Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research Vol. 13, No. 2, 2003. Copyright © 2003 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Ronald Kline examines the acquisition and use of automobiles, electricity, telephones, and radios among farm families from the early twentieth century to 1960. He builds his argument around the tension between farm folk and the forces of urbanization in cities and towns, federal agencies such as REA and Extension Services, and corporations that manufactured and sold various technologies. While purveyors of machines and energy expected they would initiate urbanization of rural social and economic relationships, and that farm families who adopted them would therefore become modern, farmers resisted both the technologies and the assumptions of urbanization until they found the new gadgets useful enough to justify their expense. Even then, farmers befuddled the agents of directed change by incorporating the new technologies into existing patterns of communication, household and farm spending, and labor organization.