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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/479

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by using the cob of one ear to shell the corn from another. In this way about five bushels in ten hours could be shelled, and the laborer would have received about one fifth of the product. The six great corn States are Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, and Kansas. They produce more than one half the corn raised in the country. These States, by the census of 1880, had 2,056,770 persons engaged in agriculture, and it would have been necessary for this entire community to have sat astride of shovels and frying-pans for one hundred and ten days out of three hundred and sixty-five to have shelled their corn crop for the year 1880 by the old processes.

In 1790, before the grain-"cradle" was invented, an able-bodied farm-laborer in Great Britain could with a sickle reap only about a quarter of an acre of wheat in a day; at the present time a man with two horses can cut, rake, and bind in a day the wheat-product of twenty acres.

Forty years ago a deficient harvest in any one of the countries of Europe entailed a vast amount of suffering and starvation on their population. To-day the deficiency of any local crop of wheat is comparatively of little consequence, for the prices of cereals in every country readily accessible by railroad and steamships is now regulated, not by any local conditions, but by the combined production and consumption of the world; and the day of famines for the people of all such countries has passed forever.[1] The extent to which all local advantages in respect to the supply and prices of food have been equalized in recent years through the railway service of the United States, is demonstrated by the fact that a full year's supply of meat and bread for an adult person can now be moved from the points of their most abundant and cheapest production, a thousand miles, for a cost not in excess of the single day's wages of an average American mechanic or artisan.

The same conditions that one hundred, or even fifty, years ago

  1. It is not a little difficult to realize that the causes which were operative to occasion famines a hundred years ago in Western Europe, and which have now apparently passed away forever, are still operative over large portions of the Eastern world. The details of the last great famine in China, which occurred a few years ago, indicate that over five million people died of starvation in the famine district, while in other portions of the Empire the crops were more abundant than usual. The trouble was that there were no means of transporting the food to where it was needed. The distance of the famine area to the port of Tientsin, a point to which food could be and was readily transported by water, was not over 200 miles; and yet when the foreign residents of Shanghai sent through the missionaries an important contribution of relief, it required fifteen days, with the employment of all the men, beasts, and vehicles that could be procured, to effect the transportation of the contribution in question over this comparatively short distance. Relief to any appreciable extent to the starving people from the outside and prosperous districts was, therefore, impracticable. Contrast these experiences with the statement that when Chicago burned up in 1871 a train loaded with relief contributions from the city of New York, over the Erie Railroad, reached its destination in twenty-one hours after the time of its departure.