Rural Electrification
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Over 50 years of rural electrification!

I had seen first-hand the grim drudgery and grind which had been the common lot of eight generations of American farm women. I had seen the tallow candle in my own home, followed by the coal-oil lamp. I knew what it was to take care of the farm chores by the flickering, undependable light of the lantern in the mud and cold rains of the fall, and the snow and icy winds of winter.

I had seen the cities gradually acquire a night as light as day.

I could close my eyes and recall the innumerable scenes of the harvest and the unending punishing tasks performed by hundreds of thousands of women, growing old prematurely; dying before their time; conscious of the great gap between their lives and the lives of those whom the accident of birth or choice placed in the towns and cities.

Why shouldn't I have been interested in the emancipation of hundreds of thousands of farm women?

Former U.S. Sen. George W, Norris of Nebraska,
co-sponsor of the Rural Electrification Act, in The Next Greatest Thing.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national power co-op trade association based in Washington, D.C., published The Next Greatest Tiling, a history of the Rural Electrification Administration, in 1984.

The book includes stunning photographs taken by artists hired by the REA and the Farm Security Administration to document the hardships faced by rural Americans and the electrification of the countryside in the late 1930s and early 1940s.


Explore the History of  Rural Electric Cooperatives In Arizona

(Click to view!)

NEW! 5/23/02



 Leah S. Glaser, PhD



 REA Memorabilia 

Rural Electrification in Nepal


SMECC UPDATE - Ed Sharpe Director and Lead Archivist for SMECC

Historic Sahuaro Ranch, in Glendale Arizona, offers the highlight of the  2004-2005 season with the historical exhibit, "Rural Electrification."

The Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation (SMECC),  located in Glendale Arizona, is proud to collaborate on this display by  providing information, pictures, signs and example of appliances from the pre-electric and electrified era.

SMECC Director, Ed Sharpe's interest in REA stemmed from a personal interest to learn about one of  FDR's  three letter programs whose coverage was lacking during his high school American history class. He wanted to learn as much as he could!

"We had a small high density display of artifacts at the museum" Sharpe said. "We saw this exhibition as a dynamic example of two museums partnering to produce a large display with great depth" He continues, " Kudos to Carole De Cosmo at Historic Sahuaro Ranch Museum and her crew, the presentation of their material and our material was blended together in an intellectual and artistic manner."

When asked why a display on REA, Sharpe replied, " You can learn about  power distribution in cities from any of the major power producers." He continued "This was a chance to expose city folks to their rural cousin's quest for electrification and betterment of life, while providing visitors from  outside the city a chance to reminisce about their gaining of power and technology."

Sharpe continues to acquire more books, artifacts and paperwork related to REA, and also things related to all forms of engineering, communications and computation.

This informative and entertaining exhibit tells how electricity dramatically changed the methods of farming and "Rural Electrification" explains who was responsible for bringing electrical power, what circumstances made it possible and feasible, when it happened, and how electric power was generated and transmitted in the past.

The fact that the Salt River Valley was electrified before the REA and the rest of rural America is unknown to most Valley residents. The farmers mortgaged their land to bring water (and its byproduct, electricity) to the Valley. This display offers an education on Arizona history and  also a look at what was happening in other farming communities in the United States through Rural Electric Cooperatives.

Electricity made the farm family's live a more pleasant existence with the most profound effect on the farm wife. Before electricity the farm wife had to pump the water by hand, heat with coal and wood, wash all the clothes on a scrub board and tub, air dry the clothes and then iron them with irons heated by coal or wood stoves.  After an exhausting day of all this and other work the poor lady would then  read by the substandard light provided by candlelight or kerosene lamp.

The rest of the family that was out working the operational  aspects of the farm enjoyed the labor and time saving benefits offered by electricity.

Milking the cows was faster and more efficient.

Pumping water electrically was a  wonder!

Having good lighting added  to productivity and safety.

Electric tools made construction and repair on the farm move at a faster pace!

Radios and  later televisions could be  just plugged into the wall.. gone were the bulky batteries and wind chargers.

But... to learn all the benefits,  you need to  take in this wonderful exhibition!

Rural Electrification brought farm families together as they formed cooperatives to obtain electric  power.  Some of the side activities included REA cook books, picnics, work parties, pot lucks and more.  REA brought people together and  made life better! 

Below: Rural Electrification Exhibit opening night.

Carole De Cosmo, Director of Historic Sahuaro Ranch Museum
and Ed Sharpe Director and Lead Archivist of SMECC.

Pictured are some of the  3 dimensional  and pictorial REA artifacts the SMECC lent  for the exhibition.

Where to see it!

Historic Sahuaro Ranch is at 9802 N. 59th Ave., (59th and Mountain View) in Glendale and is open to the public. Website

The grounds - populated with peacocks, chickens, rabbits and graced with a rose garden - are open from dawn to dusk each day. Hours for the Galleries, Main House Tours and Museum Store are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Group tours and educational tours can be arranged by calling the Sahuaro Ranch Foundation office at (623) 930-4200. Admission to the grounds and gallery is free and open to the public.

The Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation (SMECC) can be reached at 623-435-1522 for further information on SMECC please visit

Thanks Ed Sharpe, Archivist for SMECC - -   See the Museum's Web Site at

We are always looking for items to add to the museum's display and ref. library  - please advise if you have anything we can use.

Coury House / SMECC
5802 W. Palmaire Ave.                          Phone    623-435-1522
Glendale Az 85301  USA










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