Countdown to Annual Meeting: Fun Facts

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As we count down to the 75th Anniversary of the Rural Sociological Society, the PCC will offer entertaining facts regarding RSS.

Thanks to Will Goudy for starting us offand Julie Zimmerman for providing this wonderful historical data!


While many individuals played roles in the formation of the Rural Sociological Society, one person stood alone at a crucial time. A committee of five individuals was commissioned to report to a 1937 meeting of members of the Rural Sociology Section of the American Sociological Society on whether changes should occur in the relationship between the section and the society. The four-member majority of the committee drafted a report favoring continuation of the section with some alterations of current practices. The minority—one individual—submitted a report arguing for creating a Rural Sociological Society separate from the American Sociological Society. The views of the one prevailed in the vote following a discussion of those present. That person was O. D. Duncan from Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University).


Olaf Larson holds the record for most years as a member of the Rural Sociological Society; he has been a member since the society was formed. In the 1938 membership list, Larson was at Colorado State College (now University) in Fort Collins, CO.


Which came first, the Rural Sociological Society or the journal, Rural Sociology?

The first issue of the journal was published in March of 1936. Forming the society was first agreed to on December 29th, 1937.


If Rural Sociology was published before the RSS existed, what sponsoring group was initially listed on the cover of issues? The wording was:

Published by the




The first issue indicating that Rural Sociology was part of the RSS appeared in 1938, when new wording stated:

Published by the




In 1939, the statement on the Rural Sociology cover was changed again:

Official Organ of the



In 1952, “Journal” replaced “Organ” in that slogan. Since the first issue in 2006, no statement has been printed on the cover of Rural Sociology.


Louisiana had more RSS members than any other state or area in 1938, the first full year in which the society existed. Washington, DC, was in second place with 24 and New York in third with 19; six other states reported 10 or more. Three members were located in Canada and four were listed as “Foreign:” one each from France, Germany, Syria, and the Territory of Hawaii.


A one-year subscription to Rural Sociology cost $2 in 1936 (the year it was founded). In 2012, an annual institutional subscription is $333 for online OR print ($384 for both versions). Individual subscriptions are free with RSS membership, which costs between $41-$125/year.


Rural Sociology’s first advertised meeting of the RSS was in December 1938 in Detroit, Michigan. Nightly rates at the Hotel Book-Cadillac ranged from $3-$9. In 2012, you can stay in Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel at the conference rate of $159/night.


The 76 Volumes of the journal Rural Sociology (1936 through 2011) have produced 45,008 pages of scholarship!


RSS named 16 awards and scholarships in 2011.


There were 143 student members of RSS at the close of 2011.


RSS members span 26 countries and 51 states, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.


There have been a total of 1,143,579 sociology degrees awarded between 1966 and 2010 (the years for which the National Center for Education Statistics has data available). 1,048,318 were bachelor’s degrees, 70,523 were master’s, and 24,738 were PhD’s. Degree production peaked in the mid-1970’s (with 35,996 bachelor’s in 1973, 2,236 master’s in 1974, and 738 PhD’s in 1976). Over the last several years, there were an average of about 27,500 bachelor’s, 1700 master’s, and 580 PhD’s in sociology. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 709,000 adults in the U.S. have advanced degrees in the social sciences


W.E B. Du Bois conducted the first federally-supported rural sociological research in the U.S. In 1897, DuBois received support from U.S. Commissioner of Labor to study the conditions of small, well-defined groups of the black population. The first study was in Farmville, Virginia.


When the new membership category of “Lifetime Member” was created, Bill Freudenberg was the first person to use it.


The first editor of Rural Sociology not located at a Land Grant University was Carle C. Zimmerman, at Harvard University, editor from 1941-1942 for Vol. 6(1) – Vol. 7(4).


While Galpin used the description of wheel ruts to explain the concept of community boundaries, he did not actually use them as a research technique.


Veda Larson (Turner) at the USDA’s Division of Farm Population and Rural Life conducted the special tabulations which Division head Charles Galpin used to convince the Census Bureau to include farm population in the county level data for both the Agriculture Census and the Census of Population.


Results from the 1920 Decennial Census showed for the first time that the urban population of the U.S. slightly exceeded that of the rural population.


In 1993, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would no longer count the number of people who live on farms in its 10 year Census.


The reason given was that in the 1990 Census the number dipped to 4.6 million, or just below 2 percent of the total U.S. population.


Mary Eva Duthie was the first woman to chair a standing committee of the RSS, appointed to the Committee on Extension in the first year of RSS (1937). The following year, she became chair of the committee.


Margaret Jarman Hagood was the first woman elected president of the Rural Sociological Society (1955-1956).


The first course in rural sociology offered at a Land Grant university was in 1904 at the Rhode Island Agricultural College.


At the 1945 RSS conference in Chicago, the Morrison Hotel refused to honor the confirmed reservation of RSS member Dr. Charles G. Gomillion of Tuskegee University. In response, President Lowry Nelson sent both a letter of apology to Gomillion and a strong letter of condemnation to the hotel.


As a result of the incident, RSS also passed a resolution that meetings would only be held at places that did not practice racial discrimination.


Today, Gomillion is honored for his role in the landmark Gomillion versus Lightfoot decision that paved the way for the 1965 voting rights act.


The NRRG began in 1964 as the Sociology of Forestry Research Committee. After several name changes, it eventually became the NRRG–Natural Resources Research Group.


It was members of the NRRG who subsequently organized similar groups in both the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) and the American Sociological Association (ASA)


The National Association of Rural Sociology Extension Workers was the first national organization to have “Rural Sociology” in its name. The organization was formed and constitution adopted in 1931 during the ASS[ASA] conference.


In 1938, the National Association of Rural Sociology Extension Workers voted to join the RSS. This added 41 members from 14 states and several USDA officers to RSS.


Sophonisba Breckinridge and Gertrude Vaile, both active in the social reform movement were among the first members of RSS. While in Chicago, Breckenridge lived at Jane Addam’s Hull House and Vaile at the Chicago Commons.


Today, Breckinridge is remembered as one of the early American sociologists and for her many roles in the Progressive era reform movement. Vaile is credited with establishing case-work principles in Government-sponsored social work practices.


While there had been ad hoc committees over the years, at the 1997 RSS conference in Toronto, the RSS Constitution and By Laws were changed to add the Diversity Committee as a permanent standing committee.


By a vote of the membership, in 1980 the RSS formally changed its constitution so leadership positions of RSS committees were changed from “chairman” to simply “chair.”


The first editor of Rural Sociology was Lowry Nelson, Utah State University, from 1936-1940, for Vol. 1(1) – Vol. 5(4).


(Not so fun fact) Ann Tickamyer is the only woman to serve as Editor of Rural Sociology, from 2000-2002 for Vol. 65(1) – Vol. 67(4).


In 1988, Rex Campbell was the first editor of TRS to list an email address.(It was printed: “RUSORA2 at UMCVMB”).


In 1996 RSS President Jan Bokemeier announced the new RSS website in TRS.


The Websites first contents included:

• The annual conference preliminary program

• Tables of Contents from Rural Sociology

• List of books and monographs of the Rural Sociological Series

• The Bulletin Index


In 1990, the RSS formed the Taskforce on Persistent Rural Poverty. The Taskforce was chaired by Gene Summers. Among its accomplishments, the Taskforce wrote Persistent Poverty in Rural America which was published in 1993.


In 1986 a special issue of Rural Sociology was devoted to the farm crisis, edited by William Falk and Forrest Deseran.


Rural Sociology was considered the first, and for a time, the largest branch of American Sociology. In the recent edited volume on the history of American Sociology conducted for the American Sociological Association, volume editor Craig Calhoun notes that rural sociology was “initially and until World War II one of the field’s largest branches” (2007:3).


The first section organized within the American Sociological Association was the Section on Rural Sociology.


The Rural Sociology Section of the ASS[ASA] was formed in 1921 and held its first meeting in 1922. This began the practice of specialized sections with the American Sociological Society [ASA].


The ASA annual conference has twice had a rural theme. 1916 – “The Sociology of Rural Life” (Pres. George E. Vincent) and 1928 – “The Rural Community” (Pres. John M. Gillette)


ASA and RSS have 4 past presidents in common. Charles P. Loomis (RSS President 1947-1948, ASA President 1967), William H. Sewell (ASA President 1971, RSS President 1954-1955), Carl C. Taylor (ASA President 1946, RSS President 1939-1940) and Dwight Sanderson (ASA President 1942, RSS President 1938-1939)


December 16, 2008 was predicted by Ron Wimberley, Greg Fulkerson, and Libby Morris to be the transition date when the world’s urban population would exceed that in rural areas. The projection was based on UN estimates of estimated rural and urban growth rates from 2005 to 2010.


The USDA’s Division of Farm Population and Rural Life (1919-1953) was the first (and for a time the only) unit of the Federal government devoted to sociological research (rural or otherwise).


The Committee for International Cooperation in Rural Sociology was formed in 1962 with the goal to develop a multi-national conference on rural sociology and contained representatives from both RSS and the European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS).


The Committee for International Cooperation in Rural Sociology organized the first World Congress held in 1964.


The Coahoma County Study led to the 1946 U.S. Congressional ban on “Cultural Surveys”.


Conducted by Frank D. Alexander in 1944 while at the USDA’s Division of Farm Population and Rural Life, the Coahoma County, Mississippi study was not the first conducted by the Division to describe race-based inequalities, nor was it different from the other cultural reconnaissance surveys done in the South at the same time. However, it was part of a great deal of controversy. In the appropriations bill that followed, in addition to funding cuts, Congress issued a ban on using any of the funds for “cultural surveys.


The first course on rural social life was offered in 1894 by Charles R. Henderson in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. It was called “Social Conditions in American Rural Life.” (16 students enrolled in the course.)


In 1908 Theodore Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission conducted the first national survey on rural life in the United States.


Like many other professional organizations, in 1942 the RSS cancelled its annual meeting. The cancellations came because of a request from the Office of Defense Transportation to restrict unnecessary travel. In its place, a small regional meeting was held in St. Louis, Missouri.


The Sociology of Agriculture and Food Research Interest Group (SAFRIG) celebrated it’s 30th anniversary during the 2008 annual RSS conference.


The most recently formed Interest Group, The Rural Studies RIG, was formed in 2008.


Robert Polson (Cornell University) was the first person employed in an Extension position

to be elected President of RSS (1950-1951)


Olaf F. Larson (RSS President 1957-1958) is the oldest living past President of the RSS. As a graduate student, he attended the meeting that formed the RSS and joined the RSS in its first year of existence. Today Olaf is 102 years old.


The next oldest living past president is George Beale (RSS President 1968 -1969).

#64 to #75

send your best RSS fun fact(s) to Peg Petrzelka ( and the final 12 will be posted shortly!!