America's first family of agriculture
The first Henry Wallace came to Iowa in 1862 as a Presbyterian minister, and co-founded Wallaces’ Farmer agricultural journal with his sons Henry C. and John in 1895. His wife Nancy Cantwell Wallace, a journalist in her own right, edited the paper’s Hearts and Homes column. Through this publication, Henry Wallace became known as “Uncle Henry”, helped establish Iowa State College as a premier agricultural research institution, and promoted the Agricultural Extension Service. When asked to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Wallace deferred to his friend James “Tama Jim” Wilson. Uncle Henry died in 1916.
Son Henry C. Wallace was a professor at Iowa State College, editor of Wallaces’ Farmer, co-founder of the American Farm Bureau Federation, and longtime secretary of the Corn Belt Meat Producers’ Association. Henry C. worked hard to help farmers organize in associations and cooperatives. He served as Secretary of Agriculture for two presidents from 1921 until his unexpected death following surgery in 1924.
Grandson Henry A. Wallace graduated from Iowa State College and went to work for Wallaces’ Farmer. In high school, Henry A. was already researching and breeding corn. He founded the Hi-Bred Corn Company in 1926, which became Pioneer Hi-Bred and is now Corteva. Henry A. served as Depression-era U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933-1940, implementing revolutionary farm policies and programs for resource conservation and economic stabilization, many of which have remained in place into recent times. From 1953 to 1996, programs he designed to assure family-scale farmers support of commodity prices in the marketplace through supply management and on-farm grain storage were eventually weakened or phased out. Parallel to this has been a dramatic consolidation of farm units and a migration of population from America’s rural landscapes into urban settings. As Vice President from 1940-1944, Wallace traveled widely. He became Secretary of Commerce until 1946, and then ran for president in 1948. After his defeat, he retired from politics to write, travel, give speeches and farm. He died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1965.
Great-grandson Henry B. Wallace did for chickens what his father had done for corn. In 1939, he took over the fledgling hybrid poultry division of Pioneer Hi-Bred. His efforts increased egg production and industrialized the egg and broiler business. The poultry division became Hy-Line International, the world’s oldest layer genetics company. H.B. died in 2005.