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Season 1, Episode 3 · 4 years ago

Episode 103 - The Grain Reaper


This is under the low bridge and unconventional history of the Erie Canal. In honor of the two hundredth anniversary of its construction, the history department at the University of Rochester presents six environmental stories. And you're listening to here. You are. Oh, everybody down. I'm Brock Miller, accompanied by Corner Pope, and this is part three. The grain reaper, a story of the Erie Canal and its influence on wheat production in western New York and the Great Plains. Most people associate the McCormick reaper, a machine used a harvest weet, with the city of Chicago, as it was the principal producer of these readers. However, priate one thousand eight hundred and forty seven, it was mass produced in Brockport, New York. Mass produced in Brockport. That's exactly what I was thinking. Let's go all the way back to the completion of...

...the Erie Canal in one thousand eight hundred and twenty five. Who knew this manipulation of nature would allow for an agricultural revolution in the US? After the construction of the Erie Canal, the price of moving wheat between Buffalo New York fell to just four percent of the prior cost, just four percent. I'm sure some people wanted to cash in on this opportunity. Yeah, and many people did, such as the farmers in western New York who already had wheat sewn into the soil. Such advantages didn't last long, as other western states I this profitability. For instance, Ohio, began to compete with western New York in the production of wheat by eighteen thirty five. Throughout the following decades, agricultural landscapes began to sew the soil of the West. How ironic wants prosperous wheat producers along the Erie Canal soon fell to competition of the West and their newly plowed soil. This was consistent with the historical theory of the frontier thesis proposed by Historian Frederick Jackson Turner in Thousand Eight hundred and ninety three. Turner argued American expansion was driven by settlement, where cultivation brought order and prosperity... the disorder of the American West. Today, modern cultures of grain production are omnipresent throughout the Midwest. In such sites provide evidence for Turner's ideas. Exactly and during the early years of the Erie Canal. Competition between New York in the Western states did not last long. New York success soon became its downfall. Throughout the s wheat production decreased by forty four percent in New York and finally, in thus eight hundred and forty seven, New York was outcompeted by Western states. Wait, one thousand eight hundred and forty seven, didn't we say that was the year the McCormick creeper was first manufactured in Chicago instead of Brockport? Yes, and this is no coincidence. Cyrus McCormick noted that as popularity of his reaper increased, orders began arriving from farther west. Moving production of the reaper to Chicago was romanticized as a major event in the era of westward expansion. A popular documentary titled The Romance of the Reaper describe the agricultural transition of the West. The reaper how romantic. And so the pioneer...

...moved westward, followed by a way of long wave of immigration. But none dreamed that there are sons would see this machine and others descended from it, the means of building up an agricultural empire in the West much beyond the horizon of their imagination. McCormick followed the grain market right out of New York state and brought progressive business tactics along. It is better that I should wait for the money than you should wait for the machine. McCormick's departure marked a transition for New York states farmers. As well as king wheat lost power in the Genesee Valley, the flower city quickly transitioned into the flowers and way. What's the difference? Flower as in processed wheat became flower as in nurseries and horticulture. Okay, but New York's economy could not have just been dependent on flowers.

Well, actually, it was at this time that apple orchards began to take root. Johann Heinrich von Tunen, a prominent economist of nineteen century Germany, may have anticipated this transition and his theory of the isolated state, written in eight hundred and twenty six, Vantun and argued the distance from a metropolitan market dictates what crops are grown. Under this model, intensive agriculture for partial crops like flowers and apples would occur closer to the market than extensive agriculture for Durbil crops like wheat. As the Erie Canal led to the development of extensive farming in the Midwest, competition of wheat production increased. This encouraged farmers in the genesee valley to transition to parishupal crops. On tuns model suggested, wheat success in the West was the result of the Erie canals expansive reach. This was unlike Turner's frontier thesis, which suggested wheat's prosperity with simply the next stage in America's economic development. Such an agricultural transition must have had large environmental consequences. Production of intensive products like butter and cheese increased by thirty percent, from...

...five to eighteen sixty during New York transition as a producer of wheat to perishables. Increasing American dependence on animal products leads to further environmental degradation, as such products require larger inputs. It's clear agricultural decisions made in the past have had lasting impacts on today's typical American Diet. The Erie Canal played a pivotal role in shaping the agricultural landscape of not only western New York, but also the great plains, were commonly known as the bread basket of America. I wonder if the engineers and constructors of the Erie Canal ever imagine the lasting societal impact such a human intervention would create. This episode was made possible by the generous support of several departments at the University of Rochester. The here you are team would like to thank Melissa Mead and the Department of rare books and special collections, Lair Tinker and the digital scholarship lab, Stephen Restner at the Department of Audio and music engineering and, last but not least, Department of History,...

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