This organizational chart shows Walter’s Division in the USDA, just a short time before he quit. As the war started winding down, the Department shifted its focus back to its usual beat, boosting the yields and sales of US-grown crops. They also began looking for peacetime uses of technologies developed during the war, including the amazing new lousicide Walter’s group had worked on. Walter didn’t document his thinking about this, but various family stories and some of his publications hint that he wasn’t at all pleased with the idea of spraying DDT on crops. In one paper from 1945, he described the compound as “definitely toxic,” and argued that it might have harmful effects in the environment when used in large quantities for extended periods of time.
By mid-1946, he had left the Department and taken a job with US Industrial Chemicals in Baltimore, where he began working on improving pyrethrum-based insecticides.
This is the official announcement of Walter’s promotion, with additional details about what’s going on in the USDA at the moment. Click for a slightly larger image.
Stationery from the Bellevue Hotel, Washington, DC.
Wed. 8 PM.
My dear Sweetheart,
The train was almost two hours late and it took about that much time to get breakfast. Had to wait in line at the diner for more than 30 min. When I reported at Dr. Annand’s office about 11:30 he was in conference, so I did not see him until after lunch.
On the 6th floor Mr. Stage greeted me as “boss,” and Miss Lynch offered congratulations. My room was spick and span with a bouquet of roses which Miss Lynch brought from her home. During the PM most everyone seemed to have the news, which was announced by Dr. Annand last Saturday morning to the division Chiefs’ meeting.
Cushing looks just fine as a Major and he joined me in a conference with Dr. Annand. This had to do with Army & Bureau services, also use of other entomologists in the Army. Saw Rohner and Hoyt in the hall and they were most cordial. Dr. B. came in at 5:30 and welcomed me to the city. This was in the presence of Claudelle. Claudelle and I ate dinner together and she went to Clarendon on a bus. She had parked her car there. Tomorrow she is going to drive in and I will go out there tomorrow night. She is helping find me a house for us, but has no encouragement so far. She asks if we want to buy a place. I’ll see Cushings, but I understand from C. that Deniza wants $100 per month for her place furnished. They can sell OK if they want to. Annand is building a new home and his may be available. I may inquire about it.
Tomorrow morning I have a session in regard to a chemist. Mr. Jones is to meet me and Dr. Haller at Dr. B’s office at 9 AM. If Jones comes to Orlando he will need a house & we may get him to take ours. If he has a suitable one here, we may be interested in it. I’ll inquire, if this is in line with a move for him. If this develops, you may be moving earlier than you had anticipated. I have not had time enough to determine if it will be necessary to make a trip soon. I’ll need several days to get oriented here.
Under the present conditions I think you will like Wash. C has a secret. Please keep to yourself (next Dec.) She looks fine & has a little tan. She is over joyed at our moving here. B.M. is in Gulfport for about a week.
P.S. I am writing Mr. Knipling.
W E DOVE=
BUREAU OF ENTOMOLOGY & PLANT QUARANTINE 415 NORTH
PARRAMORE ST ORLANDO FLO (RX)=
CUSHING LEFT FOR ARMY SERVICE THURSDAY. PROCEED TO WASHINGTON YOUR EARLY CONVENIENCE IN LINE WITH MY CONVERSATION WITH YOU IN ORLANDO. STAGE HANDLING THINGS SATISFACTORILY NOW BUT YOU MAY WISH TO COME HERE BEFORE FINALLY TRANSFERRING YOUR HOUSE HOLD GOODS AND FAMILY. WIRE YOUR PLANS=
P N ANNAND.
The stint in Orlando didn’t last long. Walter has now been promoted to direct the entire USDA Division of Insects Affecting Animals and Man. The Orlando lab is part of that Division, but Walter, Ina, and their boys will now have to move to Washington, DC so Walter can oversee the war-oriented insecticide programs at a higher level.
Tuesday night 2/24-42
My dear Sweetheart,
The money on the repellent project $44800 became available today and things will pick up now. The present work on fumigants including tests with the Army will require approximately 2 weeks. At a conference this PM Dr. Armand is willing for Bruce to complete these. They will wire Bruce tomorrow to come into Wash. & if I can see him first I think the job he now has will be consolidated with ours and he will be my second man at Orlando. Bish has been opposing it to Armand, but Armand had agreed to it several days ago. The situation is that a lot of Bureau men are on the end of a limit due to curtailment & Armand is now looking for places for them. Our work will be filled by transfer within the division except for Mr. Glass & 4 juniors who come from the outside. Cushing will then consider transfers of others to fill temporary places vacated by men who are coming to our projects.
Bishopp is as pale as a ghost. I’ve never seen him looking as badly. I do not know if the merger mentioned in the enclosed clipping has anything to do with it. All divisions of the Bureau were called upon today to stream line their activities in line with war needs and this means that the Bureau of the Budget can then pick out ones to be eliminated or reduced. They seem to be going after it great shape. I believe that the Bureau part is confidential but it would be OK to let Simmons know.
My return ticket is dated the 27th & today is the 24th. I may not be able to get away by that time but I’ll come as soon as Bruce can get here and I can turn this work over to him. I would telephone him tonight but the only news I can get of his present address is the state of Texas. Mrs. Townsend has his itinerary and she had already gone when the conference was over. I could try San Antonio and Dallas, but anyway they can wire him tomorrow morning, and the orders for him to come here will have to come from the office anyway.
Lots of love,
Wednesday Feb. 4
My dear Sweetheart & Boys,
It was great to get two letters from home, so I’m sending another one. It seems ages since I left but it was just one week ago this AM that I arrived here.
Cushing came back on Monday AM and I was glad to see him. He is very helpful on this program, even if I have not yet made any fumigation tests. My first cooperators did not come through because of the effect of the gas on the equipment and the possible danger of releasing it in the city. The quantities are small but it is a tear gas. Arrangements have been made to do the tests at Beltsville where I can borrow from three different places. I borrowed a car from a third office today, and I’ll get it tomorrow. Yesterday I purchased 24 suits of underwear for prisoners of the District jail. They will be exchanged to individuals for ones that I can fumigate.
Annand & Bishopp are at the Memphis meetings, also Prof. Harned at his own expense.
Talked with Hoyt this PM. I called upon him for a little visit. He does not seem like the same one to me. Like the others (Rohner and Spencer) he is strictly in line with Annand & without regard to Strong or the past. I’m disappointed in him, but of course I did not try to draw him out or to ask for anything. A friendly visit regarding the dog fly control & the present work, then he suggested a young man from Colorado for the new work. Wakeland is here and sent word that he wanted to see me. I’ll see him tomorrow and I’ll guess that he mentions the same man. Also Cushing & I are calling on Major Stone tomorrow AM to get some gas masks, & for a conference.
Every division of the Bureau is getting a cut except Man & Animals & it is getting two new projects amounting to $94,000 on defense. Also the dog fly control program is coming back to the Bureau. I am to talk to the Biological Society of Washington on Sat. eve. 8 PM for 35 min. on “dog fly control in N.W. Fla.”
There will be no money for control of salt marsh mosquitoes & sand flies & Dr. Williams is returning to malaria in the USPHS.
Sent Kodak pictures last night. New ones not yet developed.
My dear Ina & Boys,
Yesterday morning we had an air raid drill in the agricultural buildings, which amounted to a concentration of the personnel on certain floors at designated places. There was nothing exciting about it, but some of them seemed to like the idea of being wardens or First Aid people.
Mr. Hall phoned that his neighbor was a secretary to Congressman Sikes & asked if I would join them at noon. We had lunch in the Capitol Bldg. with the Congressman and Mr. Terry Lee the secretary who lives at Marianna. It was a sociable visit with some discussion of the dog fly control work. The Congressman asked if anyone objected to the use of creosote, and I told him that they did not make it known to me. We heard of one unfavorable comment which anticipated the use of creosote but that none was used on such premises. Also told him of the Park Supt. at Santa Rosa who wanted to know if shore birds walking on treated grass would be burned. Mr. Sikes said that not a single complaint had been received by his office, and that he had heard favorable comments on the work. They expect to get a project through for the Bureau.*
Most every research division is to get a cut, except Man & Animals. Prof. Harned expects to be reduced from $145,000 to $120,000. There is much uneasiness in the Bureau. Rumors float about on moving the whole Bureau to Kansas City or somewhere else. They have no instructions to move, but may get them. From what I can hear, Annand is making a lot of changes and they are coming gradually but fast enough to put things on edge. Different ones have told me that my standing was ace high now, with no comments on what it has been. They expect Mr. G to be shorn of most of his projects but do not say in what way. I’ve seen Bish a few times and I’ve never seen him as worried looking as at present.
There is some good news on retirements. Anyone can retire before he is 55 if he has had 15 years service, but will not draw any retirement money until he reaches 55. Then he can get 15/30 of 70% of his regular rate of pay at the time he quits. The rate increases with years of service and one must retire at 62. Dr. B is about 60, so that he could not be in longer than 2 more years. I would expect King Parman and Laake to retire within a couple of years, though I am not certain of their ages.
There will be a memo on the subject of retirement before long & it should give all of the information we want. Until then we have this to think about, and I think it is OK.
With lots of love to all of you.
* Remember, this was a project that involved spraying thousands of gallons of oil and creosote over the beaches near Pensacola. Priorities were different in 1942.
These photos show state-of-the-art insect control in late 1941. Walter and his USDA colleagues had discovered that the dog flies (Stomoxys calcitrans) infesting the Panama City, FL area bred in decaying organic matter along the area’s beaches. To get rid of the flies, the team loaded barges with oil and creosote, then mixed the two petroleum products and sprayed them on the beaches and marsh grasses all along the shore. This sounds completely horrifying by modern environmental standards – the resulting oil slick must have extended for miles – but these were the tools available at the time.