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The Rise of the Midwestern Meat Packing Industry

The Rise of the Midwestern Meat Packing Industry

Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Rise of the Midwestern Meat Packing Industry
    Book Description:

    The history of the meat packing industry of the Midwest offers an excellent illustration of the growth and development of the economy of that major industrial region. In the course of one generation, meat packing matured from a small-scale, part-time activity to a specialized manufacturing operation. Margaret Walsh's pioneering study traces the course of that development, shedding light on an unexamined aspect of America's economic history.

    As the Midwest emerged from the frontier period during the 1840s and 1850s, the growing urban demand for meat products led to the development of a seasonal industry conducted by general merchants during the winter months. In this early stage the activity was widely dispersed but centered mainly along rivers, which provided ready transportation to markets.

    The growth of the railroads in the 1850s, coupled with the westward expansion of population, created sharp changes in the shape and structure of the industry. The distinct advantages of good rail connections led to the concentration of the industry primarily in Chicago, but also in St. Louis and Milwaukee. The closing of the Mississippi River during the Civil War insured the final dominance of rail transport and spelled the relative decline of such formerly important packing points as Cincinnati and Louisville.

    By the 1870s large and efficient centralized stockyards were being developed in the major centers, and improved technology, particularly ice-packing, favored those who had the capital resources to invest in expansion and modernization. By 1880, the use of the refrigerated car made way for the chilled beef trade, and the foundations of the giant meat packing industry of today had been firmly established.

    Margaret Walsh has located an impressive array of primary materials to document the rise of this important early industry, the predecessor and in many ways the precursor of the great industrial complex that still dominates today's midwestern economy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6488-5
    Subjects: History, Business, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. 1 The Significance of the Midwestern Meat Packing Industry in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 1-14)

    Historians have traditionally discussed the economic development of the Middle West in the mid-nineteenth century in an agrarian context.¹ Though the Jeffersonian image has been updated and qualified by studies of the rapid growth of commercial farming, of the national importance of forest and mineral resources, and of the rise of cities, little systematic research has been conducted on the development of a manufacturing sector. Presumably western industrial enterprises were either missing or trivial.² Any understanding of the rise of industrial America should properly be directed toward New England and the Middle Atlantic states.³

    Certainly these two regions formed the...

  7. 2 Supply, Process, Markets: The Dominance of Seasonal Elements in the Pioneer Years
    (pp. 15-38)

    In the fall of 1846 two merchants, Charles B. Coons and Jno. P. Dobyns, undertook to engage in packing pork in Maysville, Kentucky, a small town on the Ohio River some sixty miles above Cincinnati.

    The undersigned owners of the large Pork Establishment known as the “Lower Pork House” situated half a mile below the city on the Germantown Turnpike and near the bank of the River where there is a first rate landing at all times for boats and a good paved road leading to the premises, inform the public that they will be prepared to slaughter and pack...

  8. 3 Railroads and the Challenge to River Dominance in the Antebellum Years
    (pp. 39-54)

    In the 1850s seasonal elements continued to shape the behavior of midwestern packers, who remained predominantly merchants. Furthermore, water transport to markets was still the main factor determining the location of these entrepreneurs. But change as well as continuity underwrote the fluctuating growth of the industry. As population moved west so processors followed, extending the geographical base of packing. The increasing supply of animals throughout the region further stimulated the expansion of individual enterprises. Of more lasting significance, however, the advent of the railroad altered the flow of livestock and pork products to new as well as old places and...

  9. 4 Changing Patterns of Urban Concentration in the Civil War Period
    (pp. 55-70)

    In the Civil War period, 1860–1867, midwestern pork packers consolidated the superiority of railroad termini as packing points, confirmed the growth of the Upper Mississippi Valley region as the center of activity, and accelerated the ascendancy of larger cities in general and of Chicago in particular (Map 3). Though traditional patterns of seasonal and mercantile activity continued to shape the character of the hog industry, structural reorganization was much more pronounced and pointed the way toward future developments. The war itself, by disrupting transport flows and by stimulating altered market arrangements and some artificial demands, served as an agent...

  10. 5 The Emergence of a Permanent Industry
    (pp. 71-88)

    The recently created Pork Packers’ Association began its annual report of the “Packing of the West” for 1875–1876 with this statement:

    The business of Pork Packing is a large and growing one … now involving an outlay of immense capital.… For the item of Hogs alone, not less than $95,000,000 were paid by the packers … during the Winter season of 1875–6. To this heavy expenditure may be added the cost of cooperage, wages, salt and necessary running expenses. Not less than five hundred cities and towns in the West are directly interested in the prosperity of this...

  11. 6 The Dimensions of Midwestern Pork Packing
    (pp. 89-92)

    By the late 1870s a new order was emerging in the midwestern pork packing industry. Not only had outputs increased markedly from 675,000 hogs in 1842 to 9,045,566 in 1877, but the industry’s structure and behavior contrasted sharply with the atomistic and unconcentrated direction of energy that prevailed in the riverine period. Pork packing had developed from a general mercantile involvement with western produce to a well-organized industrial operation demanding technological improvements and systematic business organization. Indeed, the progress of this agricultural processing activity reflected the general contours of change in regional manufacturing whereby entrepreneurs, using abundant natural resources and...

  12. Appendix. The Sample of Midwestern Pork Packers Used for Biographical Illustrations
    (pp. 93-106)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 107-148)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 149-174)
  15. Index
    (pp. 175-182)