Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science




The nature of agricultural tenancy has been the source of historical debate for decades. For some historians, tenancy was the end result of a corrupted federal land policy. Rather than allowing farmers to purchase land with credit, after 1820 the government required cash payment. This gave rise to a class of people who profited by aiding farmers in this situation; land speculators and money lenders. Other historians placed tenancy as part of a theoretical ladder of land ownership. Henry Vanzant stands as an example of an atypical tenant farmer. His was not a life failed by a government land policy, or marked by financial failures that impeded him from owning the earth upon which he stood. History has written that the aim of the vast majority of American farmers in the nineteenth century was the private ownership of their farms, and that only those unfortunates, doomed by the greed of another or their own financial bad luck, lived in a state of tenancy. Yet, Vanzant chose to live in a state of tenancy for the greatest part of his adult life. The first chapter of this paper is a short biography of Henry C. Vanzant. Vanzant's story is told through the letters he received not only from his family, but from his landlord as well. Chapter two investigates the relevant historiography of agricultural tenancy. This investigation centers upon the conflict between historians such as Paul W. Gates, Allan G. Bogue, Seddie Cogswell, Jr. and Donald L. Winters. While illustrative of the state as a whole, it provides a comparison with which to weigh Henry C. Vanzant and his place in history. The third chapter discusses the nature of Vanzant's atypical tenancy. Records reveal that in 1850 Henry Vanzant entered into an agreement with George Wilson to rent his farm near Agency, Iowa. Ten years later Vanzant made a loan for several hundred dollars to a local business. What emerges from these pieces of paper is an image of tenancy that does not neatly fit into the historiography of American agricultural tenancy.

Copyright Owner

Robert Christopher Welch



OCLC Number


File Format


File Size

72 pages