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History > U.S. History > Local and Regional > Midwest

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The Emerald Horizon Cover

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The Emerald Horizon

The History of Nature in Iowa

In The Emerald Horizon, Cornelia Mutel combines lyrical writing with meticulous scientific research to portray the environmental past, present, and future of Iowa. In doing so, she ties all of Iowa's natural features into one comprehensive whole.

Since so much of the tallgrass state has been transformed into an agricultural landscape, Mutel focuses on understanding today’s natural environment by understanding yesterday’s changes. After summarizing the geological, archaeological, and ecological features that shaped Iowa’s modern landscape, she recreates the once-wild native communities that existed prior to Euroamerican settlement. Next she examines the dramatic changes that overtook native plant and animal communities as Iowa’s prairies, woodlands, and wetlands were transformed. Finally she presents realistic techniques for restoring native species and ecological processes as well as a broad variety of ways in which Iowans can reconnect with the natural world. Throughout, in addition to the many illustrations commissioned for this book, she offers careful scientific exposition, a strong sense of respect for the land, and encouragement to protect the future by learning from the past.

The “emerald prairie” that “gleamed and shone to the horizon’s edge,” as botanist Thomas Macbride described it in 1895, has vanished. Cornelia Mutel’s passionate dedication to restoring this damaged landscape—and by extension the transformed landscape of the entire Corn Belt—invigorates her blend of natural history and human history. Believing that citizens who are knowledgeable about native species, communities, and ecological processes will better care for them, she gives us hope—and sound suggestions—for the future.

Environmental Politics and the Creation of a Dream Cover

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Environmental Politics and the Creation of a Dream

Establishing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Harold C. Jordahl

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a breathtakingly beautiful archipelago of twenty-two islands in Lake Superior, just off the tip of northern Wisconsin. For years, the national park has been a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike, but the remarkable story behind its creation is little known. In Environmental Politics and the Creation of a Dream, Harold Jordahl, one of the primary advocates for designating the islands as a national park, discloses the full story behind the effort to preserve their natural beauty for posterity. He describes in detail the political and bureaucratic complexities of the national lakeshore campaign, augmented by his own personal recollections and those of such prominent figures as Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and President John F. Kennedy. Writing in collaboration with Annie Booth, Jordahl recounts how activists, legislators, media, local residents, and other players shaped the islands’ future establishment as a national park.

Esther's Town Cover

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Esther's Town

Deemer Lee

Esther's Town could be "Any Town, U.S.A.," for the equals of its cast of characters can be found in any small town. And here, as usual, was the town newspaper editor, the observing eye of all the foibles and peccadillos that form any town's history. Remembering all the years with love and humor, editor Deemer Lee chronicled the forty-four years he gathered and wrote news—forty-one of them as editor and publisher of his town's newspaper.

He dug into old records, recalled old times, and talked with old-timers. He illuminated the transition of a town, from Estherville’s pioneer settlement to the busy, active town it is today.

The excitement and fun begin with a story of bootleggers, Chautauqua meetings, and an accomplished arsonist—who achieves in less than two months the impressive score of burning seven barns and one feed store, with an unsuccessful attempt on the Methodist church. Scandinavians move in, build crude shelters for the first winter, and add their special characteristics to the town. The Irish arrive and stamp their mark on the whole territory. The circus comes to town and entrances everyone with its ancient pageantry. The railroads come through and add a rowdy element to the population. The Depression begins and farms see 11-cent corn, 108-degree heat, and a twister.

All these events, plus adventures with a massive meteorite and haunting river tragedies, create the drama and flow of small-town life, story by story, in a fascinating revelation of Americana. 

Everyday klansfolk  Cover

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Everyday klansfolk

white protestant life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan

Craig Fox

In 1920s Middle America, the Ku Klux Klan gained popularity not by appealing to the fanatical fringes of society, but by attracting the interest of “average” citizens. During this period, the Klan recruited members through the same unexceptional channels as any other organization or club, becoming for many a respectable public presence, a vehicle for civic activism, or the source of varied social interaction. Its diverse membership included men and women of all ages, occupations, and socio-economic standings. Although surviving membership records of this clandestine organization have proved incredibly rare, Everyday Klansfolk uses newly available documents to reconstruct the life and social context of a single grassroots unit in Newaygo County, Michigan. A fascinating glimpse behind the mask of America’s most notorious secret order, this absorbing study sheds light on KKK activity and membership in Newaygo County, and in Michigan at large, during the brief and remarkable peak years of its mass popular appeal.

Exploring Buried Buxton Cover

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Exploring Buried Buxton

Archaeology of an Abandoned Iowa Coal Mining Town with a Large Black Population

Few sources before have dealt with the archaeology of African American settlements outside the Atlantic seaboard and the southern states. This book describes in detail the archaeological investigations conducted at the town site of Buxton, Iowa, a coal mining community inhabited by a significantly large population of blacks between 1900 and 1925.

David Gradwohl and Nancy Osborn present the archaeology of Buxton from “the group up” to articulate the material remains with the data acquired from archival studies and oral history interviews. They also examine the broader significance of the Buxton experience in terms of those who lived there and their children and grandchildren who have heard about Buxton all their lives.

The Fall and Recapture of Detroit in the War of 1812 Cover

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The Fall and Recapture of Detroit in the War of 1812

In Defense of William Hull

Anthony J. Yanik

Details the first major U.S. setback in the War of 1812 and analyzes the background and aftermath of Hull’s surrender.

Finland-Swedes in Michigan Cover

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Finland-Swedes in Michigan

Mika Roinila

Who are the Finland-Swedes? Defined as citizens of Finland with a Swedish mother tongue, many know these people as “Swede- Finns” or simply “Swedes.” This book, the first ever to focus on this ethnolinguistic minority living in Michigan, examines the origins of the Finland-Swedes and traces their immigration patterns, beginning with the arrival of hundreds in the United States in the 1860s. A growing population until the 1920s, when immigration restrictions were put in place, the Finland-Swedes brought with them unique economic, social, cultural, religious, and political institutions, explored here in groundbreaking detail. Drawing on archival, church, and congregational records, interviews, and correspondence, this book paints a vivid portrait of Finland-Swedish life in photographs and text, and also includes detailed maps that show the movement of this group over time. The latest title in the Discovering the Peoples of Michigan series even includes a sampling of traditional Finland-Swedish recipes.

Finns in Minnesota Cover

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Finns in Minnesota

By Arnold Alanen

The first Finnish immigrants arrived in R ed Wing in 1864, the vanguard of thousands who eventually and resolutely placed Minnesota second among the states in terms of Finnish population. Today we may recognize Minnesota’s “Finnishness” in the popular sauna, in the characteristic tenacity known as sisu, or in place names and cultural markers that link to homeland. The newest contribution to the People of Minnesota series traces the Finns’ migration to the state, particularly its northeastern region; their log construction techniques, including dovetail notching; and their ethnic organizations, from religious to political to fraternal. Colorful sidebars enliven the narrative, highlighting such topics as “Finglish,” New World legends, and the 1920s Olympic competitors in track and field known as the “Flying Finns.” A separate thread tells the story of the Finland Swedes—“the minority within a minority” whose members were born in Finland but spoke Swedish and thus straddled two ethnic groups, belonging fully to neither. The book concludes with a personal narrative of Fred Torma (1888–1979), a miner and carpenter from Nashwauk, who describes establishing a Socialist hall, involvement in the 1907 Mesabi strike, and founding a cooperative boardinghouse and store. His is just one engaging example of the vibrant lives and legacy of Finnish Americans in Minnesota.

Fixing Illinois Cover

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Fixing Illinois

Politics and Policy in the Prairie State

James D Nowlan

Persistent problems have left Illinois the butt of jokes and threatened it with fiscal catastrophe. In Fixing Illinois, James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson use their four decades of experience as public servants, Springfield veterans, and government observers to present a comprehensive program of almost one hundred specific policy ideas aimed at rescuing the state from its long list of problems.Nowlan and Johnson start with the history of how one of the most prosperous states of the 1950s became a present-day mess riven by debt and discord and increasingly abandoned by both businesses and citizens. Among their more than ninety proposals to restore Illinois to greatness:An overhaul of state pension systems that includes more reasonable benefits and lengthening of the retirement age, among other changes;Reducing one of the nation's highest corporate tax rates to attract business;Medicare reform through an insurance voucher program;Demanding that schools raise expectations for success, particularly in rural and impoverished urban areas;A new approach to higher education that includes a market-driven system that puts funds in the hands of students rather than institutions;Broadening of the tax base to include services and reduction in rates;The creation of a long-term plan to maintain the state's five-star transportation infrastructure;Raising funds with capital construction bonds to update and integrate the antiquated information systems used by state agencies;Uprooting the state's entrenched culture of corruption via public financing of elections, redistricting reform, and revolving door prohibitions for lawmakersPointed, honest, and pragmatic, Fixing Illinois is a plan for effective and honest government that seeks an even nobler end: restoring our faith in Illinois's institutions and reviving a sense of citizenship and state pride.

Food Will Win the War Cover

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Food Will Win the War

Minnesota Crops, Cook, and Conservation during World War I

Rae Katherine Eighmey

Meatless Mondays, Wheatless Wednesdays, vegetable gardens and chickens in every empty lot. When the United States entered World War I, Minnesotans responded to appeals for personal sacrifice and changed the way they cooked and ate in order to conserve food for the boys “over there.” Baking with corn and rye, eating simple meals based on locally grown food, consuming fewer calories, and wasting nothing in the kitchen became civic acts. High-energy foods and calories unconsumed on the American home front could help the food-starved, war-torn American Allies eat another day and fight another battle. Food historian Rae Katherine Eighmey engages readers with wide research and recipes drawn from rarely viewed letters, diaries, recipe books, newspaper accounts, government pamphlets, and public service fliers. She brings alive the unknown but unparalleled efforts to win the war made by ordinary “Citizen Soldiers”—farmers and city dwellers, lumberjacks and homemakers—who rolled up their sleeves to apply “can-do” ingenuity coupled with “must-do” drive. Their remarkable efforts transformed everyday life and set the stage for the United States’ postwar economic and political ascendance.

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