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Historical Background

The Country Life Commission

Dear Visitor: This site preserves the legacy publications of the Rural West Initiative from 2009-2014. 
For more recent information on our conference and publications, please go to

Teddy Roosevelt's Country Life Commission

President Teddy Roosevelt believed that rural America was the "backbone of our nation's efficiency," but that rural life risked being left behind in the modern America emerging in the first decade of the 20th century. In 1908, he formed a Commission on Country Life, headed up by Liberty Hyde Bailey, to investigate ways of making country life more attractive. The 1909 Report of the Country Life Commission highlighted a list of "deficiencies" in rural life that were prompting people to leave the country for the city, but had few concrete recommendations for remedying the situation. One hundred years later, just about all of those "deficiencies" still plague rural America, and people are still leaving country for the city. Despite its apparent lack of results, however, the Report remains a landmark for the attention it brought to issues of country life, and it remains an inspiration for for our Rural West Initiative.

For more on the Country Life Commision, see:

The full text of the 1909 Report of the Country Life Commission

Liberty Hyde Bailey: A Man for All Seasons: An Exhibition of the Cornell University Library Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections which includes information on Liberty Hyde Bailey, who was the Chair of the Commission on Country Life, as well as photos and documents pertaining to the Commission.

Teddy Roosevelt's Country Life Commission Centennial 1909-2009: An online resource from the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs celebrating the 100th anniversary of the commission, with links and articles about the Commission, the Report, and the individual members of the Commission.

Liberty Hyde Bailey, The Country Life Movement in the United States, New York: The McMillan Company (1915).

Articles from Agricultural History

Scott J. Peters and Paul A. Morgan, "The Country Life Commission: Reconsidering a Milestone in American Agricultural History." Agricultural History, Vol. 78, No. 3 (Summer, 2004), pp. 289-316.

Olaf F. Larson and Thomas B. Jones, "The Unpublished Data from Roosevelt's Commission on Country Life." Agricultural History, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Oct., 1976), pp. 583-599.

William L. Bowers, "Country-Life Reform, 1900-1920: A Neglected Aspect of Progressive Era History." Agricultural History, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Jul., 1971), pp. 211-221.

Clayton S. Ellsworth, "Theodore Roosevelt's Country Life Commission." Agricultural History, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Oct., 1960), pp. 155-172.


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