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Howard (Walter L.) Papers on Pomology
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Collection Details
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  • Biography
  • Scope and Contents
  • Access
  • Processing Information
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: University of California, Davis Library, Dept. of Special Collections
    Title: Walter L. Howard Papers on Pomology
    Creator: Howard, W. L. (Walter Lafayette), 1872-
    Identifier/Call Number: D-635
    Physical Description: 0.4 linear feet
    Date (inclusive): 1917-1949
    Abstract: Papers and photographs of Walter L. Howard, Chair of Pomology and Director of Campus.
    Physical Location: Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as many are stored offsite.


    W. L. (Walter Lafayette) Howard (1872-1949) was a professor of pomology at the University of California, a pomologist in the UC Experiment Station, and director of the University of California Northern Branch of the College of Agriculture at Davis, which would later become the University of California, Davis.
    Walter L. Howard was born May 12, 1872 on a farm near Springfield, Missouri. He became interested in attending college after breaking his arm in an accident in 1893 when he was 21 years old resulting in a weak wrist that made work on the farm difficult for a span of several years. He attended business school in Springfield Missouri in 1893, paying for his living expenses as a night clerk in a small hotel and later by hauling cordwood to town each week. He even held a position collecting bad debts at odd hours for doctors and merchants. In 1896, he was able to enter the University of Missouri on a conditional basis for the courses he wanted and while earning expenses by working for the horticultural department, became interested in studying horticulture. He obtained his Bachelor of Agriculture and Bachelor of Science at the University of Missouri in 1901 and Master of Science in 1903. At that university, he was instructor in horticulture from 1903-1904, assistant professor from 1905-1908, and professor from 1908-1915. He studied at the University of Leipzig in Germany in 1905 and received his Ph.D. at the University of Halle-Wittenberg in 1906. He studied and investigated horticultural problems in France and adjoining countries from 1921-1922, and at the East Malling Research Station in England in 1930.
    Dr. Howard was most active in research during the years 1905-1915, when he was making an extensive study of the rest periods of woody plants, seeds, and bulbs. In 1915, he joined the University of California as Associate Professor of Horticulture, and in 1918 advanced to the rank of professor and head of the Department of Pomology. His first work as head of the Division of Pomology at Davis was to organize both the teaching and experiment station work in horticulture. After five years at Davis, he transferred to Mountain View, California to organize a new experiment station for the study and investigation of the troubles of the deciduous fruits: apples, pears, peaches, plums, prunes, apricots, cherries, almonds, and walnuts. In California, Dr. Howard found many of the fruit growers new to the industry and in great need of information that would help them to grow better crops. He spent most of his academic time helping these growers. At the time, it was not generally understood that practically all of the apples, pears, plums and cherries planted in the United States were growing upon roots that came from Europe. Big wholesale fruit tree stock growers annually imported from Europe hundreds of bushels of apple, pear, plum and cherry seeds which they planted and afterward sold the seedlings they produced to the nurserymen. The nurserymen budded, or grafted, these otherwise worthless seedlings to the various varieties of fruits that grew in the orchards. In orchards everywhere it had been noticed that a certain per cent of the trees did not do well. Sometimes a few trees would die at an early age from no apparent cause. Possibly a few would be scrubs, not dying, but never producing anything. Where land was comparatively cheap, no particular attention was paid to these things, but where land was expensive, as was the case in California, every tree had to be made to produce to maximum capacity. Nurserymen had long known that in any lot of seedlings, which were used for rootstocks, some were better than others. When American nurseries were small enough for the owners to do most of their own budding and grafting, the inferior stocks that could be detected by the eye were discarded. When the work began to be done on such a wholesale scale that this was impossible, the situation grew worse, rather than better. The remedy lay in getting only the best seeds and seedlings. During a 1921-1922 European trip to investigate deciduous fruit tree root-stock problems from seeds bought in Europe and then grown in the United States, Dr. Howard discovered that many times a medley of different varieties of a fruit were used to obtain seeds to be sold as a specific variety of the fruit thus explaining why the root-stock produced from the medley was oftentimes so unsatisfactory. He was able to gather seeds from a number of desired varieties of apple, pear, plum and cherry trees in France, Italy, and other areas of Europe and send them back to the University of California to be grown, studied, and experimented with to ascertain the varieties that would produce the best results in the United States. This work revolutionized the fruit industry in California and throughout the United States.
    Dr. Howard served as director of the University of California Northern Branch of the College of Agriculture at Davis from 1924-1937. He exercised an outstanding influence in building up the fledgling campus during a time when it was not certain whether the University of California would continue to exist. During the 13 years he was Director, the University Farm, as it was known then, went from having practically no permanent campus buildings, no paved streets and roads, no campus lights, no greenhouses or lath houses, no underground telephone and power line systems, no adequate sewage disposal plant, no water wells, no sidewalks except in front of the halls, and the Quadrangle was alternately used for alfalfa and as a cornfield, to a fully functioning campus. After retiring from administrative duties at the age of 65, he devoted his time to professorship until he became professor emeritus in 1942. For several years after his retirement he was actively engaged in the preparation of material for publication. His University of California bulletin: Luther Burbank's Plant Contributions, and his book: Luther Burbank - A Victim of Hero Worship, both of which were issued in 1945, are perhaps his most important published contributions. In total, Dr. Howard's bibliography includes approximately 115 research and extension publications.

    Scope and Contents

    Papers and photographs from Walter L. Howard, Chair of Pomology and Director of Campus. The collection is a mix of materials on pomology and on Davis campus history.


    Collection is open for research.

    Processing Information

    Collection was processed by Steffany Caria with assistance from Liz Phillips.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Kathy Crow, 2018.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Walter L. Howard Papers on Pomology, D-635, Special Collections, UC Davis Library, University of California, Davis.

    Publication Rights

    All applicable copyrights for the collection are protected under chapter 17 of the U.S. Copyright Code. Requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Regents of the University of California as the owner of the physical items. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Howard, W. L. (Walter Lafayette), 1872- -- Archives
    University of California, Davis -- Faculty -- Archives
    University of California, Davis -- History