The Growth of the American Economy: An Introduction to the Economic History of the United States

By Robert G. Albion; Harold F. Williamson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 18
The Emergence of Agricultural Regionalism

Agriculture in Modern Industrialism1

DURING THE HALF-CENTURY between the close of the War Between the States and the outbreak of the First World War American agriculture changed from an occupation that was still largely primitive in its technique and organization and to a considerable extent self-sufficing in its economy to a modernized business, mechanized, standardized, and commercialized.2 These changes, interrelated with those in other divisions of the national economy, made the farmer a direct participant in modern industrialism. Agriculture, like the nation, was coming of age. The modernizing of the basic interest was due to the same underlying influences that were leading to national consolidation and the emergence of the United States as a world power.

The period was marked by the occupation and utilization of the country's remaining land resources. In 1860 two-thirds of the public domain was still in the possession of the Government; by the first decade of the new century all of the cultivable and most of the grazing areas had passed to private ownership. Additional acres for farming were to be had only by costly irrigation and reclamation projects. The opening of Oklahoma to settlement in 1889 inspired the last great rush of homeseekers into an area relatively suitable for homesteading. From 1860 to 1910 the number of farms was tripled and the number of acres brought into cultivation was more than doubled.

____________________
1
There is no synthesis, even passably satisfactory, of the history of American agriculture since 1860. The publication Agricultural History and occasional studies in historical journals such as the American Historical Review and the Mississippi Valley Historical Review, and in economic journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the Journal of Political Economy contribute information and interpretations that help to blaze the trail. L. B. Schmidt and E. D. Ross, Readings in the Economic History of American Agriculture ( New York: The Macmillan Company, 1925) and T. N. Carver, Readings in Rural Economics ( Boston: Ginn and Company, 1916) reprint valuable historical articles. The Yearbook of Agriculture published by the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture since 1894, provides convenient and reliable statistical information and historical summaries. We most readily accessible bibliographies are E. E. Edwards, Bibliography of the History of Agriculture in the United States, U. S. Dept. of Agr. Misc. Publ. No. 84, 1930 ( Washington, D. C.) and L. B. Schmidt, Topical Studies and References on the History of American Agriculture ( Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa, 1940).
2
For concise analyses of these changes see L. B. Schmidt, "The Agricultural Revolution in the United States," Science, Vol. LXXII ( 1930), pp. 585-594; E. E. Edwards , Yearbook of Agriculture, 1940, pp. 221-266.

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