Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

American Studies

First Advisor

Marra, Kim

First Committee Member

Adams, Bluford

Second Committee Member

Kinsey, Joni

Third Committee Member

Raeburn, John

Fourth Committee Member

Stromquist, Shelton


During the 1930s a large number of cultural artifacts presented rural Iowa to national audiences as an ideal place where the "real" America still flourished despite the harsh realities of the Great Depression. Artist Grant Wood's lush landscapes, novelist Phil Stong's trustworthy farmers, and cartoonist "Ding" Darling's pragmatic Iowans, are among the creations that comforted Americans from 1930-1936. These texts gained attention from audiences not only because they invoked peaceful pastoral imagery, but also because they frequently presented a monolithic patriarchal society without ethnic and racial diversity or social class distinctions. This presentation of Caucasian normativity was a tonic for many Americans who felt unnerved by the floundering economy and still recognized the deep divisions of the previous decade, which had resulted in race riots, immigration restrictions, and labor unrest. These splits were still present in the 1930s, even though that decade has come to be remembered primarily for the economic crisis and dust storms which spawned famous representations of Dust Bowl migrants. Those conditions were real, but the cultural importance of productive, honest (white) Iowa farmers during the first half of the Depression has, by comparison, been largely forgotten. In four chapters which respectively analyze journalism, art and literature, films, and political speeches from the period, I seek to rectify this historical oversight and offer a glimpse into how Americans, when faced with an ongoing crisis, may be encouraged to embrace a "simpler" way of life belonging to an imagined past.


1930s, Cultural History, Farmers' Holiday, Midwest, Rural History, State Fair


vii, 251 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 238-251).


Copyright 2014 Wayne Gary Anderson