Washington State University Extension

Celebrating 100 Years of Extension

A Brief History of WSU Extension

Imagine farm life in Washington State a century ago: Smoky kerosene lamps lighting up the night reveal no smartphones, laptops, or TVs. Food is cooked on wood or coal stoves. Clothes are washed with homemade soap by hand in a tub. Horses provide transportation as well as draft power.

Hungry for knowledge, farm families flocked by the thousands to farmers’ institutes and demonstration trains set up by the Washington Experiment Station to share the results from research at the state’s new land-grant college in Pullman. It was clear support for Congressional legislation that culminated in the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service in 1914 as an engine to disseminate the knowledge derived from the campuses and research stations.

Today, for many people, WSU Extension is still the first point of contact with a research university. The goal remains thoroughly egalitarian when it comes to “extending” research-based knowledge through a county-by-county network of Extension educators. The outcome has been improved lives throughout the state.

The timeline below will take you on a 123-year guided tour to give you a better idea of the breadth and progression of WSU Extension. Stay tuned for ongoing updates!

Historical photos through the 1980s courtesy of WSU Libraries, MASC.

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