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The Epic of the Wheat: The Octopus, A Story of California, 1901

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The Epic of the Wheat: The Octopus, A Story of California, 1901
NMAH, Transportation Collections


This object appears in the following sections:

Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876
Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 — Changes the Railroad Brought

Santa Cruz tourism advertisment

Steam locomotive Jupiter

Santa Cruz entreprenuer Frederick A. Hihn

The Octopus
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection
The Epic of the Wheat: The Octopus, A Story of California, published in 1901, is loosely based on a clash in 1880 between farmers in California's San Joaquin valley and the Southern Pacific Railroad. Frank Norris's novel vividly described the abuses of large railroads in setting high shipping prices and controlling land ownership. The author's note in the preface indicates that The Octopus was to be the first novel in a trilogy dealing with “(1) the production, (2) the distribution, (3) the consumption of American wheat. When complete they will form the story of a crop of wheat from the time of its sowing as seed in California to the time of its consumption as bread in a village of Western Europe.” The Pit, the second novel of the trilogy, was published posthumously in 1903. Norris died in 1902, and the third novel, which he planned to title The Wolf, was never written.
Physical Description
book cover
Date Made:
As the United States industrialised, some citizens began to be concerned about the changes that big businesses wrought in American politics and culture. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, a group of writers, who became knowns as muckrakers, began to publish novels and exposÚs that revealed the dark side of American industry and finance. Journalists and authors such as Frank Norris, Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida Tarbell exposed the inner workings of the railroads, the meat packing industry, the oil industry, and municipal governments.

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