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Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA)

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  • Engraved version of the PSPA medal, 1790s, PSPA Papers
    Engraved version of the PSPA medal, 1790s, PSPA Papers

Established in 1785, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States, and it remains active. Collections include the Society's records and its extensive library.

Collection description and history


The Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture was established in 1785, when John Beale Bordley proposed to members of the American Philosophical Society that they form an American agricultural society in the British pattern. Charter members include prominent judges and lawyers (John Beale Bordley, Richard Peters, James Wilson, and Edward Shippen), military leaders (General John Cadwalader, Colonel George Morgan, Colonel John Nixon), doctors (Benjamin Rush, John Jones, George Logan, Adam Kuhn), and politicians (Samuel Powel, George Clymer, Henry Hill, Philemon Dickinson, Samuel Vaughn, Lambert Cadwalader, Tench Francis, Charles Thompson). Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine became members in the first year.

In 1867, The Society established a fund in for the preservation and growth of the Society's Collection at the University of Pennsylvania Library. The Society's archive is a valuable record of its continuous activity from the early days of the Republic to the present. The Society's Library was initially deposited at the Library in 1888. It comprises over 1,000 titles. Included are materials on all aspects of agriculture, including farming, animal husbandry, gardening, veterinary medicine, industrialized farming, soils and fertilizers, and many others, along with many state and regional journals. Thanks to the Society's ongoing support, the collection continues to grow.

Information for researchers

Archival materials from the PSPA are cataloged as the PSPA records (Ms. Coll. 92). The Library of the Society is cataloged by title in the library's online catalog, Franklin.

PSPA records (Ms. Coll. 92, 103 boxes): Correspondence, administrative and financial records, memoirs, and memorabilia from the Society, 18th-20th centuries. Note: For a full listing of correspondence in the Lewis Mumford Papers, researchers must search in the main online catalog, Franklin.

Library of the PSPA: The PSPA Library contains over 1,000 titles. Funding from the Society has ensured the ongoing growth of the collection.

Some highlights include:

  • several early sixteenth century editions of the Scriptores rei rusticae compilation (from 1514, 1521, and 1535)
  • printed editions of Pietro de Crescenzi.
  • seventeenth-century English works on husbandry and gardening.
  • works on agricultural and industrial machinery and improvements from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Digitized records: materials in boxes 1-15 of the PSPA records of have been digitized. These include correspondence and early minutes of the Society. The Memoirs of the PSPA are also available online.

Related sites

Finding aid

PSPA records