Griest: William Walton Griest Collection, Series 16 Agriculture, 1911-1929

Call Number:  MG-65, Series 16 Agriculture

4 boxes     32 folders     1.5 cubic ft.

Repository: (Lancaster, Pa.)

Shelving Location:  Archives South, Side 2

Description:  Series 16 contains documents regarding many aspects of agriculture, livestock, forestry, tobacco, sugar, bird conservation, seed distribution, cotton regulations, and oleomargarine.

This collection contains business and personal correspondence relating to politics, education, immigration, roads and waterways, railroads, economic issues, agriculture, trade and commerce, taxes, the Postal Service, the Susquehanna Iron Company, the Susquehanna Bridge, and many other topics. There are also Congressional bills and speeches, financial information for the businesses William Walton Griest was involved with, and papers reflecting his efforts to improve Lancaster County’s road system and to survey the county’s waterways for expanded uses.

Creator:  Griest, William Walton, 1858-1929.

Conditions for Access:  No restrictions.

System of Arrangement:  Griest’s original folder titles and contents have been retained. The collection has been organized by subject into 26 series.

Conditions Governing Reproductions:  Collection may not be photocopied. Please contact Research Staff or Archives Staff with questions.

Language:  English

Source of Acquisition:  Gift of W. W. Griest’s daughter, Rebecca W. Griest.

Administrative/Biographical History: 

In 2003, the Lancaster County Historical Society received a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission grant to rehouse and inventory the William Walton Griest papers. Many of these papers date from the 1880s to the 1930s and focus on Griest’s business and political interests. The grant has allowed the historical society to open this previously inaccessible collection to researchers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and United States history.

William Walton Griest was a prominent member of Congress from 1909 until 1929.  His papers reflect his influence not only in matters of national concern, but also those of Lancaster County.  His term in office spans a tumultuous era of United States history, dealing with such topics as Women’s Suffrage, Prohibition, and the First World War.  The collection sheds light on what members of Congress felt about these issues, and also what Lancasterians felt about them.  Numerous letters and petitions were written to Representative Griest on issues which divided the nation and Lancaster County.

William Griest did not begin his career as a politician, but rather started as a public school teacher. After graduating from Millersville State Normal School in 1876,  he taught at schools in East Donegal and Mount Joy townships for three years before taking another career path.  His education led him to become a writer and later editor of the Lancaster Inquirer, a weekly newspaper published by his father Ellwood Griest.

Griest was an unostentatious man; nevertheless, he was a well-respected man in the community.  He lived on South Queen Street with his wife Elizabeth Paxson Smith, son George W. Griest, and daughter Rebecca Walton Griest. The family was extremely close. Files containing personal correspondence between the family give insight into the quiet life of such a public man.

His first election to public office, as a member of the Lancaster City School Board in 1884, probably derived from his background as a teacher. With this success, his political career had been born and Griest continued to run for increasingly more prestigious offices. He was Chief Clerk for the County Commissioners, leader of the Republican party in Lancaster County, delegate to Republican National Convention from 1896-1920, and finally a representative to Congress from 1908 to 1929.  His political career of more than forty years extended over an era of great change in both the county and the country.

Griest was heavily involved in the economy of Lancaster County.  Not only was he a noteworthy Congressman, he was an equally shrewd businessman.  He became an investor in many of the local public utility companies, the most prominently featured in his papers being the Lancaster County Railway and Light Company. Documents in the collection shed light on Griest’s involvement in the company as well as the company’s financial information and its interactions with other utility companies. Under his leadership, the company turned around from a dying operation on the brink of bankruptcy to an operation netting a profit of more than $100,000 a year. 

Griest invested in another failing company, the Susquehanna Iron and Steel Company, at Columbia.  He purchased the company in an attempt to save the mills from closing and losing the industry in the area.  His papers contain many of the financial ledgers and employment records of the company.  The documents give further insight into not only Griest’s business dealings, but also the lives of local men that worked for the company.

A large portion of the collection deals with Griest’s Congressional career.  He held many influential positions while in Congress, including chairman of the Personnel of the House Service Committee and the Post Office and Post Road Committee, one of the largest committees in the Congress. He also sat on the Committee of Committees.  The documents in this part of the collection contain bills that were proposed to Congress, speeches given by members of Congress, and reports given by many of the committees.  Griest kept records on topics ranging from agriculture, veterans affairs, income tax, and child labor, to commerce and trade.  On many of these issues, the collection has letters and petitions from voters from Lancaster County urging Griest to remember Lancaster County in congressional deliberations. 

Griest’s major accomplishments in Congress included creating the Lincoln Memorial, improving mail service, and assisting returning World War I veterans to cope with entrance back into their local community.  Locally, he assisted Lancaster County in pushing bills that would benefit the county with its economy based in agriculture and by creating a local farm bureau.  He also sought to improve the road systems in the county and to survey waterways throughout the county for expanded uses. 

William Griest was very close with many of the leading political figures of Pennsylvania during the early 1900s. The collection contains correspondence between Griest and men such as Gifford Pinchot, Boise Penrose, William Vare, and William Cameron Sproul.

The William Walton Griest collection is a wonderful source of information on one of Lancaster County’s leading 20thcentury citizens. Thanks to the generous support of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission this collection will be available to both professional researchers and students of history.  Those interested in the period and in local history will find these papers extremely valuable as a primary source.

Processed by:  KC, 2002-2003.

Note:  This project was funded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Archives and Records Management Grant, ME 230340, 2002-2003.


Box 26

Folder 1  Fungus Disease, 1915

Folder 2  Game Warden, 1928

Folder 3  Henry Brown, 1913-1914

Folder 4  Livestock Transportation, 1912-1914. Contains a flier on the New York and New Jersey Livestock Exchange; a bill for enlargement of Interstate Commerce Commission powers; and a list of committee members of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Folder 5  Page-Vocation Bill, 1911-1913

Folder 6  Veterinary Inspections, 1916

Folder 7  Cotton Regulations, 1914

Folder 8  Butter-like products, 1928-1929. Contains a bill on oleomargarine approval.


Box 27

Folder 9  Bird Conservation Bill, 1912-1929. Contains an act on migration bill conservation and a report on protection of breeds.

Folder 10  Cattle Tests, 1912-1929. Contains a flier on milk benefits.

Folder 11  Cattle Statistics, 1920-1929. Contains a table of comparative values booklet; Maine and Pennsylvania statistics of agriculture; statistics on the value of farms; statistics of Pennsylvania counties; a memorandum on the value of crops; a booklet on the 5 leading counties of crops and livestock; and the census of agriculture.

Folder 12  Seed Distribution, 1912-1916. Contains a list of seeds distributed and a list of those that gave cowpea seeds.

Folder 13  Seed Distribution, 1914-1924. Contains 3 pictures of Freemont.

Folder 14  Standards, 1912. Contains a bill to propose establishment for the standard barrel and R. G. Phillips’ visiting card.

Folder 15  Tobacco Statistics, 1912-1928. Contains a report on tobacco statistics.

Folder 16  Tobacco Growing, 1911-1914. Contains a supplemental brief on tobacco and Pennsylvania tobacco information.

Folder 17  Tobacco Growing, 1903-1912


Box 28

Folder 18  Tobacco Growing, 1909-1910. Contains the retail price list of tobacco.

Folder 19  McNary-Hague Bill, 1924-1928. Contains a booklet regarding the bill; the low conditions of agriculture; a resolution of wheat growers of Minnesota; and Waterville endorsement of bill.

Folder 20  Agriculture, 1913-1929. Contains corn belt committee resolutions; a plea for permanent economy equality for agriculture; a booklet on solution of farm problem by B. F. Youkum; a speech on farming; a bill on exhibit to 4th World’s Poultry Congress; and an act on the agriculture marketing act.

Folder 21  Lancaster County Agriculture, 1911-1926. Contains a pamphlet on Lancaster agriculture; a resolution of Chestnut Tree Bark Disease Conference; data on livestock prices; and statistics on agriculture.

Folder 22  Forestry, 1907-1908. Contains booklets: “The Lumber of U.S. for 1906,” “The Reunion of the Southern Appalachian Mountains to the Development of Water Power,” “What Forestry has Done,” “A Primer of Conservation,” “The Drain upon the Forests,” and “The Southern Appalachian and White Mountains Watersheds.”

Folder 23  Proposed Bills and Speeches, 1914-1927. Contains testimony on lacing lemons on free list; a speech on agriculture; a speech on farm statistics; a report on agriculture surplus control bill; an act to establish the Federal Farm Board; and bills to establish stations in Illinois and Lancaster County.

Folder 24  Sugar at a Glance. Charts and data. 1912

Folder 25  Sugar, 1912-1928. Contains notes of testimony on sugar tariff; a corn sugar bill editorial by Arthur C. Page; an index to Hardwick Committee testimony; sugar notes and statistics by Albert G. Robinson; a letter regarding domestic sugar producers; a bill on the sale of misbranded foods; and a bill on the resolution of sugar use.


Box 29

Folder 26  Oleomargarine, 1910-1912. Contains Oleomargarine statistics and a flier on where dairy stands on Oleomargarine.

Folder 27  Oleomargarine, 1907-1912. Contains a bill on the change of oleomargarine to margarine; reports on oleomargarine;   extracts from hearing on butter; unfair legislation flier; Dr. Harvey W. Wiley’s testimony; a resolution by Butter Maker’s Association; and National Dairy Union questions.

Folder 28  Oleomargarine, 1909-1912. Contains a memorandum to U.S. Congress on the tax of oleomargarine; a report on butter; a bill on the outlaw of sale of renovated butter; dairy stance on oleomargarine legislation; flier on 2 kinds of oleomargarine; Frank Morrison legislation; and a bill to amend the oleomargarine bill.

Folder 29  Agriculture, 1911-1929. Contains a report and bill for agriculture day; a message on veto of the surplus control act; a resolution of Traffic Club of Manufacturer’s Association; an index of farm prices on crops; and a summary of 1924 triennial census.

Folder 30  Seed Distribution, 1912-1915

Folder 31  Seed Distribution, 1914-1924. Contains a letter on McNary-Haugen bill.

Folder 32  Tobacco Broadside, no date