George Weidman Groff papers, 1916-1958

409

Collection Overview

Title:
George Weidman Groff papers
Dates (Inclusive):
1916-1958
Creator:
Groff, George Weidman
Abstract:
George Weidman Groff received his bachelor's and master's degrees in horticulture from Penn State. He pioneered the idea of agricultural missions under Christian auspices and in 1907 became the first agricultural missionary to China. In 1921, he helped organize the Lingnan Agricultural College with a faculty of western-trained Chinese. Among the extensive work which Groff has been responsible for is the development of citrus fruits, improvement and introduction of papaya, lychee, eucalyptus robusta, the Siam banana, other sub-tropical fruits and some ornamentals.
Collection Number:
409
Size:
32 Cubic feet
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical Note

George Weidman Groff, affectionately called Daddy Groff by thousands of alumni, was born in Annville, Pa. on March 29, 1884, attended public schools in Harrisburg, and received his bachelor's and master's degrees in horticulture from Penn State. As a student at Penn State he was an active and popular participant in many campus activities, "known by practically every man in the two upper-classes." He was a good debater and helped win a splendid victory from Swarthmore. On campus he was a member of two social fraternities, Alpha Zeta and Delta Upsilon, and two honorary societies, Delta Sigma Rho (debating), and Phi Kappa Phi (general scholastic).

When he was a senior, China, a country which was then looking for new scientific knowledge, captured his imagination. He pioneered the idea of agricultural missions under Christian auspices and in 1907 became the first agricultural missionary to China. He was assigned to the Canton Christian College (later known as Lingnan University) as a teacher in the middle school. Very shortly after his arrival, he began agricultural work there and soon raised teaching to the college level.

Groff credits his work "to the fellowship and inspiration received from teachers and friends at Penn State." With the support of staff, students, and alumni, he served both Lingnan and Penn State, advocating a reciprocal exchange of cultural ideas in which the United States contributed to China's agricultural science and techniques of extensive agriculture, while receiving an understanding of China's intensive agricultural methods and the value of her unique cultivated and wild floras.

In 1918 Groff received his Master of Science degree from Penn State. Three years later, he helped organize the Lingnan Agricultural College with a faculty of western-trained Chinese, supplemented by a few Penn State and Kansas State staff members. He served as the Dean of the College until 1935. He also became the director of the Economic Plant Receiving Station, Lingnan University in 1935.

During his years in China he traveled widely, studying plant life in South China, Indo-China, Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaya. Among the extensive work which Groff has been responsible for is the development of citrus fruits, improvement and introduction of papaya, lychee, eucalyptus robusta, the Siam banana, other sub-tropical fruits and some ornamentals. He was largely responsible for gathering the largest collection of bamboo in Southeast Asia. Groff successfully imported some good livestock breeders from the US and improved the local livestock quality.

In 1937 he directed a National Geographic expedition into the hill country of northern Guangxi province in search of the famous, unidentified medical plant, the Lo-Hon Fruit. He found and collected this plant which was later identified as a new species. It is noteworthy that the working and living environment was not always safe during the years that Groff was in China. Banditry, piracy, and frequent wars often threatened people's security in the first half of the 20th century. Therefore, it was extremely challenging for Groff to achieve his academic and research goals in China during this particular time period.

Groff's work from the beginning in 1908 was financed and supported by his friends at Penn State. Impressed with the work that he was doing in China, Penn State students in 1911 organized a Penn-State-in-China committee and for more than 30 years supported, in part, the work of Daddy Groff. Each year the new students in Penn State were told the story of the work of Daddy Groff in China and each year through chapel offerings they supported his work. The ldquo;old gradsrdquo;, when discussing Penn State spirit, liked to relate the story of this project in China as illustrative of the meaning of Penn State spirit.

After the Japanese invasion in 1937, Groff remained at Canton in an effort to preserve the campus and equipment of Lingnan and to make the farm contribute to the children's refugee work carried out on the campus. He moved to Florida in early 1941 because of ill health. Rest and care in Florida did much to restore him. He had long been interested in establishing a plant exchange post here in America where promising plants might be collected and propagated for shipment to China. He found a place in Sarasota, Florida, where the climate is similar to that in south China. Here he set up a Plant Exchange Station and soon had plants ready for shipment as conditions at Lingnan permitted.

In 1946 and 1947 he served as agricultural rehabilitation officer in South China under the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. He was not only of great help in building China's agriculture but was one of America's good-will ambassadors.

Groff published numerous articles and bulletins on Chinese agriculture, horticulture, and botany. Those works were not only about academic research, but also regarding China's agricultural education and rural leadership. They were helpful in China's agricultural development and at the same time assisted the American people understand China's specialties. He took photographs of China's geography, special plant species and Chinese living status, and introduced these pictures to American people. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Peking National Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society of China, and the American Geographical Association. He was also a member of the Florida State Horticulture Society.

After his retirement and return to America in 1947, Groff lived in Laurel, Florida, where he was preparing a ldquo;Plant Manualrdquo; on world plant resources for plant exchange, with special emphasis on Chinese plant names and literature. Privately and without sponsorship, he still sent living American plant materials from Florida and the Caribbean area to Taiwan and other island areas of Asia, which contributed to the local plant research and agricultural improvement of these areas.

Groff devoted all his life to plant study, agricultural education and international exchange since he believed that plant and agriculture exploration is of great importance to the world. In a letter he wrote to a friend, he stated that helpful cooperation and collaboration between nations in plant acquisition and improvement is a dominant factor in the adequate feeding, clothing and sheltering of mankind everywhere. It is now widely recognized that food production and distribution is of major importance to a peaceful world. The sharing of nature's blessings in the form of plant life is essential to a wholesome international outlook upon life. Thus man's life with plants and the uses he makes of them become of deep significance to his religious, social and economic progress.

Because of his outstanding achievements, in 1953 Groff was honored as one of the first group of five to be named ldquo;Distinguished Alumnirdquo; of Penn State. The "Plant Manual" work however, was not to be completed in Groff's lifetime, Groff passed away in Laurel, Florida, on December 4, 1954 at the age of 70.

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Collection Overview

The collection contains materials relating to George Weidman Groff's research and publications on Chinese botanical samples and his detailed plant index. The Lychee series includes the general chronological survey of lychee, growing localities, reports and talks on the lychee fruit, and two treatises by Chinese scientists. The Publications series includes reprints of Groff's articles, encyclopedia entries, Plant Receiving Station reports, and Lingnan science journal reprints. The Correspondence series includes Lingnan Plant Exchange correspondence, letters to and from Mrs. Eva Groff and Dr. Groff's general correspondence. Groff was the first American to study the Lo-Han fruit. His article, "The Lo-Han Fruit of the Kwansi" was published by the National Geographic Society. The Lo-Han Fruit series includes Groff's research and a copy of the article. The Personal series includes Groff's biography, an inventory of his publications and materials (furniture) brought to Penn State from China, and his calendars. The Research Notes series includes Groff's research notes on Chinese botany, classifications of flowering plants, plants of Kwantung province, and article reprints by other authors. The Plant Index series, the largest and the most scientifically important, includes Groff's handwritten notes on all the plant species he identified and located during his years in China. The notes include scientific identifications, drawings and specifications.

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Collection Arrangement

Organized into eight series: 1. Lychee, 2. Publications, 3. Correspondence, 4. Lo-Han Fruit, 5. Personal, 6. Research Notes, 7. Plant Index, 8. Photographs.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], George Weidman Groff papers, PSUA 409, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Processing Information

Processed by Special Collections staff.

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Controlled Access Headings

Genre(s)

  • Photographic

Personal Name(s)

  • Groff, George Weidman

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Accession 2004-0125-U, the 2-volume Agricultural Encyclopedia w/some Botanical Illustrations, bound in wood in traditional Chinese Bookbinding - both volumes' wooden covers are cracked.

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Collection Inventory

Click associated checkboxes to select items to request. When you have finished, click the Submit Request button.

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1 2

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1 5

1 6

1 07-10

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1 1

1 11

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2 12

2 03-04

2 1

3 12

37 4

37 5-6

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37 11

37 12-13

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BoxFolder

2 08-10

2 15-17

2 13-14

2 11

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BoxFolder

2 5

2 6

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BoxFolder

2 2

2 7

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BoxFolder

3 10

3 11

3 13

3 08-09

3 01-07

37 1

37 2

37 3

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5-31

32

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40-41

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