The Farmer's Last Frontier: Agriculture, 1860-1897

By Fred A. Shannon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
The Expansion of Prairie Agriculture

FRONTIER CONDITIONS

TO a remarkable degree the major agricultural developments of 1861-1897 centered in or grew out of the Prairie states. Not only did those states become the most highly mechanized, but their citizens wrought most of the significant inventions, and Prairie-state factories manufactured the bulk of the machines. From the eastern apex of the Prairies, near Chicago, railroads radiated in fan-shaped formation out to the Mississippi, to the northward bend of the Missouri, then ran in a more parallel fashion westward to the Great Plains and beyond. The cities along the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and on the middle stretches of the Mississippi River, particularly in Illinois, were excellently located for serving the demands of farmers farther west, and their supremacy in machine output was not the only feature of their trade.

The Chicago stockyards, meat-packing industry, and wheat pit were famous as well as infamous before 1900. Rock Island and Moline, in Illinois, and Davenport, just across the river in Iowa, comprised an industrial center second only to Chicago in the production of implements. Milwaukee was an early rival in the packing industry--later overshadowed by East St. Louis, Illinois, and by Kansas City, Kansas, and Omaha. Minneapolis achieved supremacy in the Western Hemisphere in the flour-milling industry. These and numerous intermediate centers helped build Prairie agriculture,

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