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The Nature of the FutureAgriculture, Science, and Capitalism in the Antebellum North$
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Emily Pawley

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226693835

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226693972.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 26 June 2022

No Ordinary Farmers

No Ordinary Farmers

(p.39) 2 No Ordinary Farmers
The Nature of the Future

Emily Pawley

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 2 turns to the much broader world of improvement that emerged during the Panic of 1837 and Anti-Rent War as new journals and agricultural societies attracted a broader wave of adherents. The chapter challenges the idea that rural New York was split between elite and “ordinary” or “real” farmers. Instead New York had a complex rural hierarchy, within which many groups competed for the status of “real farmer” even as the definition of authenticity shifted. Improving institutions acted as stages upon which these claims to identity could be performed. Thus, wealthy urbanites attempted to occupy the cultural position of old landlords as they shifted into politics; they purchased improving goods as a form of conspicuous consumption and a demonstration of creditworthiness; and they sought further wealth through rural speculations. Middling farmers, a broad and varied group, used improvement and improving consumption to demonstrate rural refinement and obtain access to credit while also performing “conspicuous production,” visible acts of physical labor that asserted their claim to producerist authenticity. Finally, the chapter suggests that as some identities were publicized in improvement, others were hidden, particularly the labor and thought of paid and family laborers, an idea further addressed in Chapter 3.

Keywords:   rural refinement, producerism, consumption, agricultural history, farmer identity, authenticity

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