[Narrator 1:] The man in the khaki clothes stooped down to get a closer look at the nine little wheat plants. To his practiced eye, the plants were in a sorry state. The pitiful condition of his shriveled, experimental wheat plants would be just one more failure in a very long line of failures. He didn't like it but he could accept it and begin again, always again. It was June 1927 in Beckham County, Oklahoma. The man in the khaki clothes was Joseph Danne. He was a 40 year old farmer, a nobody who had dreams of being a well-known plant breeder and one day he would be called Oklahoma's Luther Burbank.
[Narrator 2:]They came to Oklahoma from many nations. Newcomers to a new land, looking for better opportunities, a chance to begin again and what remains is their heritage. A rich heritage, that has become the Oklahoma image.
[Narrator 1:] To his neighbors, Joseph Danne was an eccentric kind of fellow. He was a bachelor who lived like a hermit and he seemingly had little desire to better his life. Local people joked about old Danne and his wild ideas of experimenting to make better wheat and corn and oats. But then one early summer day, Joseph Danne looked again at the nine plants. One of Danne's large, rough hands touched the head of one plant and discovered that it did have a full ripened head of wheat. It was seed he should save and plant again in his long quest for a better variety of wheat. Carefully, he placed the seed in an envelope and labeled it.
[Narrator 1:] From that one plant, grown in 1927 in Beckham County, Joseph Danne painstakingly developed a variety of wheat that some forty years later would be sown in two out of three acres of wheat land in Oklahoma. Millions of acres of wheat he labeled Triumph Wheat.
[Narrator 1:] Joseph Danne, a farmer inept in many ways and with only bits and pieces of an elementary school education, yet he was a genius. Gifted with an extraordinary curiosity and an imaginative mind, his monumental will-power allowed him to work tediously day by day, through thousands of failures, to achieve one success. Danne's interests ranged from ancient history to astronomy and modern foreign languages but his lifelong obsession was plant breeding.
[Narrator 1:] Joseph was the eldest of eight children born to a German immigrant father and a mother also of German descent. When he was six, the family moved into the old Cheyenne-Arapahoe area of Oklahoma Territory not long after that land opened for white settlement in 1892. They lived at first in a one room shack a few miles northwest of the town of Kingfisher.
[Narrator 1:] When he was thirteen, Joseph Danne read an article by Luther Burbank on plant breeding that seemed to set the course of his life. In 1908, on his family's Kingfisher farm, he succeeded in crossing two varieties of cotton. From that time on, the major thrust of Joseph Danne's life would be plant breeding from buttercups to kafir corn but mainly wheat.
[Narrator 1:] About 1911, he bought a farm in Beckham County near Sayre. His experiments with plants took on a new urgency but with no visible results until 1927 when, finally, one very sturdy plant of wheat looked promising. Four years later, from that one plant, Joseph Danne had about one gallon of seed that was to be Triumph Wheat. By 1940, after modifications made through sixteen growing seasons, Triumph Wheat was offered for general use. His first and limited public recognition as a plant breeder came after more than thiry years of single minded work. He was then 52 years old.
[Narrator 1:] After the introduction of Triumph Wheat in 1940, Joseph Danne continued to produce new types of Triumph as well as wholly different varieties of wheat. At his death in 1959, he bequeathed 1,264 different selections of wheat to Oklahoma State University's agronomists. The wheat selections were scattered throughout his house in medicine bottles, envelopes and small boxes. The pedigrees for the selections were located in milk cans, lard buckets and suitcases. In death, as in life, Joseph Danne was found to be both an eccentric and a meticulous scientist. Oklahoma State University's experts took less than one ounce of seed from an envelope unopened by Danne for seven years and developed a new variety of wheat they labeled "Danne". Another new variety of wheat released by Oklahoma State in 1978 including Danne's Triumph Wheat in its parentage. No wonder that the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, in 1968, named Joseph Danne as "Mr. Wheat".
[Narrator 2:] This program was produced by the Oklahoma Image Project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and brought to you as a public service by this station. Oklahoma Image is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Oklahoma Library Association.
Requires one of these for listening: Quicktimewww.apple.com/quicktime/download, Windows Media Player,www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/download or Real Playerwww.real.com.
Part of the Oklahoma Image Statewide Humanities Project, promoting Newcomers to a New Land book series and the Oklahoma Image Project.
Copyright of this digital resource, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 2008. For further information regarding use please consult the Rights and Permissions page, http://www.crossroads.odl.state.ok.us/shell/rights.php or contact the holding institution of the digital resource.
Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 200 N.E. 18th, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105