Rural Electrification Act

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (center) signs the Rural Electrification Act with Representative John Rankin (left) and Senator George William Norris (right)

The Rural Electrification Act of 1936, enacted on May 20, 1936, provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States.

The funding was channeled through cooperative electric power companies, most of which still exist today. These member-owned cooperatives purchased power on a wholesale basis and distributed it using their own network of transmission and distribution lines. The Rural Electrification Act was also an attempt made by FDR's New Deal to deal with high unemployment.


On May 11, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7037, which created the Rural Electrification Administration.[1] In 1936, the Congress endorsed Roosevelt's action by passing the Rural Electrification Act. At the time the Rural Electrification Act was passed, electricity was commonplace in cities but largely unavailable in farms, ranches, and other rural places. Representative John E. Rankin and Senator George William Norris were supporters of the Rural Electrification Act, which was signed into law by Roosevelt on May 20, 1936.

Technical issues[edit]

In the 1930s, the provision of power to remote areas was not thought to be economically feasible. A 2300 volt distribution system was then used in cities. This relatively low voltage could only be carried about 4 miles before the voltage drop became unacceptable.

REA cooperatives used a 6900 volt distribution network, which could support much longer runs (up to about 40 miles). Despite requiring more expensive transformers at each home, the overall system cost was manageable[citation needed].

Wiring homes and farms[edit]

REA crews travelled through the American countryside, bringing teams of electricians along with them. The electricians added wiring to houses and barns to utilize the newly available power provided by the line crews. A standard REA installation in a house consisted of:

  1. A 60 amp range circuit
  2. A 20 amp kitchen circuit
  3. Two or three 15 amp lighting circuits

A ceiling-mounted light fixture was installed in each room, usually controlled by a single switch mounted near a door. At most, one outlet was installed per room, since plug-connected appliances were expensive and uncommon. Wiring was performed using type NM nonmetallic sheathed cable, insulated with asbestos-reinforced rubber covered with jute and tar.

Many of these installations still exist today, though most have been augmented to support a greater number and variety of appliances.

Later amendments[edit]

Some amendments to the Rural Electrification Act include:

  • 1944 - loan terms increased to 35 years, the act is made permanent
  • 1949 - extended the act to allow loans to telephone companies wishing to extend their connections to unconnected rural areas
  • December 8, 1993 - "North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act" - The "Buy American" provision to now include Mexico and Canada.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rural Electrification Act. Ohio History Central.

External links[edit]