The Growth of the American Economy: An Introduction to the Economic History of the United States

By Robert G. Albion; Harold F. Williamson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20
The Processing of Agricultural Products After 1860

AFTER 1860 the agricultural processing industries pretty generally passed into the factory stage. At the same time, they expanded in number and importance, in variety of products, and in volume of output. Industries unknown before 1860, such as candy manufacture, the bottling of carbonated beverages, and the production of vegetable oils, appeared on the scene. Other industries that had started before 1860, such as factory production of dairy products and commercial baking, now grew to major importance. Still others, well established before the War Between the States, experienced radical changes in techniques of production and in business organization and management. In all these industries, large-scale production, increasing mechanization, a tendency to concentrate in certain cities or areas, and some elements of monopoly appear after 1860.


Meat Packing

Rise of the Chicago meat industry

Even before Chicago's townsite was laid out in 1829, hogs were being driven in from considerable distances to supply the garrison of Fort Dearborn and the inhabitants of the trading post. As population grew, slaughterhouses were established and pork products began to be shipped East over the lake route. Up to 1850, however, Chicago was not an important center of the industry. The territory north and west of the city was as yet but sparsely settled. There were no railroads into that area and only the lake steamers to give access to Eastern markets. In 1848 there were only six packing houses in Chicago, and their combined output was less than one-tenth that of the Cincinnati packers.1

In 1848 the Illinois and Michigan Canal was completed, and in the same year the Chicago and Galena Railroad was opened to service. Together they brought prosperity to Chicago. Hog-raisers who formerly had driven their animals to local markets in central and northern Illinois now shipped them to the new center. The immediate financial success

____________________
1
See H. C. Hill, "The Development of Chicago as a Center of the Meat Packing Industry," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. X ( 1923-4), pp. 253-273, for a detailed study of this topic.

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