Improving the Soil and Mind: The Geography of The Cultivator

Open Access
Fisher, Jeremy
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Deryck William Holdsworth, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Deryck William Holdsworth, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • agricultural improvement
  • periodicals
  • Early Republic
  • The Cultivator
  • 1834-1860
In the early nineteenth century, American agriculture underwent a radical transformation. Many of the constituent changes were advocated by a group of reformers as facets of “agricultural improvement.” Using agricultural journals as source material, this study considers the geographical aspects of improvement. The records of the New York journal The Cultivator from 1834-1860 are analyzed for spatial patterns suggesting geographic differentiation in the improvement project’s success. National subscription statistics indicate strong cultural and social factors affecting journal diffusion, while local records indicate a related set of religious and social affiliations determining subscription. These factors are considered in the light of the rhetorical stances taken by editors and authors for The Cultivator to uncover tensions within the agricultural improvement project. These tensions and their spatial expressions form an important component in the historical geography of both agriculture and the early United States.