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Video Commentary on Life on the Farm Before the Coming of Rural Electrification
Video Commentary on Some Alternatives to Central Station Power Before Rural Electrification
Video Commentary on the History and Significance of Rural Electrification

By Dr. D. Clayton Brown, Professor of History, Texas Christian University

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Escaping Farm Labor
Farming 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
The 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

Copyright: 2004
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.

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