History of Domestic and Foreign Commerce of the United States - Vol. 1

By Emory R. Johnson; T. W. Van Metre et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI.
INTERNAL TRADE, 1860 TO 1900.
Broad scope of internal trade of the United States, 1860-1900 , 270.
Trade in cereals and flour, 271.
Live-stock and animal products , 276.
Cotton , 278.
Other farm products, 282.
Coal , 283.
Iron ore, iron, and steel , 285.
Other minerals , 286.
Forest products , 287.
Progress of manufactures , 290.
Growth of the volume of internal commerce, 293.
Summary , 293.

Commerce has been well defined as taking things from where they are plentiful to where they are needed. This being true, the volume of internal commerce of any country must invariably depend upon the number of its population, the total volume of its production, the sectional diversity of its products, the efficiency and cheapness of its transportation, and the freedom from foreign competition in the sale of native commodities in home markets. In the economic progress of the United States from 1860 to 1900 there was a continuous and rapid development of all the requisite factors for the existence of a large internal trade. Population more than doubled, annual production per capita quadrupled, the sectional diversity of products became more pronounced, and the transportation system developed to a degree that afforded the utmost fluidity of movement to all articles of trade. Furthermore, the range of movement of internal trade was greatly widened by the settlement of the vast expanse of new country west of the Mississippi River.

This extension of the area over which trade flowed and the development of the railroad as the chief agency for transportation gave to the internal commerce of this period a character widely different from that of the commerce of previous years. Before 1860 the extent of the populated area of the United States and the facilities for transportation were such that the bulk of internal trade followed two distinct routes: an east-and-west route over the Erie Canal or the trunk-line railroads, and a north-and-south route over the waters of the Mississippi River. Consequently internal-trade movements were comparatively simple, and it was practicable to study them geographically. The westward movement of the population and the development of the great railway net completely put an end to the simplicity which characterized the trade of the period before 1860. The old lines of trade were modified or swept away. In the course of time direction and distance ceased to exercise a profound influence on commercial intercourse. The railroad permitted a north-bound movement of traffic in the Mississippi Valley which in time reached the volume of the south-bound movement; eastern cities made overland shipments of manufactures and merchandise to San Francisco and secured from that city the fruit and lumber

-270-

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