The American Midwest:


An Interpretive Encyclopedia

Edited by:
Richard Sisson,
Christian Zacher and
Andrew Cayton

The Midwest. The Heartland. Middletown, Winesburg, Spoon River, Lake Wobegon. In the American imagination, this is the place of hard-working people, thrifty, devoted to family values, strong in character, middle-of-the-road, sedate, cautious. It’s a place of silos and skyscrapers, railroads and riverboats, farms and factories. Home to Native Americans and generations of immigrants and descendants of slaves, this vast space easily accommodates rust belt cities and amber waves of grain; small towns and snarls of highway; America’s Great Lakes, great rivers, and great individuals. Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Abraham Lincoln once called the Midwest home, as did Black Hawk and Tecumseh, Jane Addams and Eugene Debs, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Toni Morrison, Billy Sunday and Oprah Winfrey, Count Basie and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Midwest made household names out of Cracker Jack, Cream of Wheat, Corn Flakes, Juicy Fruit, and Aunt Jemima.

The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia seeks to embrace this large and diverse area, to give it voice, and help define its complex, yet distinctive character. Organized by topic, the encyclopedia encourages readers to reflect upon the region as a whole. Each section moves from the general to the specific, covering broad themes in longer introductory essays, filling in the details in the shorter entries that follow. There are portraits of the region’s twelve states, their geography and people: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These are followed by entries on society and culture, community and social life, economy and technology, and public life.

Even if you are a casual browser, you will discover in the Encyclopedia facts that will engage, inform, and enlighten. It will introduce you to the region’s ethnic diversity, its vast array of foods, languages, styles, religions, and customs. You’ll discover Somalis in Ohio, Hmong in Wisconsin, Hispanics in Iowa, and Muslims in Michigan. You’ll find thoughtful and well-informed research on the history of the region, its culture and values, and its conflicts.

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