Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Harl Dalstrom
This is the story of Albia in the 1920s. Albia, the seat of Monroe County, is located in south central Iowa. The town achieved its greatest population gain during the first decade of the twentieth century. Access to ample railroad transportation, trade with its hinterland, and manufacturing aided this expansion. Albians also enjoyed a thriving period of coal mining and agriculture. This era of prosperity ended during the early 1920s because the demand for local coal fell sharply. As a result, the population of the county began to shrink. Following the war, agriculture also entered a recession when farmers struggled to survive. Albia’s population dropped from 5,067 in 1920 to 4,425 in 1930. Albians responded energetically to hard times. The Commercial Club sponsored special events to attract shoppers. The United Mine Workers actively supported home-buying coal campaigns and the town's many civic organizations worked to relieve the growing poverty. This story also traces additional developments which began to erode the relative isolation of Albians. The growing number of automobiles impacted Albians and numerous road improvements demonstrated their importance. The radio brought entertainment and useful information to remote portions of the county. Nevertheless, for all these positive changes, these innovations brought some unfavorable outcomes. Movies replaced many earlier forms of entertainment which did not bode well for Albians who enjoyed the Chautauqua or lyceum course. In addition, the automobile aided the transient ways of criminals. These developments contributed to a feeling of uncertainty in Albia. The appearance of the Ku Klux Klan demonstrates that some people felt threatened by the changing times. Editorials defending small-town living against the criticisms of many writers also illustrate the tension of the age. Nevertheless, Albians showed a capacity to adapt. Clubs encouraged a feeling of belonging and addressed many of the town’s problems. The Albia Junior College provided students with new educational opportunities and the town’s churches continued to give life spiritual significance. This is a story of a people who faced the challenges of an eventful decade with all the resourcefulness that their past had bequeathed to them.
Oden, Derek S., "Albia, Iowa in the 1920s: Coal, corn and change" (2000). Student Work. 523.
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