Search for content in message boards

Biographical Sketch: Milo Reno (1866-1936)

Replies: 1

Biographical Sketch: Milo Reno (1866-1936)

Posted: 989755200000
Classification: Biography
Edited: 993188507000
Surnames: Reno, Barrice, Good
Dictionery of American Biography
Volume XI, Part 2
Supplement Two
To December 31, 1940
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York
Pages 551-552

RENO, MILO (Jan. 5, 1866 - May 5, 1936), farm leader, was born on a farm in Wapello County, Iowa, near the town of Agency, the seventh son and twelfth of thirteen children of John and Elizabeth (Barrice) Reno. On his father's side he was of French descent, on his mother's side mostly of German. His parents had moved to Iowa from Pennsylvania in 1855. Largely through the influence of his mother, Milo got more schooling than the average farm boy of his day; he attended the rural schools in his district, a Quaker academy, and Oskaloosa College in Iowa. While in college he married Christine Good, who had come to Batavia, Iowa, from England. They had three children, of whom only one, a daughter Susan Ann, grew to maturity. Reno's mother had hoped that he would enter the ministry, and though he never did so, he studied theology at college. He retained an interest in the Bible and in religious discussions throughout his career as a farm organizer. According to his wife, the talks he gave were more in the nature of sermons than of speeches, though unfriendly observers contended that his abilities to quote Scripture and to swear were about equal.

A good farmer when he set himself to the task, Reno preferred to agitate for marketing reform and to attack the Wall Street capitalists who, he believed, were converting the American farmers into peasants. He came by his radicalism honestly; his father had been a Granger, his mother a Greenbacker and a Populist. As early as 1888 Milo took the stump for the Union Labor party; he also organized for the Farmers' Alliance and campaigned for the Populists; and in 1856 he was an enthusiastic supporter of William Jennings Bryan. In 1918 Reno joined the recently organized Iowa Farmers' Union, becoming its president in 1921. During his nine years in this office he gave special attention to building up the Union's three insurance companies (he served as president of two of them) and its commission companies at St. Paul and Chicago. He supported the McNary - Haugen bills for farm relief in the mid-1920's, opposed the Republican party in the campaign of 1928, and subsequently opposed President Hoover's Federal Farm Board.

The depression years of the early 1930's brought Reno his widest fame. Branching out on his own, he organized the Farmers' Holiday Association, with headquarters at Des Moines, Iowa. Its membership fluctuated widely, reaching its maximum in the desperate days of 1932-33, with its greatest strength always in Iowa. Reno's basic idea was that the farmers were entitled to a price for their products that would cover the cost of production plus a reasonable profit. On Aug. 8, 1932, he called the first "farm holiday," a strike for higher prices. Pickets blockaded the roads into several Iowa cities and stopped trucks carrying farm produce to market. During the next few weeks similar strikes spread to five midwestern states, leading in some cases to violence, before the movement collapsed. On Oct. 26, 1932, Reno's association declared a moratorium on tax and mortgage payments, and this developed into a strike against farm mortgage foreclosures. These militant tactics, whatever their immediate success, dramatized the desperate plight of many farmers and helped to spur remedial legislation in Congress.

Reno at first supported the Roosevelt administration, but he soon turned against it. Finding fault with the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the crop stabilization program, he charged Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace ("Lord Corn Wallace," as he dubbed him) with betraying the farmer. In his last years Reno endorsed the Townsend Plan and championed a third party. A picturesque speaker, with a gift for showmanship and invective, he died in Excelsior Springs (Clay County), Mo., of a heart attack following influenza.

(Roland A. White, ed., Milo Reno, A Memorial Vol. (1941): Theodore Saloutos and John D. Hicks, Agriculture Discontent in the Middle West, 1900-1939 (1951), esp. pp. 435-51: Wallace's Farmer, Oct. 4, 1930: Annals of Iowa, July 1936: Des Moines Tribune, May 5, 1936: N. Y. Times, Nov. 19, 1933, pt. VIII, May 6, 1936: N. Y. Herald Tribune, Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1936: biog. references compiled by Ann Werner, Univ. of Ill. Lib. School)

(Ed. note: This biographical sketch is transcribed as it was published. All facts, dates and places are subject to verification and revision based on subsequent research. No guarantees of the accuracy of the information transcribed are expressed or implied by the contributor thereof.)

SubjectAuthorDate Posted
Gerald_Hobson 989755200000 
ronrenshaw 1371083574000 
per page

Find a board about a specific topic