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Descriptive Overview
 
Provenance: Frances DeLaney donated her father's papers to the Joint Collection-St. Louis in April 1983.
 
Citation: Thad Snow Papers [Microfilm], Reel [#], Special Collections and Archives, Southeast Missouri State University.  Originals held by The State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-St. Louis, University of Missouri-St. Louis.
 
Restrictions: Available on microfilm only
 
Related Collections: Southern Tenant Farmers' Union Papers, 1934-1970. [Microform], Kent Library Periodicals, 338.1 So88s
 
Other Locations: This collection is a microfilmed copy of the collection held by The State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-St. Louis, University of Missouri-St. Louis.
 
Biographical Note
Thad Snow was born on November 1, 1881 in Greenfield, Indiana. His father was a moderately successful businessman and the first Republican elected to office in Hancock County.  Thad enjoyed fishing and swimming expeditions with James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoosier poet. Thad and his sister Lena, who was three years his senior, divided their time between reading great books and caring for a menagerie of pets. Her death at age 16, from a medical misdiagnosis of typhoid fever, was the first of several family tragedies to affect Thad deeply.

In his autobiography, From Missouri, Thad recalls that his teen years were spent on drinking, fishing, and having a good time. He was forced to skip his senior year of high school and leave Greenfield because of a potential paternity suit. The following year, he attended a medium-sized Methodist college, but transferred to the University of Michigan as a sophomore. Thad majored in philosophy and spent most of his time studying. By the spring of his senior year, he was on the verge of a physical breakdown. He left Ann Arbor in April 1904, and, in an effort to regain his strength, took up farming on land his father owned near Greenfield. He and Bess Jackson married that same year. They had two children, Hal and Priscilla.

Thad was a successful farmer in the rich soils of Indiana, but by 1910, the "pioneer urge" took him and his family to Southeast Missouri. They purchased a large tract of river bottom land in Mississippi County, across the river from Cairo, Illinois, near the town of Charleston, Missouri. Snow coined the phrase "Swampeast Missouri" to describe the fertile area which, after draining and clearing, yielded fabulous crops of corn, alfalfa, wheat, soybeans and beginning in the 1920s, cotton. Bess Snow died suddenly in 1914; six years later Thad married Lila Simpson of Charleston. They had two daughters, Frances and Emily. As farmers, they suffered through droughts, floods and the farm depressions of the 1920s and 1930s. Thad even had to file for bankruptcy in 1930, but was able to hold on to his land and become a successful planter. His farm eventually included 1000 acres and 20 sharecropper families to work the land.

In 1937, Snow's second wife died after a long illness. Her death brought on another physical breakdown which left him nearly paralyzed fortwo years. Tragedy struck again in 1948 when Thad's son-in-law, John Hartwell Thompson, committed suicide after killing his wife Priscilla, their nine year old daughter Anne, and Thad's youngest daughter, Emily. For the last seven years of his life, Thad suffered from poor health. Fortunately, his farm was so successful that he was able to give up full-time farming in the late 1930s and devote himself to reading, writing, and public service.

Snow was active in Southeast Missouri business and government organizations. He was a member of the agricultural bureau, the flood control committee, and the county relief committee. He was also a veteran promoter of the state highway system. Some of the first concrete roads were laid in Mississippi County, in large part due to his efforts. Nationally, he was astrong supporter of Henry Wallace, the Secretary of Agriculture (1933-1940), who authored much of the New Deal farm legislation. In 1935, Snow joined 4500 other farmers in a march on Washington to thank Roosevelt and Wallace personally for their help.

As a planter, Snow benefited from New Deal legislation, although he was concerned about tenant farmers, sharecroppers and day laborers who were often overlooked. H.L. Mitchell, co-founder of the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, credits him with inviting the union into Missouri. John L. Handcox, the Missouri organizer, paid tribute to Snow's role in a poem, "Out on Mr. Snow's Farm, or, The Kind of Man We Like to Meet." In January 1939, Missouri sharecroppers gained national publicity and support for their cause in a five-day roadside sit-down demonstration. Snow's sympathetic reporting of events and his behind the scenes aid to demonstrators embittered many local planters, who accused him of masterminding the whole thing. His critical analysis of government farm policy led to his appointment as an advisor to the Farm Security Administration on a project to relocate and rehabilitate dislocated farm tenants. In 1939, Wallace brought him to Washington, D.C. to lobby for a revised Farm Control Law which would insure an equitable distribution of farm payments among landowners, tenants, and sharecroppers. The coming of World War II and the subsequent rise in farm prices doomed the amendment. Snow continued his reform efforts as a member of the National Planning Associations' Agriculture Committee, which published his report, "A Farmer Looks at Fiscal Policy," in 1945. Following the war, he toured Australia on a fact-finding mission for the NPA.

It is as a writer, however, that Thad Snow is probably best remembered. He frequently contributed pieces to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's "Letters from the People" column beginning in the early 1930s. Over the years, he addressed a variety of topics-politics, foreign affairs, farming, his family, economics and human nature. Even at his most critical, for example, in his condemnation of U.S. involvement in World War II, Snow softened his comments with satire and folksy humor. The Sage of Swampeast Missouri was often compared to Mark Twain and Will Rogers. In the early 1950s, Snow gave up farming altogether and moved to the Rose Cliff Hotel in Van Buren, Missouri to write his autobiography. From Missouri was published in November 1954, two months before his death from pneumonia on January 15, 1955.
 
Scope and Content
 
The Snow Papers are arranged into three main series: Correspondence, 1934-1949; Snow's Writings, 1921-1948, including letters to the editor, short stories, and speeches; and two Scrapbooks of newspaper articles by and about Snow, 1926-1954. Topics covered include personal reminiscences, farming in Southeast Missouri, government farm policies, roads, flood control, politics, the 1939 Roadside Strike, World War II, and foreign policy. The collection also contains photographs, personal possessions (wallet, savings book), a Fitzpatrick cartoon of Stalin autographed "To Thad from Uncle Joe", a grain settlement, and handbills. There are no family papers in the collection.
 
Archivist Note:  The information found in this finding aid is copied from The State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-St. Louis, University of Missouri-St. Louis. : http://www.umsl.edu/~whmc/guides/whm0088.htm
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