Uniforming the Rugged: Gender, Identity, and the American Administrative State during the Progressive Era, 1898-1917
Gardner, Zackary William
Benton-Cohen, Katherine A
This dissertation is a social history of more than 2,000 individual state and federal employees between 1898 and 1917 who were charged with the transformation of the law from enacted ideal to lived reality. The study examines the interplay of gendered identity and administrative state formation in the United States through four case studies: the Philippine Constabulary, the Pennsylvania State Police, the US Forest Service, and the Pennsylvania Forestry Division. To grow these agencies, executives—including Gifford Pinchot, Henry T. Allen, John C. Groome, and George C. Wirt—had to recruit, train, and discipline technocratic experts who were inspired by an idealized image of government service. This identity simultaneously and paradoxically praised rugged individualism and bureaucratic conformity. Compounded by bureaucratic stagnation, depreciating salaries, and the realities of living conditions in remote wildernesses, the inherent contradictions of individualism and conformity led many of these men to disillusionment and resignation.My argument is based upon the reconstruction of individual government careers utilizing bureaucratic social history sources, including circular letters, annual reports, standardized forms, and the extensive correspondence between would-be government-men and senior executives within the four case studies. These personnel records when combined with personal documents, including diaries, letters, and memoirs, provide an intimate picture of administrative state formation between the Spanish American War and the First World War.Historiographically, the emergence of the administrative state during the Progressive Era has been examined through the lens of government and political leaders, specific policies, and the governed, those impacted by the expanding administrative state. Although often critical of specifics, the literature suggests that the expansion of the American administrative state was successful during the fin-de-siècle. I argue, though, that not only did these resignations represent a loss of human capital, but a failure by politicians and reformers during the Progressive Era to create an administrative state capable of inspiring, recruiting, training, and retaining an increasingly specialized, technocratic bureaucracy. A more intimate knowledge of those who governed suggests that historians need to question the early twentieth-century administrative state as a successful model for the replication, regulation, and maintenance of power.
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