Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Richard Overfield

Second Advisor

Dr. Charles Gildersleeve

Third Advisor

Dr. Harl Dalstrom


This is an examination of Harrison County, Iowa, during the decade from 1920 to 1930. Because farming was the major source of income, agricultural conditions are a major part of this story . So too are the changes which the 1920s brought to the towns of Harrison County. The thesis will also look at the social activities and political issues of the county’s citizens, and how these disparate elements of life interacted to form a more complex picture than one might at first think likely. The 1920s was a time of profound change in the nation, and Harrison County was not spared this upheaval. Change had two sides, and for every benefit or improvement which came to the people, difficulties arose to challenge their patience and ingenuity. Technological advances affected every aspect of society, from new agricultural techniques to new types of entertainment brought by radio and movies, some of which was of questionable value to the county’s residents. The county was rural, but the proximity of the Council Bluffs-Omaha urban area just to its south exerted a tremendous influence. Because of the rapidly improving system of roads and the increasing number of automobiles, people found new opportunities in all directions. Better roads and faster automobiles allowed the pursuit of business ventures in other cities and states and family vacations to distant locales, but unfortunately also allowed for a significant increase in the spread of crime. A deadly rise in the number of accidents and the outrage caused by speeding vehicles and glaring headlights made the automobile a mixed blessing. For good or ill, the era of relative isolation experienced by residents of many rural counties throughout the Midwest had begun to close forever. This work is as much a study of the effect of changing technology, social ideas and political views of the people of the county as it is an examination of their specific activities. The decade was a difficult time for a county which depended on agriculture, for the farmer’s economic picture was very bleak and caused frustrations which were revealed in many ways. The changes brought by new technologies, and the new ideas and social mores arriving by roadway and radio wave combined to create one of the most transitional eras for this county and others like it. This is a story of a people dealing with the rapid emergence of their society from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, adapting where they must, yet retaining their moral and social convictions with all the strength they could muster.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of History and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1997, Gary D. Dixon