Profiting from the Plains
The Great Northern Railway and Corporate Development of the American West
The energetic and charismatic owner of the Great Northern Railway, James J. Hill, spearheaded most of the initiatives undertaken by his corporation to boost agricultural production. He tried, often unsuccessfully, to persuade farmers of the profitability of his methods, which were largely based on his personal farming experience. When Hill’s initial efforts to increase haulage failed, he shifted his focus to working with outside agencies and institutions, often providing them with the funding to pursue projects he hoped would profit his railroad. At the time, state and federal agencies were also promoting agricultural development through irrigation, conservation, and dryland farming, but their agendas often clashed with those of the Great Northern Railway. Because Hill failed to grasp the extent to which politicians’ goals differed from those of the railroad, his use of federal expertise to promote agricultural change often backfired. But despite these obstacles, the railroad magnate ironically remained among the last defenders of the small-scale farmer modeled on Jeffersonian idealism.
This fascinating story of railroad politics and development ties into themes of corporate and federal sponsorship, which are increasingly recognized as fundamental to western history. As the first scholarly examination of James J. Hill’s agricultural enterprises, Profiting from the Plains makes an important contribution to the biography of the popular and controversial Hill, as well as to western and environmental history.
About the Author
"Profiting from the Plains is a sound treatment of how corporate development worked (and often didn’t) on the Northern Plains. Claire Strom brings a fresh and critical dimension which serves as a corrective to much of our current literature on the subject."—W. Thomas White, James J. Hill Library
Other Titles in HISTORY / United States / State & Local / Midwest (IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, WI)
Other Titles in History of the Americas