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Whirlwind Hill Farm papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 9

Scope and Contents

Twice between 1940 and 1960, James Marshall Osborn (JMO) built herds of purebred Holstein dairy cattle to recognized excellence at Whirlwind Hill Farm in Wallingford, Connecticut. The farm was known throughout the world for its breeding of pedigreed bulls, by which, through the process of artificial insemination, tens of thousands of dairy cattle were sired worldwide.

As a result of the diverse background Professor Osborn brought to the dairy business, this collection represents a source material for scholars pursuing more than just a study of the cattle trade. Decisions made on the farm, based upon certain government regulations and taxing policies, are recorded within for the economist and the land-use student. As a literary scholar and writer himself, Mr. Osborn made frequent observations upon the nature of scholarship in a pastoral setting. His bibliographical record of The Holstein Handbook sheds light not only on his own writing for the trade, but on the whole scope of the dairy market of that era as well. Finally, Mr. Osborn has saved for us all of his advertising materials which produced the success of the farm over the period of 20 years. They prove useful not only as a marketing record, but as the best resource for a study of the blood lines of his cattle.

The papers are divided into six categories, beginning with a compilation of the available accounts of the farm and its progress from contemporary journals, newspaper articles, diaries and the like. It is suggested to the researcher that this is the first place to start for the reason that quick familiarity with important names and dates can be attained.

This secondary source material is backed up with box 2, a compilation of articles and pamphlets on the status of dairy farming at the time. Once acquainted with the political, social and temporal environment of the collection, the researcher finds the original source material in boxes 3-17 more meaningful.

Osborn saved all of his correspondence, and much of it ran through more than the life of the farm with certain individuals. The researcher will find that the correspondence supplements the material endeavors recorded in the source material of boxes 8-17. Osborn was constantly called to participate in various cattlemen's associations and organizations. While the researcher can find the product of his involvement in box 8, it is the correspondence that indicates the nature of his intent, and often portrays the Homeric difficulties Osborn faced in his dual role as a farmer and a world class scholar of English literature. For a man who professed to have so little time, however, Osborn did manage to record a good deal of the difficulty through his stenographer.

From the early stages of the farm development on, Osborn advertised with a budget disproportionate to his size. That this strategy paid off is seen by the fact that the 1959 dispersal sale was the largest ever, with journalists calling it the cattle event of the year. Regular readers of dairy magazines had been kept apprised throughout of the growth of the herd into high-producing Holsteins and bulls sought the world over for their sire-power. And it was not long before the advertising of other dairymen began to piggyback upon the goodwill of the name of the Whirlwind Hill Farm. Cattlemen who had bought blood line cattle from Osborn testified in print that "Our Whirlhills Pay the Bills."

As both evidence of an effective public relations strategy, and as direct source material in the geneological history of the Whirlwind Hill Herds, advertising records are filed in box 9. It is accompanied by the original photographs of the cattle and the farm that were used in advertisments, catalogues, and circulars, found in boxes 9-11.

Boxes 12-17 contain the financial records of the farm, random proprietary correspondence, and miscallaneous documents of the farm's growth.


  • 1940-1977


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Whirlwind Hill Farm Papers (1940-1977) are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of James Marshall Osborn, 1976.


5.4 Linear Feet (12 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence, business and financial records, writings and printed material concerning the operation of Whirlwind Hill Farm, in Wallingford, Connecticut. The material documents James M. Osborn's breeding and marketing of purebred Holstein dairy cattle, and the status of dairy farming in the Northeast in the 1940s and 1950s.


James Marshall Osborn, literary historian, founder of the James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection at Yale University, and Holstein cattle breeder, was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1906. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1928, and joined the investment advisory department of Guaranty Trust in New York. The next year, he married Marie-Louise Montgomery, a graduate of Vassar.

In 1932 Osborn left Guaranty Trust to study for a Master's degree in English at Columbia University. Two years later, the Osborns moved to England with their two sons, and James began to work toward a B.Litt degree at Oxford University. While at Oxford, Osborn pursued his interest in eighteenth-century literary history and began to acquire the literary and historical manuscripts that would form the core of the Osborn Collection.

Osborn was appointed Research Associate in English at Yale University in 1938; he held the position until the time of his death. He was named Adviser on Seventeenth Century Manuscripts to the Yale Library in 1954, and in 1963, when he began the transfer of his collection to Yale, became the first curator of the Osborn Collection.

Osborn's publications include The Autobiography of Thomas Whythorne (1961); an edition of Joseph Spence's Observations, Anecdotes and Characters (1966); and Young Philip Sidney (1972).

In addition to his scholarly activities, Osborn was also a noted dairy cattle breeder and promoter of Holsteins from 1940 to 1960. He received the D.Litt from Oxford University in 1968, and was named Curator Emeritus of the Osborn Collection in 1972. James Marshall Osborn died in New Haven on October 17, 1976.

Processing Information

This finding aid, created before the advent of computer-generated files, has been converted into a ASCII data file by means of scanning and Optical Character Recognition software. While attempts have been made to retain the complete information from the original document a number of format changes have been made to present the structure of this archive in accordance with current practice.

Guide to the Whirlwind Hill Farm Papers (1940-1977)
Under Revision
by Beinecke Staff
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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