A Magazine Called Wallaces’ Farmer
Wallaces’ Farmer was a farm magazine that grew out of combining other farm publications. It was first published under the name Wallaces' Farmer in 1898. Sometimes the paper was thick and other times it was thin. Sometimes it came out every week and other times every two weeks. Three generations of the Wallace family owned and operated the Wallaces' Farmer newspaper. "Uncle Henry" Wallace, his son—Henry C. Wallace and his grandson—Henry A. Wallace all worked on the newspaper and wrote about many different ideas. The three "Henrys" wrote about ideas they liked and ideas that made them angry.
A First Issue
If you had received the first issue of Wallaces’ Farmer in January 1898, you could have seen a picture of a giant hog named Tecumseh and you could have read about:
- The eating habits of cows
- How to get more nitrogen into the soil
- Movable fences, cheap sheds and putting up ice (without refrigerators, people had to cut ice from frozen lakes and streams in the winter, then store it in special ice houses throughout the summer)
- Fattening geese: “Keep them in a small pen so they won’t exercise, and feed them three times daily.”
- Growing clover to feed cattle
Wallaces' Farmer also reported that a federal court had agreed with a Minnesota law that required makers of margarine to color it pink. The margarine makers were in trouble for trying to pretend their product was butter. The Wallaces said the law would help keep people from buying the substitute.
34 Years Later
There were many magazines for sale in 1930, and people expected magazines to entertain as well as inform them. Almost all of the information in the first issue of Wallaces' Farmer was about farming. You can see how the lives of the farmers and their families became more important as time passed.
If you had a subscription to Wallaces' Farmer in 1930, your January 4th issue would include an article about cross-breeding chickens in England. Another article in that issue was written for little girls—"Little Recipes for Little Cooks." In those days, it was expected that only girls—never boys—would be cooks. But there was a contest for boys called "Win A Rifle!" The boys were asked to send in a list of animals (opossums, skunks, foxes) they had captured in a 45-day period. Also, for children the magazine had "Sleepy Time Stories." And the newspaper featured a regular religion column titled "Sabbath School Lessons." A travel article about a trip to the Mediterranean was included—showing that the readers had a wide variety of interests. Other farming articles discussed hog profits, brooder [chicken] houses and machine-milked cows.
Wallaces' Farmer has played an important role in the communications industry in Iowa and the U.S. for many years. Wallace family members no longer edit the magazine, but Wallaces' Farmer continues to be an important part of farm journalism for Iowa and for the country.
- Dr. Richard S. Kirkendall, Ed., “A Magazine Called Wallaces’ Farmer,” The Goldfinch 12, no. 3 (February 1991): 14-15.
Adapted from original article published in The Goldfinch, provided courtesy of State Historical Society of Iowa.