By 1910 lumber companies had stripped the Great Lakes states of their white pines, leaving behind a forty-million-acre expanse that came to be known as the "cutover." Business interests, university scientists, and state governments worked aggressively to redevelop this land for crop agriculture. A key challenge was ridding the land of stumps. Especially after the First World War, explosives were touted as a ready means of converting cutover scrub land to crop acreage, thus building instant equity for the farmer. This study focuses on Wisconsin, whose drive for land clearing was the most far-reaching. From 1919 to 1928 the University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture distributed nearly nineteen million pounds of war-surplus explosives to farmers. Michigan, Minnesota, and states in the American South and West did likewise, for a nationwide total exceeding sixty-three million pounds. A massive public relations campaign urged plowmen to clear as many acres as possible, and journalists at all levels signed on to promote cutover farming. However, explosives often proved dangerous in untrained hands, and the hoped-for agricultural bonanza never materialized. As crop prices slumped in the 1920s, submarginal acres were taken out of production, and the ethos of "land clearing" was replaced with one of multifaceted "land use."


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pp. 166-193
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