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The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin, containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources; an extensive and minute sketch of its cities, towns and villages--their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools and societies; its war record, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; the whole preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the constitution of the United States
(1880)

Giles, H. H.
Commerce and manufactures,   pp. [198]-209 PDF (5.4 MB)


Page [198]


      COMMERCE AND MANUFACTURES.
                                   By HON. H. H. GILES.
     The material philosophy of a people has to do with the practical and
useful. It sees in
iron, coal, cotton, wool, grain and the trees of the forest, the elements
of personal comfort and
sources of material greatness, and is applied to their development, production
and fabrication for
purposes of exchange, interchange and sale.. The early immigrants to Wisconsin
territory found
a land teeming with unsurpassed natural advantages; prairies, timber,' water
and minerals, invit-
ing the farmer, miner and lumberman, to come and build houses, furnaces,
mills and factories.
The first settlers were a food-producing people. The prairies and openings
were ready for the
plow. The ease with which farms were brought under cultivation, readily enabled
the pioneer
to supply the food necessary for himself and family, while a surplus was
often produced in a few
months. The hardships so often encountered in the settlement of a new country,
where forests
must be felled and stumps removed to prepare the soil for tillage, were scarcely
known, or greatly
mitigated.
     During the decade from 1835 to 1845, so great were the demands for the
products of the
soil, created by the tide of emigration, that the settlers found a home market
for all their surplus
products, and so easily were crops grown that, within a very brief time after
the first emigration,
but little was required from abroad. The commerce of the country was carried
on by the
exchange of products. The settlers (they could scarcely be called farmers)
would exchange
their wheat, corn, oats and pork for the goods, wares and fabrics of the
village merchant. It
was an age of barter; but they looked at the capabilities of the land they
had come to possess,
and, with firm faith, saw bright promises of better days in the building
up of a great state.
     It is not designed to trace with minuteness the history of Wisconsin
through the growth of
its commercial and manufacturing interests. To do it justice would require
a volume. The
aim of this article will be to present a concise view of its present status.
Allusion will only be
incidentally made to stages of growth and progress by which it has been reached.
     Few states in the Union possess within their borders so many, and in
such abundance,
elements that contribute to the material prosperity of a ,people.  Its soil
of unsurpassed
fertility; its inexhaustible mines of lead, copper, zinc and iron; its almost
boundless forests;
its water-powers, sufficient to drive the machinery of the world; its long
lines of lake shore on
two sides, and the " Father of waters " on another,- need but enterprise,
energy and capital to
utilize them in building an empire of wealth, where the hum of varied-industries
shall be heard
in the music of the sickle, the loom and-the anvil.
     The growth of manufacturing industries was slow during the first twenty-five
years of our
history. The early settlers were poor. Frequently the land they tilled was
pledged to obtain
means to pay for it. Capitalists obtained from twenty to thirty per cent.
per annum for the use
of their money. Indeed, it was the rule, under the free-trade ideas of the
money-lenders for
them to play the Shylock. While investments in bonds and mortgages were so
profitable, few
were ready'to improve the natural advantages the country presented for'building
factories and
work-shops.


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