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“Mrs. Wiegel uses electric vacuum cleaner,” by Arthur Rothstein, Office of War Information, June 1942

With rural electrification, electric lights replaced kerosene lamps, farmers could utilize power tools and domestic appliances such as vacuum cleaners and refrigerators eased household chores.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

“Mrs. Wiegel uses electric vacuum cleaner,” by Arthur Rothstein, Office of War Information, June 1942

Power to the Plains

To bring electricity to America’s farmlands, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) by executive order in 1935. Nebraska Senator George W. Norris and Representative Sam Rayburn of Texas sponsored its congressional authorization in 1936. The REA provided low-interest loans to farmers’ cooperatives to electrify areas not served by utility companies, thereby extending modern conveniences to the nation’s rural population and increasing the efficiency of its farms. Active until 1994, the REA was one of the greatest achievements of the New Deal era.