E.S. (Edgar Sharp) McFadden Papers

Handwritten note Photograph, Front Photograph,  Back Page 1 Page 2 News Release Research Notebooks Research Notebooks Research notes Correspondence Research Notes Research Notes Research notes Research notes Research notes Research notes Edgar S. McFadden during Hobo Day at South Dakota State College in 1917 Edgar S. McFadden in uniform during World War I in 1917 McFadden family in 1919 Cows on the McFadden farm Baby portrait of Carol Mae McFadden Seven head sections of Success x Gatarni wheat Seven head sections of Success x Manchuria wheat Head section of New Era Barley Head sections of cross-pollinated barley Edgar S. McFadden in a flax field at Kenedy in 1949 Edgar S. McFadden with potted wheat plants Edgar S. McFadden kneeling in a wheat field Edgar S. McFadden sitting at his desk in 1951 Edgar S. McFadden looking at wheat Edgar S. McFadden test plot of wheat Edgar S. McFadden in a test plot of wheat Edgar S. McFadden at a Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas around 1950 Edgar S. McFadden Edgar S. McFadden doing research in wheat genetics Edgar S. McFadden at work in his office at Texas A & M University Edgar S. McFadden, Manley Champlin, and Oliver Smith conducting small grain experiments Edgar S. McFadden with a group of people Edgar S. McFadden with a group of people Edgar S. McFadden with a group of people Edgar S. McFadden with a group of people Edgar S. McFadden in a wheat field Portrait of a young Edgar S. McFadden
Edgar S. McFadden

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Reference code

MA 053

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E.S. (Edgar Sharp) McFadden Papers


  • 1914-2014 (Accumulation)


3.78 linear feet (9 document cases)

Name of creator


Biographical history

Edgar Sharp McFadden was born to James Edgar and Beatrice (Stocking) McFadden on February 3, 1891, in Day County, South Dakota. James E. McFadden came to South Dakota in 1882 to homestead and built a granary-dwelling house combination on his land.
In 1903, James E. McFadden was severely injured when he was gored by a bull. This put the burden of the 1904 spring planting onto Edgar McFadden when he was only thirteen years old. In addition to the regular planting of wheat that year, Edgar S. McFadden planted a small plot with seeds he had selected in 1903 from a few completely beardless wheat plants. He wanted to see if he could develop a better grain. McFadden’s first crop, including the small plot, was ruined by black stem rust.
In the winter of 1908-1909, the McFadden’s left South Dakota and moved to the West Pecos area of Texas, where Edgar went into the cattle ranching business in partnership with his father. Over the next three summers, Edgar S. McFadden followed the wheat harvest from Texas to their homestead in South Dakota, and then north and east into the Red River Valley in North Dakota and Minnesota. At this time, he observed that wheat rust started in the south and moved north.
In 1911, Edgar S. McFadden began taking courses in the School of Agriculture at South Dakota State College (SDSC), completing the program in 1914. He began as a freshman at SDSC in the fall of the same year. In 1916, agronomy professor Manley Champlin encouraged McFadden to plant wheat in a small plot of land behind the boarding house where he lived as a student in Brookings. He hoped to transfer the disease resistance of Yaroslav emmer to Marquis, a common bread wheat. While a student at SDSC, McFadden also worked as an assistant in the SDSC agronomy laboratory and in the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station test plots (1913-1917). He received his Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from SDSC on March 1, 1918.
Following his graduation, McFadden went to work for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a field assistant at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Highmore, South Dakota, where he continued his research to develop rust-resistant wheat. During World War I, McFadden joined the United States Army and served from May 25, 1918 to February 25, 1919. Following his military service, he returned to work for the USDA at the Highmore Experiment Station. After completing cereal experiments for the SDSC agronomy department in June 1920, he returned to his farm near Webster in Day County, South Dakota.
He continued his wheat breeding experiments on the land that his parents had homesteaded, and he farmed for a living from September 1, 1920 to February 28, 1929. After his crops were destroyed by drought in 1921, hailed out in 1922, and rusted out in 1923, he mortgaged the farm in order to continue working on his wheat breeding research. During this time McFadden developed the Hope and H44 varieties of rust-resistant wheat.
McFadden returned to work for the USDA on March 1, 1929 as an Associate Agronomist stationed in Redfield, South Dakota, and also worked for the USDA at University Farm in St. Paul, Minnesota. He held that position until 1935, when he accepted a position with the USDA and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. In Texas, McFadden continued his research with wheat and other small grains, including oats, barely, and flax.
Edgar S. McFadden is best known for his work developing Hope Wheat, which is the parent of numerous disease-resistant varieties. He is credited with saving at least 25 million people from starvation, and an estimated $400 million during World War II.
During his career, McFadden was awarded numerous honors and accolades including an honorary doctor of science degree from South Dakota State College (1950), the Reader’s Digest award for meritorious contributions to public welfare (1946), the American Agricultural Editors’ Award for outstanding service to American agriculture and country life (1947), and the Progressive Farmer man-of-the-year award (1950). He also received the USDA Distinguished Service Award (1949), a citation of merit from the Texas Chemurgic Council (1947), and honored by the American Agricultural Education Association (1945) for outstanding service. Prior to his death, McFadden received the prestigious John Scott Legacy Medal and Premium (1955). In 1966, a granite memorial to McFadden was erected in Webster, South Dakota.
In 1918, McFadden married Mabel Blakeslee. They had two daughters, Carol and Phyllis, and a son, James.
Edgar S. McFadden passed away at his home in College Station, Texas on January 5, 1956.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The collection consists of materials relating to his work with research and production of small grains such as wheat, oats, and flax, and in particular the development of Hope Wheat. In addition, the collection contains biographical information about McFadden and his writings and speeches.

System of arrangement

The collection is organized into series.

  • Awards, Honors, and Memberships
  • Biographical Materials
  • Collected Material Relating to McFadden's Work
  • Correspondence
  • Hope Wheat and Other Varieties
  • Research
  • Writings and Speeches
  • Photographs

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  • English

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Related archival materials


  • Edgar S. McFadden Collection, South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum, Brookings, South Dakota.

  • Norman E. Borlaug papers. UA-01014. Archives and Special Collections, Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota,
    Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • Rockefeller Foundation records



  • McFadden, Edgar A. Wheat-Rye Hybrids. Journal of Heredity 8, no. 7, (July 1917): 335

  • Champlin, Manley, and E. S. McFadden. Acme Wheat / [Manley Champlin and Edgar McFadden]. In Bulletin / South Dakota
    Agricultural Experiment Station ; No. 194, [325]-356. Brookings, S.D. : Agricultural Experiment Station, South Dakota State College of
    Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, 1921.

  • McFadden, E.S. A Successful Transfer of Emmer Characters to Vulgare Wheat. Journal of the American Society of Agronomy 22,
    no. 12 (December 1930): 1020–34.

  • McFadden, E.S. Brown Necrosis, a Discoloration Associated With Rust Infection in Certain Rust-Resistant Wheats. Journal of
    Agricultural Research 58, no. 11 (June 1, 1939)

  • McFadden, E. S., and E. R. Sears. The Origin of Triticum Spelta and Its Free-Threshing Hexaploid Relatives. Journal of Heredity 37,
    no. 4, (April 1946): 107–116

  • Erickson, A. W., and Edgar Sharp McFadden. McFadden’s Hope : Fighting Plant Breeders Win Battle for Bread. [Minneapolis, MN :
    Field Notes Crop Reporting Service], 1945.

  • Atkins, Irvin Milburn, and E. S. McFadden. Oat Production in Texas / I.M. Atkins and E.S. McFadden. In Bulletin / Texas Agricultural
    Experiment Station ; No. 691. College Station, Tex. : Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, 1947.

  • McFadden, E.S., and E.R. Sears. The Genome Approach in Radical Wheat Breeding. Journal of the American Society of Agronomy 39,
    no. 11 (November 1947): 1011–26.

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MA 53

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