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grazing has been an important industry. Following closely in
the wake of the hunters, trappers, and fur traders, and in ad-
vance of the farmers, have gone the herdsmen. The wild grasses
furnished a ready source of income to the man who possessed
animals capable of turning them into salable products. The
frontier settlements in colonial New England possessed large
herds of cattle, and down to 1820 beef was one of the principal
exports. Hogs ran wild in the woods, and, living as they did
on roots and mast, they furnished an abundant supply of meat.
Horses were exported in considerable numbers. After the
danger from wolves was reduced, sheep were grown in large
numbers. In Virginia and the Carolinas grazing developed
even more rapidly. The cattlemen had their brands registered,
they organized round-ups, and they carried on the business
very much as it was carried on in the Far West in the seventies
and eighties of the last century.

The herdsmen continued to move westward in advance
of the more permanent settlements, but the farmers who
plowed the land and harvested crops kept many animals to
graze upon the native grasses which still flourished upon the
unbroken lands. Before the building of the railroads great
herds of cattle, sheep, and hogs were driven sometimes hundreds
of miles to market in the cities of the Atlantic coast. A hog


which could not transport itself to market was not of much
value ; consequently not much attention was given to the breed-
ing of the short-legged, barrel-shaped hog of the present day.
The cattle, likewise, were built more for traveling than for
meat. The oxen of that period, which were preferred to horses
for heavy farm work, were well adapted to that purpose.

When the advance waves of settlement reached the great
prairies of the West, the grazing industry entered a new phase.
Those natural meadows of vast extent furnished a much more
abundant pasturage than had the great forest which extended
almost unbroken from the Atlantic coast to western Ohio in
the central part of the country, and to the Mississippi River
and beyond on the north and south. Goats and asses had
never figured largely among the domestic animals of this coun-
try, but horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs had multiplied rapidly.
On these Western prairies, the former home of countless herds
of buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope, all of which were grazing
animals, cattle and sheep were very economically produced,
and would have been enormously profitable had not the prices
of beef, mutton, and wool fallen so low as barely to cover the
low cost of production. Dwellers in Eastern cities enjoyed
abnormally cheap meat and continued to do so until the very
end of the nineteenth century ; since that time meat prices
have been gradually approaching a normal level again.

The Texas cattle trail. After the close of the Civil War
the grazing industry entered still another phase. Vast herds of
cattle, brought by the early Spanish settlers, had long roamed
the plains of Mexico and Texas. After Texas entered the
United States, the grazing industry developed rapidly under
the energetic management of American cattlemen. Texas cattle
began to enter the markets of the North and East. The Civil
War put a stop to this for a time. At the close of the war the
Texas ranges were swarming with cattle. They soon began to
move northward in search of more pasture as well as of better
markets. This drift northward followed, in the main, the western



edge of the settlements, and the route came to be known as
the Texas Cattle Trail. As settlements extended westward the
trail necessarily moved westward also.

By this time the northern ranges were all west of the
Mississippi River and were soon confined to the Great Plains.
Farming on these plains was slow in development, because of
the insufficient rainfall. Therefore the tide of westward settle-
ment was so retarded as to permit a considerable develop-
ment of what came to be called cattle ranching. The grazing

Distribution of Sheep in the United States

industry was given more time in which to develop systematically.
It was less transitory than it had been on the rapidly moving
frontier of earlier times. It still survives over considerable
areas of the arid West, that is, west of the one hundred and
second meridian, though it is gradually becoming more restricted
through the gradual settlement of the better lands by farmers.
Nearly half the beef cattle and more than half the sheep
of the United States are grown on these ranges, though many
of the animals raised there are afterwards fattened in what
is known as the corn belt ; that is, the country in which



Indian corn is the leading crop. This belt extends from Ohio
westward beyond the Missouri River, roughly to the ninety-
eighth meridian. Considerable numbers of horses are also
grown on these ranges, but most of them are grown on the
farms farther east. Goats also have increased en some of the
southwestern ranges, though they have never played a very
important role in our national economy.

Lumbering. Next to grass the most valuable natural product
of the soil is timber. It might occupy first place if the value of

Distribution of Cattle in the United States

the native timber standing at a given time were compared with
the value of the native grass standing at the same time. The
proper basis of comparison, however, is the annual growth of
the two products on soil equally good for either. Though this
is sometimes called the age of steel, wood is still an important
and almost indispensable material.

The first settlers on our Atlantic seaboard found a dense
and apparently limitless forest extending from the coast west-
ward. It was not until well into the nineteenth century that
the advance guard of the army of western migration began to


emerge from this forest onto the great prairies of the West.
Timber was so abundant as scarcely to be considered an
economic good. Certainly the settlers had little occasion to
economize it. The best of it they used rather lavishly ; the rest
they destroyed in order that they might use the land for things
which they needed more than they needed timber. Along the
northern tier of states the great forest extended as far west as
Minnesota. In the middle strip the prairies began in parts of
northern Indiana. Farther south the forest followed the Ohio
valley to the Mississippi, and extended beyond through central
and southern Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana into portions of
eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Other forests were found
in the high mountains of the West, but the finest of all were
found in the region of Puget Sound in our extreme Northwest.
After the first onslaught of the settlers, who were bent on
getting rid of the timber in order to clear the land for cultiva-
tion, lumbering became a regular business in every part of our
forested area. Its greatest development was in lands which
were not the most valuable for agricultural purposes. Along
our northern border, where the climate was somewhat severe,
and where the soil was rather light and sandy, the timber was
not destroyed in order to clear the land, because better lands
were available farther south. When the timber of this northern
strip came to have a commercial value, it became the scene of
lumbering on a large scale. Large companies were formed,
thousands of men were employed, and great fortunes were
made. Lumbering in this region, particularly along the Great
Lakes and the upper tributaries of the Mississippi River, that
is, in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, where
water transportation was cheap, developed rapidly during the
latter half of the nineteenth century and then declined rapidly.
A similar development took place in the southern states.
Here the greatest activity was along the southern coast, just out-
side of the cotton belt ; that is, on land which was not cleared
primarily for the purpose of growing cotton, but where the



timber was left standing until it had acquired a commercial value
through the increased demand and the improvement of trans-
portation facilities. The most valuable timber tree of this belt was
the yellow pine, as the white pine had been of the northern belt.

Lumbering, however, has by no means been confined to
these two belts. Much timber of various kinds and qualities
is cut every year in every state in the Union, though naturally
it is less in the prairie states than in the states which were
originally forested. In the older states some of the timber
lands have been cut over several times since the first settle-
ment and will doubtless yield many harvests in the future.
But the greater part of our original virgin forest has been
destroyed. Such cut-over lands as are not suitable for other
purposes, or not needed immediately for agriculture, will un-
doubtedly be allowed to reforest themselves or be reforested
by scientific methods, but it is safe to say that the days of
cheap and abundant timber in this country are past. From this
time forward careful conservation will be necessary in order to
safeguard an adequate supply.

The magnitude of the lumber industry of the United States
for the years 18991913 is shown by the following table: 1

LUMBER, 1899-1913















1 9 1 3

2i,668 2





























1 Bulletin No. 232, United States Department of Agriculture. Washington,

2 In 1913 the number of active mills included only those cutting lumber,
while the figures for the other years include mills cutting laths and shingles as
well as lumber.


In addition, much timber is cut for local use on farms, both
for firewood and for mechanical purposes.

Mining. The greatest of all our extractive industries is
mining. Within the boundaries of the United States is* found
a wealth and variety of minerals such as no other country is
known to possess, though no one knows what new discoveries
may yet be made in this and other lands.

Notable among our mineral products are the following.
The values given are for the year 1915.

f Bituminous $502,037,688

\Anthracite . 184,653,498

[Ore .... 101,288,984


I Pig ....... , ; ,. : , . . 401,409,604

Copper , . . . . 242,902,000

Petroleum 1 79,462,890

Natural gas 101,312,381

Gold 101,035,700

Silver, lead, zinc, aluminum, cement, building stone, lime,
and salt are also valuable products, besides many others of less
value. Our total mineral production for the year 1915 aggre-
gated more than two and a third billions of dollars.

Since minerals are not reproduced or replaced when once
extracted from the earth, it is only a question of time before
all of our rich deposits will be exhausted. In some cases the
deposits are so enormous as to remove the time of their ex-
haustion so far into the future that it is difficult for us to realize
that it is coming. Authorities agree that our coal deposits will
last for many hundreds of years, some say many thousands of
years. A thousand years seems a long time to an individual,
but it is not so very long in the life of a nation. If, however,
we have enough coal to last, let us say, for only a thousand
years, it is a difficult question to decide to what extent that
should give us concern for the future welfare of our country.
It is easy to laugh and say that it need not concern us, for
we shall not be here to suffer inconvenience. It is also easy


to become too much alarmed ; with the progress of invention
we may find other sources of heat and power before our coal
is gone. Probably our best policy is merely to avoid unreason-
able waste or destruction of mineral resources, and then leave
future generations to work out their own problems. Wisdom
will not die with us of the present generation.

Instability of the extractive industries. All our extractive
industries have not only added greatly to our material wealth ;
they have likewise given rise to picturesque but somewhat un-
stable phases of our social life. The early hunters and trappers
were a hardy, adventurous race, whose deeds and prowess
have become a part of our national history. Our herdsmen
likewise, especially those who developed the cattle business on
the Great Plains, supplied an element of romance and adven-
ture which still appeals to the imagination of our people. Our
hardy fishermen and whalers have given splendid examples of
the courage and strenuosity which can wrest a living from the
unconquerable ocean. Our lumber camps and our mining
camps have attracted adventurous and unstable characters from
the ends of the earth, and furnished much excellent material
for the story-writers. But instability is a characteristic of these
industries, and consequently of the life which grew up around
them. Stability can only be supplied to our national life by
industries which are themselves self-perpetuating. The genetic
industries must supply that need.


What are the genetic industries ? By the genetic industries
are meant those in which men make conscious and systematic
efforts to direct the biological processes of reproduction so as
to increase the supply of desirable plants and animals. The
greatest of these is agriculture, which includes both the cultiva-
tion of plants and the breeding of animals. Forestry and fish
culture are also included under the head of genetic industries.
Agriculture, however, is sometimes carried on in such a slip-
shod manner as scarcely to deserve to be classed as a genetic
industry. When farmers make no effort to preserve the fertility
of their soil, but exhaust it by wasteful methods of tillage and
by reckless overcropping, and then move on to new and unex-
hausted areas, their business is sometimes called mining the
soil. A genuinely genetic type of agriculture can endure and
even improve for indefinite periods of time on the same soil ;
that is, it not only preserves but improves the fertility of the
soil, generation after generation, for hundreds and thousands
of years. It thus makes possible a stable, an enduring, and an
expanding civilization such as could not be supported exclu-
sively by any of the extractive industries.

Demand of all outdoor industries for space. All of those
industries which appropriate or increase the products of the
soil, such as hunting, grazing, lumbering, forestry, and farm-
ing, have one characteristic in common. They all require a
great deal of space as compared with mining and the second-
ary industries, such as manufacturing and merchandizing. So
great is this demand for space on the part of those industries
which gather in or develop the products of the soil, that those



who engage in them must of necessity spread themselves over
wide areas in proportion to their population. They are com-
pelled by the nature of their industries to live in scattered
homes or in small villages located far apart. They are there-
fore called "rural," that is, "field," or "open space," indus-
tries, and those who engage in them are called " rural," " field,"
and " open space " people. Living so far apart, with plenty of
room, in close contact with nature but in little contact with
other men because of the distances between them, produces
a profound reaction upon their lives and characters. Perhaps
it would be more accurate to say that those who engage in the
indoor industries are so cramped for space, and have so few
contacts with nature and so many contacts with one another,
that a profound and artificial change is produced in their lives.
By the indoor industries are meant all those which, in contrast
to the field industries, require so little space that they can be
walled in and roofed over. It is sometimes difficult for indoor
and outdoor people to understand one another.

We have seen in the last chapter that the utilization of the
soil, not only on our own frontier but also in the development
of civilized life among our remote ancestors, passed through
several distinct stages, such as the hunting stage, the grazing
stage, and the agricultural stage. These are progressive stages
in the economizing of space. It takes a great deal more terri-
tory to support a given population by hunting than by grazing,
and by grazing than by agriculture. When game grew scarce,
or when population increased, those who had the wisdom to
make the change were forced into grazing, and again into
tillage, in order to increase their means of subsistence. What
an uneconomical use of land hunting was may be inferred
from the fact that there were never, according to the best author-
ities, more than one million Indians within the boundaries
of the present United States. This territory now supports
approximately a hundred times that number of people, and sup-
ports them more comfortably than the Indians were supported.


Each Indian tribe was forced to guard its hunting grounds,
lest they be invaded by hunters from other tribes and the
source of its subsistence cut off.

Tillage. Tillage consists essentially of three processes : first,
preparing a good seed bed, in which plants can grow more
vigorously than in natural, or unprepared, soil ; second, planting
in this prepared seed bed the seeds of such plants as are deemed
most useful or desirable ; and, third, destroying all other plants,
commonly called weeds, which may start to grow in the seed
bed in competition with the plants whose seeds were planted.

Scientific agriculture. While tillage consists essentially of
these three processes, scientific agriculture includes many things
besides. We need to be on our guard, however, against a
pedantic use of the word scientific as applied to agriculture.
Scientific agriculture is nothing more nor less than the most
economical and effective use of all the factors of agricultural
production. Specifically it consists mainly, though not exclu-
sively, in economizing, first, the plant food in the soil ; second,
space ; third, labor ; and, fourth, capital or equipment. Econo-
mizing plant food means getting as large a product as possible
without depleting the supply of plant food. Economizing space
means getting as large a product as possible from a given area ;
that is, as large a product per acre as possible. Economizing
labor means getting as large a product per unit of labor, or
per man, as possible. Economizing capital or equipment means
getting as large a product per unit of capital or equipment
as possible.

Excessive economy of any one of these factors always involves
a certain amount of waste with respect to some of the others.
For example, it is quite possible to economize space to such an
extent as to exhaust plant food, and vice versa. That is to say,
a farmer may try for a period of years to get so much from
each acre as eventually to deplete the fertility of his soil. By a
judicious rotation of crops, and the keeping of live stock, he
may preserve the fertility of his soil for indefinite periods of


time, but this may not give him the maximum product per acre
in the present. If there is one crop that yields better than
any other, a short-sighted farmer is tempted to grow that
single crop, since it would give him a larger product per acre ;
but such continuous cropping tends to exhaust his soil. Rotat-
ing tends to preserve the fertility of the soil, but gives less per
acre in the present ; this frequently means growing some crops
which are not so profitable in the immediate present as the
main crop.

The law of diminishing returns. A similar conflict arises
between the economy of space and the economy of labor. It
is possible to try to grow so much per acre as to reduce the
product per man or per unit of labor. It is this phase of the
question of economy that is commonly known as the law of
diminishing returns from land. This law is simply that, after
a certain amount of labor with the appropriate tools has been
applied to the cultivation of a given crop on a given piece of
land, further applications of labor do not yield proportional
returns. They may increase the crop slightly, thus increasing
the yield per acre, but they will not increase the crop in pro-
portion as the labor is increased. The result is a decrease in
proportion to the number of units of labor. 1

This principle may be illustrated by means of the following
table, which purports to show how much corn, in a hypo-
thetical case, could be produced upon a ten-acre field by using
different quantities of labor and tools, the quantities being
expressed in terms of days' labor of a man and team with
appropriate tools. The ratio between the product and the
labor is shown in the third column, which states the number
of bushels produced per day's labor.

On a field such as we have assumed, it would be possible, by
using fifty days' labor, to get sixty-five bushels per acre, which
would be more economical of space than to put twenty-five

1 See the author's chapter on Diminishing Returns in his volume, "The
Distribution of Wealth." The Macmillan Company, New York, 1914.



days on it and get only forty-five bushels per acre. It would be
less economical of labor, however, since by using only twenty-
five days' labor the farmer gets eighteen bushels for each day,
whereas he gets only thirteen bushels for each day when he
applies fifty days' labor to its cultivation. Just how to balance
the two factors, land and labor, so as to get the best results
from both, is a very nice problem in farm management. If
labor is cheap and land is dear, it is more important to econo-
mize space than labor ; but if labor is dear and land is cheap,
the opposite is better.


























J 9,







5 J





















The great law of productivity. This law of diminishing
returns has been called the great law of agricultural produc-
tion. It is a part of a wider law which may be called the law
of variable proportions, which is the fundamental law of all
production. This larger law will be discussed in a later chapter
devoted to that subject. 1 For the present it is sufficient to
point out that it presents the problem of balancing the different
factors which have to be combined in production. It is much
the same problem at bottom, whether it be the balancing of
the different elements of plant food in fertilizers, the different

1 See Chapter XXXI.


elements of animal food in the feeding of cattle, the balancing
of such factors as labor, land, and capital in running a farm or
a factory, or the balancing of the different kinds of people
that are required to make up a nation.

The largest industry. Agriculture is not merely one of the
basic, or primary, industries ; it is the most important of all
industries, if we consider the world at large or any large section
of it which is compelled to live within itself. Considerable sec-
tions of country and considerable masses of population may live
primarily by the indoor industries, sending out their surplus
produce to distant lands and bringing back in exchange the
products of the soil. Thus, a country like England, or con-
siderable portions of our own country, such as southern New
England, may become largely urbanized ; that is to say, the
greater portion of the people may engage in indoor rather than
in outdoor industries. But they live by selling the products
of their indoor industries to people far beyond their own

Online LibraryThomas Nixon CarverPrinciples of political economy → online text (page 17 of 48)