The Country Life Commission

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New: Teddy Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission

By Timothy Collins

If you have any interest in rural history or rural life, you might enjoy reading about Theodore Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission of 1908-1909. It is a new feature here.

Roosevelt created the Country Life Commission to survey the country, provide an observation of conditions in rural America, and pose recommendations for necessary improvements for rural life.

Despite political opposition from within his own Republican Party—whose leaders ignored the commission’s report—the Country Life idea endured and prospered. It drew bipartisan and nonpartisan support from universities, churches and religious organizations, local leaders, and thousands of ordinary citizens for more than a generation.

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Although commission’s report focuses on farm communities, the movement soon grew to include all aspects of rural life. Teddy Roosevelt had his own charisma, and that helped the movement grow. But the real growth came from the appeal of the country life idea: a vision for a better life for everyone who lived on farms, in the open countryside, and in the small towns where people shopped, often went to school and church, and found recreational opportunities.

Why is the report so important?

It launched an enthusiastic movement to “upbuild” farming and rural communities—a popular term of the day.

More importantly, the report linked a healthy environment with vibrant communities, a condition vital for what we now call sustainable places.

It is a landmark worth remembering.


Bushnell, IL

August 5, 2015


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