UA 53.4




8.12 linear feet [5 record boxes, 2 herbarium boxes 1 document case-half/long, 1 half record box], 215 black-and-white photographs, 2 color photographs, 15 black-and-white negatives, 1 glass plate negative


Niels Ebbesen Hansen, a pioneering horticulturist renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to agriculture and plant breeding, dedicated his career to enhancing agricultural practices through the introduction of new plant varieties. The N.E. Hansen Papers offer an exploration of his achievements, including articles, bulletins, and circulars from his tenure at the South Dakota Experiment Station. Additionally, contributions from Helen Hansen Loen provide valuable insights into his personal and professional life. The collection serves as a valuable resource for understanding Hansen's legacy and his contribution to agricultural science.

Historical Note

On January 4, 1866, Niels Ebbesen Hansen was born on a farm near Ribe, Denmark, to Bodil Midtgaard and Andreas Hansen. Tragically, his mother passed away during his infancy, leading Andreas to remarry and welcome two daughters, Helene and Kristine, into the family. In 1872, the Hansens left Denmark, immigrating to New York and New Jersey, where they resided for three years before settling in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1876. Andreas found work as a painter, gaining renowned for his exquisite murals adorning the ceilings and walls of Des Moines' new state house building.

Niels' early years saw him attending schools in New York and New Jersey, but it was in Iowa where he completed his education. In March 1883, he enrolled at Iowa State College, where he pursued a degree in Horticulture, culminating in a Bachelor of Science in 1887. His dedication to learning led him to earn a master's degree from the same institution in 1895.

Upon completing his formal education, Hansen ventured into the realm of commercial horticulture. He spent a year in Atlantic, Iowa, followed by three years in Des Moines before making a significant move to South Dakota in 1895. Here, he assumed leadership of the Horticultural Department at South Dakota State College.

Throughout his tenure, Hansen embarked on eight world trips as an agricultural explorer, traversing Europe, and Asia in search of new grasses, fruits, and plants. His expeditions, including ventures into Siberia, yielded a treasure trove of botanical specimens that he brought back to America. Hansen's pioneering work in crossbreeding and cultivation led to the creation of numerous new plant varieties, including the Hansen hybrid plums. He introduced hardy Cossack alfalfa, crested wheat grass, and brome grass to American agriculture. His efforts extended to developing larger apricots and plums, seedless pears, and a distinct rose variety.

In 1949, the monumental impact of Dr. Hansen's contributions was immortalized with the erection of a commemorative monument on the campus of South Dakota State College. Hansen's personal life was marked by two marriages. He wed his first wife, Emma Elise Pammel, on November 16, 1898, and together they had two children, Carl Andreas and Eva (later Mrs. Dave Gilkerson). Tragically, Emma passed away on December 16, 1904. Three years later, Hansen married Dora Sophie Pammel, Emma's sister. Dora passed away on September 14, 1945.

Hansen's influence extended beyond the realms of academia and agriculture. He served as a member of the International Jury of Horticulture at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 and represented the United States as a delegate to the First International Congress of Genetics in London, England, in 1906. His commitment to horticulture was further evidenced by his longstanding role as secretary of the South Dakota Horticultural Society.

Often hailed as "The Burbank of the Plains," Hansen's dedication to his craft remained steadfast throughout his 55-year tenure at State College, where he held the esteemed title of Professor Emeritus. Hansen died on October 5, 1950, with his passing at Brookings Hospital after a prolonged illness.

Content Notes

The N.E. Hansen papers represent a comprehensive archive chronicling the career of Niels Ebbesen Hansen. The collection encompasses a diverse range of materials, including authored articles, bulletins, and circulars from Hansen's tenure at the South Dakota Experiment Station, as well as field notebooks, and ledgers from the South Dakota Horticultural Society.

Contributions from Helen Hansen Loen, Hansen's granddaughter, further enrich the collection with addresses, correspondence, journals, and travel documents, offering a deeper understanding of his professional and personal life. Notable highlights include addresses delivered by Hansen at prestigious events like the International Congress of Genetics in Berlin, underscoring his scholarly impact.

The collection's breadth extends to reports on forestry, sheep, and forage crops, reflecting Hansen's diverse interests. Manuscripts delve into topics ranging from agricultural practices to fine arts, while photographs document Hansen's expeditions to Siberia and Northern China, providing visual context to his exploratory work. Of particular significance are Hansen's manuscripts examining Soviet Russia's socio-political and economic landscape from 1934 to 1937. These writings offer valuable insights into agricultural collectivization, industrialization, and societal dynamics during that period, complementing Hansen's broader contributions to agricultural science.

SDSU Archives and Special Collections

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South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


Copyright restrictions apply in different ways to different materials. Many of the documents and other historical materials in the Archives are in the public domain and may be reproduced and used in any way. There are other materials in the Archive carrying a copyright interest and must be used according to the provisions of Title 17 of the U.S. Code. The Archive issues a warning concerning copyright restrictions to every researcher who requests copies of documents. Although the copyright law is under constant redefinition in the courts, it is ultimately the responsibility of the researcher to properly use copyrighted material.