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Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

History: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Don Hofsommer

Third Advisor

James Johnson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Minnesota, Railroads, Development, Dominance, Public Ambivalence, Regulation, Economics


In this thesis project I have attempted to explore the subject of railroad dominance in Minnesota between 1880 and 1920, and how it compared with the national experience. In the decades prior to this period, particularly from 1880 to 1900, railroad development and construction proceeded at a brisk pace, interrupted mostly by economic downturns. By the time of the First World War, railroad construction and development slowed considerably. The conditions that existed from 1910 onwards were significantly different than the conditions of earlier times. The economy and the nation had industrialized, and railroads were no longer welcomed into each community as they once were because of the operations and business practices of their owners. Canals, once the main competitor to railroads in transportation, were a secondary competitor. Canals had high maintenance and construction costs, The society had changed to the point that the general public felt vulnerable to the railroads, and ·regulation of large scale business enterprises was seen as necessary and beneficial, however, regulatory entities soon became impediments to innovation and progress. The desire on the part of the general public, and their elected representatives, to ameliorate the control that railroads had over the economy, led to regulation, later on, the call for improved, paved highways, and other modes of transportation. The regulatory structure diminished the railroad companies' abilities to respond to changes within the transportation marketplace. It also prevented the railroads from responding more aggressively to the increase in private motor vehicle use.

As a part of this examination, revenue passenger miles, revenue ton miles, total passengers and total tons of freight have been examined in comparison to the growth in population nationwide and within Minnesota.

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