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Earl L. Butz papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 64

Scope and Contents

The Earl L. Butz papers include documents, photographs, letters, scrapbooks, correspondence, biographical material, speeches, newspaper clippings, publications, and subject files from 1945 to 2004, with the bulk of the material dating from Butz’s tenure as Secretary of Agriculture from 1971 to 1976. Although some personal materials are included, the bulk of the papers are professional in nature. Major subjects in the papers include domestic and international agricultural and food policies, the environment, international economic policy, farming and food policies, energy, natural resources, timber, Purdue University, and the Republican Party. Files on Butz's various travels around the globe to countries and regions including the Soviet Union, Asia, Mexico, and the Middle East are also included.


  • 1945 - 2004
  • Majority of material found within 1971 - 1976


Access Information

The majority of this collection is open for research. Boxes marked "Closed Files" have restricted access.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyright held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

Dr. Earl L. Butz, educator, administrator, and government official was born on July 3, 1909 to Harmon Lee Butz and Ada Tillie Lower in Albion, Indiana.  Dr. Butz graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in Agriculture in 1932 with a major in animal husbandry. During his undergraduate career at Purdue he served as an editor to the Exponent, and was a member of Iron Key Honor Society and Alpha Gamma Rho (a national agricultural fraternity). In 1937 he received his doctorate from Purdue in Agricultural Economics, and joined the Purdue staff as an agriculture instructor.

From 1943 to 1944 Dr. Butz worked at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.; from 1946 to 1954 he was head of the agricultural economics department at Purdue. In 1954 Butz was appointed Assistant Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In that same year he was appointed to the chairmanship of the United States delegation to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 1957 he resigned both offices to become the Dean of Agriculture at Purdue. Butz served as Dean of Agriculture from 1957 to 1967 and was Dean of Continuing Education and President of the Purdue Research Foundation from 1968 to 1971.

President Richard M. Nixon appointed Dr. Butz United States Secretary of Agriculture in 1971. He continued to serve in that capacity within the President Gerald R. Ford administration. Dr. Butz was a highly controversial figure throughout his tenure in this position. He resigned on October 4, 1976, the a result of controversy in response to comments he made in public.

During his time at Purdue University he was active in professional, academic, and civic organizations. These included being president of the Lafayette Kiwanis Club, vice president of the American Farm Economic Association (now called the American Agricultural Economics Association), vice president of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, vice president of the Indiana Academy of Social Sciences, and national president of Alpha Gamma Rho.


29.06 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Documents, photographs, letters, scrapbooks, correspondence, biographical material, speeches, artifacts, and subject files documenting the career of Earl L. Butz as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1971-1976.


The collection is arranged into six series:
  1. Correspondence. This series includes a range of both personal and professional correspondence materials from 1971-1976 including thank-you letters, letters of congratulations, topical correspondence with colleagues, and memos. Also included is one box of letters sent to Earl Butz in response to his resignation as Secretary of Agriculture in 1976.
  2. Subject Files and Miscellaneous Papers. This series is primarily comprised of subject files related to Butz’s work as Secretary of Agriculture, political activities and the Republican Party, and some family or personal materials. Types of materials in these files include brochures, clippings, correspondence, reports, and photographs. A number of materials formally document Butz’s daily activities as secretary, including appointment books and telephone logs. Two boxes contain materials related to Butz’s travels as Secretary, including itineraries, background materials on various countries, and correspondence pertaining to a visit.
  3. Statements and Speeches. This series includes collections of Butz’s public speeches made as Secretary of Agriculture. The speeches are organized chronologically in binders, and each binder includes an index of speeches by date. Copies of the speeches sometimes include handwritten revisions, annotations, and marginalia.
  4. Albums and Scrapbooks. This series includes a number of scrapbooks and photo albums pertaining to Butz’s career. Types of materials represented are news clippings reporting on Butz’s professional activities, photographs from his travels as Secretary, and clippings on general political events and issues throughout the 1960s and ‘70s.
  5. Artifacts. Items in this series include several objects from Butz’s life and work including a jacket from time spent at Camp David.
  6. Newspaper Clippings. Items in this series include several local newspaper clippings and publications commemorating Earl L. Butz’s time at Purdue and as the US Secretary of Agriculture.

Acquisition Information

Materials were donated by Earl L. Butz on 1978-06-01. Additional donation from Earl L. Butz on 1987-06-30 and Martha Graham in 2007-01.

Processing Information

All materials have been housed in acid-free boxes. All newsprint has been photocopied and in most cases original newspaper clippings have been discarded.

Artifacts in Series 5 were added to the collection in 2007.

An earlier box-numbering system was replaced and the collection consolidated and organized into series in August 2016. An index of old and new box numbers is available for reference. Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained.

Restricted materials in Box 18 were reviewed in December 2019 and some files were opened. Materials that continue to be restricted remain in Box 18; opened files are in boxes 35, 36, and 37. Some materials are accessible in redacted form to remove social security numbers and sensitive personal information related to personnel matters. The originals are maintained in restricted box 18.
Earl L. Butz papers
In Progress
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Description rules
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Edition statement
Fourth edition. Collection description was first completed on 2009-07-06.

Revision Statements

  • 2016-08: An earlier box-numbering system was replaced and the collection consolidated and organized into series. An index of old and new box numbers is available for reference. Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained.
  • 2018-08-29: Items from faculty publications collections added to current collection.
  • 2020-01-24: Closed Files were reviewed. Some previously closed files were rehoused and made open for research. The finding aid was updated to reflect this change by Adriana Harmeyer.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States