Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Alexander E. Cance Papers
Alexander E. Cance, Professor and Head of the Agricultural Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts, was born in 1874 in Wisconsin. In 1891 he graduated from the academy of Gale College, Galesville, Wisconsin, and taught physics, mathematics, and science through the next year (1892). From there he went to Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota, where he received his B.A. in 1896. For the next three years (1896-1899) he taught Mathematics, Greek, Latin, and English Literature at Avalon College, Missouri. In 1900 he taught Mathematics at Diploma Teachers College, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Cance then spent three years teaching on the high school level, first at Ganesville, Wisconsin (1901), then as Principal of the Industrial and Farm School, Asheville, North Carolina (1902-1904). Cance then returned to Wisconsin, where he earned the M.A. in Psychology and Education (1906) and his Ph.D. in Economics (1908) from the University of Wisconsin.
In the fall of 1909 Cance came to the Massachusetts Agricultural College and initiated his work in Agricultural Cooperation. By 1910 he had organized the first course in "Cooperation in Agriculture" to be offered in the United States. In 1912 he was made the Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics, a post he retained until 1935.
Dr. Cance also served in a variety of roles outside the University. In 1913 he was appointed to President Woodrow Wilson's Committee of Seven to Study Cooperation and Credit in Europe. While serving on this committee he visited cooperative leaders in fourteen countries and assisted in the editing of the four volumes published by the U.S. Senate in 1914. In 1916 the Bureau of the Census selected Cance to make a field study and report on Agriculture in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Directly after the end of World War I, Cance served with the Army Education Corps as Head of the Department of Economics at the University of Beaune, France (1919). Here he taught courses in Agricultural Economics to American servicemen stationed in France. Upon his return to the United States in 1920 he was selected as a delegate to the Hoover Conference on the Economic Crisis, where he served as a member of the Committee for the Agricultural Report. In 1922 he was made Supervisor of Market Research for the United States Department of Agriculture in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This was to be Cance's last extended absence from the Massachusetts Agricultural College; he dedicated the rest of his career to expanding the college.
Dr. Cance retired in June 1942 from Massachusetts State College (formerly the Massachusetts Agricultural College). He was honored with a D.Sc. by his Alma Mater, Macalester College, in June 1948. The Institute of Cooperation honored him at its 1948 session in Amherst for his lifetime service to the cooperative movement.