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Budd, Joseph Lancaster

Published onJul 30, 2021
Budd, Joseph Lancaster

(July 3, 1835 - December 20, 1904)

Quick Facts

Professor of Horticulture, the first head of the Department of Horticulture, the first Acting President of Iowa State College, and the co-founder/secretary of the Iowa State Horticultural Society.

Source: University Archives, Iowa State University Library

Joseph Budd was born on July 3, 1835 in Putnam County, New York, near Peekskill, the son of Joseph Budd Sr. and Maria Sutton Budd. While still a young child, the family moved to Monticello, New York where he grew up and attended public schools and the Monticello Academy. He also attended Union College in Schenectady and the State Normal School of New York. About 1855, he moved to Rockford, Illinois and became principal of Rockford Academy.

Several years later, he purchased land near Shellsburg in Benton County, Iowa, and started the Benton County Nursery. He planted 40 acres in fruit trees which he eventually expanded to about 200 acres. He began by planting mostly apple trees but over time also began planting other fruit trees as well. He became very successful in his business and employed agents to help market his fruit in large areas of Iowa as far away as Boone, Dallas, and Guthrie counties. During this time, he married Sarah Martha Breed in Iowa City on January 26, 1860. They had two children, Etta May Budd and Allen Joseph Budd. Etta graduated from Iowa State in 1882 and later became an art teacher at Simpson College in Indianola. Allen also graduated from Iowa State and then returned to Shellsburg and engaged in business.

Joseph Budd's success in the nursery business brought him much attention. He helped co-found the Iowa State Horticultural Society, was elected secretary of the Society in 1873 and was re-elected annually until 1896 with the exception of the years 1886-1890. During those years he edited twenty-one annual reports for the Society, contributed a paper entitled, “Orcharding in the Open Prairies of Northern Iowa” for the first volume of the Society's proceedings, won first prize on every horticultural exhibit at the Iowa State Fair in Cedar Rapids in 1874, and was elected to honorary membership in the American Pomological Society, the Northwestern Fruit Growers' Association, and many other horticultural societies across the United States.

This success and recognition brought him a request by the board of trustees of Iowa State College late in 1876 to come to Iowa State to become professor of horticulture, and he assumed that position as well as that of head of the department of horticulture on March 1, 1877. Budd served continuously in this position for twenty-two years until his retirement in 1899 and then continued as Professor Emeritus until his death in 1904. During this time, Budd also served as temporary president of Iowa State College in 1884-1885, when Seaman Knapp was dropped from the presidency and served until Leigh S.J. Hunt was chosen to succeed him a few months later. He was also the horticulturist at the Experimental Station in 1888 and again from 1891-1897.

In the summer of 1882, Budd traveled abroad to seek out fruit trees from other countries that would be suitable to the soil and weather of Iowa. During this trip, he visited schools, agricultural stations, and parks in England, France, Austria, Russia, and China. He traveled more than 2,000 miles in Russia alone. When he returned to Iowa State, he brought with him seeds for more than 100 varieties of apples plus many varieties of pears and cherries. In addition, he also brought seeds for lilacs, Colorado Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, white fur, laurel willow, Russian olive, dwarf maple, Japanese Rose and various honeysuckle plants.

At first, there was great enthusiasm as Budd began his experiments in apple breeding. However, problems developed quickly. The harshness of the next two winters killed almost all of his transplants, and the remainder produced poor yields. Bees carried blights that destroyed much of the fruit, and the Russian varieties came in too quickly in the Iowa summer heat. These problems caused divisiveness within the State Horticultural Society between defenders of Budd and supporters of Charles G. Patten of Charles City, a critic of Budd. This led Budd to resign as secretary of the State Horticultural Society in 1886, and he remained out of office until 1890.

Ultimate redemption of Budd's reputation came as it was gradually discovered that his apple trees grew much better in more northern climates, especially in Minnesota. Many of his other seeds also turned out to be successful. His research was exonerated in this unexpected way, and he was again elected secretary of the State Horticultural Society in 1890 and continued in that office until 1896.

His leadership in horticulture also grew due to his enthusiasm for his work at Iowa State and his popularity with his students. His teaching was very inspiring. One of his students noted that in his freshman horticulture class, every student in the class decided to go into the horticulture business. By 1900, three-fourths of the people engaged in teaching horticulture in the United States had been Budd's students. Over a period of 25 years, he wrote hundreds of weekly articles for the Iowa State Register in Des Moines, and he published a two-volume work, American Horticultural Manual, with Professor N.S. Hanson.

Through his daughter, Etta May Budd, he became acquainted with George Washington Carver and became a mentor. Carver had come to Simpson College to take art instruction, and Etta convinced him to enroll at Iowa State. Budd and Carver became very close. Carver lived with the Budd family for a short while and continued as a frequent visitor in the household afterward.

In addition to his professional activities, Budd was also an active Mason starting in 1863, and he built and owned the lodge building of the Arcadia Lodge No. 249, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Ames, Iowa.

Joseph Lancaster Budd died in Phoenix, Arizona on December 20, 1904. His remains were returned to Ames, and he was interred in the Ames Municipal Cemetery. His home at 804 Kellogg Avenue is now operated by the Youth & Shelter Services and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Selected Sources

Considerable information on the life and career of Joseph Lancaster Budd can be found in the Joseph Lancaster Budd Papers, RS 9/16/13, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University. This includes articles by Rosanne Sizer and William Silag, “Fruit in Iowa: A Brief History,” The Palimpsest, Volume 62, Number 3, May/June, 1981, pp. 80-87; Edgar Ruby Harlan, “A Narrative History of The People of Iowa,” published by the American Historical Society, Inc. Chicago and New York, 1931, Volume 4, pp. 207-209; and “He Went to Russia For Apples: J. L. Budd, Iowa Fruit Explorer, Hunted for Apples That Would Stand Corn Belt Winters,” Wallaces' Farmer and Iowa Homestead, April, 20, 1940, p. 289. The collection also includes information on Budd's family, the home at 804 Kellogg Avenue in Ames, remembrances from the class of 1887, a memorial to Budd in the Minutes of the General Faculty of Iowa State College, January 18, 1905; and newspaper clippings.

Other sources of information besides the Budd Papers include the following reports; Report of the Iowa State Horticultural Society For the Year 1904. Des Moines, IA. Bernard Murphy, State Printer, 1905, pp. 263-264; and National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, OMB No. 1024-0018 pp. 59-60.

Book references include History and Reminiscences of I. A. C., 1897, Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, 1897, pp. 229-230, 232; “Joseph Lancaster Budd,” in W. O. Payne, History of Story County, Iowa. Volume 2. Chicago. S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1911, pp. 259-262; Kent Pellett, Pioneers in Iowa Horticulture. Des Moines, IA. Iowa State Horticultural Society, 1941, pp. 18-23; Earle D. Ross, A History of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Ames, IA. The Iowa State College Press, 1942, pp. 102-103, 127, 134, 136, 161; and B. S. Pickett, et. al., “Growing Fruits, Vegetables, and Flowers,” in Iowa State College Staff Members(ed.), A Century of Farming In Iowa, Ames, IA. Iowa State College Press, 1946, p. 198.

Journal and newspaper articles include Albert N. Harbert, “ Joseph Lancaster Budd,” Annals of Iowa, Volume 7, Number 1, April, 1905, pp. 30-33; H. E. Nichols and B. S. Pickett, “Early Iowa Horticulture,” The Palimpsest, Volume 47, Number 7, July, 1966, pp. 267-270, 272, 278, 316-317, 320-321; and an obituary in the Des Moines Daily Capital, December 21, 1904, p. 1. Information on Budd's interment in the Ames Municipal Cemetery can be found at

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