Dakota Datebook

John Lee Coulter

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The news read differently back in 1912. Anyone picking up a copy of the New York Times on this day would read “Million Cows Give Milk for New York” and “Busy Bees Produce 3,191,733 Pounds of Honey.” These statistics were according to special agent for agriculture, John Lee Coulter. The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce and Labor took special care to keep track of dairy cows, milk prices and bee colonies. There were 6.3 million farms in America, according to the 1910 census. Farming was big business back then, as it is today. And agent John Lee Coulter had agriculture in his blood.
When 1914 rolled around, President Woodrow Wilson formed a commission to recommend long-term and short-term agricultural loans to those in need. Wilson needed a man knowledgeable in agriculture, who would understand about farmers’ concerns and issues. John Lee Coulter was chosen to draft the system for the Federal Farm Loan Banks and Rural Credit Societies. The Federal Farm Act of 1916 was passed by Congress.
In 1921, the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo (now known as NDSU) was in need of a new President. And who better to head up an Agricultural college than a man with years of agricultural experience. John Lee Coulter was perfect for the job. Coulter was known for his “progressive spirit” and his yearn to make the NDAC “a truly bigger and better seat of learning.” While acting as president, Coulter lead the college into a growth period. Enrollment at the school grew from 400 students in 1921 to over 1,300 in 1929. The school boasted the 1922 National Championship Dairy Cattle Judging team, and the National Dairy Show trophy as well.
It was with regret that Coulter left his position at NDAC in 1929. But when President Herbert Hoover calls you to duty, you answer. Coulter was appointed the Chief Economist for the United States Tariff Commission. And in 1934, Coulter was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an Expert Assistant to World Trade Advisor George Peek.
From his humble beginnings in rural Minnesota, to working with FDR, John Lee Coulter brought his “progressive spirit” to the American agricultural scene.

Dakota Datebook written by Jill Whitcomb

Million Cows give Milk for New York – article from New York Times archives website, December 1, 1912 http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9407E6D61F3CE633A25752C0A9649D946396D6CF
Genealogy Biography website- “Men of 1914 Biographical Sketches”-John Lee Coulter-http://www.genealogybiography.com/1914/biographies022.htm
North Dakota State University Archives website- “RG 3.6- John Lee Coulter (President,1921-1929)”-http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/archives/recordsandpapers/rg3/3.6.htm
The Bison-1923 edition, North Dakota Agricultural College annual yearbook
Department of Commerce and Labor- Statistical Abstract of the United States-1912-website-http://www2.census.gove/prod2/statcomp/documents/1912-01.pdf
Farm Credit Administration website- http://www.fca.gove/about/history/historyFCA_FCS.html

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

« Go Back

Award-winning radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.

Donate Now

Breaking News

Follow Us On Social Media