Skip to main content

The Poultry Queen

February 2024
1min read

ON JULY 19, 1905, REBECCA JOHNSON, WHO had already become known as the poultry queen, celebrated the birth of 1,087 chicks. Her great-granddaughter loan Combellick sent us the photograph marking this event along with the following explanation:

 
print courtesy of the state historical society of iowa, des moines2003_4_69

ON JULY 19, 1905, REBECCA JOHNSON, WHO had already become known as the poultry queen, celebrated the birth of 1,087 chicks. Her great-granddaughter loan Combellick sent us the photograph marking this event along with the following explanation:

“Rebecca Johnson was married in 1870 at the age of 17. Six years later her husband died, leaving her a single mother of three small children. For a time she took in.sewing, but she found she couldn’t make a good living. So she used all her savings and bought an eight-acre farm near Maxell, Iowa, and with no previous experience with chickens decided to invest in thq poultry business. She sold eggs, meat, and feathers, and for several years she had a contract to supply broilers for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.

“Her biggest success lay in patenting an incubator with a temperature alarm along with a special formula to cure bowel trouble in chicks. She published a book titled How to Hatch, Brood, Feed, and Prevent Chicks From Dying in the Shell . Rebecca became a speaker in great demand around Iowa, and as the business grew, she eventually bought a much larger farm, hired help, and contracted out the manufacture of her incubators.”

Sharp eyes will note that there are ducks in this photo. Ms. Combellick tells us that they belonged to a flock raised by Rebecca’s eight- and eleven-year-old daughters, “who earned enough from this enterprise to buy a piano and pay for their lessons.” As their illustrious mother noted in her book, “Labor rarely becomes irksome to children when they are personally interested in it, knowing they will receive the profits derived therefrom.”

We continue to ask our readers to send unusual and unpublished old photographs to Carla Davidson at American Heritage, 28 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010. Please send a copy of any irreplaceable materials, include return postage, and do not mail glass negatives. We will pay one hundred dollars for each one that is run.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate