Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/319

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XV. Financial and Telephonic Conditions in 1884

IN 1884 the farmers in the United States harvested crops of wheat, corn and oats greater than in any previous year, while the amount of cotton raised by southern planters had been only slightly exceeded in two previous years. It should have been a good year for legitimate enterprises; but it proved an unfortunate period for many. The average export value of wheat was 20 cents a bushel less than the previous year, while the yearly range in the price of wheat in the Chicago market was 96 cents in February and 6912 cents in December. In 1883 wheat had ranged from 90 to 113; in 1882 from 91 to 140 and in 1881 from 95 to 143 cents a bushel. Thus the aggregate value of the wheat exported in 1884 was forty-six millions of dollars less than in 1882.

In January, 1884, came the suspension of the banking house of a well-known financier and also of the business of a leading broker. Following these failures a dreary dullness pervaded financial circles while a dread expectancy of further monetary troubles prevailed in all lines of industry, limiting outputs to the minimum required to meet immediate demands. Then came the eventful month of May, bringing to light the notorious wrecking of the Marine Bank, the failure of Grant & Ward, the suspension of several very prominent banking and brokerage firms and of many small ones.

As a result of the financial failures occurring on two days only. May 14 and 15, the market value of good securities depreciated over $240,000,000, a slump having a far-reaching effect many times greater than a depreciation of like amount would now have. Eleven national banks and more than a hundred private banks and banking concerns suspended payment during the year, while the total number of failures throughout the United States during 1884 was 10,968, with aggregate liabilities of $226,343,427. That is, nearly eleven thousand business houses were unable to meet monetary obligations in full, while more than ten times that number probably failed to attain to any measure of success; in other words, either went out of business for lack of funds to continue or because the future gave no promise of success. Then the net earnings of all railroads fell off about 9 per cent., while the