Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Pamela Riney-Kehrberg


This thesis tells the story of rural Iowa musicians who played music on behalf of the Iowa Farm Bureau between 1920 and 1937. While their participation may look like a show of support for the organization and its dream for commercial-based agriculture, the Farm Bureau’s ability to lure people in by exciting playing opportunities on the radio and at large county pageants suggests they used deception and theatricality to get people singing. Men and women played music for the Farm Bureau, but more out of a genuine desire to make music in their ongoing communities, and to embrace new playing opportunities in the country. All the while, Farm Bureau leaders used local participants to advertise the perceived social benefits of agricultural organization in the country.

Scholars do not know the history of musicians like these. But if folk music is the music of folks, and not just of a few iconic figures, then this story of everyday rural musicians in Iowa is vital to the understanding of social participation and cultural preservation in America. While it is important to celebrate the contributions of people like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, scholars must be careful not to let those names become snares in the quest for a greater understanding of the everyday folks who made America’s music.


Copyright Owner

Seth Hedquist



File Format


File Size

97 pages

Included in

History Commons