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Elmer Towne Papers

Identifier: mss-536

Scope and Contents

The collection documents Elmer Towne’s activities in the field of Vermont agriculture. The collection is arranged alphabetically and retained the titles provided by Towne when possible.

Material relating to abnormal milk includes guidance from the National Mastitis Council, Milk control, testing, regulations, Milko Tester, and Dairy Testing Inc.

Material about feed grain transportation relates to the proposed Champlain Waterway, creating a navigable connection between Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes through canals and rivers. There is also information about freight rates.

Material related to Towne's Free Press column includes correspondence with Free Press staff, consulting experts, and readers; his drafts and notes; and clippings of printed columns and letters to the editor in response.

Files related to milk orders or the Boston order is documentation of federal regulations relating to the treatment of milk being sold. The Boston milk marketing area included portions of Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Maine, and New Jersey. Milk order files also include agreements and revisions, reports including statistics, press releases including milk price announcements, correspondence, legal and court documents, and newsletters including the titles Market Administrator’s Review and Southern New England Milk Marketing News.

Towne's notes consist of several legal pads which appear to be handwritten by Towne before being given to a typist. The content can vary widely even within a single item. The papers can also be intermixed; for example, Towne's work for the Property Tax Appeal Board was recorded on legal pads and remains filed there, though interspersed pages on the same pad can include draft articles for his Burlington Free Press column. Notes include correspondence as letters and memos (professional and personal), drafts of various reports and articles (ex. Commissioner's Column in the Agriview newsletter and Burlington Free Press column), schedules and to do lists (including farm chores), lists of contacts, ideas (ex. for milk promotion), records of meetings for various boards and committees, and miscellaneous notes.

Photographs include general subjects, portraits of various people including groups, special events, and landscapes including cows, barns, and maple-related activities.

The files on Whey Pollution Abatement Authority (WPAA) includes correspondence and memos; government reports; newspaper clippings; contracts and legal agreements; documents and exhibits from court cases; and agendas, minutes, and bylaws of the WPAA.


  • 1927-1977
  • Majority of material found in 1953-1976



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical / Historical

Elmer Towne was born in Waterbury, Vermont in 1899 to George and Alice (Pike) Towne. Elmer graduated from the University of Vermont in 1919. He served in the Army during World War I.

In 1921, he married Ethel Hoyt (1895–1968). In 1928, they bought a farm in Berlin, Vermont and named it Towne-Ayr where they raised Ayrshire dairy cows and Dorset sheep for decades. Elmer and Ethel had two children; their son Roderick was also a farmer.

Towne was a co-founder of the Central Vermont Artificial Breeders Association, which joined regional partners to become Eastern Artificial Insemination Cooperative Inc. In 1954, he was appointed Vermont's Agriculture Commissioner by Governor Lee Emerson, a role he held until 1963. His tenure was marked by support for cooperatives in the dairy industry. Towne next chaired the Dairy Program Advisory Committee of the Charles H. Hood Dairy Foundation, with the goal of improving New England dairy farming through financial grants and working with colleges and farm organizations.

For 12 years, he was a selectman of the town of Berlin, Vermont. He was also a member of the Farm Bureau. At various times, he also held the following roles: vice president of the New England Dairy Association, director of the Mount Mansfield Coop Creamery, director of Fairdale Farms of Bennington, chairman of the Advisory Board for Vocational Education of the state Department of Education, member of the Cabot Farmers Co-op, chair of the New England Green Pastures, a trustee of the Eastern States Exposition in Massachusetts, and chair (for ten years) of the Eastern Artificial Insemination Corp.'s Resolutions committee. Towne wrote a column for the Burlington Free Press focusing on agricultural issues from 1963 until his death in 1977.

He was awarded an honorary degree from UVM in 1959 and a national award from the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Towne was received the Agricultural Adventurers Award in 1964. In 1975, he received the Vermont Farm Bureau's Wallace Award for making a "major contribution to Vermont Agriculture." The Elmer Towne Award, given by the Vermont Dairy Industry Association, recognizes the "student whose work in the field of Dairy Science shows the greatest promise for providing the quality leadership exemplified by" Elmer Towne. Towne was inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2004.


27 Linear Feet (21 cartons, 1 box, 1 oversize box)

Language of Materials



Collection contains correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, reports, studies, hearings, notes, and other records documenting Towne's activities as VT Commissioner of Agriculture and related activities. These records relate to the dairy industry in Vermont, maple products, state legislation, agricultural cooperatives, the Vermont Whey Pollution Abatement program, vocational training, agricultural foundations, product and animal testing, mastitis, the Hood milk company, milk orders, milk promotion, and other related topics.


Minimally processed. The collection was refoldered with original titles retained. The content of the folders was not reorganized but the folders within the overall collection were alphabetized.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Some moderate foxing remains after in-house surface cleaning.


Library Research Annex; contact for access.


Guide to the Elmer Towne Papers
2019 August
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)