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Merton Lane Papers, 1893-1973

By Sydney Klupar and Rachel Lilley

Collection Overview

Title: Merton Lane Papers, 1893-1973

Predominant Dates: 1930-1965

ID: MSS Lane

Primary Creator: Lane, M. C. (Merton Chesleigh), 1893-

Extent: 0.55 cubic feet. More info below.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2001

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Merton Lane Papers consist of materials generated and collected by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist Merton Lane, and include article reprints and drafts, correspondence, reports, publications, research materials, and photographs. Most of these records pertain to wireworm and pest control research. In his four decades working for the USDA, Lane worked in a number of locations in the Pacific Northwest, including Forest Grove, Oregon, and as the head of the USDA's Pacific Northwest Wireworm Project worked with OSU Entomologist Louis Gentner in the identification of insects.

Scope and Content Notes

The Merton Lane Papers are comprised of article reprints and drafts, correspondence, reports, publications, research materials, news clippings, and photographs.

Article reprints and publications in the collection include those authored by Lane (1924-1965), and those authored by other researchers (1893-1973); several of Lane’s article drafts are also included. The majority of these publications relate to wireworms and wireworm control (e.g. through the use of insecticides, “flooding,” etc.). Also included are news clippings of articles authored by Lane and published in the Oregon Farmer and the Washington Farmer.

The majority of the research materials in the collection document Lane’s work in wireworms and wireworm control. Other research subjects include: Lane’s work on the identification of click beetles (the mature form of the wireworm)with OSU Entomologist Louis Gentner; “dry land” wireworms in Washington State; the use of “arsenicals” in wireworm control, specifically dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT; and normal precipitation rates in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho (an environmental factor affecting wireworm populations). Of particular note are images documenting apparatus used in wireworm research, including: four black and white images of a soil-washing device used in wireworm investigations; four black and white images of a hand-operated shaker for sifting soil (used to find wireworms and their eggs); and two black and white images of an unidentified apparatus (Box-folder 1.6).

Annual progress and yearly reports documenting the work of the Pacific Northwest Wireworm Project comprise a significant portion of the collection. The reports – dating from 1924 to 1947 and 1949 to 1958 – document both the early years of the project’s life cycle, prior to its expansion to other states in the Pacific Northwest, and after the project had been expanded into Idaho, Montana, and additional sites in Washington. A supplementary report on wireworm control investigations includes data on soil fumigation with naphthalene, carbon disulfide, and dichloroethyl alcohol as control methods.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Merton Chesleigh Lane was born September 4, 1893 in Everett, Massachusetts to George W. Lane and Margie Watson Brewster Lane. When Lane was just a year old, his father died of typhoid fever, and he, his mother, and his brother, Elton Percy Lane, moved in with his maternal grandfather, John C. Brewster. Lane lived in Everett for the remainder of his childhood.

In 1915, Lane married Marion Elsie Bridgman, a violinist in Amherst, Massachusetts. That same year, he graduated from Massachusetts Agricultural College (what is now the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) with a Bachelor of Science in Entomology. Shortly after graduation, Lane worked for the Smith & Wesson Firearms Company. While working for Smith & Wesson, Lane also taught in local public schools and worked for the State of Massachusetts as a nursery inspector. In 1916, Lane’s first child, Robert Alson Lane, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In 1917, Lane was hired as the Scientific Assistant in the USDA’s Bureau of Entomology, and moved his family west to Forest Grove, Oregon, where he began work on a research project investigating the biology and control of the Hessian fly. His second child, Dorothy Bridgman Lane, was born in Forest Grove in 1918.

In 1919, Lane was transferred briefly to Berkeley, California, where he continued his research on the Hessian fly. Just one year later, however, Lane was transferred to Ritzville, Washington to begin work on what would eventually be known as the Pacific Northwest Wireworm Project (his third child, Priscilla Brewster Lane, was born in Ritzville in 1923). What began as a single research outpost in Ritzville eventually expanded with the addition of research offices in Toppenish, Washington; Parma, Idaho; Bozeman, Montana; and Walla Walla, Washington. Lane was named supervisor of this research, and in 1928 moved with his family to Walla Walla. Lane worked with OSU entomologist Louis Gentner on the identification of insects as part of the Pacific Northwest Wireworm Project.

Lane retired from the Pacific Northwest Wireworm Project, and the USDA, in 1959.  Throughout his career, he held membership in a number of historical, professional, and scientific societies including the Sons of the American Revolution, the Entomological Society of America, the Society of Systematic Zoology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society of Sigma Xi. After retirement, Lane remained active in many of these of these societies, and was charter president of the Washington Society of the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America. In 1953, Lane was awarded the Superior Service Award by the USDA for his “outstanding leadership and ability in planning, directing, and conducting research which led to the development of practical methods of controlling wireworm.” Merton’s wife Marion passed away in Tacoma, Washington in July 1960. Merton C. Lane died in Medford, Oregon March 13, 1975.

[Additional source: Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 69, Issue 5, page 702. Accessed October 21, 2020.]

Author: Sydney Klupar

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 2 boxes, including 10 photographs

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: The materials comprising this collection were part of a larger donation transferred to the University Archives by the OSU Arthropod Museum in 2001. Other records in this donation have since been separated and placed into the record group for the Entomology Department (RG 027) and into manuscript collections for Entomology faculty members Paul Oman, Louis Gentner, Herman Scullen, Paul Ritchter, and James McIver.

Related Materials:

Additional materials documenting entomological research, both at Oregon State University and in Oregon more generally, include the Entomology Department Records (RG 027), the Entomology Department Photographs (P 055), the Experiment Station Publications Photographic Collection (P 132), the Louis G. Gentner Papers (MSS Gentner), the Norman H. Anderson Papers (MSS AndersonN), the Ralph Berry Papers (MSS Berry), the Paul W. Oman Papers (MSS Oman), the Herman A. Scullen Papers (MSS Scullen), and the Paul Ritchter Papers (MSS Ritchter).

Collections specifically documenting the control of crop pests, including the use of insecticides like DDT, include the Hugh E. Morrison Papers (MSS Morrison), the R.H. Robinson Papers (MSS Robinson), the A.B. Cordley Entomological and Horticultural Scrapbook (MSS Cordley), the Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin Illustrations (P 019), and the Oregon Tilth, Inc. Records (MSS OrTilth).

Preferred Citation: Merton Lane Papers (MSS Lane), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Finding Aid Revision History: This finding aid replaces information about the collection that was placed online in 2012.


Lane, M. C. (Merton Chesleigh), 1893-

People, Places, and Topics

History of Science
Insect pests.
Lane, M. C. (Merton Chesleigh), 1893-
Natural Resources

Forms of Material

Photographic prints.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.