The Effects of Technology, Government Policy, and Economic Conditions on American Agriculture During 1865-1900
Length: 1014 words (2.9 double-spaced pages)
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From the expanding of railroads country wide, to limiting laws on the goods farmers sold and transportation of the goods,to starvation of the economy, agriculture began to take its own shape from 1865 through to 1900 in the United States.
Farmers began to cultivate vast areas of needed crops such as wheat, cotton, and even corn. Document D shows a picture of The Wheat Harvest in 1880, with men on earlier tractors and over 20-30 horses pulling the tractor along the long and wide fields of wheat. As farmers started to accumilate their goods, they needed to be able to transfer the goods across states, maybe from Illinios to Kansas, or Cheyenne to Ohmaha. Some farmers chose to use cattle trails to transport their goods. Document B demonstrates a good mapping of the major railroads in 1870 and 1890. Although cattle trails weren't used in 1890, this document shows the existent of several cattle trails leading into Chyenne, San Antonio, Kansas City and other towns nearby the named ones in 1870. So, farmers began to transport their goods by railroads, which were publically used in Germany by 1550 and migrated to the United States with the help of Colonel John Stevens in 1826. In 1890, railroads expanded not only from California, Nebraska, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada, but up along to Washington, Montana, Michigan, down to New Mexico and Arizona as well. Eastern States such as New Jersey, Tennesse, Virginia and many others were filled with existing railroads prior to 1870, as Colonel John Stevens started out his railroad revolutionzing movement in New Jersey in 1815.
While farmers sold millions of bushels, and bales of wheat, cotton and corn, state legislatures began to see a need to enforce laws upon these farmers and to gain control of their states and its people. Document C gives a good statement of legislature holding down railroads and the goods being transported. Document C states a prairie farmer , "...they carried a law through the Illinois legislature, which provides for the limiting of freight rates by a board of officials appointed for this purpose." Angered by these types of laws, farmers who used these railroads went against the laws in court.
.." Document C continues with, "The railroads of course, opposed this measure, and it was carried to the United States Supreme Court to test its constitutionality, resulting in complete victory for the Patrons..."
Starvation of economy probably became one of biggest problem within the 35-year period. People like Mary Elizabeth Lease spoke out opinions of the population decrease. Document G states a speech by Mary, "Money rules... The Parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us...Then the politicians said we suffered from overproduction. Overproduction, when 10,000 little children, so stastistics tell us, starve to death every year in the United States." Legislatures and leaders weren't the only thing to cause the population decrease. Natural disasters helped the death-rate rise. Document H states Susan Orcutt, "...we are Starving to death It is Pretty hard to do without
any thing to eat in this God for saken country we would have had Plenty to Eat if the hail hadent cut our rye down and ruined our corn and Potatoes I had the Pretttiest Garden that you Ever seen and the hail ruined It..." American people weren't the only ones with a suffering economy. Document I shows an example from an Oklahoma Magazine, "...If the Indians must be fed and herded like a dumb brute, it should not be done with smaller enclosures and not so senselessly at the expense of the American homesteader." Document A shows once again the fluctuation of production in the years, when people bought less, maybe because of financial problems, natural disaters or even legislature laws.
Farmers began to take the opportunity of possibly making a better lifestyle for them in 1865. Some people of the states spoke out to keep the large areas of land clear for agriculture for they treasured them. Document J states a speech by William Jennings Bryan, "...I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile praries. Burn down your cites and leave our farms and your cites will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy out farm and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country..." Farmers sold their goods for money, but also rented out their land for extra money or to cut down their land size without selling it completely. Document E shows a good example of a contract in North Carolina, "To every one applying to rent land upon shares, the follwing conditions must be read and agreed to...the sale of every cropper's part of the cotton to be made by me when and where I choose to sell, and after deducting all they owe me and all sums that I may be responsible for on their accounts, to play them half of the net proceeds." By 1900 Agriculture had taken up nearly
a quarter of the world's needs, behind
manufacturing and ahead of mining and construction. Although this agriculture time period came later than the tobacco boom, or the sugar trade, it still became an important part of the U.S history. It showed a point of time where suddenly, these simple goods were needed and then how they got across to states that would take weeks and months to get to by cattle or wagon. It also showed a time when the economy fell and desperately tried to climb back up. This all lead to the 1900's, in which the United States starts to grab a hold of acomplishments and failures and becomes the turn of the century.