Guide to the John William Firor Papers, 1860-1986

Collection Overview

The papers of John William Firor span the years 1860-1985, but the bulk of the papers falls between 1900 and the 1950s. Included are correspondence, articles, a diary, postcards, printed material, clippings, notes, and pictures. This collection primarily consists of his personal and family correspondence, although there are papers relating to his work as a university professor, author, and farmer.

Firor began his career as a horticulturist prior to World War I and eventually broadened his interests to the field of southern agricultural economics, teaching at the University of Georgia. A major focus for his work was problems relating to Georgia agricultural crops, including especially pecans and peaches, but also watermelons, tomatoes, Irish potatoes, and apples. Particular interests in this field included fertilizer tests, diseases, expansion and economics of the farming industry, the impact of the boll weevil, distribution of farm price information, and general farm problems. In addition, he was known for developing the idea of carlot marketing of poultry and livestock.

The single diary in the papers covers chiefly the latter part of Firor's career as a professor in the College of Agriculture at the University of Georgia, 1949-1952, with only intermittent entries for 1941-1948. He wrote about veterans, his farm, and his economic, agricultural, and political philosophy. Entries also discuss various farming topics, such as cost and prices, crops, planting, cattle, sales, and the effects of temperature and rainfall on crops.

The Correspondence Series comprises over one-half of the collection. Pre-World War I correspondence consists primarily of incoming letters. Family correspondents include Firor's mother, Anna Catherine Wisotskey Firor, and his brothers Guy W., George, and David F. Some of the letters concern J. William Firor's job searches. In his World War I letters from France, he reflected on the U.S. Army, the Armistice, the French people, and AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) University (1919). He wrote to his fiancee Mary Valentine Moss, a student at Simmons College in Boston, and to Guy and his wife Helen. Firor and Mary corresponded from 1915 until their marriage in 1920. In France Firor met Viscountess Therese de Montford, and their correspondence extends into 1953. After the war, his letters express concern about the arrival of the boll weevil in Georgia. He referred to varieties of pecan trees, fruit trees, spraying, and some letters pertain to his job searches. Few letters exist for the 1930s.

Correspondence in the 1940s and 1950s includes a few World War II letters that Firor wrote from Lowry Field, Colorado and letters from Yvonne Ragon, a friend in France. Other war and post-war letters pertain to Firor's return to the University of Georgia and changes in the College of Agriculture and in courses in rural sociology. In letters between Mary and J. William Firor, and their daughter Anne Byrd Firor Scott, professor of history at Duke University, Dr. Scott wrote of her career and family life. In 1951 Firor wrote to former students in agricultural economics and associates in response to the volume of letters presented upon his retirement from the University of Georgia. Most of the post-1951 correspondence is between Firor and his daughter Anne Scott. Prominent individuals represented in the Correspondence Series include Reuben “Shorty” Brigham (late 1940s), Harmon Caldwell (late 1940s), Paul Wilber Chapman (1940s), William Mauzy Kemper (ca. 1908-1914), and Anne Firor Scott (1949-1961).

The Writings and Speeches Series includes clippings of Firor's articles from such publications as The Country Gentleman, The Georgia Democrat, The Progressive Farmer, Southern Ruralist, and The Southern Agriculturalist. Included is a rough draft of his Farm Plan for the Future, 1952. Firor wrote on a variety of southern agricultural topics, such as economics, prices, mortgages, the marketing of crops, sharecroppers, surpluses, farm ownership and management, father and son farming, planting, conservation, and farm people. The writings reflect a particular concern for problems relating to the cultivation of the pecan, sweet potato, peach, watermelon, and cotton crops. He also wrote about politics and veterans as farmers.

The Subject Files Series includes biographical and genealogical files on the Moss and Firor families as well as a folder for Anne Firor Scott. There are folders for Thurmont, Md., Firor's boyhood home, and for Country Gentleman, to which Firor frequently contributed articles. In the Printed Material Series is a booklet, In Memoriam: Rufus Lafayette Moss (1913). In addition, there are clippings about Paul W. Chapman in the Miscellaneous Series.

Addition (2012-0161) (450 items, 0.6 lin. ft.) contains family correspondence (1942-53), photographs, photocopies of letters from John William Firor and some transcriptions of these created by by Anne Firor Scott, material about Mary Valentine Moss, legal documents, genealogical material, and material produced by Anne Firor Scott while writing a biograpy of John William Firor. This addition may require further processing before use.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Collection Details

Collection Number
John William Firor papers
Firor, John William, 1887-1956.
2 Linear Feet, circa 1,530 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Using These Materials

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warning Access to the Collection

Collection is open for research. Accession 2012-0161 (boxes 5-6) may require further processing before use.

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All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use & Permissions

The copyright interests in the papers of John William Firor have been transferred to Duke University. For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Rubenstein Library

More copyright and citation information

Contents of the Collection

1. Diaries Series, 1941-1952

Diary of Firor, including handwritten and typed entries.

Box 1

2. Correspondence Series, 1902-1974 and undated

Chiefly of a personal and family nature, although there are some professional letters. Correspondence is to and from Firor, typed and handwritten, with a handful of postcards, ca. 1919. Arranged chronologically.

1902-1919, Sept.
(5 folders)
Box 1
(5 folders)
Box 2
1952-1974 & undated
(3 folders)
Box 3

3. Writings and Speeches Series, 1921-1952 and undated

Primarily articles by Firor, arranged chronologically. Includes clippings, typescripts, radio address scripts, and some notes taken by Firor.

Magazine articles by John William Firor, 1924-1937
Box 3
The Progressive Farmer articles by John William Firor, 1924-1947
Box 3
Miscellaneous articles, 1921-1952
Box 3
Miscellaneous articles, undated
Box 4

4. Subject Files Series, 1878-1985 and undated

Small file, arranged chronologically.

Biographical Information, 1911-1951
Box 4
Country Gentleman, 1942-1945
Box 4
Firor & Moss Genealogy, 1878, 1983-1985 & undated
Box 4
Thurmont, Maryland, 1951-1954
Box 4
Scott, Anne Byrd (Firor), 1940-1946
Box 4

5. Printed Material Series, 1868-1920 and undated

Small file of calling cards, pamphlet, program, and French wedding invitations. Arranged chronologically.

1868-1920 & undated
Box 4

6. Miscellaneous Series, 1913-1972 and undated

Small file of clippings, pictures, address and membership lists, estate appraisal, and general material. Arranged chronologically.

1913-1972 & undated
Box 4
Catoctin Enterprise, 1951
Oversize-folder 1

8. Accession 2012-0161

2 boxes

Addition (2012-0161) (450 items, 0.6 lin. ft.) contains family correspondence (1942-53), photographs, photocopies of letters from John William Firor and some transcriptions of these created by by Anne Firor Scott, material about Mary Valentine Moss, legal documents, genealogical material, and material produced by Anne Firor Scott while writing a biograpy of John William Firor. This addition may require further processing before use.

Conditions Governing Access note

This accession may require further processing before use.

Letters from David L. Firor
Box 5
Letters to his children and others, 1943-1944
Box 5
Letters to his children and others, 1948-1953
Box 5
AEF University
Box 5
Maryland Agricultural College
Box 5
John William Firor pictures
Box 5
Box 5
John William Firor diary
Box 5
John William Firor letters World War I
Box 5
Mary Valentine Moss
Box 6
Legal documents
Box 6
Biographical notes
Box 6
Writing biography
Box 6
Box 6
JWF letters
Box 6
JWF book
Box 6
John William Firor, Sr.
Box 6
John William Firor scholarship
Box 6
JWF Scholarship
Box 6
Hall of fame
Box 6

Historical Note


Date Event(s)
1887, Sept. 23 Born, Frederick County, Md.
1908 B.S. in horticulture, Maryland Agricultural College (now the University of Maryland), College Park, Md..
1908,1910 Commandant and instructor, Bethel Military Academy, Warrenton, Va.
1910-1912 Assistant Horticulturist at the West Virginia Experiment Station, Morgantown, W. Va.
1912 Professor, Georgia State College of Agriculture (later incorporated into the University of Georgia), Athens.
1912-1917 Extension Horticulturist, Georgia State College.
1914-1917 Co-editor, Southern Fruit Grower.
1917-1919 U. S. Army Field Artillery Officer, serving primarily in France.
Taught horticulture in the College of Agriculture, A.E.F. University, Beaune, France.
1918 Graduate, U. S. School of Artillery Fire.
1920, June 15 Married Mary Valentine Moss.
1920-1922 Manager, Planters Products Company, Ga.
Horticulturist and marketing agent, Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic Railway Company.
1923-1925 County Agricultural Agent, Clarke County, Ga.
1926-1927 State Agent in Marketing for Georgia.
1928-1951 Organized and headed the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Georgia.
1931 M.S. in agriculture, University of Georgia.
1942-1944 Education officer and director of Troop School, U.S. Army Air Force, Lowry Field, Colo.
1944-1945 Member, Governor's Agricultural & Industrial Development Board, Ga.
1947-1948 Member, City Council, Athens, Ga.
1951 Retired from University of Georgia faculty.
1956, May 28 Died.

Wrote bulletins, government reports, addresses, and many articles for Southern Ruralist, Southern Agriculturist, The Georgia Democrat, Country Gentleman, and The Progressive Farmer.

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The papers of John William Firor (1887-1956), professor at the University of Georgia and author, were a gift to the Rubenstein Library in 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by Sharon Knapp

Completed May 20, 1988

Encoded by Stephen D. Miller