The Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 transformed the arid lands of the Western United States into one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. This paper investigates the congressional history of this legislation and analyzes the coalition building that ultimately led to passage of the Act. I use a mixed-methods approach to demonstrate that Western sectionalism, inter-sectional logrolling, and institutional dynamics all contributed to the shape and passage of the Reclamation Act. Understanding the passage of the Act contributes to scholarly understanding of regional, partisan, and policy-coalitions during the Gilded Age Congresses and contributes to our overall understanding of the history of American water policy. Westerners were able to work with southern members of Congress who believed that Reclamation Act funding could one day be turned towards water management projects in the South. Ultimately, regional water policy in the Western United States became a national policy issue as local and state governments failed to work with private corporations to reclaim water in the West.
Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 3, Issue 3 Special Issue: The Political Economy of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era: Articles Overview
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.