The American Agriculture Movement: Part 2

capitol tractor001

Last year, the Southwest Collection shared our American Agricultural Movement (AAM) Records in an exhibit entitled Tractorcade! commemorating the 35th anniversary of the AAM’s last great Tractorcade in 1979. It featured oral histories, photographs, newspaper articles, and artifacts that allowed our curators to tell this unique story of authentic U.S. grassroots activism.

AAM pamphlet009

We told you back then about the AAM’s formation in Campo, Colorado, in 1977, and its focus on “Parity”—economic balance between agriculture, other industries, and the U.S. government. It organized farmer’s strikes throughout the U.S., using pamphlets such as the one above to get them going. And it worked: in 1977 around 5,000 farmers held a tractor rally in Lincoln, Nebraska. Farmers in other states soon followed with their own rallies.

newspaper `002newspaper `004

Unfortunately, the AAM’s activism sometimes led to violence. On March 1st, 1978, a large group of protesting farmers was trapped on the International Bridge south of McAllen, Texas. U.S. police and Mexican Federal troops tear-gassed and beat some of the protestors, later arresting and jailing 200 of them. But this wasn’t typically the case. At almost the same time, numerous farmers found themselves peacefully gathering in Washington, D.C., in opposition to the 1977 Farm Bill. All of these events and many others were chronicled in local publications such as the American Agricultural News, of which we have dozens of issues. The above article and poems are examples of such, written by supporters–but not necessarily protest participants–from Oklahoma and Kansas, not just Texas or the AAM’s birth-state, Colorado.

lincoln memorial001

Combinations of strikes, protests, and legal opposition would later lead to massive Tractorcades in 1978 and 79. January of the former saw around 3,000 farmers driving their tractors to Washington, D.C. 1979 proved even more successful on a second trip to D.C., although traffic across the nation found itself stuck behind slow moving tractors festooned with protest signs. Washington was practically shut down as they drove through the city, and when at last they stopped at the National Mall, the police quickly penned them in with squad cars and city dump trucks. Surprisingly, there were only a few scuffles between farmers and police. Most interactions were friendly, although national public opinion was split on the farmer’s stated issues. But the Tractorcade can, in some part, be summed up by their emotional visit to the Lincoln Memorial documented in the photo above. It was a peaceful affair, generating unity within the AAM and fond memories for all of the participants that they’ve shared with SWC staff during every visit.

AAM profit pamphlet010AAM profit pamphlet inside011

There are many other tales of the Tractorcade and the AAM available at the Southwest Collection, many found in oral histories of participants and opposition members alike. They explain to interested researchers how the AAM metamorphosed into the guardian of farmers and lobby-er of politicians that it is today. These materials, and the many newspapers, documents, and artifacts in the AAM collection, are always available for research. And our helpful Reference Staff shows up when the rooster crows every day to make sure they can help you find them.

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51 Years Later: the JFK Assassination and the Congressman George Mahon Papers

JFK-Tx BreakfastLast year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Southwest Collection installed an exhibit of our materials related to the tragedy. Although no exhibit is on display this year, we have dug up more related books, documents, photographs, and other materials from the papers of then-Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr and Congressman George H. Mahon .Connally letter-darkened sentenceThis letter from Texas Governor John Connally and the accompanying tickets are from our George Mahon Papers. After a long legal career, in 1934 Mahon won the congressional seat for Texas’ Nineteenth Congressional District. Below is also a picture showing a White House greeting between President Kennedy and Mahon in 1962, not an uncommon sight in Washington at that time given that Mahon served as Texas’ Representative for over forty-four years. Because he ranked as one of the most influential Texas Democrats, Mahon joined the Texas delegation that traveled with the President throughout Texas and attended the event held the night before the assassination, for which the tickets above provided admission.  JFK + Mahon cropt

Ntbk p.1+++On November 22, 1963, Mahon found himself riding through Dealey Plaza only five cars behind the President. During the flight back to Washington, D.C. after the assassination, Mahon recorded his recollections of the event. “I heard the shots fired which killed the President of the United States,” begin these notes, a sample of which can be seen above. Correspondence and other documents related to the event are a significant part of our collection of his papers.Jackie Kennedy note 12.17.63Lastly, we have this thank you from Jacqueline Kennedy that was mailed to Mahon after he had provided to her and her family his condolences. Although it is a small, simple item, it was one that Mahon kept for the rest of his life and was generously included among his papers as a unique token of this pivotal moment in United States history.

Those interested in other archival collections related to the JFK assassination might also take a look at our Waggoner Carr Papers. The Attorney General of Texas in 1963, Carr was a key figure in the early days of the assassination investigation. For a look at his papers, Mahon’s, or any of our other many collections, feel free to contact our Reference Department. They are always happy to get you set up.

 

“Designing for Disaster” at the National Building Museum

Fujita portrait

The Southwest Collection is proud to have loaned items from its collected papers of world-renowned meteorological researcher Dr. Tetsuya Theodore “Ted” Fujita to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The Museum is presenting a multimedia exhibition titled Designing for Disaster, a call-to-action for citizen preparedness—from design professionals and local decision-makers to homeowners and school kids—investigating how and where to build communities that are safer and more disaster-resilient. The exhibition opened on May 11, 2014 and will remain on view through August 2, 2015.

US Tornado Map 1930-74-21x16

From earthquakes and hurricanes to rising sea levels and flooding, natural disasters can strike anywhere and at any time. Recent history shows that no region of the country is immune from the rising costs of storm and disaster damage. Visitors to Designing for Disaster will explore new solutions for, and historical responses to, a range of natural hazards. Research materials such as Fujita’s documentation of several decades of tornadoes will not be the only items on display. Artifacts from past disasters, such as a door battered by Hurricane Katrina, will express the destructive, persistent, life-altering power of nature.
Fscale classification of 1971 tornadoes (2)
A cornerstone of the exhibit is a true-to-life, FEMA-specified “safe room”—one of the few defenses against a tornado or violent storm—in which exposed layers illustrate how it was built to withstand tornado-force winds and flying debris. Such destruction was the primary research focus of Dr. Fujita, whose conclusions would lead to the creation of the F-Scale (‘F’ standing, of course, for Fujita) which is now the worldwide standard for measuring the destructive power of tornadoes.

Lubbock tornadoes
Driven by ways to reduce risk before the next disaster, case studies will explore a range of flexible design and planning schemes, public policies, and new forecasting technologies. Drawing on data gathered from past disasters, such as the Lubbock, Texas F-5 tornadoes of May 1970 that damaged over a quarter of the town, the studies are varied as the solutions. They range from engineering advancements and seismic retrofits of esteemed historic buildings (such as the University of California at Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium) and bridges (the Eastern Span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge), to urgent, hands-on lessons, through models, animated drawings and interactive displays that demonstrate how to strengthen homes, hospitals, schools, and other structures.

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Through its exhibitions, educational programs, online content, and publications, the Museum has become a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the world we build for ourselves. For any public inquiries, call them at (202) 272-2448, visit www.nbm.org, or connect with them on Twitter: @BuildingMuseum and Facebook.

– by The National Building Museum

American Agricultural Movement: Tractorcade!

AAM plaque From March through mid-June, the Southwest Collection is exhibiting their American Agricultural Movement (AAM) records in an exhibit entitled Tractorcade! It commemorates the 35th anniversary of the AAM’s last great Tractorcade in 1979. Bringing together a host of oral histories, photographs, newspaper articles, and artifacts such as the plaque above, our curators attempt to tell this unique story of authentic American grassroots activism.

The AAM formed in Campo, Colorado, during 1977. Wanting the U.S. Government to address their concept of “Parity”—defined loosely as economic balance between agriculture, other industries, and the U.S. government—the AAM attempted to organize a farmer’s strike. Although widespread strikes didn’t take off immediately, later that year around 5,000 farmers held a tractor rally in Lincoln, Nebraska. Farmers in other states soon followed with their own rallies.McAllen photo2Sadly, sometimes the AAM’s activism would lead to violence. For example, on March 1st, 1978, a large group of protesting farmers was trapped on the International Bridge south of McAllen, Texas by city police on the U.S. side and Federal troops across the Mexican border. Protesters were tear-gassed and beaten, with 200 arrested and jailed. By the next day 2,000 more farmers arrived to join the protest. A thousand miles away on March 15th, 30,000 farmers arrived in Washington D.C. with the express intent of seeing the 1977 Farm Bill replaced. These events and many others were chronicled in local publications such as the American Agricultural News, digital copies of which—along with other digitized AAM materials—are available at the SWC.capitol tractorNot all efforts spawned violence. In January 1978, around 3,000 farmers drove their tractors to Washington D.C. The following year, farmers and their tractors made the trip to D.C. a second time, creating huge traffic snarls as they slowly made their way through the city. When at last they stopped at the National Mall, the police quickly penned them in with their squad cars and, later, with city dump trucks, hoping to prevent any further traffic disruptions. In spite of the heightened tensions caused by the corralling, there were only a few scuffles between farmers and police. By far most interactions between demonstrators and public officials were friendly, and often helpful. But in many cases top-level government and city leaders remained unsympathetic, as did public opinion.snowed inThen came Presidents’ Day weekend, when a massive winter storm dumped two feet of snow on the Capitol city. The only vehicles capable of operating in the mess were the tractors, and soon the farmers were carrying policemen to emergency calls, transporting nurses, doctors and other emergency personnel to hospitals and fire stations, bulldozing the snow drifts that blocked whole streets, and generally helping out wherever possible. The trouble-making farmers were now heroes; what AAM leader Gerald McCathern dubbed “Gentle Rebels.”buttonsToday, AAM serves as a watchdog for farmers as well as providing information useful to both elected and appointed officials who are responsible for forming farm policies. In June 2013, members from the AAM held a reunion in Lubbock, Texas, to discuss their shared history. The SWC worked with AAM members to collect oral histories, photographs, scrapbooks, and artifacts such as these to be preserved at the SWC. These materials are now available for research, and our helpful Reference Staff would be happy to help you find them.

– Andy Wilkinson