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Latta, W. C. (William Carroll), 1850-1935



  • Existence: March 9, 1850 - December 22, 1935

Biographical Information

William Carroll Latta was born in Eden Township, LaGrange County, Indiana. He attended common schools in Noble County between 1858 and 1868 and Ligonier High School from 1867 to 1869 before attending National Normal School (later renamed National Normal School) to train to be a school teacher. After eight months, however, Latta moved to Michigan. There, following a year of working and saving money, he enrolled at Michigan Agricultural College (present-day Michigan State University), earning his Bachelor of Science degree in 1877. He earned a Master of Science from Michigan Agricultural College in 1882.

Shortly before the completion of his graduate work, Latta was offered a job as an instructor and farm superintendent at Purdue University. Frederick Whitford and Andrew G. Martin write in their biography of Latta: "until his death in 1935, Professor Latta helped shape what eventually would become a major educational institution known worldwide for its diverse student body, quality education, and wide assortment of agricultural majors and specializations. He would live to see how his contributions helped to dramatically change the way Indiana’s farming community viewed a Purdue education in agriculture." Before the start of the Fall 1882 term, Latta was promoted to replace Professor Charles Ingersoll as professor of agriculture and horticulture. In his early years at Purdue, Latta brought in new faculty (beginning with the hire of James Troop in 1884), expanded the agriculture course study from three years to four, added practical courses to enhance curriculum, and initiated the Winter Short Course program. Professor Latta also labored to create outreach between the university through special bulletins (published by Purdue University and mailed to famers), press releases highlighting the work of Purdue researchers, and personal appearances and presentations by the university’s faculty. Latta also published several articles about agriculture, mainly for Purdue University, and two books. Latta’s greatest legacy came as the result of his work with the Farmers’ Institutes, which were the precursor to Purdue’s Cooperative Extension Service.

William Latta married Alta E. Wood (1854-1940) in July 1879. They had four children: Bertha (1884-1960), Robert (1886-1970), Pauline (1890-1955), and Mary (1894-1973). All four children attended and graduated from Purdue University. William Latta was a member of the Tippecanoe County Civic Improvement Association and Trinity Methodist Church, and did work for the Y.M.C.A. He died on December 22, 1935, at the age of 85.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Collection of Research Materials on William C. Latta

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 487
Scope and Contents Collection mMaterials include correspondence, images, publications, interviews, and notes concerning the life of early Purdue agriculture educator William C. Latta. The majority of items are photocopies.
Dates: 1874 - 2005

William C. Latta papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 218
Abstract Publications, artifacts, scrapbook, and other materials documenting the life, work, and legacy of Purdue Agriculture Professor William C. Latta.
Dates: 1877 - 2006; Other: Date acquired: 09/12/2005

William C. Latta papers, addition 01

 Unprocessed — Box: 01
Identifier: 20180830
Dates: circa 1920s - 1930s