When Farmers Were Heroes: The Era of National Corn Husking Contests

In 2009 Heritage Documentaries completed the production of this 27-minute video documentary. We received substantial support for the project from RCH/Innovative Technology Partners, the Riverboat Development Authority, Pioneer Hi-bred International, the CHS Foundation, the Rock Island County Regional Office of Education, the Illinois Corn Huskers Association, and individual donors.

Husking is the oldest method of harvesting corn. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, national contests drew over 100,000 spectators. Our documentary DVD, complete with original film, showcases this traditional farm skill and the traditional farm values celebrated throughout the Midwest during corn husking contests... values like individualism, determination, work ethic and self-sufficiency. From the early 1920s through 1941, local, state, and national corn husking contests were prominent on the national scene. National contests were broadcast live on nation-wide network radio, providing "ear-to-ear" coverage. In 1936, Time magazine declared corn husking "...the fastest growing sporting spectacle in the world." Contest winners became idolized heroes who were sought after by national media for interviews, paid to endorse products, and received proposals of marriage from female fans.

The rise in popularity of corn husking contests and their role in buoying spirits during the Depression are unique in American history. When Farmers Were Heroes: The Era of National Corn Husking Contests, portrays the rich and traditional farm heritage of corn husking. Farm historians in Illinois and Wisconsin have written books about this subject, but no documentary has been created to visually bring the subject to life for students and the general public. We assembled a wealth of background material for this project, much of it as the result of research conducted by Heritage board member Ronald Deiss. Materials include books and articles, artifacts, photographs, audio broadcasts, and several original films of corn husking contests. We also conducted filmed interviews with former contestants. Husking contests continue today on a small scale; we include live footage from the national contest at Roseville, Illinois, held in the fall of 2008.

Download the free teacher's guide to When Farmers Were Heroes here.
View a trailer for the documentary here.


On Sale At These Locations:

Rock Island County Historical Society, 822 11th Avenue, Moline, Illinois


Order Online:

See our Shop to purchase through the Heritage Documentaries website.


Order By Mail:

The documentary on DVD may be purchased for $10 per copy (packaging and postage, $3.00 for the first item and $1.00 for each additional item sent in the same package).

Send a check payable to Heritage Documentaries, Inc to:
Regena Schantz
1117 East Denison Avenue
Davenport, Iowa 52803