In the early years of the twentieth century, rural America faced a population crisis as young people increasingly left farms for cities. Progressive reformers responded to this crisis with various suggestions meant to more firmly attach youngsters to their rural roots. Among the many solutions advocated were rural youth organizations. The Farm Boy Cavaliers of America, which also enrolled girls, pursued a more innovative path than most, emphasizing not only entertainment and instruction, but also a high degree of economic education and independence for farm children. The program offered an alternative to the Boy Scouts, which Dexter D. Mayne, the organization's founder, believed to be unsatisfactory and inappropriate for farm youth. Ultimately, the organization may have promoted too much freedom for the rural youth, advocating behavior that parents could not approve of or afford in the cash-strapped early days of the century.

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