The Department of Agricultural Engineering was created in 1916 when the Department of Agronomy was subdivided, and was placed within the School of Agriculture. It was originally housed in the Farm Mechanics Building (now Gilmore Hall). The first department chair was William James Gilmore. In 1947 the department became jointly administered by the Schools of Agriculture and Engineering. The department's name was changed to Bioresource Engineering in 1991.
Fiber flax processing investigations were conducted at Oregon State College from from the late 1930s through mid 1950s through a joint USDA/Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station project. Engineering research led to the development and introduction of improved equipment for pulling, deseeding, scutching, and cleaning flax. Also, improved designs for flax mills were developed and recommendations made for prevention and control of flax mill fires. Researchers involved in this project included W. M. Hurst, L. M. Klein, J. E. Harmond, and M. C. Widger.
Fiber flax had been grown in the Willamette Valley since 1915, but prior to World War II the acreage was small and production and processing methods were based largely on European practices. When European flax supplies were cut off by World War II the acreage of flax and number of mills increased significantly and research results were available so that improved equipment could be installed in all the flax mills.
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