ERS 50th Anniversary: Courthouses by Calvin Beale
These courthouses from around the United States were photographed by Calvin L. Beale who worked for the Economic Research Service (ERS) until his death in September 2008. His career at U.S. Department of Agriculture spanned more than 55 years.

In his obituary, The New York Times reported: “Mr. Beale’s greatest single professional contribution…was figuring out in the 1960s that decades of decline in rural population were being reversed in some areas. Mr. Beale saw that hydroelectric dams in the Ozarks created reservoirs that in turn drew vacationers, some of whom stayed; he noticed industries like textiles, meatpacking and chemicals moving into areas that had been entirely agricultural.”

The Washington Post extolled his encyclopedic knowledge:

“Two or three times a year, Calvin L. Beale would leave his desk in Washington and travel to the University of Wisconsin to speak to graduate students. A professor of rural sociology at the university, Glenn Fuguitt, knew that Mr. Beale had spent decades studying the population trends of rural regions for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and that no one alive had a deeper understanding of his subject.

“After his lecture, Mr. Beale would join Fuguitt and the grad students for dinner. In his characteristically reserved but attentive way, he asked the students where they were from. He would then recite the name of each student's county, no matter how remote, and detail its primary businesses and cultural history.

“As a final flourish, he would describe the local courthouse.”

USDA/ERS photography by Calvin Beale.
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