AR Between The Wars

By Maxwell Vytlacil

Postwar Arkansas

The ending of WWI started the beginning of a new decade of hope and economic improvements to most Americans. New advances in technology changed peoples lives in very dramatic ways. Electricity, the telephone, the automobile, and other time-saving inventions mad everyday life more easier and more enjoyable. People also had more free time for fun and recreation.

Oil and Boom Towns

In the town of El Dorado a large oil reserve was found by an oil speculator named Samuel T. Bussy. He had been drilling just west of town when the ground began to rumble and a huge wall of oil shot high into the sky. The gusher spewed thousands of gallons of oil across local fields and farmlands contaminating water supplies and layers of rich farm soil. Once word got out about the oil strike near El Dorado, people rushed to the area some hoping to strike it rich, others for steady work. Within a few short years, El Dorado was home to 59 oil companies and 30,000 residents. 12 miles northwest of El Dorado the town of Smackover was the next to discover underground pools of "black gold". In less than one year the town grew from 131 residents to a lively 25,000. Fierce robbery, murder, and competition also affected the town. In some ways, it resembled living in a lawless town in the Old West. By the end of the decade, the areas huge oil boom had died because early speculators did not know how to properly store or capture the oil. Production levels dropped from more than 58 million barrels to 12 million barrels.Despite this dramatic decline, the production of oil and natural gas have remained an important part of the Southern Arkansas economy.

The Return of the Ku Klux klan

Despite the decline of Klan activity during the Reconstruction (1865-1877), support for the group had been growing once again. People throughout the South were unhappy about the changing patterns of life in America. Many were suspicious of other races like African Americans and foreign immigrants and people with conflicting religious beliefs such as Jews and Catholics. Klan members wanted the government to be run and influenced by only white Protestants. As support for Klan ideals continued to grow, membership in the state toppled more than 50,000. KKK members even ran for city, county, and state offices. One Klan member became a candidate for governor but eventually lost the race. The Klan also had a strong branch of women. A women from Little Rock even served as the national leader. Though outwardly Klansmen promoted patriotic and moral standard's, secretly they promoted hatred and violence.
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