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In the late nineteenth century, American farmers recognized shared challenges and interests regardless of the section of the country where they lived and worked. A series of agrarian movements fostered this common identity and gave the farmers, for a few years at least, a powerful voice in national politics.

A long economic decline, a sense of obsolescence, and an ineffective government response left farmers feeling helpless. They bemoaned the power of corporate monopolies, the high railroad rates that seemed to punish agricultural shippers, the money earned by the grain elevator operators who stored their crops, the demands of bankers and mortgage lenders, and the deflation that made it harder for them to pay loans. In hindsight, the federal government's decision to end the coinage of ...

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