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Henry Leavitt Ellsworth

Henry Leavitt Ellsworth


Henry Ellsworth, a lawyer from Connecticut, is inducted for his diverse vocations that ultimately led to the establishment of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Ellsworth graduated from Yale University and while practicing law in 1819, he became President of Aetna Insurance Company. He also was a farmer and active in the Hartford County Agricultural Society.

In 1832, Ellsworth was appointed as a governmental agent. He traveled across the country in this work and was able to gain various perspectives on the condition of the nation’s primary industry of the time—agriculture.

Appointed as U.S. Commissioner to Patents by President Andrew Jackson in 1835, he knew the need of a central agency to serve the agricultural needs of a growing country. While Commissioner of Patents, Ellsworth obtained the first Congressional funding for agricultural activities and established a department to collect and distribute seeds, promote farm interests, conduct research, and compile agricultural data. Under his direction, federal offices began to engage in agricultural chemistry, botany, statistics, and entomology.

For his efforts, Ellsworth is known as the “Father of the Department of Agriculture,” although he died before federal legislation officially established the agency.

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