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Agriculture, including domestic economy, husbandry in general, horticulture and botany, chemistry, mechanic arts and the fine arts. Committees were appointed on these several subjects, and the committee on fine arts was directed to procure a copy of the best and most correct portrait of the late President of the Society, Robert R. Livingston, for the use of the Society. At this time the Society numbered 167 members.
Simeon De Witt presided over the Society in 1815 and in 1816, and under the auspices of the committee we see the labors of the Society in a greater measure directed to agriculture. The number of competitors in domestic manufactures was increased, and the names of members numbered 210.
As a memorial of those days of family industry and thrift, we here subjoin some statistics of the quality and value of cloths manufactured in families and otherwise, according to the census returns of 1810:
The amount of cotton goods manufactured in the State was 216,013 yards, which being then valued at thirty-two cents a yard, was worth $69,124.16. There were in the State twenty-six cotton manufactories, five of which were in Dutchess, and five in Oneida counties. The quantity of flaxen goods manufactured in families and otherwise, was 3,372,645 yards. The value at 37} cents a yard, amounted to $2,014,741.87. Blended and unnamed stuffs (cloth), 180,659 yards, worth 35 cents a yard, making a value of $63,230.65. The quantity of tow cloth was 21,721 yards, worth at 30 cents a yard, $6,516.30. Woolen goods manufactured mainly in families, 5,257,812 yards, then being valued at 87] cents a yard, gave a total value of $2,850,585.50. Thread manufactured, 43,680 runs, valued at $7,644. There were in the State 33,068 looms, of which New York county had only 3, Washington county 2,200, the largest number of any one county.
Here we lose sight of the Society for the Promotion of the Useful Arts, and are next introduced to the State Board, authorized by “An act to improve the Agriculture of this State," passed April 9, 1819.
By this act the sum of $10,000 a year, for two years, was appropriated for the promotion of agriculture and family domestic manufactures in this State, the sum to be distributed among the several counties in this State. Of this sum, the greatest amount, $650, was given to the county of New York, and the smallest sum, $50, to the county of Chautauqua.
The same act authorized the formation of agricultural societies in any county or parts of two counties where the people were disposed to unite, the members of which had power to raise money for the purposes of the society, and on making a certificate of the amount raised by the society, and lodging said certificate with the Comptroller, he was authorized to give an order on the State Treasurer equal in amount to that raised by contribution of the society.
Another condition of the act was, that each of the agricultural societies 80 formed, should elect such and so many officers as they thought proper, "all of whom should be practical farmers," whose duty it was to regulate and award such premiums as they thought most conducive to agricultural progress, each competitor being required to give a description of the animal offered; or, if a crop, the nature of the soil, method of cultivation, &c.
By section six of thiş act, the presidents of these several agricultural societies, or a delegate chosen from each of the societies, were to constitute and form a Board of Agriculture, which was to meet at the Capitol in Albany, on the first Monday after a meeting of the Legislature of each year; that they elect a President and Secretary and such other officers as they think proper, to receive and examine all reports and returns, and select for publication such of these and such essays as they think proper, and to publish a volume annually, at the expense of the State, for distribution through the societies to the good people of the State, not to exceed 1500 copies of said volume.
The Treasurer of the State was annually to pay to the Board of Agriculture, on warrant of the Comptroller, the sum of $1,000, to enable said Board to purchase and distribute among the several agricultural societies such useful seeds as they might think proper, and to defray such other expenses of the Board as are not otherwise provided for.
Agreeable to the provisions of this act, the President and delegates of agricultural societies in twenty-six counties assembled at the Capitol in Albany, on Monday, the 10th day of January, 1820, when the meeting was organized by the appointment of Hon. Stephen Van Rensselaer, of Albany, as Chairman, and Charles H. Havens, Esq., of Suffolk county, as Secretary.
At this meeting the Board was further organized by the appointment of Hon. Stephen Van Rensselaer as President, and Solomon Southwick, Esq., of Albany, as Secretary. A committee, of whom G. W. Featherstonhaugh was Chairman, was appointed to report a plan of operation of the Board, which report was submitted to the Board on Thursday, January 10th, recommending the appointment of a Vice-President, a Corresponding Secretary, to establish a correspondence with similar associations and individuals in the Old World as well as at home, and that the indispensable expenses of stationery and postage be allowed said Secretary. The report also recommended the appointment of a general committee to consist of President, Vice-President, Corresponding Secretary, and four members of the Board, to be selected from the four Senatorial Districts of the State, the said committee to convene at Albany on convenient notice of the President and Secretary.
It appears to have been the duty of this committee to prepare for publication such matter collected by the society as they saw fit, and to prepare a report of the progress of the board, to be presented at its annual meeting.
In accordance with these resolutions, James Le Ray De Chaumont, of Jefferson county, was chosen Vice President, and George W. Featherstonhaugh, of Schenectady, Cor. Secretary. The members of the committee from each Senatorial District were George Huntington, of Oneida, for the western; Uri Tracy, of Chenango, for the middle; Zebulon R. Shepherd, of Washington Co., for the eastern, and Abijah Hammond, of Westchester Co., for the southern district.
This committee issued an address to the several agricultural societies inviting their co-operation, and issued schedules, with interrogatories annexed, to be distributed among the members of the societies for them to fill and return on the following subjects: First, with regard to grain crops; second, neat cattle and stock in general; third, with regard to items that had received premiums; fourth, to comprehend the principal features of agriculture and the intrinsic resources of the county.
On the 24th of March, 1820, an additional act was passed by the Legislature in favor of the board, giving them out of the balance of unappropriated money, previously granted for agricultural purposes, the sum of $500 to enable it to purchase books for the benefit of its object.
The first volume published by the board is principally made up of valuable essays on agricultural subjects. Among its appreciable contents is a geological survey of Albany county, taken under the directions of the agricultural society of the county, by Amos Eaton and T. Romeyn Beck. . If such surveys could become more common now a days, they would introduce a new and valuable era in our educational and agricultural interest.
On the 16th day of April, 1822, the Legislature passed what claims to be an act to amend an act entitled an act to improve the agriculture of the State, passed April 7, 1819. The most surprising feature of this amending act comes under the 5th section, which says, “it shall be lawful for the board of agriculture to omit publishing the annual volume required by said act when they shall deem it expedient, nor shall it be lawfnl for said board to expend on or for said volume more than one thousand dollars.''
In 1820 a geological and agricultural survey of Albany county was made by Doctor T. Romeyn Beck. In 1821 a similar survey was made of Rensselaer county, by Prof. Amos Eaton, the latter, perhaps both under the direction of Hon. Stephen Van Rensselaer, whose long and useful life devoted to the advancement of rural arts; and about the same time a similar survey was made of Saratoga county by Dr. John H. Steel, of Ballston. Each of these surveys contain much matter of sterling practical importance, not only to the farmers of the several counties, but to the agricultural body politic through the country.
In 1802 Merino sheep were introduced into this country by Chancellor Livingston, of Clermont, Columbia county. The suecess which attended this introduction induced other enterprising men in this and other States to engage in their importation, so that of those brought from other lands, with their increase, wool-growing had become a prominent part of domestic industry in 1821. A difficulty was found in attaining the greatest success in this business, in the long winters of the north, during which the sheep must, from necessity, be confined to close quarters and dry food. In a measure to counteract these difficulties, the cultivation of root crops, to form a portion of their winter feed was recommended. Hence we find in 1823 the results of many experiments in the cultivation and feeding of the turnip family and carrots, while each of these appears from the results to have been well worthy of the attention of the farmer, they do not seem to have received very general attention.
At this point in the proceedings of the board of agriculture, the attention of individuals in different parts of the State appear to have been attracted by the importance of its labor, and so that the inquiries proposed in their circulars met with a ready and flattering response, and a new spirit of inquiry and investigation was created, which led to beneficial results; and these results, in the form of essays, were communicated to the board, thus furnishing a pleasant amount of matter to fill the pages of their Transactions.
During the decade ending 1830, enterprising individuals had introduced from Europe choice specimens from some of the best herds in the east, and through their board their respective merits became known to the mass of farmers, many of whom availed themselves of the advantages they offered, by introducing them upon their farms.
A member of the board of agriculture writing in 1826 says: "The labors of the board of agriculture became extinct in April last by the expiration of the law under which it was organized." Among the important improvements which had taken place in agricultural items during its existence, he alludes particularly to those in agricultural tools, the saving of animal strength in plowing, the plow having been very materially improved. It cannot be otherwise than that the labors of the plowman were also materially diminished by these improvements, for reason teaches that the more perfect the implement the less labor required to manage it. Harrows were also much improged. Rollers, cultivators, drill barrows, straw cutters, flax dressers, and many other descriptions of machinery, were invented or introduced from abroad. In the improvement of live stock the success appears to have been equally gratifying. It was claimed that there were, at that day, in the State of New York as fine neat stock, horses, sheep and swine as are to be found anywhere. In some counties it was assumed that the aggregate of agricultural labor had increased the productive resources of agriculture from 15 to 25 per cent. in the last ten years.
From 1826 to 1832 there does not appear to have been any State organization in behalf of agricultural improvement. Agricultural societies were, however, in active operation in many counties in the State, and in their efforts met with encouraging success. In aid of these, and perhaps in a measure beyond their influence, individual enterprise was laboring with mighty power to advance the interest of the cause. In 1832 these individual labors sought a concentration, and a convention of delegates and other citizens from different counties of the State of New York was invited to meet in the Assembly Chamber in Albany on the 14th day of February in that year. At that meeting 31 counties were represented by 187 delegates and others interested, and the meeting was organized by electing Le Ray De Chaumont, of Jefferson county, as President; Ambrose Spencer, of Albany, Henry W. Delavan, of Saratoga, Vice Presidents; Jesse Buel, of Albany, Amos Briggs, of Rensselaer, Secretaries.
An able address was given by the President of the meeting, Mr. Chaumont, in which he showed the objects and advantages of a State association. After the delivery of the address, it was resolved that a committee of publication be appointed, and that they be directed to have 500 copies of the address of the Hon. President published for the benefit of the members of the convention.
A committee of fifteen was then appointed to draft and report to the convention a constitution for a State Agricultural Society, and the conven. tion adjourned to the following Wednesday, February 15, 4 P. M. The convention met pursuant to adjournment, and Hon. E. P. Livingston, chairman of the committee, presented the draft of a constitution, which was read by sections and adopted.
By this constitution, the board of officers were to consist of a President, four Vice-Presidents, a Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Treasurer, an Executive Committee-to consist of the before named officers and three other members of the Society, three of whom should form & quorum-and a general committee, the members of which should be located in the several counties and be equal in number to the number of representatives to which each county was entitled. The payment of fifty dollars or more entitled the contributor to life-membership.
The constitution provided that an annual meeting of the Society should be held on the Thursday following the second Tuesday of February, at the Capitol in Albany, for the election of officers, and that extra meetings be called by the Executive Committee.
A committee of one from each Senatorial district was then appointed to nominate suitable persons for officers of the Society for the ensuing year. Of this committee, James B. Murray, of the first district, was chairman.
On the 16th day of February, 1832, the Society again met, and on the recommendation of the foregoing committee, the following persons were elected the first board of officers of the “New YORK STATE AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY;" President, Le Ray De Chaumont, of Jefferson county. Vice-Presidents, Ambrose Spencer, of Albany county; Jacob Morris, of Otsego county; Robert S. Rose, of Seneca county. Recording Secretary, Philip S. Van Rensselaer, of Albany county. Corresponding Secretary, Jesse Buel, of Albany county. Treasurer, Charles R. Webster, of Albany county. Executive Committee, Henry W. Delavan, of Saratoga county; Horatio Hickok, of Rensselaer county; Jno. Townsend, of Albany county.
A series of resolutions here followed, whose object it was to present the objects of the Society to the farmers of the State, and devise plans for its future action. Among other subjects, we find one resolve appointing a committee to draw up a plan for an agricultural school or schools, to embrace experimental and practical farming; and also, “that the Executive Committee take into consideration the expediency of establishing a weekly paper-to be published under the direction and patronage of the Societyto be published at an expense of not exceeding one dollar a-year, to be circulated among the farmers throughout the State." This paper was started in 1834, and found a wide circulation, and was known as The Cultivator. This meeting closed with an address from Hon. A. Spencer.
Judge Buel, soon after entering upon his duties as Corresponding Secretary of the Society, issued a circular to the farmers of the State, inviting their co-operation in carrying out the objects of the Society, and inviting their correspondence on stock husbandry, tillage husbandry, horticulture and the household arts.
On the 14th day of February, 1833, the Society, agreeable to the provision of the constitution, again assembled at the Capitol in Albany, and the President, Mr. Chaumont, being absent on a tour in France, Ambrose Spencer, Vice-President, took the chair.
A report on the plan for an agricultural school was presented by Judge Buel. This report proposed a farm of sufficient dimensions, experiments