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GENERAL REVIEW.

Hon. William T. Baker, President, Board of Trade of the City of Chicago:

I have the honor to submit herewith the thirty-ninth annual report of the Board of Trade of the City of Chicago.

The year just closed has been, both in its commercial and political features, one of uncertainties fraught with extreme apprehensions. Uncertainties which involve no serious issues are of small moment, but when, as during the year last past, they wait upon exceedingly grave commercial interests, commerce—alert, cautious vigilant and intense—is full of solicitude. The history of business for the last few years has prompted, if not compelled, merchants in every department of trade and in all markets to conduct their business along ultra conservative lines; and even upon such a basis the world of traffic and finance, startled by repeated.surprises, has not only had its confidence shaken by foreseen dangers, but has been filled with apprehension of unknown calamities. It is most assuredly a cause of congratulation, when so many misfortunes and disasters accentuate the year in the great world of business, that no failure has occurred in the membership of this association—at least not any of consequence. You may look elsewhere in vain for an equally favorable record. Fortunate it is indeed that such important interests as are included in the boundless agricultural resources of our country, are managed and handled by such sagacious conservatism. In no other department of business are there so few risks and so short and economical a distance between the producer and consumer, the seller and buyer as in marketing the great food products of the United States. In no other department of business is there so close an approach to an actual cash basis; indeed, by far the majority of transactions is absolutely upon a cash basis. In no other department of business is there so general and thorough a dissemination of reliable commercial intelligence in the interest of both buyer and seller—intelligence from all parts of the world, and promptly distributed without any expense either to producer or consumer—as with regard to the chief crops of the country. No man, no market, no syndicate of merchants or money lenders, can withhold or monopolize information concerning the chief grain crops and the meat supplies of the country ; and thus, all, from the farmer sowing the seed, to the humblest laborer enjoying its fruits, may know of prices, supplies and demand, in every quarter of the globe. No business is more frankly, promptly, safely, honorably and economically conducted than is the business in grain and provisions, upon which the advantageous conduct of all other branches of business, to a very large extent, depends. It constructs territories and states; it builds railroads and spans rivers; it creates and maintains a vast lake marine and establishes great seaports; it loads canal boats and barges, and great steamers that plough the ocean; it erects warehouses and packing-houses along its wonderful pathway from prairie to port, and sets in motion the complex but harmonious machinery of countless employments that make up our expanding and beneficent national commercial life.

The annual average exports of agricultural products for the last five years constitute 72.60 per cent, of the total domestic exports. As the general prosperity depends absolutely upon agricultural prosperity, the business of the members of this board is vitally related to that of the manufacturer, artisan, mechanic, laborer, tradesman and to all wage earners, and consequently is of the greatest commercial importance and significance.

The crop of wheat raised in the United States during 1896, aggregated 427,684,346 bushels, as compared with 467,103,000 bushels during 1895, and 460,267,000 bushels during 1894 ; the crop of corn aggregated 2,283,S75,165 bushels, as compared with 2,151,138,580 bushels raised during 1895, and 1,212,770,052 during 1894. The crop of last year was by far the largest ever raised, though its farm value was $63,712,195 less than that of the year 1894.

The crop of oats aggregated 707,346,404 bushels, as against 824,443,537 bushels produced during 1895 and 662,036, 928 bushels during 1894.

The crop of barley aggregated 69,695,223 bushels, as against 87,072,744 bushels during 1895. The crop of rye aggregated 24,369,047 bushels as against 27,210,047 bushels during 1895. The crop of hay aggregated 59,282,158 tons, valued at $38S,145,614 as against 47,078,541 tons valued at $393,185,615 produced during 1S95. The crop of potatoes aggregated during the year 252,234,540 bushels, valued at $72,182,350, as against 297,237,370 bushels produced during 1895, valued at $78,984,901.

The estimated farm value of these chief crops, comprising wheat, corn, oats, barley, rye, hay and potatoes, as ascertained by the United States Agricultural Department, was $1,426,874,513.

The estimated value of the crops of wheat, corn, oats, iye and barley, aggregated $966,546,549 as compared with $9S7,856,839 in 1895.

The following is a statement of the great wheat-producing portions of the world and of the months of their respective harvests:

January—Australia, Argentine, Chili and New Zealand.

February and March—East India and Upper Egypt.

April—Asia Minor, Cuba, Cyprus, India, Lower Egypt, Mexico, Persia and Syria.

May—Algeria, Central Asia, China, Florida, Japan, Morocco and Texas.

June—Alabama, Arkansas, California, Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, Portugal, South of France, Spain, Tennessee, Turkey, Utah and Virginia.

July—Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Nebraska, Ohio, Roumania, South of Russia, Switzerland, South of England, Upper Canada and New England.

August—Belgium, Columbia, Denmark, Great Britain, Holland, Lower Canada, Manitoba, Poland, North and South Dakota.

September and October—Norway, North of Russia, Scotland and Sweden.

November—Peru and South Africa.

December—Burmah.

The following is a review by the United States Department of Agriculture of the chief crops during the periods of germination, giving conditions from time to time, also yield and various percentages, affording reliable data for purposes of comparison; all conducing to an intelligent judgment of market values and agricultural and industrial prospects.

REVIEW OF CROP CONDITIONS FOR 1896. Be

WHEAT.

A severe drought at seeding time, from which scarcely a county -pi in the entire winter-wheat belt was exempt, retarded or prevented germination, thus bringing the December condition down to SI.4, against 89 for the previous December (1S94), 91.5 for December, \

1893, and an average of 92 for the same date in the ten years 1887 to 1896. The crop had a further disaster to encounter in an exceptionally scanty snow covering, this deficiency being as generally distributed as the lack of autumnal rain preceding it. Much of the sparse growth that had succeeded in making a start was thereby winter-killed, so that many fields in the central region were plowed up for spring crops. The first spring report showed a condition of 77.1, against 81.4 for April, 1895, and 86.7 for the same date in 1894.

The improved condition reported May 1 was unfortunately not maintained. From the early days of that month until harvest there was a steady decline, the figures being for May, 82.7 (5.6 per cent, better than the April average); for June, 77.9 (a fall of 4.8 per cent.), and for July, 75.6, against 65.8 for July 1, 1895. As examples of the explanations offered for this decline, a few notes from correspondents may be given:

In Pennsylvania, much winterkilled. In Ohio, greatly damaged in quantity and quality by fly and rust. In Michigan, by the same causes; also unfavorable conditions at seeding time. In several Mississippi Valley States, especially in Kansas, quality was below expectations and grain shown by thrashing to be disappointingly light; probable cause, ill-distributed rainfall.

Spring wheat showed a condition of 99.9 in June, 93.3 in July, and 78.9 in August; a flattering early promise unfortunately not fulfilled. The causes adduced for this steady deterioration were insect enemies, especially in Michigan and Wisconsin; rust; heavy rains, in Iowa; and dry and exceptionally hot weather, generally.

Condition of winter and spring wheat combined: 87.6 in June, 83.4 in July, 74.6 when harvested. The final condition was 75.4 in 1895 and 83.7 in 1894. Accompanying the September reports, complaints both of quantity and of quality were universal, a few scattered counties only excepted, east of the Rocky Mountains.

Besides the causes of deficient growth and the insect injuries previously reported, much trouble had been caused by rains following harvest, from which a considerable percentage of the grain sprouted or rotted in the shock. On the Pacific Slope the condition was far more favorable, a full crop being reported in California, Nevada, and Utah, with fairly high figures from adjoining States. The small wheat product of New England also seems to have been specially favored, and reports better than the average came also from New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

Though better returns at the end of the year increased by a fraction of a bushel the general average yield per acre given in October, the final figure—hardly 12.4 bushels per acre—was 10 per cent, short of the 13.7 bushels reported for 1895.

COKN.

The spring was favorable for early plowing, the amount finished by May 1—79.6 per cent—being more than an average, though less than was reported for the years just preceding—82.8 percent, for 1895, 83.5 for 1894. The first report of condition, July 1, gave an average of 92.4, against 99.3 for July, 1895, the less favorable start being explained by too wet weather from Indiana to Missouri and too dry weather toward the Gulf. The August condition showed an increase of 3.6 per cent, being 96, against 102.5 in 1895. By September this advance had been lost, and the general average had fallen to 91, the condition at the same date the year before having been 96.4, the deterioration for both years alike being due to dry weather. The October condition was 90.5, against 95.5 in 1895, and yet when the preliminary yield came to be estimated in November, 1896, was found to be a bushel ahead of its predecessor. The final return of yield shows an average of 28.2 bushels per acre, a further advance on preceding estimates. The average yield in 1880 was 27.6 bushels, and the highest reported figures since that date were 27 in 1889 and 1891. In 1895 the average was 26.2, the unprecedented crop of that year being due to an unprecedented acreage. In 1896, on an acreage 1.3 per cent, less, a yield 7.6 per cent, greater gave a total product 6.2 per cent, greater, so that the year's corn crop exceeded by that percentage any other ever produced in the country's history.

This immense crop came principally from a territory including Virginia, Kentucky, northern Missouri, Nebraska, and northward.

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