Horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey

Liberty Hyde Bailey

Liberty Hyde Bailey

On December 25, 1954, American horticulturist and botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey passed away. Bailey helped to create the science of horticulture. He made systematic studies of cultivated plants, and advanced knowledge in hybridization, plant pathology, and agriculture. He was a recognized authority on sedges, tropical palms, blackberries, grapes, cabbages, pumpkins and squashes, among others. He is particularly notable for his great encyclopedias (Cyclopedia of American Agriculture, in four volumes, 1907-9) and important manuals (Cyclopedia of Horticulture in six volumes).

Liberty Hyde Bailey attended Michigan Agricultural College and later became assistant to the renowned botanist Asa Gray, of Harvard University. Around 1885, Bailey moved to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he assumed the chair of Practical and Experimental Horticulture. Liberty Bailey founded the College of Agriculture and he became dean of what was then known as New York State College of Agriculture from 1903-1913. During the late 1910s, president Theodore Roosevelt appointed Bailey Chairman of The National Commission on Country Life. In 1917 Liberty bailey was elected a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences.

Liberty Hyde Bailey was the founding editor of the journals Country Life in America and the Cornell Countryman. He authored more than 60 books in the field of horticultural literature. His most significant and lasting contributions were in the botanical study of cultivated plants. Bailey had a vision of integrating expert knowledge of i.e. horticulture into a broader context of democratic community action. Bailey As a leader of the Country Life Movement, he strove to preserve the American rural civilization, which he thought was a vital and wholesome alternative to the impersonal and corrupting city life. Liberty Bailey initiated reforms and wrote the work Mother Earth which conformed largely to the Freemason creed that Bailey had been brought up with, and it was not explicit in demanding that traditional Christian dogma be discarded.

Bailey’s agrarian thought pointed towards a new direction, he saw technological innovation as friendly to the family farm and inevitably resulting in decentralization. He wanted to cut relief farmers from old restraints and he supported neighborhood and community groups. However, due to the support of the rural civilization as well as technology, Bailey faced an overproduction of farm products. Liberty Bailey then chose to preserve technology rather than the family farms and retreated from the Country Life movement into scientific study. Liberty Bailey had a significant influence on modern American Agrarianism even though the inherent contradictions of his ideas have been equally persistent, including the tension between real farmers and rural people and the Country Life campaign, and the difficulties to understand the operative economic forces.

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