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Water and Citizenship in the American West

Water and Citizenship in the American West

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Water and Citizenship in the American West

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  1. Water and Citizenship in the American West Teaching American History – UC Irvine History Project August 2012

  2. Overview/Organization Historiographic Introduction Aridity, The Colorado River, and U.S. Land Law: The Case of John Wesley Powell Progressive Urbanization? The Case of Los Angeles and the Owens River

  3. Themes and Intersections between Citizenship, Water and Environment Citizenship and settlement in history of U.S. West Tensions between democratic ideals/intentions of federal land policies and the realities of land and natural resource distribution in West Changes in federal priorities and support of western settlement Tensions between rural settlers/politicians and federal officials regarding western water Tensions and conflicts over water resources between rural and urban communities Bureaucratization of water resources

  4. Western Historiography Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932) “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” (1893) Originally presented at American Historical Association gathering in Chicago, Illinois during World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair) of 1893 Influenced American historians for fifty years or more Argues for large-scale social patterns in American history Assumptions regarding frontier an expression of popular ideas regarding westward migration—“conceptualized what was already conventional” Powerful expression of American nationalism and exceptionalism

  5. Central Arguments of “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” American history is for the most part “the history of the colonization of the Great West” Census of 1890 documents end of “frontier line” For Turner, this signals “the closing of a great historic movement” Frontier defined by proximity to “an area of free land” Great West an uninhabited, unpopulated wilderness Homestead Act of 1862 American history defined by westward movement of frontier line Frontier experience “the recurrence of the process of evolution in each western area reached in the process of expansion” and the “return to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line, and a new development for that area.”

  6. Central arguments of “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” cont. Frontier source of American national identity “The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization. The wilderness masters the colonist….Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the Old Europe….The fact is, that there is a new product that is American. “Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away form the influence of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines.” “This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life…its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character.” American Nationalism Individualism and National Independence Democracy

  7. The West after Turner Myth and Symbol School of American Studies Intellectual history of American literature and culture Typically focused on broad intellectual trends Wing of “consensus school” of post-World War II American historiography, which generally argued United States a classless society (unlike Europe) Often argued for single, collective American identity—an “American mind” Like Turner, articulated arguments in support of American exceptionalism Perry Miller The New England Mind (1939, 1953) “Nature and the National Ego” (1956) “Nature’s Nation” (1967)

  8. The West after Turner Henry Nash Smith Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (1950) David M. Potter (important consensus historian) People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (1954) Leo Marx The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964) Roderick Nash Wilderness and the American Mind (1967)

  9. The West after Turner: New Western History Mid-1980s through late 1990s Turner’s “frontier thesis” source of great debate among historians of the American West New Western History New Western Historians all agreed that Turner’s vision of the “frontier” and the “West” is biased, analytically limited and narrow in scope Ethnocentric—story/explanation of white conquest that explains conquest solely in terms of white/Euro-American culture A national history that is far too nationalistic Turner’s “frontier thesis” concerned primarily with American agriculture and homesteaders Turner’s concern with “Americanization” and “closing of the frontier” expressions of social anxieties of late nineteenth-century white middle-class Americans West vs. Frontier: Internal debate over West as place or region (e.g. Limerick, White, Worster) and frontier as process (e.g. Cronon)—calls to dispense with frontier as word and idea

  10. New Western Historians Patricia Nelson Limerick The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (1987) Trails: Toward a New Western History, co-author (1991) Donald Worster Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (1979) Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (1985) A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell (2001)***

  11. New Western Historians, cont. Richard White “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own”: A New History of the American West (1991) The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region (1991) William Cronon Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (1983) Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1992) “The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature” in Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (1996)

  12. Western Historiography since the New Western History Limerick, White, and Cronon on western historiography since New Western History (recorded at Western Historical Association Annual Conference 2011) Three major fields that now inform and even define Western U.S. history: Environmental History Theodore Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History, second edition (2008) Linda Nash, Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge (2007)

  13. Western Historiography since the New Western History Borderlands History James Brooks, Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands (2001) Samuel Truett, Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (2008) Brian DeLay, War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War (2009) Transnational and Comparative History Susan Lee Johnson, Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush (2001) Thomas Bender, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History (2006)

  14. Historiography of Western Water Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (1985) Donald Pisani, To Reclaim a Divided West: Water, Law, and Public Policy, 1848-1902 (1992) Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River (1995) Donald Pisani, Water and American Government: The Reclamation Bureau, National Policy, and the West, 1902-1935 Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water (1986)*** James Lawrence Powell, Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the American West (2008)***

  15. Part I. Aridity, The Colorado River, and the U.S. Land Law: The Case of John Wesley Powell

  16. J.K. Hillers, “The Cañon at noon” (1872), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, LC-DIG-stereo-1s00749

  17. John Wesley Powell (1834-1902), ca. 1896, • USGS Photographic Library, • Portraits Collection 918 Port0918 • J.K. “Jack” Hillers (1843-1925), ca. 1890s, • USGS Photographic Library, • Portraits Collection 78 port0078

  18. Overview – Life of John Wesley Powell Childhood and Civil War Early career as naturalist and explorer Career as surveyor, geologist, and ethnologist Career as federal administrator and bureaucrat

  19. Childhood and Early Life Born in 1834 in Mount Morris, New York Parents, Joseph and Mary Powell, immigrants from Shrewsbury, England; moved to U.S. in 1830 Parents devout Methodists Powell named after John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodist denomination Father Joseph an itinerant preacher Parents moved from New York to West when Powell was young: Jackson, Ohio; South Grove, Wisconsin; Bonus Prairie, Illinois Studied natural history off and on at Illinois Institute, Illinois College, Oberlin College; taught in series of country schools Powell NOT educated at nation’s finest colleges and universities Powell westerner through and through – raised in the West; educated in the West; would make his living (after the Civil War) in the West

  20. Civil War Powell ardent abolitionist Enlisted in Illinois infantry in May 1861; later commissioned as officer Eventually moved from infantry to artillery Right arm amputated at Battle of Shiloh (April 1862) Returned to service and served as artillery officer under Ulysses S. Grant at Battle of Vicksburg (May-July 1963) Attained rank of brevet lt. colonel but preferred to be called “Major”

  21. Explorer – Down “the Great Unknown” After war took position as professor of natural sciences at Illinois Wesleyan University 1867 – Appointed curator of Illinois Natural History Museum and leads amateur scientific expedition to Rocky Mountains (Colorado) during summer; publishes first scientific report 1868 – Returns to Colorado Rockies with another amateur expedition; visits Green, Grand, and Yampa Rivers; leads first successful ascent of Long’s Peak 1869 (May 24 - August 30) – Leads 10 men and four boats down Green and Colorado Rivers; first successful navigation of Grand Canyon Becomes national celebrity and lectures about expedition all across nation (1869-1870)

  22. Colorado River Basin

  23. The River from the Rim Above – Sculptor of Sublime Canyons“The Colorado River,” from John Wesley Powell, The Canyons of the Colorado (1895)

  24. The River at the Floor of the Canyon Below – Terrifying Spectacle At twelve o’clock on August 29th emerged from the Grand Cañonof the Colorado, and entered a valley form which low mountains were seen coming to the river below. We recognized this as the Grand Wash…. At night we camped on the left bank in a mesquite thicket. The sense of relief from danger and the joy of success were great. When he who has been chained by wounds to a hospital cot until his canvas tent seems like a dungeon, and the groans of those who lie about him are an increasing torture–when such a prisoner at last goes out into the open field, what a world he sees! How beautiful the sky, how bright the sunshine…The first hour of convalescent freedom seems rich recompense for all the pain, the gloom and the terror. Something like this was the feeling we experienced that night. Ever before us had been an unknown danger heavier than any immediate peril. Every waking hour passed in the Grand Cañon had been one of toil….Only during the few hours of deep sleep consequent of hard labor had the roar of the mad waters been hushed; now the danger was over, the toil had ceased, the gloom had disappeared, and the firmament was bounded only by the wide horizon. Major J.W. Powell, “The Cañons of the Colorado” (1875)

  25. Surveyor and Indian Commissioner Summer 1871 – Leads second expedition down Green and Colorado Rivers River party now a survey team – there to map, photograph, and document in detail the topographic, geologic, hydrologic, and ethnographic record of the CO River Basin Survey now official, federally funded survey One of four in Trans-Mississippi West after Civil War – Powell Survey, King Survey, Hayden Survey, Wheeler Survey Summer 1872 – Continues to lead survey; leads survey part way through Grand Canyon Late Summer/Fall 1872 – resigns from position at Illinois Natural History Museum and moves to Washington, D.C. 1873 –Appointed Indian commissioner for Arizona and Nevada (Powell-Ingalls commission) 1873 - 1878 – Powell Survey continues fieldwork Powell now most involved in administration of Survey; delegates fieldwork and science to others, especially Clarence E. Dutton and Grove Karl Gilbert; critical advancements made in American geology 1874 - 1878 – Publishes a number of government reports and professional scientific papers on geology and ethnology of Southwest, including Report on the Arid Region of the United States (1878)

  26. Federal Administrator and Bureaucrat 1879 – Intimately involved in politics behind the creation of Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 1879 – Appointed first director Bureau of Ethnology (1879-1902) 1879 – Clarence King appointed first director of USGS (1879-1881) 1881 – Succeeds Clarence King as director of USGS (1881-1894) Appointed by old ally from House of Representatives, James A. Garfield (Garfield elected President in 1880) Served, in words of Donald Worster, as “Washington’s resident expert on the West” 1884 – Begins plan for complete topographical mapping of United States by USGS; testifies before Allison Commission regarding governmental science and his leadership of USGS 1885 –Testifies before Allison Commission again; opponents in Congress attempt to cut USGS funding 1888 – Congress authorizes USGS to investigate water resources of West for purposes of irrigation (Irrigation Survey) 1889 – Accompanies Senate Select Committee on fact-finding mission in West regarding issue of irrigation 1890 – Publishes series of three articles on western irrigation in Century Magazine 1892 –Senator William Stewart (R- Nevada) leads successful campaign to defund USGS activities 1893 – Delivers controversial address before International Irrigation Congress in Los Angeles, CA (October 13) 1894 – Resigns as director of USGS

  27. The Courage of His Convictions – Powell Before the International Irrigation Congress of 1893 The feature of yesterday’s session was the speech of Maj. Powell of the Geological Survey, who holds that there is not sufficient water available to irrigate any of the arid lands now owned by the government. This speech brought a vigorous discussion, in which the views of Maj. Powell were roundly assailed by many of the delegates. Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1893

  28. What Government Lands was Powell Referring To? The Public Domain—federal lands in the West How did federal/central government come by western lands? Treaty of Peace (1783)—Mississippi River established as western boundary of U.S. Louisiana Purchase (1803) Annexation of Texas (1845) Resolution of Oregon Country Claims (1846) Mexican Secession/Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) Gadsden Purchase (1854)

  29. Powell’s Argument Regarding the Arid Lands Lands west of the hundredth meridian not suited to Euro-American modes of agricultural production and traditional patterns of settlement: Northwest Ordinances (1784, 1785, 1787) Public Land Act of 1796 Land Acts of 1800, 1804, 1820 and Relief Act of 1821 Preemption Act of 1841 (first legalization of squatting within public domain) Swampland Act of 1849 Homestead Act of 1862 Timber Culture Act of 1873 Desert Land Act of 1877

  30. Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787

  31. Federal Land Acts—Where Land, Water, and Citizenship Meet Northwest Ordinances (1784, 1785, 1787) Central/Federal government policy meant to raise revenue through land auctions System set up to convert public domain into private property Naturalization Law of 1795 “any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States” Immigrants not barred from owning private property Homestead Act of 1862 Immigrants who intend to naturalize can legally homestead surveyed land Aridity a challenge to these American institutions

  32. Powell’s Proposed Solution to Problem of Western Aridity As early as 1878, Powell proposed a scientific agenda for reform of public land law Issue of water and irrigation (i.e. reclamation) at the center of it: 1. Lands in arid region of U.S. should be classified according to economic potential and water supplies should be surveyed and mapped prior to settlement 2. Where rainfall was inadequate to support agriculture, 160-acre homestead should be increased to 2,560 acres for purposes of maintaining a small herd of cattle or sheep 3. Traditional rectangular surveys should be abandoned; lands should be surveyed according to bodies of water 4. Where irrigation was possible, homesteads should be reduced to 80 acres or less; federal government should build dams when and where settlers could not

  33. What were Powell’s Aims? Democratic intent of land laws often circumvented by speculators and large land owners General Land Office (GLO), along with the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs, notoriously corrupt during Gilded Age Surveys of public domain overseen by Surveyors General Surveying work usually contracted out to private individuals and firms Large land owners who could afford to pay land or government filing fees found it easy to amass multiple land claims and massive estates Large landowners also used economic power to amass water rights to various western water bodies Henry Miller in California Central Valley (Swampland Act claims) In arid west, land worthless without water rights A child of the Old Northwest, Powell believed in Jeffersonian agrarian ideal—wanted average, everyday settler to have access to cheap agricultural land Powell believed that reform of western land law would benefit new settlers: Centralization of arid land surveys within U.S. Geological Survey would end graft and corruption and ensure lands suitable for irrigation would be open to common settler

  34. The Western Land Grid from the Air —Visual Evidence of Legacy of Northwest Ordinances and Powell’s Failure

  35. Significance of John Wesley Powell Important Explorer of uncharted regions of North America, Colorado River and Grand Canyon in particular Oversaw key advancements in American science Extensive documentation of Indian languages and myths (anthropology) and Indian history (archaeology) Key figure in emergence of American school of geology: advanced uniformitarian approaches to fluvial erosion and stratigraphy (branches of geomorphology) Important federal institution builder U.S. Geological Survey – applied and theoretical science Bureau of Ethnology Unsuccessful reformer of U.S. Land (and Water) Policy Was divisive in his own day that divides opinion even today: Some see him as early conservationist and as an environmental realist in that he called for “sustainable” settlement of arid West Others see him as naive idealist against forces of American capitalism Others as an elitist technocrat who wanted to grant small groups of federal experts control over land and economies of the West

  36. Progressive Urbanization?: The Case of Los Angeles and the Owens River

  37. Demographic Pressures in Progressive-Era California 1876 – Completion of Southern Pacific Railroad connects Los Angeles and San Francisco Increasing urban populations in LA and SF By 1900, 40% of 1.5 million Californians lived in either LA or SF areas Due to population growth, both cities in need of new water supplies San Francisco, famously, tapped the Tuolumne River (HetchHetchy Valley near Yosemite NP) Los Angeles, just as famously, tapped Owens River

  38. Growing City in Need of Water LA more desperate than SF Explosive growth in second half of 19th cent. 1850 population: 1610 (3530 LA County) 1870 population: 5728 (15,309 LA County) 1880 population: 11,183 (3530 LA County) 1890 population: 50,395 (101,454 LA County) 1900 population: 102,479 (170,298 LA County) 1930 population: 1,238,048 (2,208,492 LA county) By 1900, Los Angeles River ceased to be adequate water supply Unlike SF, LA possessed little in way of natural resources to become major metropolitan center—possessed only the ambition necessary to become major U.S. city In the end, ambition would be enough Story of Los Angeles Aqueduct one of civic ambition and public service for the purposes of private gain

  39. Los Angeles Aqueduct and Greater California-Colorado River Aqueduct System

  40. Progressive-Era Los Angeles 1868 – Los Angeles City Water Company given control of Los Angles River and city water supply Temporary privatization of city’s water Fred Eaton—leading figure of municipalization of city’s water Native born Angeleno (Pasadena) 1877-1886 served as superintending engineer of LA Water Co. While serving as city engineer (1886-1890), Eaton began to publicly call for municipalization of water system 1900-1902 served as mayor; continued to promote municipalization of water system

  41. Fred Eaton, n.d.Los Angeles Public Library

  42. Institutional Foundations of LA Aqueduct August 28, 1901 – bond measure passed to purchase water rights of LA Water Co. for $2 million January 1903 – mayor appoints five-member LA Board of Water Commissioners Water Board operates with substantial autonomy Reported to city council only on matters relating to water rates Given total financial independence Water Board, in the words of Kevin Starr, the “government within the government”

  43. Envisioning the Aqueduct To build an aqueduct LA had to do three things: Municipalize water system Completed Feb. 1902 Survey possible water sources Fred Eaton identified Owens River no later than 1904 Acquire land and water rights Eaton (secretly) began buying land in Owens Valley on behalf of LA as early as 1904-1905 Virtually no one in city aware of Eaton’s plans

  44. Envisioning the Aqueduct Owens River could meet the city’s needs, but there were two problems: Unlike HetchHetchy, Owens Valley occupied with approx. 40,000 acres under cultivation Newly formed U.S. Reclamation Service had targeted OV for large-scale irrigation project Federal Reclamation Service instituted by Reclamation Act of 1902 Reclamation Service founded in wake of J.W. Powell’s Irrigation Surveys of 1880s To secure Owens River, Eaton and others would have to outwit residents of Owens Valley and outmaneuver Reclamation Service officials An ambitious campaign of greed, guile, bribery, and lies would ultimately bring the Owens River to LA

  45. Eaton, Mulholland, and Lippincott April 1903 – Supervising Engineer J.B. Lippincott ordered by Frederick Haynes Newell (director of Reclamation Service) to survey Owens Valley; Lippincott joined by Jacob C. Clausen in field July 1903 – Lippincott sends report to Newell outlining suitability of Owens Valley to Reclamation projects Dec. 1903 – approx. 500,000 acres of public land in Owens Valley reserved for Reclamation project; Long Valley chosen as reservoir site Aug. 1904 – Lippincott takes Eaton on tour of Long Valley (upper Owens Valley); Eaton later joined by LA Water Superintendant William Mulholland at Long Valley where Eaton informs Mulholland of his plan

  46. William Mulholland, n.d., Los Angeles Public Library

  47. Eaton, Mulholland, and Lippincott, cont. Sept. 1904 – Lippincott informs Newell of Los Angeles’s interest in Owens Valley; Reclamation work in Owens Valley ceases Nov. 1904 – Newell, Lippincott, Eaton, Mulholland, and W.B. Mathews meet in Los Angeles March 1905 – Lippincott officially on Water Commission payroll as Mulholland’s assistant June 1905 – Water Commission buys Owens Valley property from Fred Eaton for $450,000 July 1905 – specially appointed Reclamation panel officially suspends Reclamation activities in Owens Valley