William J. Morse and Charles V. Piper: Work with Soy
A Special Exhibit - The History of Soy Pioneers Around the World - Unpublished Manuscript
by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, California
William Morse was the father of soybeans and soyfoods in America. More than any other single person, he was responsible for transforming the soybean from a virtually unknown Oriental curiosity in 1910 to one of America's largest farm crops and export crops. He was the dean and patriarch of all early American soybean enthusiasts, and the fact that he and his early mentor, Dr. C.V. Piper, worked for the United States Department of Agriculture gave extra weight to his ideas and work. During a career spanning 42 years and with great foresight and singleness of purpose, he focused his entire life on introducing and popularizing soybeans and soyfoods in America. He wrote the first major book in English on soybeans and many of the important early articles. He initiated and coordinated research work, advised farmers, introduced thousands of soybean varieties and strains from East Asia, popularized large-seeded vegetable-type soybeans, and did extensive research on East Asian soyfoods and helped to introduce them to America. He was a great source of inspiration to all who knew and worked with him.
Early Years (1884-1923). William Joseph Morse was born on 10 May 1884 in Lowville, New York, the son of John Baptist Morse, a butcher shop owner. He attended Lowville Academy, then graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Cornell University. Two days after graduation, in June 1907, he went to work for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Division of Forage Crops and Diseases, within the Bureau of Plant Industry. It was just at this time that the Bureau was planning to start research on the growing of soybeans.
At the Bureau, Morse, then 24 years old, was assigned to work under Dr. Charles Vancouver Piper, who was to have an immense influence on the rest of his life. Born in 1867 and then 40 years old, Piper was head of the USDA's Office of Forage Crops. Often referred to by his colleagues as "The Prophet," Piper was the first man to see clearly the potential of the soybean in America. A dignified, handsome, yet austere plant scientist with great talent and drive, Piper was at once a practical farmer, a theorist, a philosopher, and a dreamer. He was looking for a way to attract attention to the soybean, which had lain dormant in America for over a century, and to give it the impetus for growth. When Piper met Morse, a shy, gangling, studious young man from New York state, fresh out of college but with great energy and the adaptability of youth, he knew he had found his man. Morse became Scientific Assistant in Forage Crop Investigations within the Bureau of Plant Industry, Washington, D.C. and was assigned to grow and test a dozen or so distinct varieties of soybeans at Arlington Experimental Farm, located across the Potomac River in Virginia (on land on which the Pentagon now stands). Although he didn't have much to start with, Morse took his assignment seriously. Soon he was even spending his evenings and weekends selecting and propagating his soybeans. Dr. Piper often joined Morse at his work. In his colorful book, Gold from the Soil (1942), Edward Jerome Dies tells the story like this:
Dr. Piper became his constant companion there at the farm on Sundays, evenings, and at other odd times, talking, dreaming, painting word pictures of a future agricultural economy in which the little bean would play a tremendous role.
"Young fellow," he used to say, "these beans are gold from the soil. Yes, sir, gold from the soil. One must truly stand in awe of their potential power in the life of the western world."
In some strange way, Dr. Piper seems to have turned a key in the heart of young Morse and created there a strong desire to see through to the final act the colorful and exciting drama of the soybean.
Young Morse was eager to share the fruits and discoveries of his work with farmers. As soon as he had several bagfuls of good soybeans, he would take them to the Carolinas by train. North Carolina was America's largest soybean growing state at the time, but most of the beans were still grown for hay or forage. There he would go to a livery stable, rent a spring wagon and horses, and set out across the countryside. Whenever he saw a farmer in the fields planting corn or hay-type soybeans, he would tether his horses to a fence post, climb over the fence, and visit with the farmer. If the farmer was interested, Morse would give him enough soybeans to plant a few rows to determine their productivity. That was the beginning of growing soybeans for beans rather than for hay or forage. As early as 1914 Morse made a journey through the southeastern US to study the feasibility of cottonseed mills launching a soybean crushing industry. But he found that the time was not yet ripe. He soon became head of the USDA Office of Soybean Investigations and was in charge of developing soybean varieties in the 12 midwest states and the southern states. He visited each state at least once a year to inspect the progress.
Many of the important early articles on soybeans and soyfoods in America were written by Piper and Morse. Piper's first article on soy was the 16-page "Soy Beans," published in 1909 with co-author H.T. Nielsen. The only mention of soybeans as foods stated that "Their flavor, however, does not commend them to Caucasian appetites and thus far they have found that small favor as food in either Europe or America." Piper also noted that they had been tested as a forage crop at most of the state agricultural experiment stations in the southeastern US. In 1910 Piper and Morse co-authored "The Soybean: History, Varieties, and Field Studies," an 84-page booklet; it contained no mention of food uses. This was Morse's first publication on soy. Piper went to India in 1911 and, among other things, brought back to the US 108 varieties of soybeans from different parts of the country. In 1912 Morse wrote "The Soy Bean: A Valuable Leguminous Crop for the North," his first article on soy written alone. Then in 1914 Piper wrote "The Name of the Soy Bean: A Chapter in its Botanical History," in the Journal of the American Society of Agronomy. And in 1916 they co-authored "The Soybean with Special Reference to its Utilization for Oil, Cake, and Other Products." Other of Morse's early writings included "Soybeans for the South" (1916), "Harvesting Soybean Seed" (1917), "The Soybean Industry in the United States "(1918), and "The Soy Bean: Its Culture and Uses" (1918). In the latter article he wrote:
Until 1916 the soy bean had been used but little in the US for food and only as a special diet for persons requiring foods of a low starch content. Much interest has been shown in the last two years in the possibilities of the soy bean for food. The USDA and many schools of domestic cookery and science have conducted successful experiments in utilizing the dried beans in the manner of navy beans and green beans when three-fourths to full grown as a green vegetable. The variety and palatability of the forms in which the bean can be served make it a very desirable article of food, and undoubtedly it will grow in favor as it becomes better known. Soy-bean meal and flour may be used as a constituent of bread and muffin and in pastry. Soy oil is utilized to a very considerable extent in Europe and America for culinary purposes.
A definite change in attitude toward soyfoods had taken place since Piper's first article nine years earlier. Between 1914 and 1929 Morse also wrote numerous articles on other crop plants including azuki beans, alfalfa seeds, hyacinth beans, cowpeas, velvet beans, mung beans, peanuts, and hay.
The Soybean (1923). By far the most important fruit of Piper and Morse's joint writing efforts was their classic, The Soybean, published in 1923 by McGraw-Hill and reprinted (unrevised) in 1943 by Peter Smith Publishers. (As of 1981 the book was still in print and available from Peter Smith, 6 Lexington Ave., Magnolia, MA 01930.) Written one year before any records were even kept of soybean production in America, this 329-page work covers every aspect of the subject and includes a 40-page chapter with 26 photographs from East Asia (many taken by Frank N. Meyer, see Chapter 31) on "Soybean products for Human Food," plus an additional 20 pages of Western-style soyfoods recipes (developed by the USDA Office of Home Economics in Washington, D.C.), and a most valuable bibliography containing 500 entries on all aspects of the soybean, including most of the earliest English-language research papers on soyfoods published before 1922. It is truly remarkable that the authors were able to write such a complete and detailed book when neither of them had been to East Asia. Most of the book was actually written by Morse who, nevertheless, kindly listed Piper as the senior author. He gathered his information and photographs by extensive correspondence with researchers throughout East Asia, including USDA Plant Explorer Frank N. Meyer, who provided many photographs. Morse also apparently drew heavily on a large collection of books on Chinese agriculture called the Swingle Collection, named after Walter T. Swingle of the Office of Crop Physiology. Swingle spoke Chinese, had traveled in East Asia collecting plants and the books, and had housed his collection at the USDA library, where Morse did much of his research.
In The Soybean, as in his previous writings, Morse showed his keen interest in the history of the soybean and soyfoods, and his clear recognition of the importance of understanding the history of a subject if one wishes to understand the subject deeply. Morse was the West's first soy historian, and he must have spent a great deal of time tracking down early documents and citations in writing the excellent historical sections of his book, including "Botanical History of the Soybean" (8 pages) and "Agricultural History of the Soybean" (in all major areas of the world, 20 pages). Packed with early information, meticulously accurate, and carefully balanced in presentation, The Soybean can be read over and over, with new insights and perspectives gained on each reading. Decades ahead of its time, it soon became the standard work on the subject and was referred to by many as "the soybean bible."
Tribute to Piper. Dr. Piper died on ?? February 1926 at the age of 59. Speaking later that year at the seventh annual field meeting of the American Soybean Association, Morse said of his friend and mentor:
I wish to pay a brief tribute to a man who, more than two decades ago, very frequently prophesied that the soybean would, in the not distant future, be one of the major farm crops, especially in the eastern half of the country . . . Piper was responsible for the many hundreds of introductions received from the soybean regions of the Orient. Not only was Dr. Piper interested in the development of new varieties, and he held this of greatest importance, but he also urged a greater utilization of the soybean, as an oil crop, for human food in various forms, and a more general use for pasturage and forage purposes. We of the Association owe much to Dr. Piper and I know of no greater tribute to the man than to carry on his work and fulfill his prophesy.
Morse's fine work was already starting to give real substance to Piper's dream. In 1920, Morse helped to found the American Soybean Association (ASA) and thereafter helped to unify and direct an ongoing program of research and experimentation. He distributed seed from new introductions to anyone interested in soybeans. Among his closest contacts at the state agricultural experiment stations were W.L. Burlison and J.C. Hackleman in Illinois and C.B. Williams in North Carolina. As late as 1927, most soybean agronomy research was still done on plots in Washington, D.C. outside the USDA south building. Morse sent out seeds to the states but farmers had problems; the seeds shattered at maturity, were hard to harvest and were abrasive on the binder canvas in those days before combines. Thus in the early years the tide of interest in soybeans ebbed and flowed. Doubters were always ready to laugh at anyone who talked of the soybean becoming a major US farm crop. But this only served to spur Morse on to greater efforts.
From about 1912 until he retired Morse constantly cultivated contacts with people interested in soybeans and soyfoods across America and around the world. He was a very effective extension worker with a deep knowledge of his subject, an intuition that others trusted, and a manner that others liked. He would send out seed samples and USDA publications, answer questions and ask questions, help people with their problems and encourage their work. His desk at the USDA soon became a clearinghouse for information about soybeans and soyfoods, and eventually he found himself at the center of a worldwide network of fellow soy pioneers.
Expanding soybean production in America was his early first priority. In 1927 (Ref??) he wrote: "We must keep this work going and place the soybean where it belongs--in the `King' row with King Corn and King Cotton." Little did he imagine at that time how America would succeed at this task.
The Dorsett-Morse Expedition to East Asia. By the late 1920s it became evident that the soybean had great potential as a new farm crop in America. Production was increasing very rapidly and soybean acreage was expanding into new regions of the country. This growth was seen, by 1928 (Ref??), as "one of the outstanding developments in the recent history of American agriculture." And the introduction of new soybean varieties from East Asia was considered a major factor in this success. In 1928 the USDA Bureau of Plant Industry's Office of Foreign Plant Introduction decided to send W.J. Morse and P. H. Dorsett to East Asia for two years on what was officially known as the Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition, but which people interested in soybeans nowadays often call the "Morse Expedition."
The expedition had two principal objectives: "First, to round up, insofar as possible, the work of observation, investigation and seed collection of desirable varieties, strains, etc. of the SOYBEANS in the Orient, and also to secure data and photographs not alone of field operations but also of practices and methods of the utilization of the soybeans for food and all other by-products, especially those industrial. Second, to study the persimmon industry of the Orient . . . " (Dorsett and Morse 1929, p 9.). More specifically, the expedition hoped to find early maturing soybeans for the northwest and the Corn Belt (where the corn borer was doing big damage), and drought-resistant soybeans for the southwest (where the boll weevil was wrecking new havoc). In addition they hoped to find high-oil soybean varieties for America's new soybean oil industry and low-oil varieties to feed to hogs, as well as new soybean germplasm (seeds containing a variety of genes) that would be resistant to the gradually increasing leaf, stem and root diseases in America.
In addition to soybeans (domesticated and wild) and persimmons, the expedition also did some investigation of various other plants, including kudzu, bamboo (and bamboo wares), azuki and mung beans, cherries, and various forage and green manure crops.
The head of the expedition was Palemon H. Dorsett, Senior Horticulturalist in the USDA Bureau of Plant Industry's Office of Foreign Plant Introduction. Dorsett (1862-1943), 67 years old in 1929 and a native of Illinois, was a veteran plant explorer, a generalist interested mainly in persimmons but also in grasses, forages, and other plants. William J. Morse, by contrast, was a specialist, devoutly interested in soybeans. Age 45 in 1929, Morse had worked on soybeans for the USDA for 22 years and was then Senior Agronomist in the Office of Forage Crop Investigation, Bureau of Plant Industry. Also on the expedition were Morse's wife, Edna, his daughter, Margaret (age 7), and Dorsett's daughter-in-law, Ruth (Bobbie). The widow of Dorsett's son, she served as Dorsett's secretary and general helper. The group's main contact in Washington, D.C. was Mr. Knowles A. Ryerson, Senior Horticulturalist in charge of Foreign Plant Introduction, in the USDA Bureau of Plant Industry.
This was not the first expedition to East Asia to collect soybeans. Frank N. Meyer, the great plant explorer working with the USDA Office of Plant Introduction, had made four major expeditions, primarily to Manchuria and China, between 1905 and 1918, repeatedly risking his life to send back many varieties of plants, including soybeans. In June 1918 he mysteriously vanished at night from a Yangtze River steamer and was found drowned. P.H. Dorsett and his son James H. Dorsett had made a very important expedition to northeastern China and Manchuria (and briefly to Sumatra and Java) from July 1924 to January 1927. They had sent back nearly 1,500 soybean types and P.H. had written a booklet "Plant Hunting in Northeastern China."(Ref??) The Dorsett-Morse expedition was the last visit to China for the express purpose of collecting soybeans prior to September 1980, when Dr. Theodore Hymowitz of the University of Illinois went.
On 18 February 1929 the party of five left Washington D.C. by train, bound for San Francisco, via Los Angeles. Loaded with over 2,400 pounds of gear, including still and motion cameras, herbarium presses, portable typewriters and the like, all packed into more than 18 army locker trunks,they expected to be gone for 2-3 years. Buoyant in spirits, Dorsett wrote Wm. A. Taylor, head of the Bureau of Plant Industry, "Morse and I are going to have the time of our lives." Taylor called it "one of the best equipped and most important expeditions we have undertaken." On 1 March 1929 the group sailed from San Francisco, via Honolulu, to Japan, arriving in Yokohama on March 18.
Proceeding immediately to Tokyo the group took rooms in the prestigious Imperial Hotel and set up headquarters there. They built a dark room (for developing their own film) and a laboratory, work bench, and shelves in an office/work room that they rented. They hired an interpreter, Mr. Suyetake, who proved to be extremely helpful to them during the next two years, and who developed a strong interest in soybeans and soyfoods.
During the expedition, Morse and Dorsett kept detailed daily journal notebooks. Morse's was handwritten in pencil in numerous pocket-sized notebooks, dating from 20 May 1929 to February 1931. The more important daily observations were typed into a daily report, written by Dorsett when the two men were together and individually when they were apart. They also sent to Washington a Quarterly Field Trip Report, itemizing expenses and daily itineraries. Almost daily they took black and white photographs, and occasionally black and white or color motion pictures. Dorsett was an expert photographer. They developed the black and white still and motion pictures themselves and incorporated the stills into the typed log, each numbered and with a detailed caption, to illustrate the events of the day they were taken. The movies were sent back to Washington, to be viewed by USDA officials and at American Soybean Association meetings. Whenever possible, they collected soybeans and other plant seeds, scions, and herbarium specimens, as well as samples of hundreds of different types of soyfoods. Each was carefully labeled with an inventory card, and periodically packed in parcels, and shipped to Washington. A seasonal cycle evolved in Morse's work. From April to October he studied soybean culture, from planting to harvest, then during the winter he studied soybean processing and collected soyfood products. Year round he visited soybean specialists and agricultural experiment stations and colleges.
In late May, after several months work in Tokyo, Morse and family took a ten-day trip to Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island and principal soybean production region, to make a brief study of the soybean situation there and to plan for a longer trip later in the season. After 3-1/2 more months in Tokyo, during which time Morse first learned about the extensive use of soybeans as a green vegetable in Japan, the entire expedition went to Hokkaido in mid-August. In Sapporo they set up headquarters (darkroom and all), then stayed until early October, visiting all of the principal places where soybeans were being grown or studied. They visited the Obihiro Station where extensive soybean breeding work was being done, collected hundreds of new soybean varieties, and learned a lot about soybean culture, harvesting, threshing, and pests. They also spent two days in Sakhalin. On the way back to Tokyo they spent a week visiting the major soybean growing areas of northeastern Japan.
A few days after arriving in Tokyo, they left for Korea (then a Japanese territory called Chosen) and set up headquarters in Seoul (Keijo). Arriving after the harvest they studied threshing, cleaning, grading, shipping, and utilization. They were amazed at the extent to which soybeans were grown in Korea and at the large number of native Korean varieties being grown and tested at Japanese experiment stations. They collected over 1,000 soybean samples and did extensive studies of Korean soyfoods.
After six weeks in Korea, they returned to Tokyo, arriving December 8. From late December until late March, Morse and Suyetake put in full time collecting hundreds of Japanese soyfoods of all types, photographing them, and learning about how they were made and used. In his journals and letters Morse wrote more than once that he was "amazed at the extent to which the soybean was used for food in Japan." In addition to tofu, miso, natto, shoyu, soy nuggets, and yuba, they found hundreds of samples of confections and snacks made from roasted soy flour and/or dry roasted soynuts. There were almost no references to soymilk, however, nor to tasting or eating any of these soyfoods. Yet the descriptions of them, taking hundreds of pages of typed text with hundreds of photographs, provide a unique record of soyfoods in Japan in 1930. At the end of their stay in Japan, Dorsett wrote: "Our year spent in Japan was most delightfully pleasant. It is a remarkably interesting and beautiful country and we were successful in getting a nice lot of plant material and much valuable information, as well as a fine lot of motion and still pictures."
As planting time was approaching in Manchuria, the expedition (including Mr. Suyetake) left Tokyo and arrived by steamer in Dairen on 1 April 1930. Manchuria was then the world's leading soybean producing and crushing country and Dairen, in the Japanese Kwantung Leased Territory, was the country's leading port and soybean crushing and shipping center. Shortly after they set up headquarters in Dairen, Dorsett became very ill with double pneumonia, and remained in critical condition in a local hospital, often delirious and near death, for two months. Morse was deeply worried and Dorsett recovered only slowly. Using Dairen as a radiating point, Morse made short trips to many Japanese-run agricultural experiment stations and Manchurian peasant farms; he studied soybean planting, cultivation, and crushing practices, and wrote the daily log. In late June Morse took a quick 1-week trip to north Korea, via Mukden (Shenyang) and Antung (Tan-Tung), to collect Zoysia grass seeds and plants.
On 20 July 1930 Morse, now back in Dairen, wrote a long letter to Dr. W.L. Burlison and the American Soybean Growers Association, giving a fine summary of the expedition's work and important findings with soybeans to date. After describing the huge amounts of soybean oil and cake produced in Manchuria, he noted that he had expected to find numerous products made from soybeans, oil, and meal, but was disappointed to find very few, aside from small amounts of oil-derived products such as soaps, paints, and lard substitutes, which were made by only a very few companies. He later wrote: "I am positive that our best oil yielding beans will come from Manchuria." History has proven him correct (Bernard and Nelson 1982).
In late July the expedition was split up, at the suggestion of Mr. Ryerson in Washington. Dorsett, Ruth, and Peter Liu (their interpreter) went to Peking (then called Peiping), while Morse and family, and Mr. Suyetake stayed in Dairen. In southern and central Manchuria they continued their extensive studies of all aspects of the soybean production and processing industries, and their collection of soybeans.
In late August Morse took a third trip to Korea, this time for 5 weeks, staying mainly in the north and studying the harvest and many other aspects of the soybean industry. The trip was a great success. He wrote: "With all the data and pictures collected on the soybean in Korea I think I could write a nice little book rather than a bulletin." He then returned to Manchuria just in time to catch the harvest.
On October 20 Morse and party left Manchuria by train to join Dorsett in Peking, where he spent 19 intense days. Since he had missed the soybean harvest, he spent most of his time studying Chinese soyfoods and their production: tofu, soymilk, soy sprouts, soybean jiang, and soy sauce. Dorsett also did some collecting of soybeans in China (including wild soybeans) before and after Morse's visit. The expedition's collection efforts, based on months of tramping through the fields and marketplaces of East Asia, and on obtaining extensive help in seed collection from agricultural experiment stations, were a bonanza. They discovered that almost every village had its own distinctive soybean varieties, developed during thousands of years of close cultivation and inbreeding. While they collected the many new, improved varieties being developed by Japanese-run experiment stations, they also came to realize that most traditional East Asian peasants and farmers didn't think of looking for improved varieties in nearby villages and then growing these in their own village. They loyally grew the varieties that had been handed down by their honorable ancestors, and wouldn't dream of growing a variety handed down by someone else's ancestors.
On 9 November 1930 Morse and party returned to Dairen. In love with his work, Morse was eager to complete his investigations on the threshing, cleaning, shipping, handling, and storage of soybeans, and also on the soybean crushing industry of Manchuria, including the extraction, storage, shipping, and utilization of soy oil and, to a lesser extent, soybean meal. In early December Morse spent six freezing days visiting and traveling to and from Harbin in north Manchuria, mainly to study the transportation of soybeans by carts over frozen rivers and roads to grain merchants at shipping centers. By this time his work of investigating the Manchurian was becoming increasingly embarrassing, for the United States had just passed heavy import duties on soybean oil and meal; Manchuria feared that America would soon greatly reduce its imports of soybeans and products, and also export these to Europe, thus damaging Manchuria's European trade.
On December 21, 1930, after about eight months in Manchuria and China, Morse and party returned to Japan, where they studied tests of feeding soybean cake to livestock, Hatcho miso, light-colored (usukuchi) shoyu, and miso pickling (especially sliced beef preserved in sweet white miso). Concerning this latter food, Morse wrote Dorsett: "Just recently I had some white miso preserved beef that had been broiled. It was delicious and if I had been blind-folded I would have said it was sugar-cured ham from our Southern States." This was Morse's only comment on the taste of soyfoods during the entire expedition. In Tokyo, Suyetake and Morse translated numerous Japanese publications describing the soybean and soyfoods industries throughout the Japanese Empire (Japan, Korea, Manchuria, Taiwan/Formosa). By mid-February 1931, Morse felt content that he had completed his work and even "reached the saturation point on Oriental soybeans." Moreover, America's booming soybean producing and crushing industries were calling.
On February 17, just two years after they had left Washington, the party sailed for America, arriving in San Francisco on 4 March 1931. Morse looked forward to seeing the many advances made with soybeans in America during his absence and to having time alone at his home in Takoma Park to begin the immense task of writing up the contents of his notebooks into official reports. The Dorsett party returned home separately, leaving Peking on March 15, and sailing from Shanghai on March 27. Dorsett was disappointed that his plans to spend another year in Hong Kong, Canton, Taiwan, and north central China had not been approved.
The two-year trip was a tremendous adventure for both Morse and Dorsett. Morse later remarked that he considered it the highlight of his career. He was finally able to fully grasp the great potential of the soybean, which he had only been able to glimpse through his years of reading and work in America. During the expedition a strong friendship and deep mutual respect grew up between Morse and Dorsett, 22 years his senior. Two letters from Dorsett in Peking, written to Morse toward the end of the journey, capture the spirit of their camaraderie and work:
This is a glorious work throughout, and happy and fortunate is the young man who is given such work to do. America today, perhaps, owes her agricultural supremacy directly and indirectly more to agricultural explorations than to any other one agency. Such work is not only of great economic importance, but is also romantic almost to the extreme.
17 August 1930, Peiping, China
In the past two years we have seen much, learned a lot, accumulated much interesting and valuable data, and made many pictures. I gamble, dear fellow and friend, that it has been the most interesting, greatest, and grandest two years of your life.
Please, Morse, listen to one who has been through the experience and do not continue your present pace until you board the ship.
7 February 1931, Peiping, China.
The written and photographic records of the Dorsett-Morse Expedition provide the most complete and detailed information available in English (perhaps in any language except Japanese) on the status of soybeans and soyfoods in East Asia during the late 1920s and early 1930s. The official typewritten log of the expedition comprises 17 hardcover volumes and about 6,100 pages (numbered though not consecutive), that occupy some 3 feet of shelf space. Soy-related material comprises roughly 40% of the total: there is also much official correspondence. On the trip Dorsett and Morse took 3,369 black-and-white photos, and about 90% of these, many large and superb, appear in the Log. The first six volumes of the Log are indexed. The original copy of the Log and of Morse's handwritten notebooks is in the archives of the American Soybean Association (ASA) in St. Louis, Missouri. . . a great treasure. The ASA also has two 8-millimeter microfilms of the Log and The Soyfoods Center has the only known photocopy of the Log (made from a microfilm). The location of the many black-and-white and color moving pictures taken on the expedition is unknown??.
In ten or fifteen places throughout the Log there is reference to a "special report on the soybean and its products" that Morse intended to write after the expedition. On the day before he left Japan, Morse wrote: "At odd times I have been raking over the accumulation of data collected in Japan, Korea, Hokkaido, and Manchuria and written up tentative outlines, which I want to revise somewhat (on the ship) going back." In late 1932 or 1933, Morse did write one of these special reports, titled Soybeans in Manchuria. Containing 177 pages, 176 photographs (taken from the Log) and 26 tables. it presented in detail all that he had learned about all aspects of the soybean industries of Manchuria. (It is now located at the end of the Log and its microfiches and photocopies, as are ten additional short reports by Dorsett on persimmons and other plants.) In addition, between 1941 and 1951, Morse wrote various short articles for Soybean Digest about certain subjects studied on his trip; ancient Chinese planting times (March 1941), soyfoods (July 1941), marketing and storage of soybeans in Manchuria (January 1944), soybeans in Japan (January and April 1945, letters written from Tokyo in 1929 and 1930, to be read at annual meetings of the American Soybean Association), the future of vegetable-type soybeans (September 1945), and English translation of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese soybean names (January 1951). He also summarized key points and included photos in a chapter on "History of Soybean Production" in Markley's Soybean and Soybean Products (1950). Unfortunately, however, Morse was never able to find the time to write the in-depth reports he had planned to on soybeans and soyfoods in Japan and Manchuria. Thus many of the details of what he learned lie buried in his handwritten notebooks. One reason that Morse never found the time he needed to write was that, shortly before his return from Japan, his trusted friend and right hand man in Forage Crops, Charlie Lee, had died. Lee had carried on all Morse's soybean work at Arlington Farm in his absence. Morse was overcome with sorrow (and with work) at this great loss. In addition he got swept up in the growth of the US soybean producing and processing industries, and did not have adequate assistance in the extensive work required of him. Eventually. he decided to write his precious reports after he retired. He (Rep??) did complete some chapters, but they never reached the stage of publication.
In addition to its important publications and photographs, the expedition also had other major accomplishments: (1) Morse and Dorsett collected 4,578 distinct soybean seed samples, representing roughly 2,000 soybean varieties and types. Of these, 73.8% came from Korea, 12.6% from Japan, 11.2% from Manchuria, and only 2.4% from China. Most of these were yellow-seeded soybeans (straw yellow 63.6% of total, olive yellow 7.6%) and a fair number were black (11.3%), green (6.4%), or brown (4.8%). Among these were 150 large-seeded vegetable-type varieties collected mostly in Korea and Japan (Morse 1933; Probst and Judd 1973). All of these were introduced via the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction, then distributed among plant breeders at the USDA and at state agricultural experiment stations in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys; (2) they collected and shipped back to America more than 250 food products made from soybeans (some stunk mightily upon arrival) and did by far the most extensive investigations on soyfoods production by any Westerners up to that time; (3) Morse realized for the first time the superiority and potential of vegetable-type soybeans for food use and later played the leading role in propagating them and teaching others of their value; and (4) he developed a much better understanding of soybean growing and crushing methods, and of their respective technologies. By the end of the expedition, Morse certainly knew more about the entire subject of soybeans and soyfoods than anyone in the US, and probably more than anyone in the world.
The Dorsett-Morse Expedition to East Asia was a landmark in the history of research on soybeans and soyfoods, as well as in the history of agricultural exploration. Interestingly, the total cost of the two-year journey was about $24,000 (roughly $150,000 in 1984 dollars)--a real bargain.
Morse as a Person. Morse returned to America in March 1931 with great enthusiasm and interest in transmitting to America all that he had learned in East Asia. He was now a principal agronomist at the USDA Bureau of Plant Industry. With the stage set for the fruition of years of work and research that would transform the place of the soybean in the Western world, let us pause for a minute to ask, "What kind of a man was Bill Morse?"
In appearance, he was tall and lean, with a kind face and soft features. Farmers all over America, with whom he had met and talked in their fields, might remember his baggy suspendered pants, loose tie, and slouched hat . . . and his great interest in their problems and successes. George Strayer, editor for 27 years of the American Soybean Association Soybean Digest, who had known Morse since 1927 said of him: "He was a quiet, unassuming, yet brilliant fellow, not particularly dynamic as a speechmaker, but intensely interested in seeing soybeans progress. He would sit up half the night talking with people about soybeans and soyfoods" (1981, personal communication). An article by Mary Burr Pieters in the September 1944 Soybean Digest described Morse as "modest and retiring but sure and right as rain . . . He studied, he traveled, he toiled, he experimented--he exhorted--and the result of all of this singleness of purpose and devotion surely borders on fantastic." The records of the USDA contain many statements by his superiors indicating good reasons for the success of his work: "A most able man, highly efficient and productive--painstaking and industrious." . . . "brought about the use of the soybean as a human food in this country." . . . "has marked ability in obtaining enthusiastic and harmonious cooperation." Edward J. Dies, his close colleague, described him in Gold from the Soil as "heedless of material gain or personal honor, shy, modest, agreeable, and easy going, but with the repressed intensity of a crusader." Martin G. Weiss, who worked under Morse for many years and succeeded him when Morse retired said of him: "He was a kindly man, always willing to encourage and give moral support to his subordinates. He was loved by all, and his employees worked hard--they never wished to disappoint him" (1981, personal communication). His daughter Margaret described him in 1980 by saying: "He was a gentle, soft-spoken person, who liked others and they liked him. He liked to tease, and the secretaries at his office all loved it. He was a very easy person to get along with; he was slow to anger and never cursed. He wasn't aggressive; where some might push, he would give in. He was intelligent. His work came first. He was not financially ambitious." Morse's friends and co-workers all called him "Bill," his wife and family called him "Will," but in the trade many called him "Dr. or Professor Morse" (even though he did not have a PhD or an honorary degree), partially out of respect for his great knowledge and partially because he worked with and even directed the work of many people with PhD degrees.
If Morse had any weak point as a person, it was probably that he kept his problems bottled up inside him. He was a rather heavy cigarette smoker. His daughter remarked that "If anything upset him, he didn't let it out on his fellow workers." During World Was II he was under a lot of pressure, with hundreds of people coming to him for information. In 1943-44 he found that he had developed an ulcer. He had to go on a bland, soft diet and eventually lost quite a lot of weight.
Later Years (1931-59). After returning from East Asia, Morse was more interested than ever in soyfoods, and much of the subsequent increasing interest in America derived from his efforts. He expanded his work with the USDA office of Home Economics in Washington, D.C. and interested researchers in the Department of Home Economics at the University of Illinois in getting involved with research on soyfoods, especially on utilization of the large-seeded vegetable-type soybeans he had brought back from East Asia. He encouraged development of soyfoods recipes suited to American tastes and talked a lot about soyfoods at American Soybean Association meetings and many other gatherings. Working with others, he was largely responsible for the development of soy flour and grits. One entire wall of Morse's Washington office was covered with floor to ceiling shelves, filled with soyfood samples from East Asia; another was covered with Japanese maps, posters, and a raft of packed file cabinets. In September 1932, as part of the annual meeting of the American Soybean Association, he organized an exhibition of soyfoods from around the world, including many then produced in America and those he had brought back from East Asia.
Except for Dr. Harry Miller, Morse was probably the first soy researcher in America to make soyfoods a regular part of his diet. While in East Asia, he and his family had become very fond of Oriental cooking, and especially of soyfoods, and they enjoyed them often after returning to America. Of the many recipes they brought back from the Orient, Morse's favorite was Sukiyaki. He built a low Sukiyaki table with a hot plate on top and cushions around it on the floor in his home and at every opportunity would invite over guests to serve them his specialty--which of course featured tofu and sprouts. He also liked to take family and friends out to a good Chinese or Japanese restaurant. The family enjoyed using soy flour when making breads, muffins, or waffles. Morse's mother liked to cook him fresh green soybeans and his wife regularly fixed him her favorite Boston Baked Soybeans. Morse loved soymilk ice cream; in February 1948 American Magazine ran a full-page photo of him happily eating it. He also regularly enjoyed tofu, soymilk (plain and acidophilus), and soymilk yogurt, and these foods became increasingly important in his largely meatless diet after he found he had an ulcer. In fact he once told George Strayer that, with his ulcer, he felt these soyfoods had greatly extended his life and good health. He apparently did not make his own tofu or soymilk, since they were readily available at a nearby health food store run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Morse also actively continued his soybean selection and propagation work at the Arlington Farms. He realized more than ever that if soybeans were to become a national crop, hundreds of different varieties, adaptable to different latitudes, soils, and climates, would have to be found and developed by breeding. He was especially interested in working with farmers and the USDA to stimulate research and development on the vegetable-type soybeans, which had been little more than a curiosity prior to his trip to East Asia. While Morse was the first to popularize the vegetable-type soybeans, he was not the first to introduce them. The variety Easycook (which took less than half as long as most field-type soybeans to become tender after boiling) was introduced to the US in 1894 and the Hahto was introduced in 1915. Morse mentioned both of these in The Soybean in 1923 but did not mention the term "vegetable-type soybeans," and was apparently unaware of their significance. Many of the vegetable-type soybeans that Morse brought back from East Asia were grown out and, starting in 1934, distributed to various state agricultural experiment stations for trial.
Up until 1928 Morse, in charge of soybean research, had been the only USDA employee working full time in this field. In 1928 the USDA hired a second full-time soybean researcher, Jackson L. Cartter (born in 1902) who had just graduated with a Masters Degree from Iowa State College. From 1928-1933 Cartter did soybean research on a farm in Holgate, Ohio that was managed by the Ohio Experiment Station. From 1933-1936 Cartter worked directly under Morse at the USDA Experiment Station, Arlington Farm, Virginia; he tested, grew out, and classified many of the soybeans from Morse's Asia trip. In 1936 Cartter helped to organize the US Regional Soybean Laboratory at the University of Illinois. That year he became the first director of its agronomic division and was placed in charge of the soybean breeding program for the 12 midwestern states; he studied the soybean's oil and protein composition, and served as director of the entire laboratory from 1942 until his retirement in 1965.
Unfortunately the long term results of Morse's collection efforts in East Asia are not what they might have been. It was estimated in 1980 that only 25,000 acres of the 70.1-million-acre US soybean crop were planted in vegetable-type soybeans, a mere 0.04% of the total. They have never become popular here for various reasons; they give 20-30% lower per-acre yields than field-type soybeans, tend to shatter easily at maturity and are thus hard to harvest, and consequently sell for 12-18% more than other soybeans. If they were less expensive, large amounts would probably be used in East Asia to make tofu, soymilk, tempeh, and miso by producers who already buy their beans from America. Moreover, in the US only about 11,350 tonnes of soybeans (a mere 0.02% of the total US crop) are used directly as food in a lightly processed form that allows the virtues of the vegetable-type beans (better flavor and texture, higher protein, larger seeds) to shine through. About half of the US vegetable-type soybeans are exported to soyfoods producers in Japan and Europe and half are used for American soyfoods. The major uses, in order of importance, are for tofu, soynuts, soymilk, whole canned (mature) soybeans, and tempeh.
If we look at the varieties of commercial (field type) soybeans grown in the US in 1980, virtually all of their major ancestors were first introduced into the US prior to 1927, and the majority prior to 1914, by explorers like Dorsett and Meyer, and by missionaries commissioned by the USDA to collect seeds. Thus unfortunately, rather limited material collected from Morse is now part of the US soybean germplasm pool.
Bill Morse was a strong supporter of the American Soybean Association. He was at the founding meeting in 1920 and was elected president three times (1924, 1925, and 1932). Pioneer soybean grower E.F. "Soybean" Johnson later said that "for many years the ASA existed mainly through Morse's untiring efforts" (Ref/Rep??). He was the mainspring that kept the clock ticking year after year through good times and bad. In 1944 George Strayer said: "Morse might be called the "daddy" of the American Soybean Association as well as of the soybean in America, since our organization has probably leaned on him more than any other man through the years. He has always been a guiding light and missed few if any meetings (except 1929-31 when he was in Asia). It is doubtful if anyone can equal his record" (Ref/Rep??).
In September 1946 Morse and his co-worker W.L. Burlison were the first two men to be elected honorary life members of the ASA. The same year, the USDA gave Morse a superior service award. Burlison, the brilliant head of the Department of Agronomy at the University of Illinois, was as dedicated to expanding the soybean crop as Morse was. George Strayer later said of Burlison: "He was a dynamic man, who made things happen. Having contrasting temperaments but the same goals, he and Morse made a good pair. Burlison had to adapt what Morse had learned in East Asia to America, to the new age of mechanized farming" (1981, personal communication).
Morse was a highly competent researcher and a prolific writer. Between 1910 and 1950 he wrote some 87 articles and bulletins on soybeans and soyfoods, including his book The Soybean . . . in addition to making hundreds of speeches. Many of his articles appeared in publications of the American Soybean Association. He was editor of the Association's first publication in 1928 entitled Proceedings of the American Soybean Association, which contained 192 pages of papers given at the annual ASA conferences between 1925 and 1927. He contributed several papers to this volume: "The Distribution of Soybeans in the US" (1926) and "The Present Outlook of the Soybean Industry in the US" (1927). He was also a frequent contributor to the Soybean Digest, which the ASA started in November 1940. The first article on soyfoods run by the Digest was an article by Morse about vegetable-type fresh green soybeans entitled "Shanghaied . . . A Super Food" (July 1941). His second article was also on vegetable-type soybeans, "Soys in Food: Future of Vegetable Varieties" (Sept. 1945). In 1951 he wrote "What's in a Name," describing the significance of the poetic names given to varieties of soybeans in East Asia (Rep??). He also contributed to a number of anthologies. In 1950 he wrote a 57-page chapter entitled "History of Soybean Production" in Markley's excellent Soybeans and Soybean Products, again indicating his lifelong interest in history.
In November 1949, when Morse retired after 42 years of service, he was known throughout the world, but especially in the US and East Asia, for his work on soybeans and soyfoods. In 1907, when he started work, the soybean was such a small crop that no records of its production were kept. It was estimated that less than 50,000 acres were grown in America. One measure of the success of his work is the amazing expansion of the crop from about 2 million bushels in 1919 to 9.4 million in 1929, 91 million in 1939, and 200 million in 1949. Bill Morse would be the first to object to the simplistic notion that any man or even small group of men was primarily responsible for this great progress. But many of the hundreds of agronomists, farmers, researchers, plant scientists, food processors, and industrialists who were responsible acknowledge their debt of inspiration and encouragement to Morse.
On retirement Morse turned his work over to Martin G. Weiss, a professor of plant breeding and genetics from Iowa State University. From his home in Takoma Park, D.C., where he had lived since 1917, Morse moved to Eastchester, New York, next door to his daughter, Margaret, who had accompanied him on the trip to East Asia. During the last 10 years of his life he worked from time to time on his book on soyfoods (which, very unfortunately, he never finished), did a lot of reading and gardening (he planted his own vegetable type soybeans and enjoyed them each spring as fresh green soybeans or, later in the season, as mature cooked soybeans), and kept in active touch with the world of soybeans and soyfoods through many visitors and an extensive correspondence. He continued to enjoy soyfoods in his home meals.
On the morning of 30 July 1959, at age 75, William J. Morse died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Eastchester, New York. His wife had died 6 months earlier.
The work of Bill Morse runs like a bright thread through the whole tapestry of soybean and soyfood development in the Western world. We can pay no greater tribute to the man than to carry on his work and help fulfill his dream.