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Isaac Newton | Inducted between 1920 and 1941

The first United States Commissioner of Agriculture and first USDA Commissioner/Secretary.

1800-1867 | Artist: Ernest Sigmund Klempner (1867-1941)

Impact & Accomplishments

Isaac Newton was the nation’s first Commissioner of Agriculture, named to the post when the Department of Agriculture was first created by President Lincoln in 1862. (The department was not elevated to Cabinet level, with a secretary, until 1889.)

Prior to his promotion, Newton served as superintendent of the Agricultural Division in the U. S. Patent Office. He was a close friend of the Lincolns. Born in Burlington County, New Jersey, Newton established a progressive dairy farm near Philadelphia, and his farm supplied butter to the White House.

As the first secretary of the USDA, Newton established a national agricultural library and museum, as well as an experimental farm on the National Mall. He advocated that daily weather reports be telegraphed across the nation—a precursor of the U. S. Weather Service.

Newton also helped advance President Lincoln’s interest in the science of agriculture, by hiring a chemist, botanist, entomologist, and statistician for the department. Isaac Newton was inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1998.

Did You Know?

"The Agricultural Department, under the supervision of its present energetic and faithful head, is rapidly commending itself to the great and vital interest it was created to advance. It is precisely the people's Department, in which they feel more directly concerned that in any other. I commend it to the continued attention and fostering care of Congress." - Abraham Lincoln, 1864 Address to Congress

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