Popenoe, Frederick Wilson (1892–1975)

views updated

Popenoe, Frederick Wilson (1892–1975)

Frederick Wilson Popenoe (b. 9 March 1892; d. 20 June 1975), Honduran agriculturalist. Born in Topeka, Kansas, Wilson Popenoe accompanied his father at an early age to Central America and had a long career in the scientific development of the region's agricultural resources. Early in the twentieth century he was instrumental in promoting U.S. avocado production from Mexican budwood. From 1913 to 1925 he was a plant explorer in Latin America for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Beginning in 1925 he established the United Fruit Company's Agricultural Research Station and botanical garden at Lancetilla, near Tela, Honduras. In 1941 he founded, in collaboration with Samuel Zemurray and the United Fruit Company, the Escuela Agrícola Panamericana at Zamorano, Honduras, which Popenoe directed until his retirement in 1957.

Popenoe was also an active promoter of Central American culture, and was, for example, responsible for bringing the great Honduran primitivist painter José Antonio Valásquez to world attention. He and his wife also restored a beautiful colonial house in Antigua, Guatemala, the Casa Popenoe, which is still a major tourist attraction there. Popenoe published extensively on tropical horticulture and other subjects from 1911 to 1971.

See alsoAgriculture; Antigua; United Fruit Company; Zemurray, Samuel.


Frederic Rosengarten, Jr., has written a fine biography of Popenoe: Wilson Popenoe: Agricultural explorer, educator, and friend of Latin America (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Claasen, Cheryl. Women in Archaeology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.

O'Brien, Thomas F. The Revolutionary Mission: American Enterprise in Latin America, 1900–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

                                 Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.