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Mushroom industry collection

1936-1985
 Collection
Accession: 2735

Abstract

More than half of the mushrooms in the United States are grown in and around the town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which calls itself the "mushroom capital of the world." Walter W. Maule (1892-1964) and Charles C. Brosius (1930-), both Chester County, Pennsylvania, mushroom growers, were active in professional trade associations and advocates for their industry. This small collection on the mushroom industry consists of papers that document mushroom industry educational courses and professional trade associations. The collection provides insight into the role profession trade associations such as the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association, the Mushroom Cooperative Canning Association, and the American Mushroom Insitute agriculturual play in affecting legislation and mushroom farming practices.

Dates

  • 1936-1985

Creator

Extent

0.5 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

More than half of the mushrooms in the United States are grown in and around the town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which calls itself the "mushroom capital of the world."

Walter W. Maule (1892-1964) was a mushroom grower and manager of the Mushroom Growers' Cooperative Association, an organization established by Pennslyvania-area farmers to advocate for their industry and to make scientific advances for the market.

Maule was born to George Clark Maule (1858-1939) and Clara Brinton Maule (1863-1939) in 1892. He was raised in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and grew up working on his family's farm, where mushrooms were one of the principle crops. His college education was interupted by service in the Armed Forces during World War I; he received a degree from Swarthmore College in 1919.

Maule helped establish the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association in 1925. The organization also owned a large-scale mushroom cannery, the Mushroom Cooperative Canning Company, in order to sell mushrooms to broader markets, year-round, where shipping fresh mushrooms was not viable. The company maintained a fleet of trucks that made mushroom deliveries to New York, Philadelphia, and the Washington D.C., metro area. Maule was secretary and general manager of the Mushroom Cooperative Canning Company from 1920 to 1932. He was manager of the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association from 1932 until 1958.

He also served as director of the National Canners Assocation, trustee of the American Institute of Cooperation, and organizing president and council member of the Pennsylvania Association of Farmer Cooperatives. Maule appeared before Congress to testify on behalf of the mushroom industry to support a tariff on imported mushrooms and declare mushroom farming an essential agricultural crop during World War II. He was also instrumental in making Kennett Square the "mushroom capital of the world."

Charles C. Brosius (1930-) is a longtime mushroom grower, a descendant of one of the longstanding Quaker mushroom families in Chester County, and a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture.

Brosius was born to Mahlon G. Brosius (1898-1994) and Dorothy Nunn Brosius (1903-2003) in 1930. He was raised in Chester County, Pennyslvania, and grew up working on his family's dairy and mushroom farm, called Marlboro Mushrooms. In 1952, he graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor's degree in dairy science.

At Marlboro Mushrooms, he oversaw mushroom production and the development of marketing for the New York City fresh markets, with an emphasis on Asian produce buyers. He managed the expansion and acquisition of a distribution/trucking concern and real estate holding company. He retired as president in 1995. He served as Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture from March 1995 through May 1997. Brosius has received many awards and honors. He has served on the board of many organziations, notably, as director and secretary of the American Mushroom Institute (AMO), a national trade organization founded in 1955 that represents mushroom growers, processors, and marketers.

Please Note

The Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association is not to be confused with the Mushroom Growers Association.

Occasionally, the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association uses the abbreviation "MGA" to refer to itself. The Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association was established in 1925 and headquartered in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. It is also sometimes referred to as the Pennsylvania Mushroom Growers Association or the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association of Pennsylvania. Although the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association often took on issues on behalf of growers throughout the country, it is not officially a national organization.

The Mushroom Growers Association is a national organization established in 1985 that is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. It is sometimes referred to as the National Mushroom Growers Association, and it also uses the abbreviation "MGA." However, this collection does not contain any materials related to the national organization, the Mushroom Growers Association.

Scope and Content

This small collection on the mushroom industry consists of papers that document mushroom industry educational courses and professional trade associations. The collection provides insight into the roles professional trade associations such as the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association, the Mushroom Cooperative Canning Association, and the American Mushroom Insitute play in affecting agriculturual legislation and mushroom farming practices.

The collection has been arranged into two series: Charles Brosius papers on the mushroom industry and the Walter Maule papers on the mushroom industry.

Charles Brosius papers on the mushroom industry includes correspondence, memorandums, reports, and course materials that document professional trade association activities and mushroom industry educational courses.

There are by-laws and reports from the Mushroom Cooperative Canning Company, of which Brosius' father was former president, as well as the American Mushroom Institute. There is only one memorandum for the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association from 1960.

While there are two research proposals, they are badly faded and extremely difficult to read. One is a proposal to study mushroom shrinkage; the second is related to economic and engineering aspects of mushroom production.

Much of the series's contents relate to Brosius's interactions with The Pennsylvania State (Penn State) University College of Agriculture. Brosius served as liason for the mushroom industry and reviewed educational and research acitivities. There are a few letters between Brosius and the dean of the college related to his service in this capactiy. Additional correspondence discusses a ventillation system for agricultural engineers and pilot compost project.

Brosius furthered his knowledge of the mushroom industry by taking Mushroom Short Courses. The Mushroom Short Course has been offered through Penn State University's Extension Program since 1956. Its aim is to contribute toward the advancement of best practices for disease prevention, production, growth, and profitability for mushroom growers throughout North America. The courses genearlly take place over two days and present the most recent scientific research and information available for the industry.

The course materials in the collection are about composting, chemicals for pesticides for molds and diseases, and the mushroom industry and mushroom cultivation. The dates span a wide range, but primarily date from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s.

Additionally, there are trade pamphlets and manuals for a Feederator chemical feeder, Vapam, and Farm electric motors. There are two U.S. Government documents. One is a notice of proposed rules related to mushrooms; the second is a questionnaire for mushroom growers related to tarriffs.

The Walter Maule papers on the mushroom industry includes newsletters, press clippings, and papers detailing the expanding mushroom industry around Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and its ascension as a major player in the mushroom industry under the guidance of the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association, a farmer-owned cooperative.

Several agricultural Congressional bills from 1961 to 1962 are included which detail increased government spending on mushroom and agricultural research, one of the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association’s major lobbying interests. Context for these can be found in Maule’s correspondence, which includes many letters written to Congressional representatives on behalf of the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association.

Press clippings about the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association, particularly numerous during Maule’s leadership of the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association, span from 1936 to 1981. A variety of articles from 1936 show the turmoil the mushroom industry struggled with as in-fighting among board members and farmers made headlines. Articles from the 1960s detail the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association and the industry at its peak with record crops, successful lobbying efforts, and improved canning and transportation methods, which allowed the industry to expand on a national scale. Several clippings from 1981 include images and descriptions of a destructive fire at the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association building in Kennett Square. A “Mushroom News” newsletter from 1949 provides a comprehensive biography of Walter Maule’s life and career up until that point, ten years before his retirement.

Mushroom industry reports provide a comprehensive look at the changes the Mushroom Growers Cooperative Association affected on various facets of the industry, from canning to agricultural research to best mushroom farming practices.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Materials

Oral history interviews on cultivated mushroom industry (Accession 2018.219), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Mushroom industry collection
Status:
Author:
Rebecca M. Slinger
Date:
2019
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2020: Laurie Sather

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400