Economic History of the United States

By Chester W. Wright | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXVII
MARKETING AND TRADE, DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN, SINCE 1860

Introduction. That this period with its rapid growth in population and wealth should be marked by a great increase in the volume of trade was to be expected. But, just as during the preceding period, trade was greatly stimulated by better facilities for transportation and communication. How important these factors must have been will be better appreciated when we recollect that the railroad systems existing in 1860 were limited and that long-distance traffic on them was just beginning to be appreciable in the fifties. The real success of steamships in carrying ocean traffic was attained only during the last half of the century. At no other time in history has the geographic area of most markets been so rapidly extended as during this period. More and more commodities sold in markets that were national or nearly world-wide in scope, and this of course promoted greater territorial specialization and division of labor.

At the same time the great growth in the volume of trade necessitated a further expansion in marketing facilities, and the increased scale upon which trade was conducted made possible greater specialization of marketing functions and so wrought important changes in marketing organization. Often the marketing process became more complicated, and involved an increasing number of services before the goods passed to the ultimate consumer. In spite of economies obtained by more efficient marketing methods, the whole process grew to absorb a relatively larger volume of economic resources than ever before. Thus the typical volume of production is thought to have increased about nine times between 1870 and 1930, though the population increased only about three times and the number of those engaged in production only about three and one-half times; the number of those engaged in distribution increased nine times, and handled about the same volume of goods per capita as they did in 1870. As a result about twice as large a proportion of those engaged in gainful occupation was employed in distribution in 1930 as was the case in 1870. (See the charts on pages 726 and 1064.)

The Frontier Markets. The organization of the market varied greatly, not only as among different commodities and different regions, but as among different periods. The more primitive methods naturally prevailed

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