Market-Building and the Ecology of Political Contention in the American West, 1890-1896
Drawing on new data on the location of market infrastructure such as rail lines and grain elevators, I examine patterns of third-party mobilization in the American West between 1890 and 1896. Whereas conventional accounts attribute the outbreak of third-party support in the agrarian periphery to factors such as declining wheat prices, I find that the relationship between crop production and vote choice was a function of market distance. Third-party strength was thus disproportionately concentrated in wheat dependent economies facing higher transportation costs by virtue of their position in relation to terminal markets such as Minneapolis-St. Paul. In short, I find that in the context of a spatially-stratified market, where one stood politically could not be understood independently of where one stood geographically.