Department of Agriculture Building, constructed 1865-1870

Last July the Hayfoot and I were walking down the National Mall when we happened upon the Department of Agriculture building. The Agriculture Department not being something I have thought much about over the years, its size and grandeur startled me. It was a lesson in the importance of traveling and actually seeing where history is made and events take place. As it turns out today is the 150th anniversary of the USDA; President Lincoln created the organization on May 15, 1862. This was one of many pieces of legislation the Republicans passed in 1862. These included the Homestead Act, which gave away Federal land in the West; the Morrill Act that created the Land Grant colleges; and the Pacific Railway Act that tied it all together. These were the internal improvements for which the fledgling party had advocated throughout the 1850s and in the 1860 election. The idea was to create a better fed, better educated population linked together by transportation (railroad) and communication (the already existing telegraph) technology. Of course this was all contingent on the Union actually winning the war, no small thing. That’s why they passed the Militia and Second Confiscation Acts that July. The war gave us so much of the world we live in today. That is why it is endlessly fascinating.

(image/G.D.Wakely stereograph courtesy NYPL)