Farmers of the 19th Century

Topics: Populist Party, Agriculture, Competition Pages: 4 (1255 words) Published: April 17, 2007
Farmers of the Late Nineteenth Century
The period between 1880 and 1900 was a boom time for American Politics. The country was finally free of the threat of war, and many of its citizens were living comfortably. However, as these two decades went by, the American farmer found it harder and harder to live comfortably. Crops such as cotton and wheat, once the sustenance of the agriculture industry, were selling at prices so low that it was nearly impossible for farmers to make a profit off them. Furthermore, improvement in transportation allowed foreign competition to materialize, making it harder for American farmers to dispose of surplus crop. Mother Nature was also showing no mercy with grasshoppers, floods, and major droughts that led to a downward spiral of business that devastated many of the nation's farmers. As a result of the agricultural depression, numerous farms groups, most notably the Populist Party, arose to fight what the farmers saw as the reasons for the decline in agriculture. During the final twenty years of the nineteenth century, many farmers in the United States saw monopolies and trusts, railroads, and money shortages and the loss in value of silver as threats to their way of life, though in many cases their complaints were not valid.

The growth of the railroad was one of the most significant elements in American economic growth, yet it hurt small shippers and farmers in many ways. Extreme competition between rail companies necessitated some way to win business. To do this, railroads would offer rebates and drawbacks to larger shippers who used their rails. This practice hurt smaller shippers, including farmers, because often times railroad companies would charge more to ship products short distances than they would for long trips. The rail companies justified this practice by asserting that if they did not rebate, they would not make enough profit to stay in business. So while the railroads felt that they must use this practice to make...
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