Cover image for Knights of the plow : Oliver H. Kelley and the origins of the Grange in Republican ideology
Knights of the plow : Oliver H. Kelley and the origins of the Grange in Republican ideology
Woods, Thomas A.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Ames : Iowa State University Press, 1991.
Physical Description:
xxii, 254 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD1485.P5 W66 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Knights of the Plow analyzes the ideological origins of the Grange. It traces the incubation adn the birth of a radical farm organization during the economic and social upheaval in rural America in the 1850s and 1860s, primarily through the life and ideas of Grange founder Oliver Kelley and his early Minnesota and Illinois Associates. Based on intensive research in newspapers and unpublished archival sources and on the material culture and symbolism of Grange ritual, this book depicts the tumultuous early years of the Grange from the perspective of its most important organizer.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Woods (Minnesota Historical Society) contends that the agricultural Grange has been misunderstood by historians such as Richard Hofstadter (The Age of Reform, 1955) and Lawrence Goodwyn (Democratic Promise, CH, Mar'77). Both mistakenly view the Grange as a "conservative anachronism in American culture," simply a prelude to the radicalism of the Farmers' Alliance and Populism. Admitting that the Grange did become "conservative and largely ineffective" in the late 1870s and 1880s, Woods argues that in its early years under Oliver H. Kelley (whose biography forms most of the book) Grangers developed the same forward-looking "movement culture" Goodwyn ascribes to the Alliances. Rejecting a return to some idyllic past of independent producers, the Grange developed a "liberal republican" ideology that sought to continue the best of the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian traditions by supporting both private enterprise free of monopoly abuses and "a concern for the welfare of the whole community." The Grange declined when it abandoned liberal republicanism after 1873, under Oliver Kelley's rival William Saunders. Clearly written, the work provides a useful corrective to textbook generalizations about the Grange. Upper-division undergraduates and above. -J. P. Felt, University of Vermont