The visual imagery of two oil booms 60 years apart in North Dakota shaped the American concept of prosperity and the near-universal yearning many of us have to strike it rich. Those images, including some from an industrial film of the era, have guided how Americans think about past and future oil booms and extractive industries. But they also have shaped how we see the present-day extractive fossil fuel economy – and the imperiled climate of the future.
This project is based on Chapter 3 of Windfall, the narrative nonfiction memoir I'm writing about what happened when I went in search of answers about the mineral rights my family inherited in North Dakota. The idea that anyone could strike it rich through determination and hard work was a pervasive doctrine in mid-century America, so widespread it was almost part of the atmosphere. At the heart of my project is an examination of the forces that have informed the American imagination of windfalls and prosperity, and a look at the specific images that contributed to that atmosphere.
– Erika Bolstad