Economic Tendencies in the United States: Aspects of Pre-War and Post-War Changes

By Frederick C. Mills | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
Other Economic Changes, 1901-1913.

A NOTABLE period of economic expansion was under way in the United States at the opening of the twentieth century. The rising trend of commodity prices, following some three decades of almost unbroken decline, had generated a spirit of optimism in business. Rising prices helped, too, to improve the state of mind and the economic condition of the farmer, who had labored under debt burdens steadily enhanced by the increasing value of the monetary unit during the preceding decades. Industrial and agricultural production were accompanying prices on the upward climb. After the depression of the middle 'nineties both industry and agriculture had entered upon new stages, each year recording new high levels in the volume of output of staple commodities. Markets were at the same time widened, and manufacturers were finding outlets at home and abroad for their expanding production.

Iron and steel played prominent parts in this economic expansion. The steel industry had been growing in relative importance for thirty years. By the end of the nineteenth century steel was definitely in the saddle, and dominated the American industrial situation. Conditions in the steel industry constituted the prime barometer of business. Following the Civil War our released national energies were devoted to railroad construction. By 1900 the peak of activity in this industry had been passed, but steel was needed as never before for equipping the new industrial plants, for providing new rolling stock, for use in building construction. With the intensification of our efforts in foreign fields, overseas markets for steel were open for exploitation. This era was marked by the accumulation of capital funds and the construction of capital equipment at a rapid rate, perhaps more rapid than ever before in this country's history, and steel was the leading beneficiary. It was no coincidence that the first billion dollar corporation in this country was formed in 1901, and that this was the United States Steel Cor

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