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William C. Latta papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 218

Scope and Contents

The William C. Latta papers (1877-2006; 2.0 cubic feet) documents the life, work, and legacy of Purdue Agriculture Professor William Carroll Latta.  The collection includes: a scrapbook (1877-1964) of photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and essay pertaining to Latta’s work and achievements; a number of articles published by Latta during his career (1882-1932); miscellaneous published materials pertaining to his tenure at Purdue and professional achievements (1891-2005); and two artifacts, a bottle and coverlet.  The collection also contains several newspaper articles concerning the launch of the Liberty Ship SS W.C. Latta in 1944, as well as a fabric-covered bottle used to christen the vessel.  The Papers are organized into 5 series.


  • 1877 - 2006
  • Other: Date acquired: 09/12/2005


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Purdue University Photocopied publications in the collection may be under different copyright.

Biographical or Historical Information

William Carroll Latta was born in Eden Township, LaGrange County, Indiana, on March 9, 1850.  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.  He 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.

Note written by John Michael Foster


2.00 Cubic Feet

3 mss. boxes, 2 artifact boxes, one flat box other_unmapped

1.00 mss._boxes

1.00 mss._boxes

1.00 mss._boxes

1.00 flat_box

1.00 flat_box

1.00 flat_box


Publications, artifacts, scrapbook, and other materials documenting the life, work, and legacy of Purdue Agriculture Professor William C. Latta.

Arrangement Note

Series 1 materials are arranged as they were found when processed.  The scrapbook is divided among three envelopes.  Series 2 materials are arranged chronologically.  Series 3 materials are arranged chronologically be document type.  Series 4 materials are housed in two separate artifact boxes.  Series 5 materials are arranged by document type.

Custodial History

Kim Sharp (bottle and coverlet) to ASC, December 9, 2005

Acquisition Information

Bottle and coverlet donated by Kim Sharp, December 9, 2005. Acquisition information for other materials in the collection is unknown.

Related Publications

Whitford, Frederick, and Andrew G. Martin. The Grand Old Man of Purdue University and Indiana Agriculture: A Biography of William Carroll Latta. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2005.

Processing Information

All materials are housed in acid-free folders and boxes.
William C. Latta papers
In Progress
John Michael Foster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States