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The Grange (officially the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry) is an American organization of farmers that was founded by Oliver H. Kelley in 1867; it spread across the U.S. and Canada, and is still active.

Membership in Grange and rival farm organizations, 1875–1960. From Tontz (1964) p. 146
Grangers were modernizers who wanted to use modern science to make the farms more efficient and business-like. Its programs helped the farmer and the farm wife become up-to-date with technology and new methods. The used the county fair and state fair as an important agent of modernization, demonstrating to farmers the latest in agricultural equipment and techniques, in addition to providing political speeches from a great variety of persuasions, and different types of entertainment for every member of the family. It promoted rural schools and state agricultural colleges. When the agricultural colleges opened extension offices in most counties after 1917, the Grange was upstaged by the American Farm Bureau Federation, which was closely linked with the extension service.
romantic image of hard-working, prosperous, independent yeoman farmer; from 1873 Grange poster


The Grange generally was nonpartisan, so that it could attract members across party lines. However it often sent petitions and statements to state legislatures and Congress. The Granger Laws were state regulations of railroad rates, passed by state legislatures in the Midwest in the 1870s in response to Granger demands.[1] The Supreme Court upheld them in Munn v. Illinois (1877), but said the states could not regulate interstate railroads in Wabash v. Illinois (1886). State regulation was replaced later by federal laws. In 1881 it strongly opposed the nomination of Stanley Matthews (1824–89) to the U.S. Supreme Court, because his ties to the railroad industry could endanger state laws regulating freight rates. Matthews was confirmed in the Senate by a single vote after the Grange lobbied vigorously in opposition through its publications and its state organizations.

Independent farmers in the northeast and California, led by Nahum Bachelder and the National Grange, were a significant force in the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century. Bachelder, a New Hampshire farmer, joined the Grange in 1877, and was Republican governor of New Hampshire in 1903 and 1904. Under his leadership the Grange grew from 285,000 dues-paying members in 1905 to one million members in 1911, and it wielded considerable influence with the Republican Party. The Grange's reputation suffered, however, from revelations in 1911 that two lobbyists had manipulated it. The Grange's influence declined quickly and Bachelder retired from it altogether.[2]


Members of the Texas Grange primarily were native-born Protestant farmers (usually Methodists) who lived in northeastern Texas on small farms. These Grangers emphasized cotton production and were politically active. Texas Grangers were particularly militant in politics even though the organization was nonpartisan. They voted for candidates who supported their goals, such as reducing state expenditures and taxes, state regulation of railroads and corporate practices, and limitations on the state's power to borrow money. They also supported a new state constitution in 1876. Although the Farmers' Alliance and the People's Party co-opted the Granger program, its members remained politically active through the election of 1896.[3]


Women actively participated in the Grange and the Farmers' Alliance. The Grange is usually depicted as strongly and consistently supporting equal rights and suffrage for women. Actually, it was only the persistence of feminists within the organization that eventually brought it to that position. In its early days, the Grange provided considerable equality to women within the organization but emphasized their domestic role. As women assumed more leadership positions and the prohibition movement became important within the Grange, feminists were able to convince the national organization to support women's suffrage in 1885, though that support wavered over the next 30 years.[4]

The farm women never challenged traditional sex roles. But many women insisted on joining their husbands in the struggle against the trusts and monopolies that they believed threatened their way of life. Though some local chapters of the Alliance and the Agricultural Wheel sought to exclude women, the female membership in other chapters was as high as 50%. Women understood the problems that farmers faced and realized better than men that internal divisions threatened the success of the agrarian movement.[5] The Grange provided a social focal point for rural socializing, especially in the form of Saturday night square dancing, singing, quilting contests, picnics, and fairs. The Grange epitomized the pietistic Protestant culture of rural America, evidenced by its emphasis on such innocent recreations and its focus on temperance and virtuosity.[6]

Since 1945

After 1945, the conservative American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) outstripped the very liberal National Farmers' Union (NFU) and the middle-of-the-road Grange, both of which went into a sharp decline.[7]

When Harry Truman's Secretary of Agriculture Charles Brannan in 1949 proposed a plan of direct assistance to small farmers, he justified it by reasserting the importance of the small family farmer as the foundation of American democracy. However, in the Grange small farmers opposed the plan because it too closely resembled welfare and would undermine their self-image as independent yeomen and successful entrepreneurs. Brannan sought to protect the small farmer against competition from the large companies, but the plan was not accepted by Congress because farmers self-image would not allow for welfare.[8]

See also

Further reading

  • Barnes, William D. "Oliver Hudson Kelley and the Genesis of the Grange: A Reappraisal," Agricultural History, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Jul., 1967), pp. 229–242 in JSTOR
  • Buck, Solon Justus. The Granger movement: A Study of Agricultural Organization and its Political, Economic, and Social Manifestations, 1870-1880‎ (1913) 384pp; full text online; excellent older history (newer is Nordin, 1974)
  • Ferguson, James S. "The Grange and Farmer Education in Mississippi," Journal of Southern History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Nov., 1942), pp. 497–512 in JSTOR
  • Hirsch, Arthur H. "Efforts of the Grange in the Middle West to Control the Price of Farm Machinery, 1870-1880," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Mar., 1929), pp. 473–496 in JSTOR
  • Lownsbrough, John. The Privileged Few. The Grange and its People in Nineteenth Century Ontario (1980)
  • Marti, Donald B. Women of the Grange: Mutuality and Sisterhood in Rural America, 1866-1920 (1991)
  • Nordin, D. Sven. Rich Harvest: A History of the Grange, 1867–1900 (1974), 273pp excerpt and text search
  • Saloutos, Theodore. "The Grange in the South, 1870-1877," Journal of Southern History, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Nov., 1953), pp. 473–487 in JSTOR
  • Schneiberg, Marc et al. "Social Movements and Organizational Form: Cooperative Alternatives to Corporations in the American Insurance, Dairy, and Grain Industries," American Sociological Review 2008 73(4): 635–667, theoretical essay
  • Schell, Herbert S. "The Grange and the Credit Problem in Dakota Territory," Agricultural History, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Apr., 1936), pp. 59–83 in JSTOR
  • Tontz, Robert L. "Memberships of General Farmers' Organizations, United States, 1874-1960," Agricultural History, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Jul., 1964), pp. 143–156 in JSTOR statistical tables showing membership in the Grange and other farm organizations by date and state and region
  • Woods, Thomas A. ''Knights of the Plow: Oliver H. Kelley and the Origins of the Grange in Republican Ideology (2002)

Primary sources

  • Atkeson, Thomas Clark. Semi-centennial history of the Patrons of husbandry (1916) 364pp full text online
  • Goss, Albert S. "Legislative Program of the National Grange," Journal of Farm Economics, Vol. 29, No. 1, Proceedings Number (Feb., 1947), pp. 52-63 by Grange leader
  • Kelley, Oliver Hudson. Origin and progress of the order of the Patrons of Husbandry in the United States (1875) 441pp full text online
  • full texts of primary sources on Grange


  1. They were passed in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
  2. A. R. Riggs, and Tom Velk, "New Hampshire Governor Nahum J. Bachelder and the Grange in Progressive Politics, 1905-1912," Historical New Hampshire 2000 55(3-4): 76-89,
  3. Dale Baum and Robert A. Calvert, "Texas Patrons of Husbandry: Geography, Social Contexts, and Voting Behavior," Agricultural History, Vol. 63, No. 4 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 36-55 in JSTOR
  4. Donald B. Marti, "Sisters of the Grange: Rural Feminism in the Late Nineteenth Century," Agricultural History, Vol. 58, No. 3, (July 1984) pp. 247-261 in JSTOR; Marilyn P. Watkins, "Political Activism and Community-Building among Alliance and Grange Women in Western Washington, 1892-1925," Agricultural History, Vol. 67, No. 2, (Spring, 1993), pp. 197-213 in JSTOR
  5. Connie L. Lester, "'Let Us Be up and Doing': Women in the Tennessee Movements for Agrarian Reform, 1870-1892," Tennessee Historical Quarterly 1995 54(2): 80-97,
  6. Laurie Kay Sommers and Lee Ellen Friedland, "'Innocent Recreations': Music and Dance in the Michigan Grange," Michigan History 1994 78(4): 10-18,
  7. Theodore Saloutos, "Agricultural Organizations and Farm Policy in the South after World War II," Agricultural History, Vol. 53, No. 1, (Jan., 1979), pp. 377-404 in JSTOR
  8. Karen J. Bradley, "Agrarian Ideology and Agricultural Policy: California Grangers and the Post-World War II Farm Policy Debate," Agricultural History 1995 69(2): 240-256, in JSTOR