RURAL ELECTRIFICATION: THE
MODERNIZATION OF RURAL AMERICA
By Dr. D. Clayton Brown, Professor of History,
Texas Christian University
Escaping Farm Labor
practices also improved with the use of electrical motors
and lights. Watering livestock became much faster and easier
once pipes were installed into barns and sheds. Small electrical
tools speeded up repairs. Dairy and poultry farming expanded
with the advent of electrification because it greatly enhanced
the productivity of labor with automatic feeding and watering
devices. Machines for a variety of tasks had the same effect:
grinders and shellers, saws, milking machines, cream separators,
and similar equipment. The drudgery of manual labor and
time devoted to daily chores declined in the barn as it
did in the house, so that as leisure time increased, social
interests grew. By the mid 1950s the United States had 90
percent rural electrification and while some dwellings such
as cabins and hunting lodges still had no service, the job
was considered complete.
The New Rural America
face of rural America had changed. Other factors as automobiles,
the improvement of roads, and the construction of interstate
highways contributed, but no development matched electrification
in bringing home life up to twentieth century standards.
But the migration into cities did not stop as the United
States industrialized further and farming became more mechanized.
The rural population fell and the percentage linked directly
to farming dropped drastically. As the United States later
became interconnected with the global economy and access
to information became the defining feature of relevance
and viability, rural Americans could rest assured they had
radio, television, and the Internet, the necessary ingredients
for participating in the new economic and social order.
D. Clayton Brown
D. Clayton Brown specializes in Modern American History.
Clayton received his Ph.D. from the University of California,
Los Angeles. A native Texan, he earned the Bachelor of Arts
and Master of Arts at the University of North Texas. His
main interest in research and publication, though not exclusive,
is the economic development of the rural South in the twentieth
century. He is the author of Electricity for Rural America:
The Fight for the REA; Army Engineers in the Sunbelt;
Dwight D. Eisenhower; and Globalization and
America Since 1945. Clayton has presented 30 papers
at a variety of conferences. He received the best article
of the year award from the Texas State Historical Association.
He has been recognized as a Mortar Board Professor and nominated
for Teacher of the Year by members of the student body.
Clayton has worked as a consultant for numerous entities,
including the National Endowment for the Humanities.