Patrons of Husbandry
In December a clerk in the United States Bureau of Agriculture named Oliver Hudson Kelley quit his job and founded the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry—a grand name for an organization with the simple purpose of giving Western farmers some independence from the powerful elevators and railroads they relied on to market their harvests. Kelley had seen much of the South and Northwest while traveling for the Bureau of Agriculture in 1865 and 1866 and had had the idea of organizing farmers into a fraternal order accepting both men and women. Each link of the collective chain would be called a Grange, in which farmers could meet and learn the newest agricultural techniques or how to get a better market price. Kelley’s original educational conception gave way to a burgeoning political movement in the West through the 1870s as farmers were driven together by their hatred for the monopolies that set many prices and by a depressed farm economy. From thirty-seven Granges in Minnesota in 1869, the movement had spread nationally to include twenty thousand Granges and more than eight hundred thousand members by the middle of the decade. The Patrons of Husbandry lived on as an organization, despite many of their business ventures going afoul. But the movement survived mostly in antitrust legislation and in the Populist and Democratic platforms it inspired.