Rural Life Study series; Lancaster County, PA; USDA; O.E. Baker; Carl Taylor; Kimball Young; Charles Loomis; rural sociology; German Americans


On March 20, 1994, we interviewed Walter Kollmorgen. Reschly also conducted a follow-up interview March 8, 1995. Herein, we provide the transcripts of these interviews, which are of particular historical value since Kollmorgen was one of Amish studies’ first researchers. Kollmorgen was a native speaker of German from having grown up in a Lutheran family in rural Nebraska. He and his younger sister, Johanna, both contracted polio at a very young age. The combination of German and physical limitations enabled both to establish rapport in a short time with the Amish community in Lancaster County for his rural community study. It seems he communicated more with male leaders than female members, so his observations about women in the community were fairly general. He offered several insights concerning the internal politics at the USDA and the sources of the impulse to research rural communities on a theorized stability-instability continuum. Several officials were quite attracted to the Amish lifestyle, for example. As a geographer, Kollmorgen moved on to other academic topics during a long career at the University of Kansas and he often had to search his memory to recall aspects of his research in Lancaster County. Without much previous work to build on, Kollmorgen produced one of the first scholarly studies of Amish sociology, oriented to the questions of how and why they survived the Great Depression economically and culturally. [Abstract by author.]