The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000

Book Reviews

provided retail service (although the lunch counter was segregated) to people
of all races. As the store expanded and established credit accounts, Marvin per-
sonally "mandated that credit be offered without regard to race" (p. 134)-
Second, as part of "The Seventh Street Gang" (a group of prominent area busi-
ness leaders), Marvin Leonard worked with local African American and civic
leaders to end formal segregation and "make a smooth transition" toward a
more just social environment (p. 142).
This thoughtful biography and business history by the Buengers opens many
possibilities for historians. Perhaps it will lead scholars in minority studies to pos-
sible revisionist efforts and a second look at the role of "Anglo" (and ethnic)
entrepreneurs in bringing about social change in the United States.
Texas Tech University JORGE IBER
Empowering the West: Electrical Politics before FDR. By Jay Brigham. (Lawrence:
University of Kansas Press, 1998. Pp. xii+211. Preface, appendices, notes,
bibliography, index. ISBN 0-7006-o0920-2. $35.00, cloth.)
Jay Brigham works for Morgan, Angel and Associates, a public history firm in
Washington, D.C., that deals with natural resource issues and those concerning
extinguished American Indian land titles. His book is a history of the contest
between private and public ownership of electric power development in the
western United States from the 188os until the 1930s. Perhaps the best summary
of this controversial issue is based on the yardstick principle developed by
Richard Ely, "one of the leading reform intellectuals of the period" (p. 4). Ely
established the principle that a few publicly owned systems would serve as the
measuring stick for private rates. The proposals later advanced by public power
advocates resembled the middle ground Ely sought.
This controversy over public or private ownership serves as the basis for
Brigham's work. The author begins the story by tracing the development of elec-
trical power and the role that politics played in its early expansion.
The next two chapters deal with the role that private utility companies played
in this process, and then how, in the 1920os the issue became a national one,
with Congress dealing with the issue. Brigham then discusses in the next three
chapters small town America and its views of the public-private power fight.
Finally, the larger cities of Los Angeles and Seattle are discussed in detail.
The Texas story focuses on the town of Yoakum during 1931-1932. When the
private company's franchise expired, the people of the town constructed a pub-
licly owned utility. The author also analyzes the voting record on this issue of
Joseph Mansfield, the congressman from this district. Brigham also fleshes out
the story of both political parties' stands on this issue. Both Democrats and
Republicans are described, the most important being Republican progressive
George Norris, one of the most powerful people in the Senate and leader of the
fight for public power.
Brigham's research is voluminous. Extensive statistics give the reader a better
understanding of the subject matter. The extensive bibliography reveals that this
public-private power debate, a crucial one in the development of the infrastruc-
ture of this country, has long been of interest to scholars. This book is written

393

2000

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed August 23, 2014.