Date of Award
Master of Arts
America's agricultural and industrial history intersect in the farmer's cultivation of broom corn, the farm family's production of brooms, and the subsequent move of broom corn production from a sideline to an industry in its own right. Broom corn was introduced in America in the mid- to late-eighteenth century. For the next century and a half, the broom corn and broom manufacturing industry mirrored the trends in agriculture and industry in America. The story of an industry's rise and decline can be told through the microcosm of the farmers that cultivated broom corn and the small business owners and operators in the shops and factories that produced brooms in the state of Iowa from approximately 1850 to 1950. At the center of the study is an ever-changing business model that reflected the development of an industry. Initially, farmers used a business model that had broom corn cultivation and small-scale broom manufacturing as a supplement to income from other agricultural products. Chapter two focuses on how farmers cultivated broom corn over time. By the mid-nineteenth century, this model was transitioning to a model where broom making was a legitimate occupation in itself. The federal census of Iowa in 1880, the subject of chapter three, revealed the occupational characteristics of a group of persons who recorded broom making as their occupation. By the start of the twentieth century, the industrial business model represented a distinct manufacturing industry, separate from agriculture. The various business models and their differences are discussed in chapter four through the differences between three families who manufactured brooms in Iowa. This study is the rise and fall of broom corn as an agricultural commodity in Iowa, coupled closely with the rise and fall of the broom manufacturing industry in Iowa. The trends at the local level revealed by this study will speak to the trends in agriculture and industry on the national level. As the first decade of the twenty-first century reaches its midpoint, individuals and small industries would be wise to remember the story of the rise and decline of the broom manufacturing industry in Iowa.
Daniel Edward Jones
Jones, Daniel Edward, "Broom corn and brooms: the history of broom corn cultivation and broom manufacturing in Iowa" (2005). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 19123.