From 1840 to 1900, midwestern Americans experienced firsthand the profound economic, cultural, and structural changes that transformed the nation from a premodern, agrarian state to one that was urban, industrial, and economically interdependent. Midwestern commercial farmers found themselves at the heart of these changes. Their actions and reactions led to the formation of a distinctive and particularly democratic consumer ethos, which is still being played out today.
By focusing on the consumer behavior of midwestern farmers, Sowing the American Dream provides illustrative examples of how Americans came to terms with the economic and ideological changes that swirled around them. From the formation of the Grange to the advent of mail-order catalogs, the buying patterns of rural midwesterners set the stage for the coming century.
Carefully documenting the rise and fall of the powerful purchasing cooperatives, David Blanke explains the shifting trends in collective consumerism, which ultimately resulted in a significant change in the way that midwestern consumers pursued their own regional identity, community, and independence.