Henry Wallace

Henry Wallace (1836-1916) was an American agricultural publicist and editor of the newspaper Wallaces' Farmer from 1895 to 1916.

Henry Wallace was born on a farm outside West Newton, Pa., on March 19, 1836. His parents were hardworking, religious, Scotch-Irish farmers who had come to the United States from Northern Ireland in 1832. Henry graduated from Jefferson College, Pa., in 1859 and then taught for a year at Columbia College in Kentucky. After theological study at Allegheny Seminary in Pennsylvania (1860-1861) and Monmouth College in Illinois (1861-1863), he was ordained. He was a Union chaplain during the Civil War.

Wallace was pastor at various churches in Illinois and lowa until 1877, when he retired from the ministry for health reasons. But for this forced retirement he might never have developed his later, and historically more important, career as a journalist, which helped to lead his two sons into political life. Wallace had already developed a taste for journalism and had published articles and become mildly interested in the reforms of his day, including temperance and antislavery.

In 1877 Wallace moved to Winterset, lowa, and took up farming. He had decided against accepting either the presidency of Monmouth College or entering religious journal nalism, for he felt the need for an outdoor life. He became involved in editorial work for local farm papers and eventually took part ownership in the Iowa Homestead. In 1895, with his two sons, he established his own paper to push "the agricultural interest." The newspaper later became known as Wallaces' Farmer.

Wallaces' Farmer was a leading organ and spokesman for the midwestern farmer. It fought for railroad regulation and for agricultural education, while maintaining a strong religious interest. The paper is now an important source for historians, as are Wallace's writings. These include Doctrines of the Plymouth Brethren (1878); three works on technical aspects of farming: Clover Culture (1892), Clover Farming (1898), and The Skim Milk Calf (1900); two volumes of popular education: Uncle Henry's Letters to the Farm Boy (1897) and Letters to the Farm Folks (1915); and a polemic against monopoly: Trusts and How to Deal with Them (1899).

In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Wallace a member of the Country Life Commission. Two years later he became president of the National Conservation Commission. In 1891 he traveled in Europe for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate flax growing, and in 1913 he was again sent abroad to study farm conditions in Britain. He died on Feb. 22, 1916.


Further Reading on Henry Wallace

The chief source of information on Wallace is his post-humously published autobiography, Uncle Henry's Own Story of His Life: Personal Reminiscences (3 vols., 1917-1919). Russell Lord, The Wallaces of Iowa (1947), is a history of the entire family.

Additional Biography Sources

Kirkendall, Richard Stewart, Uncle Henry: a documentary profile of the First Henry Wallace, Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1993.