Living tools: an environmental history of afforestation and the shifting image of trees

K-REx Repository

Show simple item record Young, Theresa L. 2013-04-29T14:51:59Z 2013-04-29T14:51:59Z 2013-04-29
dc.description.abstract In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Timber Culture Act (1873) and the development of the field of scientific forestry shifted the social conception of trees from a cultural icon, into living technological tools. Beginning with the antebellum publications of George Perkins Marsh, who argued for the preservation and restoration of forests for the benefit of all, scientists, railroad developers, and plains settlers advocated for the cultural importance of trees as a living tool. Assured by railroad-boosters, the budding Forestry Bureau, and pro-tree legislators that rainfall would follow their planting efforts, waves of emigrants who relocated to the grasslands from the eastern forested areas planted millions of trees in an attempt to afforest the open prairies, creating traceable environmental and social changes over time. Environmental historian Elliott West asserts, “Only people have tried on a massive scale to move imagined environments out of their heads and to duplicate them in the world where others live,” and the grasslands of Kansas is one of these environments. This thesis argues that the scientific field of forestry developed a system of prairie tree planting (afforestation) aimed at altering the environment of the Great Plains with artificial forests and created a technological construction of the Kansas environment. The enactment of the Timber Culture Act was a watershed moment because it elevated the social conceptions of trees to that of a living tool and created the need for a national Forestry Bureau. Primary source documents reveal that the general perception held in the nineteenth century was that the natural environment and climate was malleable. The development of profit-centered tree farms furthered the idea that forests were like any other manageable crop. The changes over time in the forest cover of Kansas resulted in an altered ecology and the introduction of invasive species, but most importantly, it altered the cultural perception of how Kansas should look. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.publisher Kansas State University en
dc.subject Environmental History en_US
dc.subject Kansas History en_US
dc.subject History of Technology en_US
dc.subject Timber Culture Act en_US
dc.subject Afforestation en_US
dc.subject History en_US
dc.title Living tools: an environmental history of afforestation and the shifting image of trees en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US Master of Arts en_US
dc.description.level Masters en_US
dc.description.department Department of History en_US
dc.description.advisor Bonnie Lynn-Sherow en_US
dc.subject.umi Environmental Studies (0477) en_US
dc.subject.umi Forestry (0478) en_US
dc.subject.umi History (0578) en_US 2013 en_US May en_US

Files in this item

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show simple item record

Search K-REx

Advanced Search


My Account


Center for the

Advancement of Digital


118 Hale Library

Manhattan KS 66506

(785) 532-7444