Association of American geographers

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The Association of American Geographers (AAG) is a scientific and educational society founded in 1904. Its members share interests in the theory, methods, and practice of geography and geographic education. The AAG holds annual meetings and regional events and publishes a newsletter, journals, and books. The association supports and recognizes its members through various grant and award programs.

From the description of Association of American Geographers records, 1904 - [ongoing]. (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee). WorldCat record id: 62208407

Oliver Edwin Baker (1883-1949) was an agricultural geographer and population expert and an analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was an authority on agricultural land utilization and advocate of “rurban” living, a combination of urban employment, suburban living, and part-time farming.

Baker was born in 1883 in Tifflin, Ohio, to Edwin Baker, a merchant, and his wife Martha Ranney Thomas. As a boy Baker was taught by his mother, a former school teacher, and then in public school. He graduated at age nineteen from Heidelberg College in Tifflin with a major in history and mathematics. The following year he received his master’s degree in philosophy and sociology from Heidelberg. He then enrolled at Columbia University, where he was granted a master’s in political science. He subsequently studied forestry at Yale (1907-1908) and agriculture at the University of Wisconsin (1908-1912). During his time at Wisconsin he co-authored an essay on the climate of Wisconsin and its effects on agriculture, and he spent his summers with the Wisconsin Soil Survey. In 1912 Baker joined the United States Department of Agriculture. Five years later he co-authored the Geography of the World’s Agriculture . The positive reception of this volume motivated Baker to produce an Atlas of American Agriculture, which was published in six parts between 1918 and 1936. Baker subsequently returned to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a Ph.D. in economics in 1921 with a dissertation on land utilization. His research interests in the economics of agriculture stemmed in part from the influence of two of his professors at Wisconsin, Henry C. Taylor (1873-1969) and Richard T. Ely (1854-1943).

In 1922 Baker accepted Taylor’s invitation to join the Department of Agriculture’s new Bureau of Agricultural Economics. There he undertook a number of research projects, including many that involved the delineating and mapping of agricultural regions. His “Agricultural Regions of North America” was published in several parts between 1926 and 1933 in Economic Geography, for which he also served as associate editor for several years. He evidently often amazed his students by citing statistics on any of the 300 counties in the United States. Among his other publications during this period was an essay on agriculture in China that appeared in Foreign Affairs (1928). Baker was vice president of the Association of American Geographers in 1824 and president in 1932. During this period he was involved in the Association’s long-term program to investigate the “the margin of the cultivable earth,” so-called pioneer belts. In the late 1920s he also belonged to a National Research Council’s committee charged with the study of pioneer belts. From 1923 to 1927 Baker taught part-time in the newly established geography department at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

By the 1930s Baker became increasingly interested in questions related to population studies, including rural-urban migration, population quality, and living conditions on farms. Baker’s research in population problems stemmed from his interest in what he saw as the most valuable farm product, outstanding citizens. He encouraged and participated in several surveys of rural youth, and, based on his recognition that many rural people live in unsatisfactory conditions, he devoted much energy to improving their circumstances. For example, he attempted to the future of farming by studying past agricultural trends, offered specific suggestions designed to improve farming practices, and he tried to increase popular awareness of the contributions of farm families to the nation’s welfare. He essentially saw the nation as a complex of agricultural regions, and while some geographers regarded his agrarianism as reactionary, others recognized his contributions especially in the mapping of these regions. In 1937 the University of Göttingen awarded him an honorary degree.

Baker was deeply concerned about the declining U.S. birthrate, especially among urban people, which he predicted would have devastating consequences for the entire nation. He was a strong advocate of a “rurban” lifestyle that would combine urban employment with suburban living and part-time farming. This, he believed, would help preserve the rural values he so admired, including the “family ideal,” “the worth of the human soul, patriotism, the dignity of labor, the necessity of sacrifice, and the widespread distribution in the ownership of property,” as he explained in his essay “Some Implications of Population Trends to the Christian Church” (1942). Baker also believed that a “rurban” society would help improve land-use practices and increase the birthrate. He called for farm ownership over many generations, with one dwelling reserved for the older couple and one for the younger. Baker and his wife Alice Hargrave Crew, whom he married in 1925, practiced what he preached. The couple raised four children on a suburban property where they grew a garden and raised cows and chickens. Baker eventually bought a farm in Virginia with the intention of leaving it to his son.

In 1942 Baker joined the faculty of the University of Maryland. At that time, the university offered no courses in geography. Over the next seven years, Baker established what became one of the foremost geography departments in the country. He retired as chairman in 1949 in order to focus on his research, especially in connection to the Atlas of World Resources and the China Atlas . He died later that year in his home in College Park, Maryland.

From the guide to the Oliver Edwin Baker papers, 1913-1949, 1913-1949, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Buckholts, Paul. St. Lawrence Seaway, 1963. Clarke Historical Library
referencedIn Bennett, Hugh H. (Hugh Hammond), 1881-1960. Hugh H. Bennett papers, 1923-1956 [manuscript]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Harris, Chauncy D. Papers, 1893-2003 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Platt, Robert S. (Robert Swanton), 1891-. Papers, 1898-1980. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Tuthill, Richard Lovejoy, 1911-. Richard Lovejoy Tuthill papers, 1946-1968. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Association of American Geographers. Letters, 1972-1980, to Lewis Mumford. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn James, Preston E. (Preston Everett), 1899-1986. Faculty and Staff, Preston E. James papers, 1952-1965. Syracuse University
referencedIn Baker, O. E. (Oliver Edwin), 1883-1949. Papers, 1913-1949. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn J. Russell (Joseph Russell) Smith papers, [ca. 1888]-1966, Circa 1888-1966 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Kish, George, 1914-1989. George Kish papers, 1932-1989 (bulk 1955-1980). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Oliver Edwin Baker papers, 1913-1949, 1913-1949 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Association of American Geographers archives, 1904-1986, 1904-1986 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Roepke, Howard G. Papers, 1952-1985. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
referencedIn Huntington, Ellsworth, 1876-1947. Ellsworth Huntington papers, 1779-1953 (inclusive), 1890-1947 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Larson, Olga. Larson collection, 1905-1961. Florida State University
referencedIn Kniffen, Fred Bowerman, 1900-. Fred Bowerman Kniffen papers, 1879-1989. Louisiana State University, LSU Libraries
referencedIn Smith, J. Russell (Joseph Russell), 1874-1966. Papers, [ca. 1888]-1966. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Ellsworth Huntington papers, 1779-1952, 1890-1947 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Association of American Geographers. Archives, 1904-1986. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn George Kish papers, 1932-1989, 195-1980 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf Association of American Geographers. Association of American Geographers records, 1904 - [ongoing]. University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, UWM Libraries
referencedIn Platt, Robert S.. Papers, 1898-1980 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Baker, Alice Crew person
associatedWith Baker, O. E. (Oliver Edwin), 1883-1949. person
associatedWith Bennett, Hugh H. (Hugh Hammond), 1881-1960. person
associatedWith Bowman, Isaiah, 1878-1950 person
associatedWith Buckholts, Paul. person
associatedWith Buck, John Lossing, 1890-1975 person
associatedWith Condliffe, J. B., (John Bell), 1891-1981 person
associatedWith East, Edward M., (Edward Murray), 1879-1938 person
associatedWith Ely, Richard Theodore, 1854-1943 person
associatedWith Harris, Chauncy D. (Chauncy Dennison), 1914-2003 person
associatedWith Huntington, Ellsworth, 1876-1947. person
associatedWith Institute of Pacific Relations. corporateBody
associatedWith James, Preston E. (Preston Everett), 1899-1986. person
associatedWith Kish, George, 1914-1989. person
associatedWith Kniffen, Fred Bowerman, 1900- person
associatedWith Larson, Olga. person
associatedWith McWethy, Patricia J. person
associatedWith Merk, Frederick, 1887-1977 person
associatedWith Pioneer Belts Projects. corporateBody
associatedWith Platt, Robert S. (Robert Swanton), 1891- person
associatedWith Roepke, Howard G. person
associatedWith Smith, J. Russell (Joseph Russell), 1874-1966. person
associatedWith Tuthill, Richard Lovejoy, 1911-. person
associatedWith Zelinsky, Wilbur, 1921- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Scholarly publishing
Economic geography
Geography teachers

Corporate Body





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SNAC ID: 10311796