Heritage, Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 1989 Page: 26
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Plains "came to term." This book is an
excellent introduction to the selling of one
of the last frontiers of the continental
United States. The Texas Panhandle isn't
one of the loveliest landscapes, as even its
staunchest defenders admit. In the 1870s it
must have seemed formidable to most, and
had only recently emerged from its reputation
as the center of the "Great American
Desert." So those who wished to profit from
its subdivision had to overcome considerable
resistance. They did this through
advertising, newspaper boosting, colonizing
schemes and cheap land prices in the
face of a national agricultural boom.
Author Blodgett is chary of chastising
the boomers and boosters for their often
unscrupulous practices, and admits to only
peripheral chicanery. If there is a soft spot
in her narrative, it is her defense of the land
speculators who branded this country from
the first day the Indians gave it up. She
clings to the faith that the Plains boosters
were motivated by the purest inspiration:
"While the agents were aided by land
hunger and rising land prices in the midwestern
farming areas, attracting settlers to
the Plains required determination and a
strong faith in the land itself. Those who
"Immigrants were also
attracted by strong markets
for wheat, cattle and other
agricultural products up to
the late 1920s."
successfully brought people to the Plains
shared this faith. They were committed to
bringing only those who could and would
stay in the Panhandle or South Plains. This
commitment can be seen in their advertisements
and their efforts to help settlers
after the land sales had been made." Not
incidentally, immigrants were also attracted
by strong markets for wheat, cattle
and other agricultural products up to the
late 1920s. This is something that Blodgett
consistently overlooks in her account. No
doubt there were a lot of good-hearted
people in the region who helped new settlers
with the difficulty of their first encounter
with a strange land. But there were
also plenty of shysters. And nobody came
to the Plains with the intent to grow wheat
and cattle for the pure delight of it, al
though that's what most have done ever
since. The massive influx of people and the
great plow-up of the Plains occurred in the
midst of a thriving agricultural market.
Railroads were in touch with enough of the
country to siphon off the huge production,
and up to the Great Depression of the
1930s, the region was booming toward
dominance as one of the premier wheatproducing
centers of the world.
This book does a nice job of introducing
readers to the process of capitalist/colonial
immigration, but ends its account before
the effects can be seen. While the population
increased nearly fifteen-fold from
1890 to 1920, the effects of the dustbowl
and depression again decimated the countryside.
Those who survived did so by sheer
grit and good luck, and the next generation
built its success on the backs of those that
had failed. After a few years, the discovery
of oil and the Ogallalah Aquifer were to
transform the Southern Plains once again.
The region is an excellent context in
which to discuss the effects of boom and
bust, booster and victim. The Land of Bright
Promise tells only a thin slice of that story,
but gives an excellent introduction nonetheless
to one of its earlier settlement eras.
26 HERITAGE * WINTER 1989
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 1989, periodical, Winter 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45430/m1/26/: accessed March 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.