Ohio History Journal

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The Ohio Agricultural

Commission, 1913-1915




When James M. Cox assumed the governorship for the first time, in 1913, Ohio

agriculture was passing through a period of rapid transition. The demographic

expansion of the late nineteenth century had inflated land values and crop prices,

a trend which converted agriculture into a potentially highly profitable enterprise.

Ohio farmers responded by gradually transforming themselves into rural business-

men; they specialized, developed more efficient managerial techniques, and utilized

more intelligently the total resources of their farms.1 This transformation of farm-

ing was accompanied by the expansion of government activities designed to aid

agriculture. The State Board of Agriculture, created in 1846 as an information

agency for farmers, had by 1910 assumed considerable responsibility for the regula-

tion and promotion of agriculture in Ohio. The board, in addition to collecting and

disseminating crop and cattle statistics, also enforced plant and stock quarantine

laws and regulated the sale of fertilizers and foodstuffs within the state.2 These

developments in agriculture, and parallel ones in other sectors of the economy,

often generated jurisdictional conflicts, duplication of activities, and confusion in

government since the state had assumed new responsibilities for regulating and

promoting economic development, but its administration was rather haphazard.

This was the situation when James M. Cox entered office in January 1913. The

new governor hoped to eliminate these problems by introducing into government

the principles of efficiency that businessmen had developed over the years. Success

in this pioneer endeavor depended in large part, he believed, on the consolidation

of government bureaus, to avoid waste, and on the selection of trained experts to

staff the reorganized agencies. Soon after entering office, therefore, Cox introduced

in the legislature a broad program of administrative reorganization.3

The agricultural section of Governor Cox's reform program was embodied in a

bill passed April 15, 1913, creating the Ohio Agricultural Commission. Cox pro-




1. W. A. Lloyd, J. I. Falconer, C. E. Thorne, The Agriculture of Ohio, Bulletin 326 of the Ohio

Agricultural Experiment Station (Wooster, 1918), 15.

2. Robert Leslie Jones, "Ohio Agriculture in History," Ohio Historical Quarterly, LXV (July 1956),

254-255; General Code of Ohio, 1910, Part 1, p. 231, 232, 233, 239, 241.

3. James M. Cox, Journey Through My Years (New York, 1946), 137. Cox's views are set forth in

his first message to the General Assembly in 1913, see James K. Mercer, Ohio Legislative History,

1913-1917 (Columbus, 1918), 30-58.

Mr. Lee is a doctoral candidate in history at The Ohio State University.