VICTORY at Appomattox gave a tremendous impetus to Amer ican business enterprise. In 1865 the United States, licking its wounds, was largely an undeveloped agricultural coun try; a half-century later its amazing industrial growth gave it first place among the great world powers. Its phenomenal expansion may be measured in terms of the evolution from the typical inde pendent oil driller to the gigantic Standard Oil Company, or from the modest iron foundry employing a few men to the enormous United States Steel Corporation. Never in the history of mankind has a nation grown at once so fast and so powerful. This fabulous rate of economic expansion will become evident from a few samples of statistical data.
In 1860 the federal government possessed more than a billion acres or more than half of the total area of the country. Fifty years later relatively little of this land was not owned privately, and much of it was in the hands of the railroads and large landowners. During this same period, however, the number of individual farms had tripled and their annual production of such staples as corn, wheat, and cotton had more than tripled. A good indicator of the vast conversion of the public domain into private property is to be found in the production and sale of barbed wire, which rose from 10,000 pounds in 1874 to 300,000,000 pounds in 1900.
The rate of expansion for industry is even more striking. From the end of the Civil War till 1900 the number of factories -- disre