History of Kansas FFA, rural life being preserved with help of Kansas State University undergraduate researchers

The Chapman Center for Rural Studies, in Kansas State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has received a $2,000 gift from the Kansas Association of the Future Farmers of America in recognition of the work of undergraduate student researchers about rural life in Kansas.


Manhattan FFA members assisting with hybrid corn tests in 1944. From left are Bill Hosier, Wayne Roesener and Clifford Barry.

Katherine Sundgren, a junior in history, Leonardville, is digitally preserving a collection, including newspaper clippings, that documents the history of the FFA back to 1928 in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the organization.

Center director Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, associate professor of history, was first made aware of the collection in the spring and decided that it was the perfect project for a summer intern.

“The history of the FFA is integral to both the history of Kansas agriculture and Kansas State University,” Lynn-Sherow said. “The collection highlights the work of young adults dedicated to agricultural leadership, and whose stories feel simultaneously foreign and intimate to our current student interns.”

The Chapman Center provides undergraduates with hands-on training in valuable professional skills such as accessioning, digital preservation and even film editing.

The FFA hopes to make these digital resources openly available to the public through a web-based exhibit about the Kansas chapter.

“I was a part of my high school’s FFA program for four years,” Sundgren said. “It’s nice being able to help preserve a long tradition for future generations to enjoy the rich history that surrounds the FFA program. I’ve seen how important it is to many members of my community and I’m glad that my work here helps keep the tradition alive.”

“As we look forward to the 100th anniversary of FFA, the Kansas chapter is excited to partner with the Chapman Center for Rural Studies in collection and documentation of the rich history of agricultural education,” said Mary Kane, who is with the Kansas FFA Association.

The large collection includes hundreds of photos, handwritten and typewritten meeting notes, scrapbooks and even film reels that have not been seen for several decades.


Nelson D. Galle, a Kansas State University alumnus and former chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, served as Kansas FFA President from 1953-1954.

“The partnership between Kansas FFA and the Chapman Center for Rural Studies is exciting as many of the foundational events of the association are due to the commitment of rural Kansas schools,” Kane said. “We are excited with the capacity of the center to make accessible the documents and archives of our history.”

The FFA’s partnership with the Chapman Center is the one of many digital projects the center is engaged in or has completed since 2007, including commercial collections, oral histories, museum collections, slide and film collections, postcard collections and several important family collections that Chapman students use in their published research.

“It’s definitely a win-win for everyone,” Lynn-Sherow said. “Organizations and individuals feel good about preserving the past, while our students gain an appreciation of our collective responsibility to share those stories. They learn to work with and rely on others for the greater good. I can’t imagine a better learning outcome than that.”

Written by

Katherine Sundgren


First days of the New School Year

Double Exposure of children and the front porch of the Rogler Ranch at Pioneer Bluffs, 1915

Double Exposure of children and the front porch of the Rogler Ranch at Pioneer Bluffs, 1915

These first days of the new school year can feel like eternity as we find our pace.

It’s not.

A reminder via our friends at Pioneer Bluffs: a double exposure of kids on a porch, 1915.

Historic Kansas Crimes Map: 1890 – 1930

Historic Kansas Crimes - Angela Schnee 2013

The Chapman Center Crime Map Project represents three semesters of research by approximately 50 undergraduate students and interns into rural crime between 1890 and 1930. With the advent of the Great Depression, rural newspapers stopped reporting local events and focused on national coverage to a much greater degree. The reporting of rural crime is much more consistent before 1930.

Students used newspapers from several counties in Kansas to gather data about crimes.  The selection of counties was determined solely by student access to early newspapers. Some of the newspapers appear in the Library of Congress database, such as issues for Iola, Wichita, and Junction City.

The Westmoreland Register in Pottawatomie County became the single-most important source, as those volumes are available for student browsing at Rock Creek Valley Historical Society.  Although this study is partial, it does include isolated rural areas as well as areas in proximity to larger cities.

After interns tabulated and analyzed the data, three interesting patterns appeared:  1) a major spike in theft, robbery, and other property-related crimes occurred around 1900; 2) the incidence of violent crime increased during World War I; and 3) alcohol-related crimes showed a significant increase in the 1920s, with the advent of both National Prohibition and the automobile.  Of these patterns, the one most surprising was the 1900 crime peak, as depicted in the mapping above.

Students then investigated possible factors to explain this increase, including national, state, and local events as possible catalysts. These causal factors are represented on a timeline which correlates with the time period showing the rise in crime. The Crime Map Project suggests the need for further research into the sociology of rural crime in the Great Plains states.

All maps were prepared by Angela Schnee, former intern and then Undergraduate Research Assistant at Chapman Center for Rural Studies.