Franklin A. Coffman papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk P2011.10

Level of description



Franklin A. Coffman papers


  • 1884-1978 (Creation)


13.50 Linear Feet, 15.00 Boxes

Post-Fire Oversize Extent:
Oversize Box 11,12,13 (16.5 x 20.5): 509: 20/29/4
Box 8 (16.5x20.5); 509: 20/29/5
Boxes 9, 10 (16.5x20.5); 509: 20/30/3

Name of creator


Biographical history

1892 December 30, born in Jewell, Kansas
1908 Passed grade school exams
1914 June 18, graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College with a bachelor of science degree in agronomy
1914-1916 Worked as station superintendent, Philippine Bureau of Agriculture
1916-1917 Attended graduate school and worked as a student instructor in botany and plant physiology, Kansas State College
1918-1924 Worked for the United States Department of Agriculture, Akron, Colorado
1919 June 18, married Alta Johnson
1922 Received master of science in agronomy, plant breeding major, plant physiology minor, from Kansas State Agricultural College
1923 April 23, daughter Alice Winifred Coffman born
1924-1963 Worked for the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
1926 April 25, Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
1949 October 26, elected Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy
1950-1962 Served as secretary of the National Oat Conference
1962 Received the Superior Service Award from the United States Department of Agriculture, December 31, retired
1966 Received Distinguished Service in Agriculture Award from Kansas State University
1976 December 20, died in Prince George County, Maryland, buried in Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
1977 <emph render='italic'>Oat History, Identification and Classification</emph> published
K-State alumnus Franklin A. Coffman was a noted agronomist who specialized in oat experimentation and research.  He was born in Jewell, Kansas in 1892 to Rachel and Ernest Coffman.  Both parents attended Kansas State Agricultural College.  Coffman entered the sub-freshman class at Kansas State Agricultural College in 1908.  In 1911, he entered the freshman class.  He majored in Agronomy and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree in 1914.  Six of Coffman's siblings graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College.
From 1914-1916, Coffman worked for the Philippine Bureau of Agriculture as the station superintendent in charge of corn.  He returned to Kansas and began studies for a master's degree, but did not complete the program at that time.  He moved to Akron, Colorado to work for the United States Department of Agriculture.  In 1922, Coffman completed his Master of Science in Agriculture at Kansas State Agricultural College, as a plant breeding major, plant physiology minor.
Upon graduation, Coffman continued to work for the United States Department of Agriculture where he remained employed until his retirement in 1962.  The positions he held at the United States Department of Agriculture increased in importance and responsibility as Coffman built a reputation for his work in oat experimentation and research.  In 1957, he became the principal agronomist in charge of winter oats and was responsible for 120 experiment stations in 44 states.
Throughout his career, Coffman published approximately 200 articles and several books.  He edited the book <emph render='italic'>Oats and Oat Improvement </emph>and wrote five of the book's 15 chapters.  Upon his retirement in 1962, Coffman received the Superior Service Award from the United States Department of Agriculture.  In 1966, he received the Distinguished Service in Agriculture Award from Kansas State University.  After retirement, Coffman continued his involvement in oat research.  The book<emph render='italic'> Oat History, Identification and Classification</emph>, was published in 1977, a year after he died.
Coffman married Alta Johnson in 1919 and had a daughter, Alice Winifred, in 1923.  He had two grandsons.  Coffman was an accomplished photographer and poet.  Many of his poems were published in the Washington Post.  Coffman was an avid sportsman and made many trips to western states and national parks.  He was also a genealogist and did extensive research on both sides of his family.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Franklin A. Coffman papers contain letters, autobiographical materials, paternal and maternal family genealogies, legal documents, literary works, awards and honors, printed materials, photographs, scrapbooks and photograph albums, and artifacts.
Personal correspondence is mainly amongst family members though there is a letter from J. Edgar Hoover regarding a poem Coffman published.  Business correspondence is sparse.  Coffman received a bound volume of congratulatory letters upon his retirement.  The letters provide the best account of Coffman's work with the United States Department of Agriculture within the collection.  Many describe interactions with Coffman during field work and visits to experiment stations across the country.  There is no official governmental correspondence in the collection documenting Coffman's work.
Coffman handwrote autobiographical accounts of his life during his later years.  These accounts are mainly of his childhood, college days and work in the Philippines.  The accounts covering the years Coffman spent in the Philippines are extensive.  They provide many details and impressions about the native people.  The accounts also cover his travels to other Asian countries while based in the Philippines.
Coffman spent years gathering genealogical information from relatives and researching his ancestors.  He traced his father's Coffman ancestors back to 1737 and his mother's Bayle ancestors back to 1796.  There are notes, different versions of family trees, and extensive narrative written by Coffman describing the lives of his ancestors.
Legal documents are sparse.
Coffman was a prolific poet.  There are clippings of poetry published in the Washington Post.  Some poems were published without his name.  Others have his initials, F.A.C., including two series of poems compiled in notebooks.  There are also unpublished poems.
There are certificates for scholarly and service awards and honors, and the registration certificate for the Marion Oat. There are not certificates for all the awards and honors listed on Coffman's resume.
There are just a few United States Department of Agriculture's bulletins and farmer's Bulletins that Coffman authored or co-authored.  The vast majority of Coffman's published research is not part of the collection.
One of Coffman's hobbies was photography.  There are hundreds of photographs documenting his personal and professional lives.  Subjects are wide-ranging. Coffman signed some of his photographs, mainly what he referred to as the "salon prints."  There are photographs taken by others including professional portraits and candid photographs of Coffman at various ages.  Many photographs are undated and unidentified.
There are seven scrapbooks containing photographs and memorabilia. 1) Photographs and memorabilia document a 10 day automobile trip to eastern cities and New England that Coffman took with his wife and daughter in 1936.  Expenses totaled $110.96.
2)  "The Farm" album contains photographs of family members, neighbors, friends, crops, farmhouse interiors and exteriors, Rocky Ford School, and Rocky Ford dam and mill.  The album is dated 1913 and some photographs are identified.  There are also approximately 56 photographs of Manhattan and Kansas State Agricultural College.  The subjects are the campus, buildings, classmates, lake recreation, train depot, street car, and a railroad bridge.  Some photos are identified and dated 1914.
3) This photo album with narrative is titled "The Many Faces of F.A.C." and is written by "A Couple of Norths and Shanghai Louis Kao."  It was compiled in 1962 and contains photographs of Coffman in various locations.
4) The album has photographs of Coffman's family and ancestors (earliest date 1884), Sunday school class, the First Baptist Church in 1902, Kansas State Agricultural College, and Manhattan.  There is extensive Kansas State Agricultural College memorabilia including a cadet corps certificate, 1908 fall term schedule, invitations, commencement programs, band programs, banquet programs, clippings and a baseball ticket.  The album also has correspondence and drawings.  The album has memorabilia from Coffman's transit back to the United States on the Shino Maru including menus and passenger list. There are photographs of the transit and memorabilia from a Hong Kong visit en route.  There are photographs of Kansas State Agricultural College, Oklahoma A&M and Akron, Colorado. 1916.
5) The Philippines album contains photographs of Coffman's trip across the western United States to board the S.S. Manchuria for transit to the Philippines.  Coffman photographed the Golden Gate Park,  the Panama Pacific International Exhibition grounds, onboard ship recreation, Honolulu, Tokyo, Nagasaki, the Philippines' countryside, Filipinos' daily activities, Philippine experiment stations, cultural activities, villages, Coffman's office and co-workers, YMCA sports,  Viscayia (German naval ship), Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Yamaa, Yokahoma,  the voyage back to the United States on the Shino Maru (not to be confused with the Shinyo Maru), Honolulu experiment station, Universal Film City, and the San Diego Exposition.  1914-1916.
6) The photographs and memorabilia in this album are compiled in honor of Coffman's brother, Will, who died in 1920.  It contains drawings, report cards, class schedule and photographs of Kansas State Agricultural College, Manhattan, University of Kansas, and Will's travels. Loose commencement programs from Kansas State Agricultural College, 1913-1915, are with the album.
7)  The album contains photographs from Coffman's days in Akron and his travels to Amarillo, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Arlington, New York, Philadelphia and Mount Vernon from 1919-1922.  There is memorabilia from Washington, D.C., New York including a Metropolitan Opera House program and a Hippodrome souvenir book, Coffman's wedding and showers, and a program from the American Society of Agronomy 1922 meeting. Morrill, Kansas, Twin Oaks, Estes Park, county fairs, and Manhattan are also subjects of photographs.  Alta Johnson's School Girl Days: A Memory Book from Washington County High School, 1914, is boxed with the scrapbooks.
The most notable artifacts are four cameras, presumably used by Coffman:  Univex Model A, 1933; No. 1-A Kodak Junior Model A, 1914; No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie, circa 1915-1916; Kodak Six-16 camera and leather case, circa 1932-1936.

System of arrangement

The Franklin A. Coffman papers are arranged in 11 series: 1) Biographical, 2) Correspondence, 3) Genealogy, 4) Legal documents, 5) Literary works, 6) Awards and honors, 7) Printed materials, 8) Photographs, 9) Scrapbooks and photograph albums, 10) Oversize 11) Artifacts

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restrictions: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Generated finding aid

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The Morse Department of Special Collections acquired the Coffman papers through a gift from John T. Spike, grandson of Franklin A. Coffman. They were shipped to Kansas from the Texas home of his mother, Alice Coffman Spike. It received accession number P2011.10.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: John T. Spike
Acqusition Method: Donation.
Acqusition Date: 20110820

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


No further accruals are expected.

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Specialized notes

  • Citation: Preferred Citation: [Item title], [item date], Franklin A. Coffman papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Hale Library, Kansas State University.

Alternative identifier(s)

Archon Collection ID


Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Finding Aid Author: Jane Schillie
Processing Info: Jane Schillie processed the collection under the direction of Anthony Crawford, Curator of Manuscripts, during the 2011-2012 academic year.
Publication Date: 2013-04-24

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