Guide to Professional Organizations in Missouri

Resources for Professional Organizations in Missouri History Research

The State Historical Society of Missouri's manuscript collections contain records of organizations devoted to promoting the interests of various professions. These organizations provide networking opportunities and social interaction while simultaneously advocating for the advancement of those engaging in the profession. Many professional organizations are politically active, lobbying for legislation that would be beneficial to their own members. Some examples of collections available through the State Historical Society of Missouri include records of the American Institute of Architects, Kansas City Chapter and the Fred V. Heinkel Papers, which contain materials documenting the political and business activities of the Missouri Farmers Association. For materials regarding social service organizations, please see the Guide to Social and Fraternal Organizations in Missouri.

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Brief History

Professional organizations are groups dedicated to the promotion of various professions. These organizations allowed members a vehicle for networking opportunities and social interaction while simultaneously advocating for the professional advancement of those engaging in the profession. Many professional organizations were politically active, lobbying for legislation that would be beneficial to members as a whole.

One of the most well-documented and politically active organizations in the state of Missouri was the Missouri Farmer’s Association (MFA). Founded by William Hirth, MFA was part of the growing farmers' cooperative movement, in which farmers formed clubs to conduct their business. By working together, farmers were able to buy goods at lower bulk prices and sell their products more profitably. The first Farm Club formed in Chariton County in 1914. By July 1916 there were 500 clubs across the state.

In 1917, Fred V. Heinkel attended a lecture by William Hirth. Heinkel was impressed with Hirth's argument in favor of farm clubs and cooperatives, and he quickly joined his local club. Heinkel became secretary-treasurer of his farm club and was elected president of the Franklin County Farmers Association, his local MFA cooperative. As the leader of the Franklin County cooperative, Heinkel developed a close relationship with Hirth, advising him on issues of agricultural politics. In 1936 he was elected vice president of MFA, and when Hirth died in 1940, Heinkel became MFA president. He was reelected to that position every year until 1979. During Heinkel's presidency, MFA grew to become a large and successful business involved in all aspects of agriculture. Heinkel oversaw the expansion of the cooperative and led it through several reorganizations. Between 1940 and 1979, MFA's membership grew from approximately 32,000 to over 175,000 and soon MFA became one of the most successful farmers' cooperatives in the United States. In 2014 the cooperative celebrated its one hundredth birthday and remains an active professional organization.