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Kansas History - Summer 2016

Kansas History, Summer 2016(Volume 39, Number 2)

Jaclyn J.S. Miller, “The Lender and the Modern Land Renting System: Albert A. Doerr’s Impact on Great Plains Farming Patterns.”

Historians have documented the transformation of the Great Plains agricultural system into its modern form as a large-scale, industrialized system following the First World War and especially in the immediate years surrounding World War II. Donald Worster and others have highlighted the capitalist cultural context that failed to stop this process even in the light of significant ecological disasters such as the Dust Bowl. This case study of Larned, Kansas, implement dealer and lender Albert A. Doerr demonstrates how those implicated in the modernization of agriculture, through the promotion and financing of industrial farming, contributed to the consolidation of land within the hands of regional elites. Doerr’s management of an extensive set of farms in southwestern Kansas, rented out to local farm-operators, shows the development of the present pattern of elite farm ownership and high renter rates. Doerr’s case, while immediately providing evidence of the financial interests of wealthy businessmen who wished to invest in land, also underscores how lenders perceived the lasting cultural value for farming. The continued maintenance of land within prominent families such as Doerr’s suggests that an American ideal for landholding remained strong despite challenges to the regional practice of agriculture. 

Daniel T. Gresham, “A Progressive Rancher Opposes the New Deal: The Political Journey of Dan Casement.”

On an intellectual level, there is a connection between Progressive Era policies and those of the New Deal, but this begs the question. If that is the case, how do we account for the fact that many self-styled progressives opposed the New Deal? Dan D. Casement, the famous Kansas cattleman, is portrayed by scholars as a rugged individualist and a reactionary critic of the New Deal; never as a progressive. This article reveals Casement’s support for many Progressive Era reforms as well as his desire for social and industrial justice. It also highlights important shifts in his progressive philosophy in the period between World War I and the New Deal. Casement continued to support structural reforms only in relation to the cattle industry and crusaded for moral reforms, which to him meant conserving republican virtue in the farm sector in order to save American identity. He opposed the New Deal as false progressivism and the Agricultural Adjustment Act as detrimental to republican virtue. After Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide victory in 1936, Casement lost faith in the American people, manifested a belief in biological determinism, and abandoned progressivism.

S. Zebulon Baker, “To help foster athletic equality here in the Midwest”: Defeating Jim Crow in the Big Seven Conference.”

Until Harold Robinson took the field as Kansas State’s starting center during the 1949 football season, the Big Seven Conference had existed as a racially segregated athletic association. Between the conference’s founding in 1926 and the Second World War, African Americans were excluded from varsity competition by custom, out of deference to the cultural mores of the Universities of Missouri and Oklahoma, both of which were segregated institutions. After the war, however, the league’s governing body of faculty representatives formalized this exclusion of black athletes by unanimously adopting a bylaw into their rule book, which guaranteed the segregation of competitors by race. The introduction of discrimination by rule in May 1946, at a moment when athletes of color were nationally growing in number and stature in college football, initiated a public debate within the conference about the place and purpose of equal opportunity for African Americans on these Central Plains campuses. The resulting activism would, in time, erase the competitive color line, aligning the emerging postwar racial conscience of students with the fundamental misgivings of administrators about the compact that their faculty and coaches struck with Jim Crow.


Book Notes