Friday, 12 February 2016 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316

Jeannette Vaught, UT

“Feet not Fat: Eugenic Beef and Anxious Husbandmen, 1940-1945”

Shortly before 1940, a well-established veterinary surgeon from Colorado State University was hired as the first Head Veterinarian at the Wyoming Hereford Ranch just outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The surgeon, Dr. Harry Kingman, was charged with revolutionizing this famous beef herd’s breeding program through a combination of eugenic selection and a new technology: artificial insemination. This talk will use Kingman’s daily record of his work as a window into the myriad biological and cultural difficulties of this process between 1940 and 1945. Kingman is a transitional figure—a man poised between evaluating bodies by sight, as cattlemen habitually did, and by an animal’s ability to carry fat, and later by statistics. By focusing on genetics over nutrition, Kingman’s work on the Wyoming Hereford Ranch destabilized the conventions of animal expertise. This instability is especially apparent through his conflicts with the ranch’s husbandmen, who often flummoxed—intentionally or not—his efforts to “scientize” the herd. Considering Kingman’s mixed legacy at the Wyoming Hereford Ranch helps us understand broader shifts in human-animal knowledge and American understandings of nature and the natural that accompanied a postwar transition into an industrial agricultural system.


Jeannette Vaught received her PhD in American Studies from the University of Texas in 2015. She is the author of Rationalizing the Rodeo: Animal Agriculture and Taming the American Environment, forthcoming from the University of Massachusetts Press, and “Materia Medica: Technology, Vaccination, and Antivivisection in Jazz Age Philadelphia,” which appeared in the September 2013 issue of American Quarterly.  Her work addresses the messy relationships between animals, science, and American culture.