Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tarleton Thursdays: Did You Know?

Tarleton Egg-Laying Contests

In the 1920's Tarleton President J. Thomas Davis encouraged cooperation between John Tarleton Agricultural College and the local agricultural interests and beyond. One example of this was the Tarleton egg-laying contest! Any poultry breeder "throughout the world" could enter!

The first Tarleton International Egg-laying Contest began on November 1, 1926 and ran for 357 days. Neal Gearreald, the director of the Tarleton School of Agriculture, and W.C. Homeyer, professor of poultry husbandry had the idea. They felt that producers needed official records of the egg-laying capacity of their chickens in order to receive a reasonable price for their breeding stock.

Tarleton provided a chicken house and yard for each entrant (two pens per house) and the Tarleton agriculture faculty and students cared for the chickens plus held the contest. The first contest was a big success and the Tarleton contest was quickly established as one of the best in the country!

Tarleton received a lot of publicity from the egg-laying contests! In 1936 Hen #126, a White Leghorn owned by Erath Egg Farm was on her way to breaking the national individual egg production record, but with two months left in the contest she choked on a piece of corn and died! A formal funeral was held and she was buried in a special plot on the poultry farm! Even Time magazine asked for a photograph of her!

The Tarleton egg-laying contests continued until the early 1950's. Tarleton was the only official contest location in the Southwest and in 1940-41 held the national record of individual egg production. In 1943 Tarleton set the world record for incrossbreds! The photos above show the Tarleton chicken houses and T.A. Hensarling, poultry professor, receiving a shipment of chickens from the Railway Express! Both are from the Tarleton Dick Smith Library Cross Timbers Historic Images Project. The Railway Express photograph is from the Stephenville Museum.

From Guthrie, John Tarleton and his Legacy, p.51-53. See also The Tarleton Agriculture Tradition, by Frank Chamberlain from the Cross Timbers Historic Images Project in the library catalog.

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