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Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA)

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  • Engraved version of the PSPA medal, 1790s, PSPA Records
    Engraved version of the PSPA medal, 1790s, PSPA Records
  • John Beale Bordley's drawings of his cluster drill for wheat (1786)
    John Beale Bordley, drawings of cluster drill for wheat (1786) (detail), in Bordley, Letters and Treatises, PSPA Records (Ms. Coll. 92, Folders 18-20, 268-272)
  • Farm Journal [advertising broadside] (1877)
    Farm Journal [advertising broadside] (1877), PSPA Collection

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. The PSPA, a non-profit and non-partisan organization, remains active and continues its mission of promoting knowledge exchange to further the understanding and appreciation of agriculture, historical, current, and future. Learn more about the PSPA and its work.

Collection description and history


The idea of forming an American husbandry society in the British pattern was proposed by John Beale Bordley to the agricultural committee of the American Philosophical Society. Initial meetings were held in February and March 1785, and a list of nominations was drawn up and approved. 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, as did George Washington, who was elected as an honorary member since he did not reside within ten miles of the city.

The Society's books and manuscripts are a valuable record of its continuous activity from the early days of the Republic to the present. The collections were initially deposited with the University of Pennsylvania in 1888 along with funds for their preservation and growth.

The Library 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, along with several state and regional journals. With the Society's ongoing support, the collection continues to grow.

Information for researchers

PSPA archival materials are cataloged as the PSPA records (Ms. Coll. 92). The PSPA books and periodicals are cataloged by title and author in the university'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. A full alphabetical listing of correspondence in the PSPA records can be found in the online catalog, Franklin.

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.

Library of the PSPA

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.

New acquisitions

Thanks to ongoing support from the Society, the Libraries have been able to continue to add to the PSPA collection. Examples of recent acquisitions include:

Related sites

Finding aid

PSPA records