My goal in creating this Web page on Henry A. Wallace is to make the life and thoughts of one of America's most remarkable figures available to students, farmers, scholars, activists, indeed anyone interested in American agriculture, politics, and society. It struck me during the writing of the biography section of this page, that Wallace was to the New Deal what Benjamin Franklin was to the American Revolution. Both men were eminent scientists in the American tradition, intensely interested in knowledge for its practical uses. Each was a prominent publisher, Franklin of Poor Richard's Almanac, and Wallace of Wallaces' Farmer, the family journal, which is still in print today. And finally, both were adept politicians, men of vision with a knack for getting things done. Of course, you can stretch any comparison
too far, and this one breaks down when one realizes that Wallace outstripped Franklin in nearly every realm. As a scientist, his development of a commercially viable strain of hybrid corn was one of the largest factors leading to the Green Revolution. And in addition to editing Wallaces' Farmer, Wallace authored numerous books on subjects as diverse as economics, corn, religion, and politics. But I imagine that it's my claim that Wallace was a successful politician that draws the most skepticism. After all, these days, if Wallace is known at all outside agricultural circles, it is for his unsuccessful bid for president in 1948. What is overlooked is Wallace's immense accomplishments as Secretary of Agriculture from 1932 to 1940. The
programs initiated by Wallace during those years changed the face of American agriculture and with it, American society. The Agricultural Adjustment of 1938, which included soil conservation measures, the ever-normal granary, and provisions to keep production in line with demand made agriculture a stable, reliable sector of the economy, which in turn brought stability not only to the rural communities Wallace loved, but to the nation as a whole. It is my hope that this Web page will help to give these accomplishments and Wallace's ideas and philosophies a more prominent place in both the offices of those who seek to guide public policy in this country, and in the classrooms of our schools and universities.
The Web page consists of a number of sections, including a brief introduction to Wallace's life and legacy (a good starting point for readers who are unfamiliar with Henry A. Wallace), a biography of Wallace, a comprehensive bibliography, the full texts of the Henry A. Wallace Annual Lectures, and quotations from Wallace on some of the various topics he was interested in during his life.
My goal was to provide a Web page that would function as a reliable research tool for interested scholars, be they highschool students or university professors; a resource for farmers, activists, and policy professionals interested in the history of American agriculture; and an informative portrayal of Henry A. Wallace for the general reader. I have drawn on my own experience as a teacher at American University in Washington, DC, who encourages his students to use the World Wide Web in their own research. As such, I have designed the page to be varied yet substantive. The components of this page are full of "great big blocks of text," and I have, on the whole, eschewed links within the texts. The emphasis on linear text is in the hopes of encouraging the reader to spend time with the subject. Save and print out the various articles, read them over at your leisure. Wallace was an enormously complex figure and it takes time and patience to come to begin to understand the whole man.
For me the great challenge of writing about Henry A. Wallace was getting even a basic understanding of all of his various areas of expertise, including agriculture, economics, religion, politics, genetics, sociology, and more. Indeed, it's not much of a stretch to say that Wallace himself was a living hypertext. (Wallace, by the way, worked with Vannevar Bush, the intellectual father of hypertext, during the early 1940s.) All these various parts of Wallace are interrelated. To understand one, you must attempt to understand
the others. You cannot focus on Wallace the peace advocate without knowing something about Wallace the advocate of agricultural communities. And that is the daunting challenge, and pleasure, of learning about Henry A. Wallace.
Andrew C. Higgins
January 13th, 1998
Andrew C. Higgins teaches writing at American University in Washington, DC. He is currently working towards a Ph.D. in English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he is writing his dissertation on Walt Whitman. His work has appeared in various journals, including MELUS: The Journal for the Study of the Mulit-Ethnic Literature of the United States, The New York Quarterly, Footwork: The Paterson Literary Review, and Kairos: A Journal For Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
Return to Main Page