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Living History Farms Resources

Living history farms offer three-dimensional settings for visitors to learn about the past. These museums present opportunities for multi-sensory, minds-on education, but also pose unique challenges to manage diverse collections (living and inanimate) and sustaining complete built environments. The effort pays off when visitors connect with the staff and the place in a memorable history lesson.



Skip Navigation LinksHow to Start A Living History Farm


“On living historical farms men farm as they once did during some specific time in the past. The farms have tools and equipment like those once used, and they raise the same types of livestock and plants used during the specified era. The operations are carried on in the presence of visitors.”    --  John T. Schlebecker and Gale E. Peterson, Living Historical Farms Handbook (1972), 1

 

Download Starting and Sustaining a Living History Farm by Debra A. Reid 

Reprinted from 2012 Vol. XXXIII, nos. 2 & 3 of the Midwest Open Air Museums Magazine by permission of MOMCC.







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Living History Farm Research Tips

Note: A version of this appears as “Finding the Pitchfork in the Haystack: Designing a Research Plan to Incorporate Agricultural History into Your Local Story” in the 2011 ALHFAM Conference Proceedings (2012). Debra A. Reid, Eastern Illinois University


John Krugler is one of few historians who have analyzed the depth and breadth of research conducted by staff in historic houses and historic sites. He emphasized that documentation must be done well because the public learns their history by visiting these sites. As he said: “Villages and towns, estates and plantations, historic houses and other sites – all rebuilt or restored according to the best available historical, archaeological, and architectural data – are the chief way many Americans learn their history and chiefly what they envision when they think of history” [John D. Krugler, “Behind the Public Presentations,” The William and Mary Quarterly (1991): 347].

Others have argued the same, particularly Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen whose book, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life (Columbia University Press, 1998), remains an important study of how the public learns about the past.  Rosenzweig and Thelen stress even more the importance of museums to the public’s edification about the past. (Table 2, p. 235).

Such findings provided important justification for site staff to take some of their valuable time and invest it in historic research. John Krugler claimed that staff at historic sites and house museums “conduct research to discover and record what it is they are saving and to inform their educational programs” (Krugler, 347). Dedicating time to this important task is not easy.

Research can be an overwhelming task when daily chores consume all daylight hours. Yet, without a deep understanding of the story that a historic site can tell, the story will appeal only to local audiences, though not all locals may even be interested. In fact, local history makes no sense; it has no significance, if staff does not put the story into larger and broader themes in national and international history. Finally, the research of one site must incorporate objects, landscapes, traditional practices, and living plants and animals, as evidence. (Read More)

The more varied the evidence, the greater the appeal to the broadest number of potential visitors, each with distinct learning preferences and personality traits. Sites can use their array of evidence to intellectually engage the visitors. Then, visitors can transition from being passive observers or guests at sites to being participants in minds-on programming and collaborators in the process of history discovery. (Read More)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living History Farm Research Tips (Full)

Note: A version of this appears as “Finding the Pitchfork in the Haystack: Designing a Research Plan to Incorporate Agricultural History into Your Local Story” in the 2011 ALHFAM Conference Proceedings (2012). Debra A. Reid, Eastern Illinois University

John Krugler is one of few historians who have analyzed the depth and breadth of research conducted by staff in historic houses and historic sites. He emphasized that documentation must be done well because the public learns their history by visiting these sites. As he said: “Villages and towns, estates and plantations, historic houses and other sites – all rebuilt or restored according to the best available historical, archaeological, and architectural data – are the chief way many Americans learn their history and chiefly what they envision when they think of history” [John D. Krugler, “Behind the Public Presentations,” The William and Mary Quarterly (1991): 347].

Others have argued the same, particularly Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen whose book, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life (Columbia University Press, 1998), remains an important study of how the public learns about the past.  Rosenzweig and Thelen stress even more the importance of museums to the public’s edification about the past. (Table 2, p. 235).

Such findings provided important justification for site staff to take some of their valuable time and invest it in historic research. John Krugler claimed that staff at historic sites and house museums “conduct research to discover and record what it is they are saving and to inform their educational programs” (Krugler, 347). Dedicating time to this important task is not easy.

Research can be an overwhelming task when daily chores consume all daylight hours. Yet, without a deep understanding of the story that a historic site can tell, the story will appeal only to local audiences, though not all locals may even be interested. In fact, local history makes no sense; it has no significance, if staff does not put the story into larger and broader themes in national and international history. Finally, the research of one site must incorporate objects, landscapes, traditional practices, and living plants and animals, as evidence.

The more varied the evidence, the greater the appeal to the broadest number of potential visitors, each with distinct learning preferences and personality traits. Sites can use their array of evidence to intellectually engage the visitors. Then, visitors can transition from being passive observers or guests at sites to being participants in minds-on programming and collaborators in the process of history discovery.

A well-constructed research plan will help you identify the artifacts that you need to tell your story. Research must start with general reading so you can identify major trends, and only after having an idea of major themes should research more on to more specific fact finding. Thus, Step 1 entails review of relevant secondary sources (articles and monographs) that relate geographically, chronologically and topically to your local story. Step 2 involves research into specific published and unpublished primary documents traditionally associated with historic research, and Step 3 incorporates material evidence and multidisciplinary sources to support your local history. The research findings can help you say “yes” to selected artifacts as well as “no” to donors who want to offer something that is not central to your local story, and for which you cannot properly care. The research plan will help you develop intellectual control over collections, and is systematic enough so paid and unpaid staff can participate in the process.

Step 1: Secondary Sources

Research takes a lot of time, and few have time to waste when the future of a historic site is at stake. The American Association for State and Local History, through its Nearby History Series, now available through AltaMira Press (and other presses) has published “how-to” books that remain standard reading. Follow their suggestions, consider the context of your site, and develop a plan with a sequence of events to help you conduct effective and thorough research.

Research begins with an understanding of the big picture. This is instrumental for site development and interpretive planning.

The following are good places to start.

·         Read surveys to get a sense of the major historical themes that relate to the time period of your site. You can get this from textbooks, including two that relate specifically to rural and agricultural history.

·         Consult state historical societies in your area for suggestions about the best published state and regional histories

From here one can narrow down to:

·         Find monographs that focus on a place and time and explore it in some depth using a variety of sources (see Stellar Examples in Appendix A). You can start with monographs about the specific geographic area, community, class and ethnic group, but also look for scholarship that explores the same time period but discusses different regions, or ethnic groups, or classes. This can help you gain broad knowledge about a place and people, and can help you identify more subjects to explore.

·         Peruse archival resources such as: personal papers, public records such as tax assessments and census return

Step 2: Published and Unpublished Primary Sources

Research in primary documents works best when organized. Once you have the themes of significance that your site can support, you can start by identifying primary sources that can help you put your site into historic context and justify its significance. You can do this in a table format (Table 1). The most thorough research results from knowing what sources cannot tell you and determining other sources that can fill in those blanks.

Some evidence may prove particularly elusive. In that case, leave a research question for the time being, and move on to another topic. Do not get discouraged, but be realistic. Talk to others, share your findings, keep your nose to the scent, and the effort you put into research will reap benefits of a well-documented site with confident staff ready to share the information.

Evidence can also take on new meaning as the basis for public programs that immerse visitors in the process of research. You realize the thrill of the hunt as you conduct research, and you gain new understanding as you compile the material and interpret it. Design a program that allows visitors to experience the thrill of the historic evidence hunt similar to the hands-on, minds-on programming that makes living history so memorable for so many, rather than having visitors be simply receivers of information.

 

Table 1: Type of Source and Information Contained

 

Type of Source

Location

What the Source May Tell

What the Source Cannot Tell

Population Census (manuscript returns) 1870-1930

Live-text searchable online via free sites, i.e. FamilySearch.org or proprietary sites, i.e. Ancestry.com

 

Microfilm; Soundex cards at local genealogy society or public library

Birthplace of each member of household will allow for construction of pattern if families had children in more than one place; if parents came from different places

 

Compare information in various sources to identify patterns; compare them to document change over time

Town of origin or birth not listed.

 

Years of birth and ages may not be accurate.

 

Not all members of family may appear in enumeration.

Naturalization Papers

County court house

Date of naturalization, sometimes date of immigration and place of origin.

Usually male heads of household naturalized; women and children did not.

Agricultural Census (manuscript returns) 1870, 1880

Live-text searchable online via Ancestry.com

 

Microfilm at local genealogy society or public library

Detailed listing of land holdings and farm production (crops, livestock, truck/market garden, woodlot), organized by farmer (head of household).

No context inherent in the document. Must be cross-referenced with Population Census manuscript returns to document race, family size, age. Does not indicate how many laborers worked, just the weeks a year.

County History (i.e. County Biographical Atlases published during the 1870s and 1880s)

Local public library or county historical society or genealogy society

Biographies of individuals and their involvement in the community

 

Scope of agriculture practiced at the time of publication

 

Identify businesses in town that processed agricultural staples (flour mills, distilleries, grain elevators)

Includes those who had economic clout in a community, not those who did not.

 

Focuses on the more notable industries and individuals.

 

With primary sources identified and their strengths and weaknesses noted, you can move toward scheduling research. Sort the table by sources. Sources in one place can be accessed at one time. County histories and biographical atlases helped you identify major themes relevant in your area, and likely helped you identify your site’s significance. Consult the source again for more information that can help you put your site into broader context relative to specific themes. You could plan to access these published sources early in your research, in the first three months, for instance, and then you will have specific names to guide you in more labor intensive archival research

Step 3: Material Evidence and Multidisciplinary Sources

Site research is incomplete if it does not incorporate evidence such as artifacts, landscapes, traditional practices, and living plants and animals. Your research plan should factor in the time it takes to learn how each artifact in your collection contributes to your site’s story. But for that to happen, the artifact must be treated as a primary source that has the potential to tell you as much about your local history as other primary sources such as diaries, letters, census returns, oral histories and Sanborn maps can tell.

Historians have been slow to expand their definition of primary sources to include material culture because the discipline of history has traditionally concentrated on written sources. Historians must learn anthropological techniques to read material culture effectively

Artifacts, broadly defined, include anything made by people or modified by people. This can include barns and sheds, fences and landscapes, heritage varieties of plants and animals, and traditional skills and trades that utilize agricultural products such as soap making and broommaking. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and folklorists have long studied what they call “material culture” as evidence of cultural practices or “the study through artifacts of the beliefs – values, ideas, attitudes, and assumptions – of a particular community or society at a given time” (Prown, “Mind in Matter,” 1982).

I recommend starting with Schlereth who has written the most comprehensive overview of different approaches to reading material culture, and the ways these approaches have changed over time. Other sources useful to understanding various methods of reading material culture include models provide by Barbara Carson and Thomas Woods and Georgi Reillo (See Living History Farm Research Bibliography).

Most studies of material culture, according to Peter Burke, “stress the classic trio of topics – food, clothes, and housing” (What is Cultural History, 2nd ed., 2008, p. 68). According to Burke, the artifact itself is not necessarily essential to gain a greater understanding of material culture. Instead, material culture studies can take into account the role of the imagination in stimulating desire for goods and the ways that things become symbolic. For example, Burke describes Sidney Mintz history of sugar, Sweetness and Power, as both a social and a cultural history of how a luxury commodity consumed by the rich transformed into an everyday staple for ordinary people.

Burke also explains that spaces within buildings, as much as the buildings themselves can inform researchers. He explains how considering the layout of space can help people comprehend deeper meanings of space, work space and leisure space, public and private space, masculine and feminine space. This can be particularly relevant to developing interpretation at historic sites and living history farms because most people who visit sites (or even work in them) have prior experience with agricultural spaces. They might not comprehend the meaning of the spaces in which they walk any more than they understand the processes they observe, the nuances of the stock and plants they encounter, or the differences between the stoneware crock or the factory-produced butter churn. Staff can only interpret these nuances when they comprehend the deep meaning of the artifacts themselves.

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An organization of people who bring history to life

Suggested Readings in Agricultural History

Living History Farm Research

Secondary Sources for Researching Rural and Farm Life 

Politics of Public History

Research Methodology: Fieldwork & Deskwork

Historical Surveys

Agricultural History Surveys

U.S. History Surveys (selected examples)

 Stellar Examples (Highly Recommended as Models of Research and Writing)

What about home life in different places at different times?

What about women’s history? Children’s history?

Houses, barns, and agricultural landscapes have cultural integrity, too!

What about farming practices and change over time?

Ranching

Immigration & Ethnicity  

Food History; Staple Crop History; Eating History; You need a well-stocked bookshelf!

What relationship existed between the city and the country?

Primary Sources




Politics of Public History

“Historical farms. . . are approximations of their originals, or more accurately, our generalizations, our hypotheses and theories about them. Like any model they present ‘selected’ data and are therefore subjective. They must always reflect, to some extent, the particular interests and biases of those constructing them. . . . [Some may]come to treat it as sacrosanct, indeed to consider it the living past. It is only an account of the past, the same as the next model.” – Darwin P. Kelsey, “Historical Farms as Models of the Past,” ALHFAM Proceedings (1974), 38.

Journals that regularly publish histories of museums include:

The Public Historian (published since 1978 by the National Council on Public History)

Museum History Journal (published since 2008 by Left Coast Press, Inc.)

 

Adams, Jessica. Wounds of Returning: Race, Memory, and Property on the Postslavery Plantation. University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Barker, Martin and Roger Sabin. The Lasting of the Mohicans: History of an American Myth. University of Mississippi Press, 1995.

Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.

Blight, David W. ed. Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory Collins, 2006.

Bogue, Allan G. Frederick Jackson Turner: Strange Roads Going Down. University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

Bruggeman, Seth C. Here, George Washington Was Born: Memory, Material Culture and the Public History of a National Monument. University of Georgia Press, 2008.

Burleigh, Nina. The Stranger and the Statesman: James Smithson, John Quincy Adams, and the Making of America’s Greatest Museum: The Smithsonian. Perennial, 2003.

Cantrell, Gregg and Elizabeth Hayes Turner, eds. Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas. Texas A&M University Press, 2007.

Casper, Scott E. Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine. Hill and Wang, 2008.

Conn, Steven. Do Museums Still Need Objects? University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.

Conn, Steven. Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876-1926. University of Chicago Press, 1998.

 

Coski, John M. The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem. Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2005.

 

Deetz, James and Patricia Scott Deetz. The Times of their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony. Anchor Books, 2000.

 

Denkler, Ann E. Sustaining Identity, Recapturing Heritage: Exploring Issues of Public History, Tourism and Race in a Southern Rural Town. Lexington Books, 2008.

 

Duck, Berkley W. Twilight at Conner Prairie: The Creation, Betrayal and Rescue of a Museum. American Association for State and Local History Series. AltaMira Press, 2011.

 

Frazier, Donald S., Robert F. Pace and Robert P. Wettemann, Jr. The Texas You Expect: The Story of Buffalo Gap Historic Village. State House Press, 2007.

 

Genoways, Hugh H. and Mary Anne Andrei. Museum Origins: Readings in Early Museum History and Philosophy (Reprints of 50 of the most important writings on museum philosophy, 1880s-1930s). Left Coast Press, 2008.

 

Greenspan. Anders. Creating Colonial Williamsburg. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

 

Haverty-Stacke. America’s Forgotten Holiday: May Day and Nationalism, 1867-1960. New York University Press, 2009.

 

Horton, James Oliver & Lois E. Horton, eds. Slavery & Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory. The New Press, 2006.

 

Hosmer, Charles. Presence of the Past: A History of the Preservation Movement in the United States before Williamsburg. Putnam, 1965.

 

________. Preservation Comes of Age: From Williamsburg to the National Trust, 1926-1949. University Press of Virginia, 1981.

 

Jabbour, Alan and KarenSinger Jabbour. Decoration Day in the Mountains: Traditions of Cemetery Decoration in the Southern Appalachians. University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Janney, Caroline E. Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause. University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

 

Kammen, Michael. Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture. Knopf, 1991.

Kelso, William M. Jamestown: The Buried Truth. University of Virginia Press, 2006.

Krugler, John D. Creating a Past: Old World Wisconsin and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1946-1978. Northern Illinois University Press, forthcoming.

Landsberg, Alison. Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. Columbia University Press, 2004.

Levin, Amy K. ed. Defining Memory: Local Museums and the Construction of History in America’s Changing Communities. AltaMira, 2007.

Lindgren, James M. Preserving Historic New England: Preservation, Progressivism, and the Remaking of Memory. Oxford University Press, 1995.

Loewen, James W. Lies Across America: What our Historic Sites Get Wrong. The New Press, 1999.

Mayer, Teresa and Paul Shackel. The Making of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: A Devil, Two Rivers and a Dream. AltaMira Press, 2007.

Mazrim, Robert. The Sangamo Frontier: History and Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln. University of Chicago Press, 2006

Miller, Marla R. Cultivating a Past: Essays on the History of Hadley, Massachusetts. University of Massachusetts, 2009.

Mooney, Barbara Burlison. “Lincoln’s New Salem: Or, the Trigonometric Theorem of Vernacular Restoration,” Perspectives In Vernacular Architecture 11 (2004), 19-39.

Padilla, Carmella. El Rancho de las Golondrinas: Living History in New Mexico’s La Ciénega Valley. Museum of New Mexico Press, n.d.

Peers, Laura. Playing Ourselves: Interpreting Native Histories at Historic Reconstructions. AltaMira Press, 2007.

Purcell, Sarah. Sealed With Blood: War, Sacrifice and Memory in Revolutionary America. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002;

Pustz, Jennifer. Voices from the Back Stairs: Interpreting Servants’ Lives at Historic House Museums. Northern Illinois University Press, 2009.

Reardon, Carol. Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory. University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Rentzhog, Sten. Open Air Museums: The History and Future of a Visionary Idea. Jamtli Forlag, 2007.

Robinson, Cedric J. Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film Before World War II.  University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Rosenzweig, Roy and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life. Columbia University Press, 1998.

Russ, Elizabeth Christine. The Plantation in the Postslavery Imagination. Ohio University Press, 2009.

Tribble, Scott. A Colossal Hoax: The Giant from Cardiff that Fooled America. Rowman Littlefield, 2009.

Wallace, Mike. Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory. Temple University Press, 1996.

 

Ward, John William. Andrew Jackson: Symbol for an Age. Oxford University Press, 1969.

 

Weeks, Jim. Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and An American Shrine. Princeton University Press, 2003.

West, Patricia. Domesticating History: The Political Origins of America’s House Museums. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999.


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 R

 

Research Methodology: Fieldwork & Deskwork

 

Early advocates for living history farms (as these quotes indicate) explained that no one model worked for all types of farms, and that the research had to be thorough but had to be translated into a stage set that supported the organizations’ ultimate goal: education. Research proved essential to create an accurate setting that supported effective history lessons.

“Successful living historical farm projects do not begin in some singularly different way from unsuccessful efforts. . . . There is no way to simply categorize the greatly diverse organizations that are developing living historical farms.” – Schlebecker and Peterson, Living Historical Farms Handbook (1972), 3.

 “The farms have tools and equipment like those once used, and they raise the same types of livestock and plants used during the specified era. The operations are carried on in the presence of visitors.”     --  John T. Schlebecker and Gale E. Peterson, Living Historical Farms Handbook (1972), 1

 “A living historical farm resembles a theatrical production as much as it resembles anything.” – Schlebecker and Peterson, Living Historical Farms Handbook (1972), 29.

 

 

Bowen, Joanne. “Probate Inventories: An Evaluation from the Perspective of Zooarchaeology and Agricultural History at the Mott Farm.” Historical Archaeology 9 (1975): 11-25.

Butchart, Ronald E. Local Schools: Exploring Their History. Nearby History Series, American Association for State and Local History. AltaMira Press, 1986.

Chappell, Edward A. “Architectural Recording and the Open-Air Museum: A View from the Field.” In Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture. Camille Wells, ed. University of Missouri Press, 1986: 24-36.

Danzer, Gerald A. Public Places: Exploring Their History. Nearby History Series, American Association for State and Local History. AltaMira Press, 1987.

Deetz, James. In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1977.

 

Gardner James and George Rollie Adams, eds. Ordinary People and Everyday Life: Perspectives on the New Social History. American Association for State and Local History, 1983.

 

Howe, Barbara J., Delores A. Fleming, Emory L. Kemp, and Ruth Ann Overbeck. Houses and Homes: Exploring Their History. Nearby History Series, American Association for State and Local History, AltaMira Press, 1987.

Hurt, R. Douglas. American Farms: Exploring Their History. Krieger Publishing, 1996.

Kammen, Carol. On Doing Local History. American Association for State and Local History, 1986. 2nd ed. AltaMira Press, 2003.

Keating, Ann Durkin. Invisible Networks: Exploring the History of Local Utilities and Public Works. Krieger Publishing, 1994.

Kerr, K. Austin, Amos J. Loveday and Mansel G. Blackford. Local Businesses: Exploring Their History. Nearby History Series, American Association for State and Local History, AltaMira Press, 1990.

Krugler, John D. “Behind the Public Presentations: Research and Scholarship at Living History Museums of Early America.” The William and Mary Quarterly 48, no. 3 (July 1991): 347-386.

Kyvig, David E. and Myron A. Marty. Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You. Nearby History Series, American Association for State and Local History, 1982;  2nd ed. AltaMira Press, 2010.

Reid, Debra A. “Researching African-American Land and Farm Owners: A Bibliographic Essay,” in Beyond Forty Acres and a Mule: African American Landowning Farm Families Since Reconstruction, edited by Debra A. Reid and Evan P. Bennett. University Press of Florida, 2012.

Swierenga, Robert P. “Theoretical Perspectives on the New Rural History: From Environmentalism to Modernization.” Agricultural History 56, no. 3 (July 1982), pp. 495-502.

Wilson, John S. “We’ve Got Thousands of These!: What Makes an Historic Farmstead Significant?” Historical Archaeology 24, no. 2 (1990): 23-33. One in a series of articles published in this volume of Historical Archaeology that described and applied methodological approaches to assessing the archaeological significance of historic sites.

Wind, James P. Places of Worship: Exploring Their History. Nearby History Series, American Association for State and Local History, AltaMira Press, 1990.

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Historical Surveys

Staff at historic sites could consult survey texts to help them identify the big picture into which their site fits, or which their site refutes. Find the most recently published edition of any survey; use the internet to simplify the search.

Each textbook reflects the perspective of the editors. Created Equal, for example, includes authors who put the U.S. into world context; some authors focus on political issues; Zinn always emphasized history from the point of view of the underprivileged.

Surveys of agricultural history prove indispensable in establishing the parameters around which to gauge the significance of the site. These include sweeping studies prepared by Danbom, Hurt and Schlebecker. Check the list of agricultural monographs under “What About Farming Practices and Change Over Time?” below, for surveys of regions of the country, some in multiple volumes that seem to leave not one seed uncovered, with Birdwell and Falconer, and Danhof and Gray being examples.

Happy surveying!

 

Agricultural History Surveys:

Danbom, David. Born in the Country: A History of Rural America. The Johns Hopkins
         University Press, 1995, 2nd ed. 2006.

Hurt, R. Douglas. American Agriculture: A Brief History. Iowa State University Press,
         1994; rev. ed., Indiana University, 2002.

Schlebecker, John. Whereby We Thrive: A History of American Farming, 1607-1972.
        Iowa State University Press, 1975.

Walker, Melissa. The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Vol. 11: Agriculture.
        University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

 

U.S. History Surveys (Selected Examples):

 

James W. Loewen reminds us of the political minefield of the history survey text business, and the inaccuracies that can arise. Read all surveys with attention to your region and major events of the era you interpret.

Loewen, James W.  Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. The New Press, 1995.

Jones, Jacqueline, Peter H. Wood, Thomas Borstelmann, Elaine Tyler May and Vicki L. Ruiz. Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States, vol. 1 To 1877; vol. 2 Since 1876. Pearson Longman, 3rd ed., 2009.

Roark, James L., Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, Alan Lawson and Susan M. Hartmann. The American Promise: A History of the United States, vol. 1 To 1877; vol. 2 From 1865. Bedford St. Martins. 4th edition.

Zinn, Howard. A Peoples’ History of the United States, 1492 to the Present. Harper & Row, 1980; 20th anniv. ed., Harper Collins Pub., 1999,


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Stellar Examples

Highly Recommended as Models of Research and Writing

“It is impossible to comprehend [the human past and the processes by which societies have changed over time] if we continue to rip segments of culture -- either the craft process, the artifact, or the historical figure – out of their larger historical contexts. . . . Our primary responsibilities as recorders and keepers of the past should be to recapture as much of the historical past as possible and to interpret an integrated look at human life, concentrating on the complex weave of human beings, environment, attitudes, and material objects.” – David G. Vanderstel, “Humanizing the Past,” Journal of American Culture (1989), 24.

These examples give you an idea of the possibilities of interdisciplinary research that incorporates material evidence (artifacts, buildings and cultural landscapes) with traditional historic evidence (written sources, personal papers, photographs) and anthropological evidence (oral interviews, for example).

Books like these can provide the context for interpretive plan development, public programming topics, collecting initiatives, and research agendas for the future.

 

What about home life in different places at different times?

Brown, Kenneth L. "Material Culture and Community Structure: The Slave and Tenant Community at Levi Jordan's Plantation, 1848-1892." In Working Toward Freedom: Slave Society and Domestic Economy in the American South, edited by Jr. Larry E. Hudson, (pp. 95-118). University of Rochester Press, 1995.

Carr, Lois Green; Russell R. Menard and Lorena S. Walsh. Robert Cole’s World: Agriculture and Society in Early Maryland. University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Demos, John. The Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Faragher, John Mack. Sugar Creek: Life on the Illinois Prairie. Yale University Press, 1988.

Larkin, Jack. The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840. Harper & Row, 1988.

Rybczynski, Withold. Home: A Short History of an Idea. Viking Penguin, 1986.

Schlereth, Thomas, J. Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life, 1876-1915. Harper Collins, 1991.

Scranton, Philip. Endless Novelty: Speciality Production and American Industrialization, 1865-1925. Princeton University Press, 1997.

Severa, Joan L. Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900. Kent State University Press, 1995.

Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Strasser, Susan. Never Done: A History of American Housework. Pantheon Books, 1982.

Sutherland, Daniel. The Expansion of Everyday Life, 1860-1876. University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Vinovskis, Maris A. Fertility in Massachusetts from the Revolution to the Civil War. Academic Press, 1981.

Wolf, Stephanie Grauman. As Various as Their land: the Everyday Lives of Eighteenth-Century Americans. Harper Collins, 1993.

Williams, Susan. Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America. University of Tennessee Press, 1996.

Worster, Donald. Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity and the Growth of the American West. Pantheon, 1986.

Wright, Gwendolyn. Building the Dream: A Social History of Housing in America. MIT Press, 1981.


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What about women’s history? Children’s history?

Armitage, Susan and Jameson, Elizabeth, eds. The Women’s West. University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.

Cott, Nancy F. and Pleck, Elizabeth, H. eds. A Heritage of Her Own. Simon and Schuster, 1979.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironieis of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. Basic Books, 1983.

Jenson, Joan, M. Loosening the Bonds: Mid-Atlantic Farm Women 1750-1850.Yale University Press. 1986.

Kett, Joseph. Rites of Passage: Adolescence in America, 1790 to the Present. Basic Books, 1977.

Moynihan, Ruth, Armitage, Susan, and Dichamp, Christiane, eds. So Much to Be Done: Women Settlers on the Mining and Ranching Frontier. University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Neth, Mary C. Preserving the Family Farm: Women, Community, and the Foundations of Agribusiness in the Midwest, 1900-1940. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Riley, Glenda. The Female Frontier: A Comparative View of Women on the Prairie and the Plains. University Press of Kansas, 1988.

Riney-Kehrberg, Pamela. Childhood on the Farm: Work, Play, and Coming of Age in the Midwest. University Press of Kansas, 2005.

Salamon, Sonja, Prairie Patrimony: Family, Farming and Community in the Midwest. University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1990.


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Houses, barns and agricultural landscapes have cultural integrity, too.

Carmichael, Marcia C. Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconsin’s Early Settlers. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2011.

Favretti, Rudy J. and Joy Putman Favretti. Landscape and Gardens for Historic Buildings: A Handbook for Reproducing and Creating Authentic Landscape Settings. AASLH, 1978.

Garrison, J. Ritchie. Landscape and Material Life in Franklin County, Massachusetts, 1771-1860. University of Tennessee Press, 1991.

Glassie, Henry. Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of Historic Artifacts. University of Tennessee Press, 1975.

Herman, Bernard L. Architecture and Rural Life in Central Delaware, 1700-1900. University of Tennessee Press, 1987.

Hubka, Thomas C. Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: Maine’s Connected Barn Architecture. University Press of New England, 1984; 20th anniv. ed. 2004.

Ierley. Merritt. The Comforts of Home: The American House and the Evolution of Modern Conveniences. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 1999.

Jackson, J. B. Discovering the Vernacular Landscape. Yale University Press, 1984.

Kirby, Jack Temple. Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South. University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Kirby, Jack Temple. Poquosin: A Study of Rural Landscape and Society. University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

McMurry, Sally. Families and Farm Houses in Nineteenth-Century America. University of Tennessee Press, 1988; 1997.

Nelson, Lynn A. Pharsalia: An Environmental Biography of a Southern Plantation, 1780-1880. University of Georgia Press, 2007.

Small, Nora Pat. Beauty and Convenience: Architecture and Order in the New Republic. University of Tennessee Press, 2003.


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What about farming practices and change over time?

Adams, Jane.  The Transformation of Rural Life in Southern Illinois, 1890-1990. University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

Anderson, J. L. Industrializing the Corn Belt: Agriculture, Technology, and Environment, 1945-1972. Northern Illinois University Press, 2009.

Atack, Jeremy and Fred Bateman. To Their Own Soil: Agriculture in the Antebellum North. Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Barron, Hal S. Mixed Harvest: The Second Great Transformation in the Rural North. University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Barron, Hal S. Those Who Stayed Behind: Rural Society in Nineteenth-Century New England. Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Bidwell, Percy Wells and John I. Falconer, History of Agriculture in the Northern United States, 1620-1860. Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1925; 1941.

Bogue, Allan G. From Prairie to Corn Belt: Farming on the Illinois and Iowa Prairies in the Nineteenth Century. University of Chicago, 1963; reprint, Iowa State University Press, 1994)

Cronon, William. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. W. W. Norton & Co. 1991.

Danhof, Clarence S. Changes in Agriculture: The Northern United States, 1820-1870. Harvard University Press, 1969.

Daniel, Pete. Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco and Rice Cultures since 1880. University of Illinois Press, 1985.

Derry, Margaret E. Bred to Perfection: Shorthorn Cattle, Collies, and Arabian Horses Since 1800. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

Donohue, Brian. The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord. Yale University Press, 2004.

Ellenberg, George B. Mule South to Tractor South: Mules, Machines, and the Transformation of the Cotton South. University of Alabama Press, 2007.

Ekberg, Carl J. French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times. University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Evans, Sterling. Bound in Twine: The History and Ecology of the Henequen-Wheat Complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plains, 1880-1930. Texas A&M University Press, 2007.

Fite, Gilbert C. Cotton Fields No More: Southern Agriculture, 1865-1980. University of Kentucky Press, 1984.

Fite, Gilbert C. The Farmers' Frontier: 1865-1900. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966.

Fitzgerald, Deborah.  The Business of Breeding: Hybrid Corn in Illinois, 1890-1940. Cornell University Press, 1990.

Gates, Paul Wallace. The Farmer’s Age: Agriculture, 1815-1860. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960.

Gates, Paul Wallace. The History of Public Land Law Development. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968; reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1979.

Gray, Lewis Cecil. History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860. 2 vols. Carnegie Institution of Washington 1933, reprinted Peter Smith, 1958.

Kirby, Jack Temple. Rural Worlds Lost: The American South, 1920-1960. Louisiana State University Press, 1987.

Meyer, Carrie A.  Days on the Family Farm; From the Golden Age through the Great Depression. University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

Mogren, Eric. Native Soil: A History of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. Northern Illinois University Press, 2005.

 

Nordin, Dennis S. and Roy V. Scott. From Prairie Farmer to Entrepreneur: The Transformation of Midwestern Agriculture. Indiana University Press, 2005.

Rikoon, J. Sanford. Threshing in the Midwest, 1820-1940: A Study of Traditional Culture and Technological Change. Indiana University Press, 1988.

Russell, Howard S. A Long Deep Furrow: Three Centuries of Farming In New England. University Press of New England, 1976; abridged edition, 1981.

Saloutos, Theodore. Farmer Movements in the South: 1865-1933. University of Nebraska Press, 1960.

Schob, David E. Hired Hands and Plow Boys: Farm Labor in the Midwest, 1815-1860. University of Illinois Press, 1976.

Shannon, Fred Albert. Farmer's Last Frontier: Agriculture, 1860-1897. Farrar and Reinhart, 1945; reprint M.E. Sharp, Inc., 1989.

Shover, John. First Majority – Last Minority: The Transformation of Rural Life in America. University of Iowa Press, 1976.

Stoll, Steven. Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America. Hill and Wang, 2002.


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Ranching

Atherton, Lewis, The Cattle Kings. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961.

Dale, Edward, Everett. The Range Cattle Industry: Ranching on the Great Plains from 1865 to 1925. Oklahoma University Press, 2nd edition, 1960.

Jordan, Terry G.  North American Cattle Ranching Frontiers: Origins, Diffusion, and

            Differentiation. University of New Mexico, 1993.

Jordan, Terry G. Trails to Texas:  Southern Roots of Western Cattle Ranching. University of Nebraska Press, 1981.

Manning, Richard. Grassland: the History, Biology, Politics, and Promise of the American

            Prairie. Viking Penguin, 1995.

Pelzer, Louis. The Cattlemen's Frontier. Russell and Russell, 2nd edition, 1969.

Pelzer, Louis.  "Financial Management of the Cattle Ranges," Journal of Economic and

            Business History, II (August, 1930), 723-741.

Rifkin, Jeremy. Beyond Beef:  The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture. Penguin Books, 1993.

Schlebecker, John.  Cattle Raising on the Plains 1900-1961. University of Nebraska Press, 1963.

Taylor, Lonn and Ingrid Marr.  The American Cowboy. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, 1983.


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Immigration& Ethnicity

Carmichael, Marcia C. Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconsin’s Early Settlers. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2011.

Gjerde, J. From Peasants to Farmers: The Migration from Balestrand, Norway, to the upper Middle West. Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Jordan, Terry G. German Seed in Texas Soil: Immigrant Farmers in Nineteenth-Century Texas. University of Texas Press, 1966; reissued 1994.

Jordan, Terry G. with M. Kaups. The American Backwoods Frontier: An Ethnic and Ecological Interpretation. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

 

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Food History; Staple Crop History; Eating History; You need a well-stocked bookshelf!

Bentley, Amy. Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity. University of Illinois Press, 1998.

Carney, Judith A. The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. Harvard University Press, 2001.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2nd ed., 2007.

Crosby, Alfred The Colombian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Greenwood, 1972.

Curtin, Philip Cross-Cultural Trade in World History. Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Diner, Hasia R. Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration. Harvard University Press, 2001.

Etheridge, Elizabeth. The Butterfly Caste: A Social History of Pellagra in the South. Westport, 1971.

Freidberg, Susanne. Fresh: A Perishable History. Belknap Press, 2009.

Gisolfi, Monica Richmond. "From Crop Lien to Contract Farming: The Roots of Agribusiness in the American South, 1929-1939," Agricultural History 80 (Spring 2006): 167-89.

Hillard, Sam. Hog Meat and Hoe Cake: Food Supply in the Old South. Southern Illinois University Press, 1972.

Hobhouse, Henry. Seeds of Change: Five Plants that Transformed Mankind. Harper Collins, 1995.

Hooker, Richard Food and Drink in America: A History. Bobbs-Merill, 1981.

Jones, Evan. American Food: The Gastronomic Story, 2nd. ed. Vintage Books, 1981.

Keiner, Christine.  The Oyster Question: Scientists, Watermen, and the Maryland Chesapeake Bay since 1880. Georgia University Press, 2009.

Koeppel, Dan. Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World. Hudson Street Press, 2007.

Kurlansky, Mark. Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. Penguin, 1998.

Kurlansky, Mark. Salt: A World History. Penguin, 2003.

Ladurie, Emmanuel Le Roy. Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate since the Year 1000 (Allen and Unwin, 1973)

Lender, Mark Edward and James Kirby Martin. Drinking in America: A History. Free Press, 1982.

Levenstein, Harvey. Revolution at Table: The Transformation of the American Diet. Oxford University Press, 1988.

Levenstein, Harvey. Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America. Oxford University Press, 1993.

Levine, Susan. School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America's Favorite Welfare Program. Princeton University Press, 2008.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin, 1986.

Pendergast, Peter. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World. Basic Books, 2nd ed., 2010.

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. Random House, 2001.

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin 2006.

Salaman, Redcliffe. The History and Social Influence of the Potato. Cambridge University Press, 1949.

Schapiro, Laura. Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986.

Schwartz, Hillel. Never Satisfied: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies and Fat. Free Press, 1986.

Shephard, Sue. Pickled, Potted, and Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World. Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Skaggs, Jimmy. Prime Cut: Livestock Raising and Meatpacking in the United States, 1607-1983. Texas A&M University Press, 1986.

Stuyvenberg, J. H. van, editor. Margarine: An Economic, Social and Scientific History, 1869-1969. Liverpool University Press, 1969.

Turner, Jack. Spice: The History of a Temptation. Vintage, 2005.

William, Susan. Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America. Pantheon, 1985.


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What relationship existed between the city and the country?

“Would the farm stand alone or should a museum be part of the development? Would additional restoration work or reconstruction efforts, such as a village, be included in the project? . . . Is there already a restoration project in the community to which a farm could be added? Are there other tourist attractions nearby?” – Schlebecker and Peterson, Living Historical Farms Handbook (1972), 4.

 

Conzen, Michael P. Frontier Farming in an Urban Shadow: The Influence of Madison’s Proximity on the Agricultural Development of Blooming Grove, Wisconsin. State Historical Society of Wisconsin Press, 1971.

 

Swierenga, Robert P. "’Plowing in hope’: Truck Farming and Colonization,” in Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy City. A.C. Van Raalte Institute, 2002.

 

Stewart-Abernathy, Leslie C. “Urban Farmsteads: Household Responsibilities in the City.” Historical Archaeology 20, no. 2 (1986): 5-15.


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Primary Sources

 

FamilySearch.org for free, Ancestry.com for a fee -- both indispensible in documenting people in specific places. Ancestry.com now has live-text searchable agricultural census returns for farmers in the United States in 1870 and 1880.

 

Libraries at “land-grant” universities created by the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Act, have led the effort to identify, digitize and make broadly available agricultural publications. To access the open source websites (which are available without charge to the general public) go to your state’s land-grant university website. For southern and western states, check the digital resources in your state’s 1890 land-grant (the traditionally African American universities so designated by the Second Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1890), and the libraries of the 29 Native American colleges recognized as 1994 tribal land-grants by the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act of 1994.

 

Cornell University created “Core Historical Literature of Agriculture” (CHLA), an electronic collection of agricultural texts published between the early nineteenth century and the middle to late twentieth century. Full-text materials cover agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, animal science, crops and their protection, food science, forestry, human nutrition, rural sociology, and soil science. Scholars have selected the titles in this collection for their historical importance. Their evaluations and 4,500 core titles are detailed in the seven volume series The Literature of the Agricultural Sciences, Wallace C. Olsen, series editor.  Online holdings continue to grow. Late 2010 statistics indicated the following quantity online: Pages: 1,011,930 Books: 2,047 (2,116 Volumes) Journals: 12 (510 Volumes), all available at: http://chla.library.cornell.edu/

 

Cornell University created “Home Economics Archives: Research, Tradition, History” (HEARTH), an electronic collection of books and journals in home economics from 1850-1950.  Online holdings continue to grow. Mid 2011 statistics indicated the following quantity online: Pages: 769,479 Books: 1174 (1236 Volumes) Journals: 15 (421 Volumes), all available at: http://hearth.library.cornell.edu/

 

The University of Illinois has digitized and created a live-text searchable open source database of farm journals from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The project materialized around the belief that farm newspapers played a key role in the modernization of rural America. To understand that process, readers needed more access to the holdings of critical farm newspapers. “The Farm, Field and Fireside Collection” contains historically significant United States farm weeklies. To access the site go to: University of Illinois’ website: www.illinois.edu and search within the site for “Farm, Field and Fireside.” Digitized collections include:

        Berkshire World and Cornbelt Stockman (1910-1926)

        Better Farming (1913-1925)

        Farmers' Review (1879-1918)

        Farmers Voice (1898-1913)

        Farmer's Wife (1906-1939)

        Farm, Field and Fireside (1884-1906)

        Farm, Field and Stockman (1885-1887)

        Farm Home (1899-1920)

        Farm Press (1906-1913)

        Illinois Farmer (1856-1864)

        Lancaster Farming (1955-1981)

        Prairie Farmer (1841-1923)

 

 

The Illinois State Museum’s Audio-Barn won the Oral History Association’s 2010 Elizabeth B. Mason Major Project Award for an oral history collection its collection and open-source access to more than 130 interviews of Illinois farm families and others involved in agriculture. The museum developed the site to help others learn about historic relationships between humans and the landscape, culture and economics of rural and farm life. The collection represents the range of farming practices across Illinois including different crop cultures and farm management strategies. The Illinois State Museum partnered with several institutions including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, to collect and share the interviews via an open source website. A major grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Services partially funded the work. The team of experts identified best practices to collect and preserve information which they also share on the site. The “audio barn” contains transcriptions as well as audio and video recordings: http://avbarn.museum.state.il.us/

Sanborn Maps were created by the Sanborn Map Company which operated for nearly 100 years, starting in1867. Public libraries or local historical societies across the nation have these maps in their collections but 660,000 have been digitized by ProQuest Information and Learning and made available through academic and public libraries. The maps contain invaluable information about buildings in cities, towns and neighborhoods across the United States which makes them worth the effort to locate and study. The large-scale maps include footprints of each building, the construction materials, the location of windows and doors, and the function of structures on a property (both residential and commercial). For additional information consult http://sanborn.umi.com/


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