Photo by Rachael Brugger
Thanks in large part to the wealth of out-of-print resources now available online, it is easier to read 19th-century agricultural journals today than at any time since the first American Farmer was published in 1819. Originally a response to the 19th-century mania for “improvement,” the agricultural press soon achieved widespread popularity as a source of news, practical information and entertainment. For today’s small farmer and backyard poultry-keeper, much of the advice in these old periodicals is still relevant, particularly given our renewed interest in traditional concepts such as local production and long-term sustainability.
Many journals came and went over the course of the 19th century; relatively few achieved the longevity of American Agriculturist, which is still published today. However, many of the older editions of the regionally specific publications can still be found on websites such as Google Books or on the Library of Congress’ website, Chronicling America. Periodicals include the (Albany) Cultivator, The New England Farmer, The Florida Agriculturist and The Prairie Farmer, to name a few.
Typically digitized as indexed, annual volumes, these periodicals are readily accessible within each site by searching for the title or for generic terms such as “farmer,” “cultivator” or “agriculture.” Once you have successfully pulled up a list of journals by title, click on “more editions” to see how many volumes are available in “full view” format.
Within each journal’s index, you’ll discover that topics are organized in a variety of ways. For instance, information on raising chickens can be found under “egg,” “hen,” “fowls” or “poultry.” Although individual index entries might be highlighted to indicate that one click will take you directly to that page, more often than not, you’ll land on a different, unrelated page and won’t be able to return easily to the index.
It is easier to jot down the page numbers of articles you are interested in and access them one at a time using the convenient page-search box, located at the top of the screen. Of course, you can also read each journal page-by-page in its entirety, but be prepared for distraction; you’ll discover a multitude of intriguing articles on everything from preserving food and saving seeds to selecting the ideal carriage horse!