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Storage of Wheat at the Local Market.—The unit of accumulation at the local market is the wagon load. The unit of railway shipments is the car load. The shortest time that the wheat can be stored at the local market, then, is until enough of one grade has accumulated to fill a car, which may be only a fraction of a day. For various reasons, grain may be stored at the local markets for longer periods. When the buyer lacks better facilities, the wheat is often transferred directly from the wagon to the car by means of manual labor. By far the most usual method, however, is by means of the elevator.
The modern elevator is a very essential factor in our wheat industry. Its chief functions are storage; cleaning, drying and gathering wheat; and the vertical and horizontal transportation incident to these processes and to the processes of loading and unloading from wagons, cars and ships. Steam or electric power operating the machinery of the elevator accomplishes all this work without any aid from manual labor, work that would require the manual labor of a vast army of men to accomplish it. If it were thus performed, the operations would be so slow and expensive that they would raise the cost of producing wheat to such a height as to prohibit much of the production now carried on. With one single exception, the entire process of producing wheat flour, including the raising, harvesting, threshing, shipping and milling of the wheat, may be accomplished by machinery. It remains for some genius to remove this exception by inventing a machine that can handle the sack of wheat on the Pacific coast, and one that can handle the sheaf of wheat in the Red river valley. It would seem that neither task should be beyond the inventor's power. Of the machinery used on a large wheat farm, the plow stands at one end, and the elevator at the other. Human labor has been minimized throughout all of the operations. All agricultural implements are guided by levers; threshermen are only assistants to a machine which delivers the grain into a sack or grain tank; those who unload the wheat from the wagons simply loose a bolt, and the grain is dumped; those who heave wheat into bins merely press buttons; and those who load it into cars or ships need but pull a lever. The elevator at the local market often has its machinery so constructed that it can empty 1,000 bushels an hour from wagons, and sometimes 10,000 bushels a day are received by a single elevator. These elevators are generally constructed of wood, and have a capacity varying from 10,000 to 40,000 bushels.
From the point of view of ownership and management, there are three types of elevators found at the local markets: (1) Those provided and owned by the farmers themselves; (2) those owned by the local grain dealers; and (3) those controlled by the grain buyers located at the primary markets. Hundreds of elevators situated along the railroads which extend into the grain territory are controlled from the primary markets by what are called line elevator companies. The Northern Pacific Railway with its elevators may be taken as a typical case. On this road during 1901, there were 430 line elevators, 286 local dealers' elevators, and 22 farmers' elevators. In the same year in Brown county, South Dakota, a county which is 36 miles wide by 48 miles long, and which is considered as typical of the Dakotas and Minnesota, there were 45 elevators with a capacity of from 12,000 to 15,000 bushels each. There were also 12 flat houses with a capacity of from 3,000 to 5,000 bushels each, and 3 large elevators belonging to flouring mills. Twelve line companies were operating in the county, and they owned 30 of the warehouses. 20 of them were owned and operated by independent parties.1 When local market conditions are unsatisfactory, the farmers establish more elevators. During 1904-5, the farmers' elevators in Minnesota increased approximately 90 per cent in 18 months.2 For the year ending September 1, 1901, 1,549 licenses were issued for country elevators and warehouses in the state of Minnesota.
The successful working of elevators as now constructed and all the principles of their machinery are entirely dependent on the flowing quality of wheat. Since the advantages of this quality for labor-saving machinery had been completely established prior to the extensive development of the wheat industry on the Pacific coast, it is a peculiar and noteworthy fact that in the subsequent development of the wheat industry, the Pacific coast differed from other parts of the country in this, as in nearly all other things, by not taking advantage of the flowing quality of wheat. The grain is handled in sacks, and 1 Industrial Commission, 10:cccxviii.
2 Rept. R. R. and Warehouse Commission of Minn., 1905, p. 59. it is even resacked after it has been cleaned by the elevators. Undoubtedly one of the main reasons for this is found in the climate. During the summer season of the year, there is no rain, and the sacked wheat needs no protection from the elements. If it is not shipped at once, it is piled up in huge piles at the shipping points. This avoids the use and expense of elevators, although it is sometimes piled in warehouses. The platforms and warehouses are owned by the grain-buying firms who collect the wheat for ultimate shipment.
Storage of Wheat at the Primary Market.—The capacity of terminal elevators to handle and store grain is enormousi Chicago was perhaps the first city to develop great facilities in this line, and it is partly to this that the city owed its early pre-eminence as a grain center. Its first elevators were built in the fifties. As early as 1867 Flint wrote that "7,000 to 8,000 bushels per hour of grain may be taken from a train of loaded cars by a large elevating warehouse, and the same grain at the other end may be running into vessels, and be on its way to Buffalo, Montreal or Liverpool within six hours of time. The Illinois Central Railroad grain warehouse can discharge 12 cars loaded with grain, and at the same time load two vessels with it, at the rate of 24,000 bushels per hour. ... It is capable of storing 700,000 bushels of grain. It can receive and ship 65,000 bushels in a single day, or it can ship alone 225,000 bushels in a day." All the warehouses of Chicago could store an aggregate of 3,395,000 bushels, and it is further said: "They can receive and ship 430,000 bushels in 10 hours, or they can ship alone 1,340,000 bushels in 10 hours, and follow it up the year around. In busy seasons these figures are often doubled by running nights."1 By the end of the nineteenth century, however, there were single elevators in Chicago with a storage capacity greater than that of the entire city at the above writing. Some reached the high figure of four million bushels. The public warehouse capacity of Chicago in 1900 was 28,600,000 bushels, and the private warehouse capacity was 28,645,000 bushels. At that date, five cars of wheat could be unloaded in eight minutes. In 1905 one of the Chicago elevators, together with its annexes, had a capacity for storing 5,000,000 bushels.
1 Eighty Yrs. Prog, of U. S., pp 75-76.
From 1871 to 1887, the Chicago elevators were managed by persons whose sole business was the warehousing of grain. Competition was active, and Chicago was the best market to which grain could be sent from the West. By 1892 a change took place. The elevators had passed into the control of persons who immediately embarked in the grain-buying business. Nearly every railroad terminating in Chicago favored some elevator system with concessions that gave control of the grain business of the road. As early as 1894, there was an association of all the elevator people in Chicago, and all of the great terminal elevators were owned by a comparatively few men or firms. The owners of public elevators bought a large proportion of the grain that was received, and they also controlled great private elevators.
Minneapolis had a grain storage capacity of 27,485,000 bushels in 1898, and the largest elevator had a capacity of 2,300,000 bushels. Some 23 elevators, having two-thirds of the city's storage capacity, were operated under the Chamber of Commerce rules, 4 were operated under the state warehouse law, and the remaining 6 were private elevators. Minneapolis is perhaps the most notable city as a center for powerful houses which control elevator lines. At the close of the century it had 36 elevator companies, which controlled 1,862 country elevators with a combined capacity of about 50,000,000 bushels of wheat. St. Louis has 8 public elevators with a total storage capacity of 6,900,000 bushels, and 25 private elevators with a capacity of 2,475,000 bushels. The largest elevator has a capacity of 1,500,000 bushels. It can receive and deliver 30,000 bushels per hour. The total capacity of all public elevators for receiving and delivering grain per hour is 181,000 bushels. Kansas City, Missouri, has 24 elevators having a total storage capacity of 9,280,000 bushels. The largest elevator has a storage capacity of 1,000,000 bushels, and a capacity of receiving and of delivering 15,000 bushels per hour. A total of 215,000 bushels can be received and delivered by all elevators.
Duluth and Buffalo are the two other great inland elevator centers. Some of the elevators of Buffalo have a storage capacity of 2,800,000 bushels, are "built of steel, operated by electricity from Niagara Falls, protected from fire by pneumatic