Maud Wilson and the Peanut

In celebration of Oregon Archives Month, SCARC staff have pulled together a few of their favorite things in our collections. This is the first in the series.


I love Maud Wilson. I sense in her a kindred spirit – the spirit of the Virgo. 

Maud Mathes Wilson was born in Pike County Illinois on July 6, 1882. In 1913, she graduated from the University of Nebraska, and subsequently spent the next five years there, working as a Professor and Extension Agent. In 1925, having received funding from the U.S. Office of Experiment Stations to conduct a study concerning itself with the “character of the job of the homemaker,” she joined the staff of the Oregon Agricultural College. More specifically, Wilson’s “time study” sought to “show in what respects and to what degree homemaking is affected by certain circumstances under which it is done, such as the location of the home, the occupation of the chief income earner, the number and the ages of children and the equipment of the house.” Wilson was the first faculty member at OAC to conduct research full-time in home economics; specializing in the study of housing design, she also served as head of Home Economics for the Agricultural Experiment Station. 

Between 1940 and 1944, she worked with the Oregon Experiment Station’s Department of Agricultural Engineering to develop architectural plans for homes suited to the conditions specific to rural Oregon, using space standards determined in previous studies. This work helped to establish nationwide housing construction standards for essentials such as kitchen cabinets and appliances. 

Wilson retired from OSU as Professor Emeritus of Home Economics Research on June 30, 1950. In 1951 she spent five months in Japan, where she helped the Japanese Agricultural Improvement Bureau with plans for setting up a department of Home Economics Research. Maud Wilson died October 31, 1972 in Portland, Oregon.

Like so many of the papers of home economists in SCARC’s holdings, Wilson’s papers unequivocally illustrate the scientific nature of Home Economics as a discipline. Consequently, I felt hard pressed to pick any single favorite thing from Maud’s papers. I was sorely tempted by several of the “Station Bulletins” she published as part of her work for the Experiment Station: Planning Kitchen Cabinets and Patterns for Kitchen Cabinets, to name just a few. Both are representative of the decades of work and research Wilson invested in rural home design efficiencies and standards. That being said, deep down I know my favorite item in Wilson’s collection is…The Peanut. Featured in an article entitled, “This is the House that Not Much Jack Built,” from the January 1949 issue of The American Home, the Peanut was the Tiny Home of the 1950s. Designed by California architect Albert Henry Hill, the Peanut cost just $4,100 to build ($46,804.77 today), and came in at just under 500 square feet (485, to be exact). With its floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room / bedroom, and wood paneling throughout, it’s both a Mid-century Modern Fanatic’s paradise, and a Tiny Home Dreamer’s, well, dream.


Rachel Lilley is the Public Services Unit Supervisor (PSUS) for SCARC, and has been a member of the department – and the OSU community – since 2017 (and is a proud OSU alumna!). In her role as the PSUS, she manages SCARC’s Reading Room on the 5th floor of the Valley Library, supervises student employees, and assists with research requests, both in-person and remote. She loves long walks on the beach unironically.

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