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Hibbard, Benjamin Horace, 1870-1955 / The history of agriculture in Dane County, Wisconsin

Chapter III: Tobacco,   pp. 155-175 PDF (4.7 MB)

Page 160

a ten acre lot than they themselves had received from a quarter
section, it is little wonder that a large number were willing to
stake their holdings on the lottery.6" The inevitable happened:
over production, poor quality, disgust-and the year i886 saw
the quantity reduced as abruptly as it had been increased. The
price began at once to recover, and at a fair level remained re-
markably steady for half a dozen years. The acreage responded,
but in a modest manner, and it was fourteen years before the
mark set in i885 was again touched. It was under this steady,
'but solid growth that tobacco won a permanent and dignified
place in Wisconsin husbandry. Yet for the fifth time the middle
of the decennial decade brought a depression. The prices in
1895 were only about half as high as in i890 and the acreage
followed approximately the same ratio. As in each of the other
decades the closing years brought a gradual recovery and at the
end of the century the price was high and the acreage twenty-five
per cent. beyond that of the preceding prosperous periods."4
  It is a remarkable fact that with all the excitement over the
increase and spread of tobacco culture it is confined to a very
limited area. In i898, approximately a quarter of the entire
crop of the state was raised in the four southeastern towns of
Dane county; in I899, these towns raised a fifth of the entire crop
of the state. Had it so happened that the southeastern quarter
of Dane and the northern part of Rock had fallen within the
lines of one county as it might easily have done, a full half, or
even more, of the Wisconsin tobacco crop would regularly be
reported from a single county. The question of accounting for
this has met with varying solutions. Is it a social question?
Manifestly not: for as we have seen before there were plenty of
men from tobacco growing states other than Ohio, scattered over
the southern part of Wisconsin, who began the culture of the
plant. Neither can it be explained on the basis of Norwegian
settlements, for there are plenty of these industrious foreigners
in other parts of Dane county and of the state. The slight differ-
ences in climate are wholly inadequate to settle the matter, so we
are, perforce, driven for the explanation to the other main ele-
ment in agriculture, viz.:-the soil. It may be seen by compar-
ing a geological map of the United States with a map showing
aWW8cotsin Tobacco Reporter, February 20, 1885.
"Tables showing acreages and prices will be found at the end of the

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