likely that Penny paid these expenses upfront and later received reimbursement from Delaware College. The volume also includes the Experiment Station's debts to E.W. Dawson, mostly for samples of butter tested in the station's laboratory. Penny also kept accounts of the alcohol and gasoline used by various scientists and laboratory workers, recorded hours worked by assistants testing soil moisture, and created an estimate of future work at the station, which included the costs of soil analysis, surveying the state's dairy herds, and performing general laboratory work. Penny made several notes on the "gas machine" at the station, including the results of periodically testing on the machine's safety cuf-off. Memoranda near the end of the volume include an order list and an inventory of materials belonging to the Chemical Department in 1900.

Volume II was kept between September 23, 1907 and December 9, 1916. This volume also includes expenses incurred by the Experiment Station, but most of the entries in this book are summaries of experiments conducted at the station. Penny wrote detailed accounts of work on nitrogenous fertilizers, water distillation, and oil refining. He noted that the laboratories were testing milk, clover, soap solutions, and petroleum oils and jellies. Typed reports on the testing of specific gravity are pasted onto pages towards the end of the volume.

Volume I of the account books is bound in brown cloth over boards. The front cover is inscribed "A/ Accounts/ Delaware College Experiment Station/ July 23, 1892" in black ink. A large "A" is inscribed in black ink on the back cover. This volume contains 190 pages of lined wove paper with handwritten notations in ink and pencil.

Volume II of the account books is bound in brown leather over boards. An inscription in black ink on the front cover reads "D.B. 33/ Delaware College/ Agricultural Experiment Station/ September 23, 1907." This volume contains 96 pages of lined wove paper with handwritten notations in ink and pencil.