Rural Electrification

Rural Electrification: Outlet for Change

May 2017 to November 2019

An online version of this exhibit is also available at

 By the 1920s, most city and town residents had access to electricity in their homes, businesses and schools. Indoor lights, home appliances, industrial machines and indoor plumbing were all run by electric power. Electricity made many jobs easier. But electrical power lines did not often extend beyond city boundaries, and electricity was available to only a few rural residents. As a consequence, rural life had changed very little since the late 1800s. Heavy manual labor remained a necessity for men, women and children on the farm.

This exhibit tells the story of how electricity eventually reached rural residents both in central Wisconsin and in the rest of the United States and how it changes their lives. Artifact displays are set up in a mirror-image plan, to give a sense of the labor-saving devices that became available along with electricity. Photos show Wisconsin Public Service bringing electricity into rural areas. And a series of flip charts shows which Marathon County farms had electricity in 1930.

The Marathon County Historical Society thanks Wisconsin Public Service Foundation for its support for this exhibit.