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Idaho State History: Main Aspects and Key Figures Essay


Idaho is an industrial north-western state in the United States. Its developed economy is based on manufacturing, agriculture, and resource extraction. However, this state has a long history of development. The main goal of this paper is to discuss the main aspects and key figures in the history of Idaho.


The Idaho population is diverse. It is made up of blacks, Native Americans, and Asians. There are also many descendants of Japanese internees (Wegars, 2010, p.15). However, the most significant part of immigrants is Hispanics. The Latinos population in Idaho has become significantly bigger for the last 25 years. In 1980, the Latinos population in Idaho was approximately 36,000 people, and total population numbered 944,000 inhabitants (Sowards, 2014, p. 201).

During the next decade, the number of immigrants from Latin America increased up to 53,000. In 2010, Latinos made up 11.2 percent of the overall state’s population (Sowards, 2014, p. 201). Immigration is the main reason for such a tremendous increase. Latinos community is the largest minority in Idaho. In addition, more than 25,000 illegal immigrants live in this state. Latino immigration turned into a national trend in the United States, which was caused by an incredible economic growth in the country. However, this process has many drawbacks. The increasing crime rate and competition for low-wages job opportunities between citizens and newcomers are the most important issues. However, this situation has slowly begun to improve.

Abigail Scott Duniway

Abigail Scott Duniway is a well-known American writer, lecturer, and feminism promoter. She was born in 1834 in Illinois and spent more than forty years struggling for women’s rights. Duniway was a mother of six children and led a hard life of a rancher’s wife. However, she discovered a speaker and writer talents and established a newspaper to publish her works in it (White, 2015, p. 357). In 1871, she went on a speaking tour with her companion Susan B. Anthony. Later, they founded the Washington Equal Suffrage Association. She was one of the representatives who passed Idaho’s women suffrage bill. In 1896, Duniway succeeded in obtaining the right to vote for women in Idaho. Afterwards, she continued political activities and assisted in uniting the National Woman Suffrage Association and American Woman Suffrage Association. However, Duniway is mostly remembered for her novels. These works addressed the issue of women’s rights and contributed to the improvement of their position in society.

The Silver Valley

The Silver Valley is one of the richest silver producing districts. Wallace is a town that has a status of Silver Capital of the World. It is located in Northern Idaho. Silver Valley is a small area near the Coeur d’Alene River. Silver mines were primarily intended for gold extraction. However, silver, lead, and zinc were the main metals mined in this territory. Mines produced an enormous amount of metals. In 1982, Idaho provided almost forty percent of the nation’s silver (Schwantes, 1991, p. 226). However, the valley was a place for heated arguments between workers and mine owners. In the 1980’s, many mines were closed what caused a high level of unemployment. It subsequently led to the decrease in population in the state. For example, the population of Kellogg dropped below three thousand, and only 400 people continued working in the mines (Schwantes, 1991, p. 226). Eventually, it resulted in the fast economic decline in the state.

The U.S. Forest Service

The United States Forest Service is a complex organization aimed to protect national forests. It conducts forestry research and provides technical and financial assistance to governmental agencies, companies, and private businesses. In 1876, Congress established the office of Special Agent in the United States Department of Agriculture. The main purpose of this division was to appraise the quality of forests. In 1905, the president approved forming the U.S. Forest Service that took up the same duties. During the summer of 1910, the U.S. Forest Service was faced with disastrous fire season in Idaho (Steen, 2013, p. 175). Its specialist participated in massive fire-fighting operations. However, the service was not ready for a disaster, and the military forces were brought in to assist in these operations. Eventually, the fire was put out due to the cold front that brought abundant rains. However, some cities like Falcon and Grand Forks were completely ruined.

Bureau of Reclamation

Bureau of Reclamation was formed in 1902. It constructs and supervises dams, power plants, and canals in the western states. Such projects improve the quality of life among the population and contribute to the economic growth. Nowadays, it is one of the largest water supplier and producer of hydroelectric power in the United States. Another important aspect the bureau is focused on is safety. The Reclamation Safety of Dams Act was enacted in 1978 (Wahl, 2013, p. 44). The failure of Teton Dam in Idaho in 1976 served as an additional motivation for this act. Idaho is a big water supply bank. Water rentals on the Upper Snake River in Idaho reach back to the 1930’s. The arrangements were admitted in Bureau of Reclamation agreements with customers that remained unsatisfied. The state government approved rental contracts and formed state water banking legislation in 1980. The Bureau of Reclamation established the rental water price to increase the flexibility of banks that leased a greater part of the water sold to the Idaho Power Company.

William Dudley Haywood

William Dudley Haywood was one of the founders and leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World. Also, he was a member of the Socialist Party of America. Haywood called for industrial unionism that united all employees in a specific industry, disregarding their individual abilities. He neglected political methods and undertook direct actions. It led to expelling him from the leadership of the Socialist Party. Haywood caused several violent fights that led to proceedings in a court. The famous trial for the assassination of the fourth Idaho governor in 1907 attracted much attention (Morris, 2015, p. 365). However, the jury found him not guilty, and all charges were dropped. Afterwards, Haywood was accused of breaching the Espionage Act and stood trial again. In 1921, he could escape from the United States and went to the Soviet Union. He worked for the government as a labor adviser. Haywood died in Moscow at the age of 59 in 1928.

Vardis Fisher

Vardis Fisher was a writer who became famous after publishing novels about the Snake River region in Idaho. Later, he obtained a literature award for the outstanding book Children of God (Austin, 2014, p. 1). It made Fisher one of the most important historical writers. Also, he was considered to be the most influential novelist among Mormon community in Idaho. Fisher was a writer of a Lost Generation, a group that includes George Dixon Snell, Virginia Sorensen, Maurine Whipple, and some others. Afterwards, many of them left the Mormon Church. Fisher was born in Idaho in a family of Mormons. They lived very far from other people, and such isolation had a great impact on him. His autobiographists often debate whether he was a “Mormon writer” or not. However, Fisher abandoned this religion when he was at school age. His later work, The Testament of Man, made him a world-famous writer. This work included 25 books that he wrote during twenty years.

Mary Hallock Foote

Mary Hallock Foote is a famous American novelist and illustrator. The Desert and the Sown is the most popular of her works. She was born in 1847 in Milton, New York (Witschi, 2015, p. 97). Her family lived in a rural area. Later, Hallock moved to New York where she graduated the Cooper School of Design. She got married to an engineer Arthur De Wint Foote in 1876, and they had three children. Afterwards, they traveled across the United States and Mexico. During this period, she began to write short stories and essays. Some of them were published in such magazines as The Century and the Atlantic Monthly. She wrote the first novel in 1883, and a year after her family moved to Idaho. While her husband created complex irrigated systems for the important to Idaho’s government Boise River Irrigation Project, Hallock continued writing and illustrating, focusing on episodes from the mining camps. Her works presented to the nation vivid illustrations of a hard life of Idaho’s mine workers.

The Carey Act

In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the Carey Act. This document was designed to enhance the availability of lands for the general public (Martinez, 2015, p. 22). A large area in the western states needed to be cultivated. The Federal Land Office transferred these lands to several states that created specific reclamation programs. Local governments should have financed this process, and they began selling plots of land at nominal prices, expecting higher tax revenue. Various companies started developing required irrigation projects. They made profit, supplying settlers with water. During the period between 1908 and 1910, development companies established forty new projects in Idaho. The Carey Act strategies were successfully implemented in this state. More than the half of the county’s lands irrigated due to the Carey Act were in Idaho. However, other states could not present positive results. The deficiency of financial resources was the main reason why the act was not so effective.

Irrigated Eden

Mark Fiege is a professor at Colorado State University and the author of Irrigated Eden: The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West. This work reveals the history of irrigation in Idaho’s Snake River Valley (Fiege, 2009, p.17). In this book, the author demonstrated complicated relationships between people and nature, describing the period from the end of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Fiege introduced the Snake River Valley and methods of irrigation applied by the settlers. He stated that the process of establishing new irrigation systems had a significant impact on the social order in Idaho. The author described settlers as hybrid habitats created by the irrigation projects. Fast-changing and unpredictable circumstances that the local farmers were faced with altered the social system. For example, the idea of private property was undermined. Also, the hostile environment shaped people’s lives, making them adapt to new challenges. The author concluded that settlers could reach the fragile balance and continued developing these lands.


Idaho state history is a complicated subject that involves various aspects correlating to each other. Different figures had a significant impact on the course of the development of the state. Politicians, businessmen, writers, and regular people spent their lives, changing the history. The information about the past events is of a high importance and has to be thoroughly studied to determine the strategies for further improvements.


Austin, M. (2014). Vardis Fisher’s Mormon scars: Mapping the diaspora in the Testament of Man. Dialogue-A Journal of Mormon Thought, 47(3), 1-22.

Fiege, M. (2009). Irrigated Eden: the making of an agricultural landscape in the American West. Washington, DC: University of Washington Press.

Martinez, R. (2015). Raising Arrowrock. Web.

Morris, A. L. (Ed.) (2015). American Countercultures: An Encyclopaedia of Nonconformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in US History (Vols. 1-3).New York, NY: Routledge.

Schwantes, C. A. (1991). In mountain shadows: A history of Idaho. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

Sowards, A. M. (Ed.). (2014). Idaho’s place: A new history of the Gem State. Washington, DC: University of Washington Press.

Steen, H. K. (2013). The US Forest Service: A centennial history. Washington, DC: University of Washington Press.

Wahl, R. W. (2013). Markets for federal water: Subsidies, property rights, and the Bureau of Reclamation. New York, NY: Routledge.

Wegars, P. (2010). Imprisoned in paradise: Japanese internee road workers at the World War II Kooskia internment camp. Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho.

White, R. (2015). It’s your misfortune and none of my own: A new history of the American West. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.

Witschi, N. S. (2015). So completely has my vogue passed away: Houghton Mifflin’s in-house evaluations of Mary Hallock Foote’s autobiography. Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, 32(1), 97-113.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Idaho State History: Main Aspects and Key Figures." January 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/idaho-state-history-main-aspects-and-key-figures/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Idaho State History: Main Aspects and Key Figures'. 4 January.

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