Posted by: bishopae | July 18, 2014

Rural electric cooperatives in Iowa

Turned on a light recently? If you live in a rural area, chances are you have an electric cooperative to thank!

Two men stand on top of the metal scaffolding of an electric substation, while a large piece of equipment is lilfted on a wire by a crane. Ten men work or watch from below.

Construction of a substation near Creston, Iowa. Box 38, folder 27. Iowa Rural Electric News, June 1962.

In 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act (REA) to provide federal loans to rural communities to cover the cost of developing their own electrical distribution systems. Commercial power companies by that time had provided electricity to the majority of city dwellers, but they felt that it was not cost-effective to run electric lines through the rural areas. Because of this, farmers were not able to take advantage of electrical power in their work. Nor were their wives able to use the newly burgeoning market of electrical appliances for the home.

Rural communities in Iowa joined thousands of others across the country in developing power cooperatives with the help of REA loans. Members jointly owned and ran the cooperatives and shared the benefits. In 1942, the Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative Association was founded to represent the state’s rural electric cooperatives, and later changed its name to the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives (IAEC). The IAEC came to represent 41 cooperatives throughout the state of Iowa and is still operating today. I recently processed the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives Records (MS 40), and you can check out the finding aid here.

The IAEC supports its member cooperatives in a number of ways, including legislative representation at the state and national levels, safety programs, education and training programs, electrical promotion programs, and youth activities. To learn more about the IAEC, stop by Special Collections.

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