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

Chapter II: Hops,   pp. 149-154 PDF (1.3 MB)

Page 152

    sion train on some great gala day, loaded down as they are with
    myriads of young girls. The most of them have their places of
    labor engaged in advance."42
    The price paid for picking was forty or fifty cents a box. This
    great expense induced a Sauk county man to attempt the inven-
    tion of a hop-picking machine, which was to save the county a
    million dollars for help in one season.43 -
    It is doubtful if Wisconsin farmers ever made money so fast
    or so easily at any other time or in any other business, as in hops
    for the two or three years preceding i868. There are still to be
  seen in the main hop districts, barns which were once hop houses;
  and residences, which if not particularly elegant at present, show
  a magnificence entirely out of keeping with the later '6o's. There
  are also stories, more or less reliable, of fine carriages, new har-
  ness, and high-stepping horses, pianos, and trips abroad, all based
  on the fabulous wealth made, or more often to be made, from
  hops.44 This phenomenal prosperity dropped with hardly a pre-
  monition upon the shoulders of men little wonted to the handling
  of money in considerable sums, and the wonder would be in
  stories of a different nature, rather than in the doleful tales as
  they are. Feeling that they had a secure and lasting hold on a
  veritable bonanza, they had no hesitancy in contracting debts of
  any size or paying any price, however high, if only fancy
  prompted their untrained judgments to make the venture. 4"  By
  i868 the fairy tale was about told; hops were again growing in
New York, and the price was on the down grade while, worst of
all. the rust and the hop-louse were running riot in the Wisconsin
yards."6 As an example of the temptation to risk every thing in
this one precarious industry, one farmer is reported to have raised
in i867 three thousand one hundred pounds of hops on a single
acre and sold them at $.58y2 per pound.47 It must be admitted
that something more than ordinary judgment was needed to keep
men from embarking in an adventure with such inducements.
'2Madison Dcmocrat September 1, 1868.
3"Madison Democ,-at, June 1, 1868.
*44.h cr fA a-
- -W euient is based upon conversatons 'With A. A. Mickelson of Black
Mr. John Lorch of MIadison, and many others who knew the clrcun-
ans. State Agr'l Soc.. VTI, 420.
Ldison Democrat, September 16, 1868.
sconsin State Journal, December 6, 1867.

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