Michael J. Birkner

Michael J. Birkner is a professor of history and Benjamin Franklin Professor of Liberal Arts at Gettysburg College, where he has taught since 1989. He is the author or editor of twelve books, including the forthcoming James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War.

Listed in: Ohio and Regional · Appalachian Studies · Food Studies · Diaries and Journals · American Studies · History · American History

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Prosperity Far Distant · The Journal of an American Farmer, 1933–1934
By Charles M. Wiltse · Edited by Michael J. Birkner

Fresh from receiving a doctorate from Cornell University in 1933, but unable to find work, Charles M. Wiltse joined his parents on the small farm they had recently purchased in southern Ohio. There, the Wiltses scratched out a living selling eggs, corn, and other farm goods at prices that were barely enough to keep the farm intact. In wry and often affecting prose, Wiltse recorded a year in the life of this quintessentially American place during the Great Depression.

Prosperity Far Distant is a small gem of a book. Charles Wiltse’s journal of life on his parents’ Ohio farm in 1933 and 1934 describes farming’s unrelenting physical toil, the grim fight to stave off ruin, the anger of Depression-era farmers, and the pleasures of rural life. Having just earned a doctorate in history and political philosophy, Wiltse was an unusual farm diarist, and his journal is also the story of a young scholar’s quest to make sense of a badly disrupted world.”

David E. Hamilton, University of Kentucky