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Minnesota Farmers' Alliance

Actions in the political environment taken by farmers, particularly the efforts of the Farmers’ Alliance in Minnesota founded by Randolph Probstfield during the 1880s and lasting up to 1893, focused on the needs of the rural community. The Farmers’ Alliance was not new to agrarian political protest, as the Grangers organization preceded this movement, and did not conclude efforts to protect the agrarian community as the Populist (or People’s) Party followed the Alliance(1).

Loading Wheat onto St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway Boxcars, Moorhead, Minnesota, ca. 1880-1881

Loading Wheat onto St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway boxcars, Moorhead, Minnesota, ca. 1880-1881.

Farmers relied heavily on the railroad to transport their product to urban centers for sale, and railroad companies charged various prices due to lack of competition.

Farmers' griefs over the inconsistent profit and reliance of wheat's success on the market deepened with the added cost of fees paid to railroads and warehouses. An alliance of farmers formed to counteract these challenges and found stronger influence existed by working within the existing political parties, especially the more progressive focused Democratic party(2). Those involved in the Farmers’ Alliance succeeded in their efforts of strengthening regulatory powers on railroads as Congress responded to demands of rate regulations, tax provisions, and antitrust laws(3). Alliance members also focused on influencing the election of members to legislative seats for some power in the organization, but dissatisfaction with a small percentage of Alliance focused laws passed successfully led to a splitting of the Alliance in 1892. After this division a small faction formed the Populist party and many of the Alliance's focuses and concerns were absorbed by the Democrats(4).

The Farmers’ Alliance movement caused an influential modification of the political atmosphere in Minnesota, as the movement gained increased recognition in the political atmosphere. Farmers continuously worked to protect their livelihood and regulate monopolies from taking advantage of the power structure as, with the end of the river trade, farmers relied solely on the railroad for transportation of goods and supplies(5).

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1. Carl H. Chrislock, Minnesota History, Vol 35, no 7 “The Alliance Party and the Minnesota Legislature of 1891,” Minnesota History 35, no 7 (Sept. 1957), 298.

2. MNOPEDIA, “Farmers’ Alliance in Minnesota,”  <http://www.mnopedia.org/group/farmers-alliance-minnesota> (accessed 7 November 2017).

Theodore C. Blegen, "The State Historical Convention at Duluth," in Minnesota History Bulletin, 4, no. 7/8 (1922), 335, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20160405.

3. Carol Chomsky, “Progressive Judges in a Progressive Age: Regulatory Legislation in the Minnesota Supreme Court, 1880-1925,” Law and History Review 11, no 2 (Autumn 1993), 386.

4. MNOPEDIA, "Farmers' Alliance in Minnesota," (accessed 7 November 2017).

5. Carl H. Chrislock, The Progressive Movement in Minnesota, 1899-1909, (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1971), 10.

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Minnesota Farmers' Alliance