Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/45

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Tenancy and Land Ownership in the United States in 1900

Owners Tenants
North Atlantic States 79.2 20.8
South Atlantic States 55.7 44.3
North Central States 73.1 26.9
South Central States 51.4 48.6
Western States 83.4 16.6

The southern states have by far the largest amount of tenancy, which is due, no doubt, in a large degree to the negro population. When the slaves were freed, the large plantations were broken up and instead of the system of slavery there sprang up the system of tenancy which, from the standpoint of economic production, has been worse than slavery, and the lands have been depleted of fertility and have produced a scanty living for both the tenant and the landlord, whereas under the old system they would have produced an abundance for owner and slave, and their fertility would have been maintained.

In the northern states the conditions are different—and other causes have entered into the problem of land ownership. In the North Atlantic states, characterized by their granite hills and sterile soils, the problem of tenancy has not been as great as the problem of abandoned farms. Farms were deserted because no one could be found to rent them and owners stayed on them because they could not sell them. The young men have gone west, to the more fertile lands, and allowed the farms to revert back to nature. Within the last few years, the high prices that have prevailed for farm lands in the middle west have created a demand for the abandoned farms of New England, and many of them have been taken up.

Economists claim that tenancy is a step toward ownership, and that the young man who purchases a farm is first a renter and then a farm owner. If such is the case, the state of tenancy is but temporary, and an increase of tenancy would be indications of prosperity, and would simply mark a step in the process of acquiring land ownership. But, if this is the case, the per cent, of farms held by tenants should not continue to increase indefinitely, but should soon begin to decrease—however, this is not the case, and more American farms are constantly going into the hands of tenants.

For a closer investigation of this subject let us take the state of Ohio, which is typical of the North Central states. In 1880 the per cent, of tenancy in Ohio was 19.3, in 1890, 22.9, and in 1900, 27.5. The state is naturally divided into four distinct agricultural divisions. The northeastern part of the state is made up of more or less rolling land, and a soil that is largely clay or clay loam. The soil is adapted to dairying and the growing of wheat, oats, timothy and pasture, but not to corn. The southeastern part of the state is made up of the non-glaciated