William George Eckhardt (Site of Eckhardt's Home and Seed House)
339 West Roosevelt Street, DeKalb
Sponsored by the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association (www.DAAHA.org) and the Illinois State Historical Society.
In the early 20th century William George Eckhardt (1879-1959) was a pioneer in DeKalb County's leading role in agricultural innovation. Eckhardt, an agronomy professor at the University of Illinois, was an expert in the blossoming field of soil science. On June 1, 1912, the DeKalb County Soil Improvement Association – predecessor to the DeKalb Agricultural Association (DAA) – hired Eckhardt as a soil scientist to “establish permanent and profitable agricultural practices.” Eckhardt's charge was to “improve farming practices within the county...and to oversee farming operations.” This forward-thinking decision to hire Eckhardt as the nation’s first farm advisor gave birth to the Farm Bureau System.
Eckhardt’s family owned this house from 1919 until his widow Eva died in 1980. To the north sat Eckhardt’s seed house, founded as the Corn Belt Seed Company in 1925. Eckhardt had for years sought to solve the problem of seed corn rotting in storage. By 1920, he patented a technique of forced-air drying (a process still in use today) and in the following years perfected designs of drying bins and storage silos he built on this site. Until Eckhardt started his own company, he licensed the rights for his patent to DAA to use in its seed business. Both DAA and Eckhardt were innovators in researching and developing high quality corn seed; their competitive and collaborative efforts fueled rapid advancements in the field of hybridizing corn
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