Wheat Boom/Wheat Bust
After the Civil War, wheat poured from the prairie. From 2.1 million bushels in 1859, Minnesota wheat production jumped to 95 million bushels by the turn-of-the-century. By the early 1880s, Minneapolis had become the premier flour-milling city in the world and Minnesota was the greatest wheat-producing state in the nation.
Then it all started to slow down. As the 20th century loomed, there was essentially no prairie left for newcomers to homestead. The rich soil started to show signs of distress from the yearly plantings of wheat. In a way, the process was too successful: there was too much grain on the market, and not enough buyers. Prices started to drop.
Successful family farms began to diversify. They raised a little bit of this and a little bit of that: corn and hay, to cows and pigs. Chickens, oats and barley were thrown in the mix, as well. A new era of agriculture was dawning on these prairie farms, and the era of the great wheat fields passed.
Housing styles changed after this first generation of farmers, too. The era of patterned houses began. You could order a blueprint through Sears and Roebuck, or down at the local lumberyard. The homes were a little more grandiose---4-squares with a full second floor and maybe even a little Victorian gingerbread on the front porch. Almost like a house in town, for god's sake.
NEXT: Death of the Dream
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