“[Barns of the Midwest] deserves to be read by all serious enthusiasts of agricultural history.”
Indiana Magazine of History
“[A] collection of important essays that enhance the understanding of barn scholarship.”
Illinois Historical Journal
Originally published in 1995, Barns of the Midwest is a masterful example of material cultural history. It arrived at a critical moment for the agricultural landscape. The 1980s were marked by farm foreclosures, rural bank failures, the continued rise of industrialized agriculture, and severe floods and droughts. These waves of disaster hastened the erosion of the idea of a pastoral Heartland knit together with small farms and rural values. And it wasn’t just an idea that was eroded; material artifacts such as the iconic Midwestern barn were also rapidly wearing away.
It was against this background that editors Noble and Wilhelm gathered noted experts in history and architecture to write on the nature and meaning of Midwestern barns, explaining why certain barns were built as they were, what types of barns appeared where, and what their functions were. Featuring a new introduction by Timothy G. Anderson, Barns of the Midwest is the definitive work on this ubiquitous but little studied architectural symbol of a region and its history.
Allen G. Noble, is a geographer and distinguished emeritus professor at the University of Akron. More info →
Hubert G. H. Wilhelm was a distinguished professor of geography at Ohio University. He died in 2015. More info →
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The Patrons of Husbandry—or the Grange—is the longest-lived US agricultural society and, since its founding shortly after the Civil War, has had immeasurable influence on social change as enacted by ordinary Americans. The Grange sought to relieve the struggles of small farmers by encouraging collaboration. Pathbreaking for its inclusion of women, the Grange is also well known for its association with Gilded Age laws aimed at curbing the monopoly power of railroads.
From 1840 to 1900, midwestern Americans experienced firsthand the profound economic, cultural, and structural changes that transformed the nation from a premodern, agrarian state to one that was urban, industrial, and economically interdependent. Midwestern commercial farmers found themselves at the heart of these changes. Their actions and reactions led to the formation of a distinctive and particularly democratic consumer ethos, which is still being played out today.
With more than eighty full-color photographs, Parron documents a movement that combines rural economic development with an American folk art phenomenon.