History of the National Grange
The National Grange started in 1867 as a farmer's cooperative to fight the domination of big banks and railroads. Seven men co-founded the Grange: Oliver Hudson Kelley, William Saunders, Francis M. McDowell, John Trimble, Aaron B. Grosh, John R. Thompson, and William M. Ireland
President Andrew Johnson sent Oliver Hudson Kelley to the South to collect agricultural data. As a Northerner, Kelley met with suspicion. However, he was a Freemason, an affiliation that overcame sectional differences. Kelley saw the need for an organization that would bring farmers together and advance their interests. After consultations with the other founders, the Grange was born in 1867. The first Grange was Potomac Grange #1 in Washington, D.C., still extant to this day.
Membership in the Grange increased dramatically from 1873 (200,000) to 1875 (858,050) as many of the state and local granges adopted non-partisan political resolutions, especially regarding the regulation of railroad transportation costs. The organization was unusual at this time in that it allowed women and teens as equal members. In fact, four of the sixteen elected positions can only be held by women.
In the middle of the 1870s the Granger movement succeeded in regulating the railroads and grain warehouses. The birth of the Cooperative Extension Service, Rural Free Delivery, and the Farm Credit System were largely due to Grange lobbying. The peak of their political power was marked by their success in Munn v. Illinois, which held that the grain warehouses were a "private utility in the public interest", and therefore could be regulated by public law. Other significant Grange causes included temperance, the direct election of Senators, and women's suffrage (Susan B. Anthony last public appearance was at the National Grange Convention in 1903). During the Progressive Era of the 1890s to the 1920s political parties took up Grange causes. Consequently, local Granges focused more on community service, although the State and National Granges remain a political force.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, the position of the Grange as a respected organization in the United States was indicated by a membership that included Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, as well as artist Norman Rockwell and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic.
The 11-story landmark National Grange headquarters building in Washington, D.C. was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 29, 1960, and is the only private edifice in a federal block across from the White House. It serves as a non-governmental headquarters for agricultural and rural families. A professional staff administers policies established annually by democratic Grange processes at local county, and state levels.
National Grange Headquarters Building • 1616 H St. NW • Washington, DC 20006. Built in 1957 - The original headquarters was located on Lafayette Park. The National Grange Website