Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

R. Douglas Hurt

Second Advisor

George McJimsey


During the life of President James J. Hill, the Great Northern Railway launched projects along its line to increase agricultural production and farmer education. Through these development schemes the railroad interacted with university personnel, state and federal governments, booster groups, and farm organizations. The railroad's corporate needs, such as increased agricultural haulage, effected this interaction;The railroad was involved in agricultural development between 1880 and 1920. This included operation of the largest private demonstration farm system in the country, several large-scale western drainage and irrigation schemes, extensive political lobbying on both the state and federal levels, and generous philanthropic support of educational programs;Corporate policy related to changes in agriculture and agricultural education in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Great Northern's agricultural program reflected the line's wholehearted subscription to the Progressives' optimistic assessment of human abilities and their faith in efficiency and expertise. However, corporate necessity tempered the organization's perspective, making it different from that of governmental and educational institutions. The line's relationship with the farmers mirrored its unique position in their lives. During a time of agricultural upheaval and protest in the American West, farmers' reactions to the Great Northern often proved contradictory. They followed national rural trends in opposing railroad rates and monopolies, yet they respected the business efficiency of the line;Much of the impetus for the line's agricultural programs stemmed from James J. Hill. Passionately interested in agricultural development, he spent time and money throughout his life on private and corporate efforts to "improve" farming along his line. His suasion, however, often rested on factors external to the content of his proposals. A self-made man with a distinctive western image, many farmers listened more willingly to him than to eastern and university experts whom they perceived as being "book taught." Influential for a time, Hill's authority as a gentleman farmer was ultimately undermined by the professional expertise that he promoted.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Claire Margaret Strom



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

208 pages