chapter  10
19 Pages

Life and Labour

As everyone knows, the increase in output in these years far exceeded the increase in population. The frontiersman of 1860 lived in a sod-house he had built with his own hands on the prairie; he fought Indians; his home was the centre not only of a large family but also of local craft and industry; and when he travelled, he travelled by wagon or on horseback. His farmer descendant works with agricultural machinery, lives in a home provided with fewer children but all modern conveniences (except sanitation, often), travels by car or 'plane, knows less about firearms and Indians than the curator of the local museum, buys many of his possessions by mail-order from the great stores of Chicago-and is growing to be almost as rare a creature in society as was the frontiersman 80 years before. For the intensification of industrial development has overwhelmed the old American scene. Any major production index tells the same tale. Coal production in 1870 was 29 million tons; in 1900, 241 million; in 1940, about 500 million. With pig iron and steel the trend is similar; in the early 1870's, 2.3 million tons were produced; in 1900-1904, 30 million; in 1937, 88 million. In 1900, again, scarcely an automobile was on the roads; thirty years later over 26 million motor vehicles were registered-—one for every fifth American citizen-and by 1941 the figure was 35 million, or rather more than one vehicle for every fourth American. It is pointless to multiply instances; all are of this order of magnitude-with one exception. The exception is agri-

culture. Between 1860 and 1915 the output of corn and of wheat multiplied respectively only about four and six times; this was, even for corn, faster than population-but only slightly faster. Such a decline in the importance of primary production is only to be expected in a developing economy; and in spite of it, food imports for consumption remained at about 4-7% of home production.