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Book/Printed Material The conquest of arid America,

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  • The conquest of arid America,


  • The early conservation movement in America was arguably more a heterogeneous than a unified phenomenon, and its paradoxes are nowhere more apparent than in many conservationists' unquestioning acceptance of large-scale irrigation as a necessary conservationist task. This ardent work of propaganda by the Massachusetts-born founder of the journal The Irrigation Age weaves together the unruly strands of grand economic ambition, technological infatuation, utopian patriotic boosterism, democratic sentiment, and even religious fervor that ran throughout much of the movement in this era, linking it to the perennial American dream of progressive egalitarian abundance and exemplifying the mentality which led to the passage of the Newlands Reclamation Act and the creation of the Bureau of Reclamation. Smythe presents the case for the technological domination and transformation of nature in the arid West in compelling terms, envisioning massive irrigation as an incomparable instrument of democratic prosperity, lauding irrigation's extant achievements in the region, and dwelling rhapsodically on the benefits which it can confer both on each Western State and on the life of the nation as a whole. Irrigation, Smythe claims, has the potential to effect nothing less than the fulfillment of America's glorious destiny--and an untold number of Americans believed him. Conservation at the turn of the century embraced ultimately contradictory visions of the preservation of imperilled nature and the rationally-managed exploitation of finite natural resources; Smythe's work shows how it could also embrace an ideology of abundance and material promise. (For a further analysis of Smythe's work in the context of the drive for Western irrigation, see Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West [New York: Pantheon Books, 1985], pp. 118-25.) American Memory.


  • Smythe, William E. (William Ellsworth), 1861-1922

Created / Published

  • New York, London, Harper & brothers, 1900.


  • -  West (U.S.)--Description and travel
  • -  Irrigation--West (U.S.)
  • -  Arid regions--West (U.S.)


  • -  Treats of the methods of modern scientific irrigation in connection with colonization and cooperative capital.
  • -  Also available in digital form.


  • xv, [1], 325, [1] p. front., 1 illus., plates, maps (1 double) 19 cm.

Call Number/Physical Location

  • F591 .S66

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 00002751

Online Format

  • online text
  • image
  • pdf

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IIIF Presentation Manifest

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The books in this collection are in the public domain and are free to use and reuse.

Credit Line: Library of Congress

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Chicago citation style:

Smythe, William E. The conquest of arid America. New York, London, Harper & brothers, 1900. Pdf.

APA citation style:

Smythe, W. E. (1900) The conquest of arid America. New York, London, Harper & brothers. [Pdf] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Smythe, William E. The conquest of arid America. New York, London, Harper & brothers, 1900. Pdf. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.