LIGHTING THE AMERICAN FARM
“The Grid Comes Home: Lighting the American Farm in the Age of Rural Electrification,” Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum 23, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 65-88.
Established in 1935 under the New Deal, the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) brought affordable electricity to underserved agrarian populations throughout the United States. The arrival of electricity transformed everyday patterns of work and leisure on the American farm. No change was more immediately palpable than the clean, steady glow of electrical light. Many times brighter than the dirty kerosene lamps they replaced, electric lights became a sought-after commodity even among farm families unwilling to invest in other electrified conveniences. Between 1935 and the early 1950s, REA, along with other government agricultural agencies and for-profit corporations such as General Electric, published numerous advertisements and guides that promoted best practices in lighting and wiring. Seizing on rural enthusiasm for electric illumination, these publications promoted proper light as the first, critical step toward attaining an all-electric mode of living. These publications are vital in understanding changes to the spatial layout of the farm landscape in the mid-twentieth century. Through text, diagrams, illustrations, and photographs, wiring and lighting materials articulated a new approach to farm planning and rural space that foreshadowed many of the farm’s architectural transformations after World War II.
Envisioning the future of modern Farming
Rovang, Sarah. "Envisioning the Future of Modern Farming: The Electrified Farm at the 1939 New York World's Fair." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 74, no. 2 (June 2015): 201-222.
At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Electric Utilities Industry sponsored a one-acre working model Electrified Farm. Facing increasing competition from the New Deal’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA), the farm’s corporate sponsors used the exhibit to advocate a new, electrified rural lifestyle enabled by private power and industry. The eight buildings comprising the Electrified Farm, designed by the firm of Harrison & Fouilhoux, evinced a cohesive modern aesthetic that stylistically echoed the modernity of the exhibit’s electric light, appliances, and farm equipment. At the exhibit, electricity rendered farm work and domestic labor more efficient and professional, but it did not fundamentally disrupt entrenched ideals of the family farm. By contextualizing the farm’s architecture within contemporary stylistic and cultural trends, this paper reveals the sponsor’s multiple and ultimately incompatible ambitions for the future of American agriculture, highlighting in particular its problematic implications for gender relations and farm labor.