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The Grasshopper Shrine at Cold Spring, Minnesota: Religion and Market Capitalism among German-American Catholics

From: The Catholic Historical Review
Volume 92, Number 2, April 2006
pp. 215-243 | 10.1353/cat.2006.0133

Abstract

This essay provides a peculiarly Catholic slant to a long-running debate in American history over the role of religion in the transition to rural capitalism. The author investigates the construction of a small votive chapel outside the village of Cold Spring, Minnesota, ostensibly built to secure relief from the locust plagues of the 1870's, and argues that the shrine in reality had less to do with insect pests and more to do with the community's need to assert traditional, pre-capitalist values in the face of growing prosperity and rapidly changing market conditions. He maintains further that the ritual language expressed in the chapel's dedication evoked an intensely communalist ethic, based on shared striving, sharing, and reciprocity, that was jeopardized by the transition to more commercialized agriculture.