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Register for the conference and the conference hotel as early as possible to get the best rates. The searchable transcript for this episode, as well as the captioned audiogram of this episode, are sponsored by The American Association of Anatomists AAA at anatomy. Check it out! Kevin Patton is a faculty member in this program. Stop by and say hi! If the hyperlinks here are not active, go to TAPPradio. Click here to listen to this episode—or access the detailed notes and transcript. Post a Comment. Go to theAPprofessor. The stockbroker went from being the most popular person in town to an outcast with a worse reputation than any pickpocket, highway robber, or prostitute.
This was a sad beginning for stocks, but matters have greatly improved since then, especially in recent decades. Early Entrepreneurs On our side of the Atlantic, residents of the colonies who had come here as part of somebody else's business began to go into business on their own.
Companies of many types were established in the early s. Merchants who went into business for themselves, or with partners, soon discovered the advantages of forming corporations. Later on, after we got our independence, Americans took to the idea of incorporation far more readily than the Europeans had. In fact, a few of the companies that opened their doors nearly three hundred years ago are still operating today! This is an amazing feat, when you think of all the wars, panics, depressions, and other calamities the country has been subjected to.
But J. They retooled the factory to make conveyor belts. Like Rhoads, it was kept alive by quick-witted managers who knew how to change with the times. Milling was a dying industry, so Dexter got out of its mills and started to produce stationery. From statiortery, it switched to tea bags, and from tea bags to glue. Today, it makes high-tech coatings and adhesives for airplanes. A Baltimore firm, D. It sold seeds to Thomas Jefferson at his Virginia estate, and more than two hundred years later, it's still selling seeds to Jefferson's estate.
If a company makes a good product that's never out of date, it can stay in business forever. Since none of these early companies was a public company, people couldn't own shares in them. Dexter went public on its st birthday, in At the time of the Revolution there was not one home-grown public company in the country. It still trades there today. The Bank of Boston followed New York's lead and sold shares, as did the Bank of the United States, whose main purpose in life was to figure out how to pay off the debts from the Revolutionary War.
In colonial America there had been no banks, because the British didn't allow them. We corrected this problem after the Revolution, but even so, there was a lot of fuss about the federal government sponsoring a bank. Some of the Founding Fathers, particularly Jefferson, distrusted bankers and their paper money. Taking their cue from their European ancestors, our earliest shareholders paid too much for their bank stocks, and they knew very little about what they were buying. The bidding went higher and higher until it got to the level of ridiculous prices, and on Wall Street, whatever goes up that high must always come down.
Bank stocks landed with a thud in the Crash of , the first crash in Wall Street history. As soon as the dust settled, the New York State Legislature passed a law, similar to the laws passed earlier in London, making it a crime to traffic in stocks. Stock trading went underground. This was a good lesson to investors in a young country, and it is a good lesson for young investors today. When you are an owner of a company, you only make money if the company succeeds. A lot of them don't.
This is the risk of buying stocks: The company you own may turn out to be worthless. It is for taldng this risk that people are rewarded so handsomely if they pick the right companies to invest in. Investors were very happy to own shares in the company that built the bridge over the Charles River in Massachusetts. John Hancock was one of the founders.
There was a parade across the bridge, complete with the firing of cannons, followed by a party at which eighty-three original investors were treated to a banquet. It was a joyous occasion, followed by many joyous years in which investors were paid a dividend. These steady dividends came from the tolls collected from the people who used the bridge to get across the river. The customers of the bridge weren't nearly as happy as the investors in the bridge.
Eventually, a second bridge, the Warren Bridge, was built across the Charles River to compete with the first. Once enough tolls were collected to pay off the costs of building this second bridge, the plan was to abolish the toll so people could cross the river for free. The owners of the original bridge objected to this plan, and filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court. They lost the case, and that was the end of their profitable monopoly.
Another successful company modeled along the lines of the Charles River Bridge was the Lancaster Turnpike in Pennsylvania. The Lancaster Turnpike sold shares through a lottery, as it turns out and also paid a nice dividend. Again, the money came from tolls collected along this sixty-mile road from Philadelphia to Lancaster. The customers of this road didn't like the tolls any more than the customers of the Charles River Bridge did, but they preferred paying them to driving their buggies through fields.
Turnpike, bridge, and canal companies were the forerunners of the trolley, railroad, and subway companies that came along a bit later. The Father of the Financial System We all recognize George Washington as the father of our country, but Alexander Hamilton was the father of the financial system.
That part gets lost in the history books, but without the financial system, the political system never would have worked. Hamilton deserves the credit for this. He's more famous for being a lousy shot and losing a duel to Aaron Burr, but he was also an astute economic planner and one of the founders of the Bank of New York. Hamilton realized that the country couldn't get along without money, and to have money, it needed banks.
It seems obvious today, but back then, banking was a controversial subject. George Washington agreed with Hamilton about the banks, and even invested in one himself. Washington was a shareholder in the Bank of Alexandria, which opened near his home at Mount Vernon. But a lot of important people were opposed to Hamilton's ideas, and foremost among them was Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a gentleman farmer who believed there was virtue in tilling the soil and living off the land. He hated factories and the cities that grew up around the factories.
To Jefferson, banks were the root of all evil, especially the government's bank. As it turns out, Jefferson was no expert on personal finance. He ran through a large fortune and died virtually bankrupt in He was a big spender, particularly on gadgets and on books, and his library had more volumes than Harvard College, which had been in existence for more than one hundred years before Jefferson was born.
Jefferson wanted America to be a nation of pastures and wheat fields, where independent "yeoman" farmers could dominate local politics and have the strongest voice in public affairs. He rejected the European idea that government should be run by a ruling class of snooty aristocrats. Never would Jefferson have imagined that the factories would lure millions of farm workers away from the farms and into the cities and the mill towns, or that factories would be their ticket to a better life, or that heavy industry with all its problems would provide Americans with the highest standard of living in the history of human beings.
Jefferson's dreaded banks! In spite of Jefferson's opposition, the first Bank of the United States got the congressional go-ahead in and managed to stay in business for twenty years, until , when a new group of bank haters in Congress refused to renew the charter. The bank was shut down. A second Bank of the United States was chartered in , this time in Philadelphia, but it ran into trouble a few years later when Andrew Jackson was elected president. Jackson was a rough character who came from the wilds of Tennessee. They called him "Old Hickory," because he was tall like a tree six feet one inch, which was very big for those days , he had a thick skin like a tree, and he grew up in a log cabin.
In spite of his outdoorsy reputation, Jackson was sick most of the time and stayed indoors. Like Jefferson before him, Jackson believed that the states should have more power and the federal government less. This second Bank of the United States was blamed for a nationwide financial panic in , when a lot of businesses ;vent bankrupt and people lost their life savings and their jobs.
This was the first of a long string of panics, which created havoc around the country. Western farmers joined with eastern factory workers in waggling their fingers at the "monster bank" that they said was the culprit of the panic. So when Jackson was elected president a decade after the panic, he listened to these people and took all the money out of the federally sponsored bank and shipped it off to be deposited in various state banks, and that was the end of the second Bank of the United States.
From then on, the states controlled the banking business and gave out the charters. Soon, every John and Jane Doe with nothing better to do decided to start a bank. Thousands of banks appeared on main streets and side streets in big towns and little towns, the way chicken restaurants are cropping up today. And since every one of these state banks could issue its own paper money, it was very confusing to do business, because from state to state it was hard to tell whose cash was worth what, and a lot of merchants wouldn't accept any of it.
Traveling within the country then was very similar to traveling abroad today: You had to worry about changing money from place to place. This is an area in which the United States and Europe have gone in different directions. Europe has always had a few banks with many branches, while we've always had a slew of different banks. By , there were three hundred separate banks in the United States, as compared to a handful of banks in England. Today, there are over ten thousand banking institutions in the United States, if you add in all the savings and loans and the credit unions, while Great Britain has less than fifteen.
Many of our local banks were shoestring operations that lacked the necessary capital to tide them over in an economic crisis, and there was always a crisis waiting to happen. Half the banks that opened their doors between and had failed by , and half the banks that opened between and had failed by When you put money into a bank, it wasn't insured the way it is today, so when a bank failed, people with savings accounts or checking accounts had no protection and lost all their money.
There was no such thing as a safe deposit. Banks were dangerous places to park cash, but that didn't stop Americans from putting their life savings into them. The banks would take these savings and lend the money to the bridge builders and the canal builders, the turnpike projects and the railroad projects that got America moving.
When a bank loaned money to a railroad, or a bridge company, or a steel company, the money came from the savings accounts of the people who put money into the bank. In other words, all this high energy, this excitement, this hustle and bustle that led to economic progress was financed out of the pockets of the man and woman on the street.
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Whenever the government needed money for a project, it had four choices of where to get it: taxes, bank loans, selling lottery tickets, or selling bonds. More about bonds on page Whenever a company needed money, it could borrow from a bank, sell bonds, or sell shares of stock. But in the first half of the nineteenth century, stocks were a company's last resort. The idea of selling shares to the public caught on very slowly. The Father of Modern Economics Markets were opening all over the place, and people were buying and selling at a furious pace, and to many people the whole situation was out of control.
Never in history had masses of individuals been allowed to go their own way and work for their own benefit. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. This is where the economists came in. They were a new breed of thinker. For thousands of years, religious philosophers had tried to figure out how mankind could live according to God's wishes. They debated politics and the best form of government, and who the leaders should be. But it took economists to describe what happens when individuals have the freedom to seek their fortunes.
The first and the smartest early economist was a Scotsman named Adam Smith, a nerd of his day who lived at the time of the American Revolution. Smith avoided parties and picnics to stay at home thinking and writing, and he was so absorbed in his ideas that he got the reputation of being absent-minded. The Wealth of Nations was published in , the year America declared its independence, and it's a shame that Adam Smith didn't get more credit for writing it. He deserves a prime spot in history along with John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and other revolutionary thinkers who argued that political freedom is the key to a just society where people can live in peace and harmony.
He made the case for economic freedom. Smith argued that when each person pursues his own line of work, the general population is far better off than it is when a king or a central planner runs the show and dictates who gets what. His point seems obvious today, but in , it was a novel idea that millions of individuals making and selling whatever they pleased, and going off in all directions at once, could create an orderly society in which everybody had clothes, food, and a roof over their heads.
What if ninety-nine out of one hundred people decided to make hats, and only one out of one hundred decided to grow vegetables? The country would be flooded with hats, and there would be nothing to eat. But this is where the Invisible Hand comes to the rescue. There wasn't really an Invisible Hand, of course, but Smith imagined one working behind the scenes to insure that the right number of people grew vegetables, and the right number of people made hats. He was really talking about the way in which supply and demand kept goods and services in balance.
For instance, if too many hat makers made too many hats, hats would pile up in the market, forcing the hat sellers to lower the price. Lower prices for hats would drive some hat makers out of the hat business and into a more profitable line of work, such as vegetable farming. Eventually, there would be just enough vegetable farmers and just enough hat makers to make the right amount of vegetables and hats. In the real world, things don't work out quite as perfectly as that, but Smith understood the basics of how a free market works, and they still hold true today. Whenever there's a demand for a new product, such as computers, more and more companies get into the business, until there are so many computers for sale that the stores have to drop their prices.
This competition is very good for you, me, and all the other consumers, because it forces the computer makers to improve their product and cut prices. That's why every few months, they come out with fantastic new models that cost less than the clunky old models. Without competition, they could keep selling the clunky old models and consumers could do nothing about it.
The Invisible Hand keeps the supply and demand of everything from bubblegum to bowling balls in balance. We don't need a king, a Congress, or a Department of Things to decide what the country should make, and how many of each item, and who should be allowed to do the manufacturing.
The market sorts :this out, automatically. Smith also realized that wanting to get ahead is a positive impulse, and not the negative that religious leaders and public opinion makers had tried to stamp out for centuries.
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Self-interest, he noticed, isn't entirely selfish. It motivates people to get off their fannies and do the best they can at whatever job they undertake. It causes them to invent things, work overtime, put extra effort into the project at hand. Imagine what lousy carpenters, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers, secretaries, professors, center fielders, and quarterbacks we'd have if people weren't allowed to profit from their talents, and success was never rewarded!
Smith said there was a "law of accumulation" that turned serf-interest into a better life for everyone. When the owner of a business got richer, he or she would expand the business and hire more people, which would make everybody else richer, and some of them would start their own businesses, and so on. This is where capitalism created opportunities, unlike feudal agriculture, where a small number of big shots owned the land and kept it in the family, and if you were born a peasant, you would live penniless and die penniless, and your children and their children would be stuck in the same rut forever.
At the time Smith wrote his book, and throughout the century that followed, great thinkers were trying to find laws for everything. Scientists already had discovered physical laws, such as the law of gravity, the laws of planetary motion, and the laws for certain chemical reactions. People believed in an orderly universe, in which, if therE; were laws for how the planets move and how apples fall from the tree, there had to be laws for business, and laws for politics, and laws for how people react in different situations.
Once you figured out the formula for how money gets passed around, for instance, you could predict exactly who would end up with how much.
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It was one thing to say there was a law of supply and demand, or a law for how money travels, and quite another to find a formula that could nail it down. But economists kept trying, coming up with new theories to reduce the hustle and bustle of the marketplace to a single equation. Our First Millionaires According to the records, not a single millionaire existed in America in colonial times. Elias Hasket Derby of Salem, Massachusetts, a seafaring merchant who refused to get involved in the slave trade, was reputed to be the wealthiest person in the country.
Today, his house belongs to the National Park Service and is open to the public. It's only a few hundred yards from the House of Seven Gables, the setting for Nathaniel Hawthorne's famous book. The fact that everybody knows Hawthorne and not Elias Hasket Derby tells you something about the relative importance of literature and finance in the schools. Several hundred miles to the south, a Baltimore merchant, Robert Oliver, had also collected a sizeable fortune, but during and after the Revolution, the richest person in America was thought to be Robert Morris.
Morris formed a business syndicate that bought and sold ships. His ships sailed from the West Indies to Europe and back again, sending tobacco and foodstuffs in the European direction and bringing cloth and manufactured goods from them to us. He was chairman of a secret committee that supplied the revolutionary armies with coats, pants, shirts, and gunpowder, and his companies got the contracts to supply the army. Morris became superintendent of finance under the Articles of Confederation, and he was an avid supporter of Alexander Hamilton and of Hamilton's pet project, the first national bank.
Morris believed that only the better class of people should run the country. He argued for the superiority of gentlemen such as himself, for there was no doubt in his mind he was one. He was entirely opposed to Jefferson's idea that the small independent farmer was the backbone of the nation and should be given the right to vote. Like many of the great wheeler-dealers who followed in his footsteps, Morris built his empire on money borrowed from the banks.
He had many friends in high places, and since his biggest customer was the army, we could call him the original big defense contractor. Also like some of our modern wheeler-dealers, including Donald Trump, Morris overextended himself and borrowed more money than he could pay back.
There was a lull in the shipping business, his financial empire collapsed, and Morris declared bankruptcy. In those days, declaring bankruptcy was a very serious thing to do, because owing money to people and not paying them back was a crime. Morris spent three years in a debtor's prison in Philadelphia, where one of his visitors was George Washington. From his jail cell, Morris organized a campaign to abolish this sort of penalty, and thanks to his efforts, we no longer lock people up when they can't pay their debts. If we still had debtor's prisons in the s, they would be very crowded, because more than eight hundred thousand Americans file for personal bankruptcy every year.
Most have gotten in too deep with their credit cards. By , there were a half-dozen millionaires in the country, and most made their profits on ships and trading. Number one among them was Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, who died in at the age of eighty-two, the richest person in America at that time.
Girard was born in France, the son of a ship captain. He went to sea as a teenager and later became an international trader and merchant. He came to America, invested in land, bank stocks, and government bonds, and managed to prosper in all these areas. Girard eventually started his own bank and joined a syndicate to do business with a younger wheeler-dealer named John Jacob Astor.
More on him shortly.
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The bulk of the money was donated to a college for male orphan children. Girard was a confirmed atheist who despised religion so much that under the terms of his will, no minister of any faith could set foot on the college property. Girard's net worth was eclipsed by that of John Jacob Astor.
From one ship, Astor expanded to two, three, four, and eventually he had a fleet of speedy vessels known as clippers. For an American to build a fleet of this kind was a major achievement, because it had to be done with borrowed money, and the American banks had a limited supply of money to lend, as compared, say, to the British banks. During this period in history, money was backed by precious metals, so the amount of cash a bank could print depended on how much gold and silver it had in its vaults.
In London, there was an ample supply, so the banks could roll the presses and create plenty of cash for their business tycoons to borrow. But the U. When he realized he couldn't beat the competition, Astor turned away from international trade and concentrated on the U. This started a hot national debate: If you can't take it with you, who should get it? The public thought Astor should have left more to his fellowman in general, and less to his relatives, because capitalists were supposedly working for the benefit of society.
This debate still rages today. Everyone seems to agree that working hard and getting ahead is a good thing, but people are divided on the issue of what to do with the proceeds. These days, Astor couldn't possibly have given 95 percent of his wealth to his children, because the estate taxes would have taken 55 percent off the top as soon as he was laid to rest. The contemporary rich have a different sort of choice: They can leave their money to private charities and foundations, including colleges, hospitals, homeless shelters, AIDS research, and food banks, or they can do nothing and let the government take the biggest chunk of it.
A Slow Start for Stocks By , there were corporations formed in the United States, but most of these remained in private hands so the general public couldn't own them. Corporations were very controversial. Their fans and supporters saw them as an important ally of democracy that could benefit the community at large. Their critics saw them as undemocratic, sneaky, and subversive organizations that only cared about themselves. It was a frustrating period for any investor in stocks. The states already had passed laws to limit the liability of shareholders if a company got sued, so people could invest without fear of losing more than the value of their shares.
But not many people did invest. It was hard to find friends or neighbors to share in the enthusiasm and chat about their favorite public companies, the way investors do today whenever we get the chance. There wasn't a business section of the newspaper, or a Money magazine, or books on how to pick stocks. In fact, there weren't many stocks to pick from: a dozen or so banks, a couple of insurance companies, a gas company or two, and that was it.
In March the complete list was printed in the New York Commercial Advertiser, a popular paper of the day. There were twenty-four stocks, mostly banks. In , there were twenty-nine stocks, and in , thirty-one. The earliest buying and selling was done under a large button-wood tree on Wall Street, and after that, stocks were traded in small rented rooms or in coffeehouses. At one point, there was a fire in one of the rooms, and the traders moved into a hayloft and continued trading there.
You could stand around and twiddle your thumbs waiting for a stock to be traded. Business was so slow that the traders started buying and selling at and were done for the day by It got so dull that on March 16, , a prime candidate for the slowest trading day on record, only thirty-one shares changed hands. This was a far cry from the million shares that changed hands on an average day in The stock-trading business livened up a bit by , when companies were listed on the NYSE.
The country was on the move with canals, turnpikes, and bridges. These fantastic improvements required money, and the money came from the sale of stocks and bonds. Bank stocks were no longer the hot items they had been a couple of decades before. The new hot item was railroad stocks and bonds.
At one point, people were buying anything with the name "rail" in it, and not caring what prices they paid. They were also paying higher and higher prices for any piece of land near a railroad. If they didn't have the cash to buy the land, they could borrow it from the banks. Banks were lending huge sums on these real-estate deals, and large numbers of farmers were ignoring their crops and becoming real-estate tycoons.
This was a home-grown bubble, similar to London's South Sea bubble from long before, and in it burst.
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Stock prices and land prices came down as fast as they had gone up, as investors tried to cash out. The would-be tycoons who had borrowed money to buy the stocks and the land were stuck with debts they couldn't repay to the banks. The banks ran out of money, and people with savings accounts lost their savings when the banks closed their doors and went out of business. Soon, cash was in such short supply that nobody could afford to buy anything.
The financial system was on the verge of collapse. This was the Panic of The American economy and the economies of most countries lurched from euphoria to panic and back again. In the euphoric periods, when prices were rising and jobs were plentiful, speculators would spend their last paycheck, hock their jewelry, go into debt, do anything to buy stocks, or bonds, or land, and get in on the action.
Then, in the panics, collapses, and depressions, the speculators got their comeuppance and people sobered up. The stock market crashed in and again in , when shares in the popular Erie Railroad fell from sixty-two dollars to eleven dollars. The brunt of the losses was borne once again by the Europeans, who, not having learned an earlier lesson, were pumping money into U.
By the s, nearly half of all U. American Inventiveness The American people were regarded as an uncouth rabble by the more refined Europeans, and they saw us as poorly educated, roughshod Yankee doodles, but what a surprise they got when all the great inventions began to pour out of American heads.
American ingenuity was a response to our lack of manpower. In a huge country with a small population we needed to invent machines to do some of the work. Though clever inventors were dreaming up machines, this didn't mean the machines would be brought to life. There was Fulton and his steamboat; George Cabot's mill; Francis Cabot Lowell's complete industrial factory; McCormick's giant harvesting machine, the reaper, that spared the farmers from back-breaking work.
While serving as a tutor on a southern plantation, a Connecticut tinkerer named Eli Whitney invented the "gin" to remove seeds from cotton and single-handedly turned the South into a mecca for cotton production. McCormick's reaper, Samuel Colt's repeating pistol, and a new kind of padlock were the three American inventions that vowed the crowds at a famous exhibition of industrial machinery at the Crystal Palace in London in Europeans were amazed by American products, and just as amazed by our system of manufacturing that standardized the quality so each item that rolled out of the stop was exactly the same as the last.
Again, it took money to get these inventions off the drawing boards and into production. Some of it was borrowed from banks, but more and more was raised in the stock market, as shareholding grew in popularity at home and especially abroad. Foreigners bankrolled our fantastic progress by investing in our emerging market, and years later, we are returning the favor by investing huge sums in the emerging markets of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
On the farm, machines improved the life of the farmer, who up until the s was still using the same primitive methods that had been used five thousand years earlier in Egypt. Farmers tilled the soil with plows pulled by animals, or with hand plows pulled by humans, and much of the stoop labor was done by slaves, who were victims of the system, the same as the slave in ancient Mesopotamia.
Among the causes of slavery, primitive agriculture was a major culprit. Slavery was abolished when the bystanders came to their senses and raised enough of a ruckus to put a stop to this evil practice, but capitalism deserves some of the credit. It took investors and their money to build the factories that made the farm equipment threshers, reapers, disk harrows, steel plows, grain elevators, and so forth that changed agriculture forever. With new machines to do the backbreaking labor once reserved for slaves and serfs, there was no longer an economic benefit in forcing people into a life of servitude.
Several of the companies that made farm equipment one hundred years ago are still with us today: Deere, International Harvester now called Navistar , and Caterpillar. While they were inventing and selling the machines that could hoe, plant, and harvest, other companies were inventing herbicides and fertilizers to kill the bugs and the weeds and enrich the soil. The combination of new equipment and new chemicals turned the American farm into the most efficient food bank on earth, capable of producing more wheat, corn, and so forth, per acre than any other country's farms in the history of agriculture.
True, ours was a fertile land, with hundreds of millions of acres of rich soil lying beneath the fruited plains, unlike the tired, leeched-out, pawed-over soil the farmers of Europe and Asia had worked mercilessly for centuries until it lost its fertility. Yet there's no denying that innovations and inventions kept our plains fruited, and made the American farm the envy of the world.
While a million Irish people lost their lives in potato famines, Chinese people starved because of rice shortages, and starvation was a fact of life for much of humanity, the United States produced and continues to produce more food than its citizens could eat. Farm machinery changed the way farmers raised crops, but it didn't change the American diet, which was dreary and monotonous. Most families grew their own food. The basic menu was bread, potatoes, root vegetables, and dried fruits, livened up with the occasional slice of salted or smoked meat.
People ate kidneys for breakfast. Kitchens lacked refrigerators, so fruits and vegetables could be eaten fresh only in the short stretches when the produce was "in season. If you didn't live near the water, you couldn't get fresh fish. Lemons were a luxury, and an orange was something you found once a year in your Christmas stocking, if you had a Christmas stocking.
The tomato was an exotic Mexican export, widely distrusted because it was thought to be poisonous. Grapefruits were generally confined to Florida. There were no refrigerated trucks or railcars to move vegetables from one place to. People did their own canning at home, in glass jars, whenever they could get the extra produce. Cattle, sheep, and pigs were walking rib steaks, lamb chops, and pork roasts, transported live from the farms to the cities so their meat could be preserved "on the hoof.
Keeping a family fed, clothed, dry, and warm was a full-time job. Without our modern conveniences and products to help them along, women's work was never done, and neither was men's. Most of the houses were handmade, and so were the clothes, the drapes, the furniture, and the soap. The average person might spend weeks without buying a product made by a company, public or private.
It took hours to make the food, and hours to tend the gardens, and more hours to cut the firewood for the stoves. The smoke from stoves and fireplaces was a major pollutant, both in and around the houses where people spent most of their time.