Beginnings Of Socialism In Arkansas Essay

1049 words - 4 pages

Beginning of Socialism in ArkansasAfter the Civil War, agriculture in Arkansas recovered with astonishing speed due almost entirely to the institution of sharecropping and tenancy. Since there was not a great deal of money in the South, sharecropping and tenancy was ideal to plantation owners for it provided a way to gain a labor force without having to pay them in wages. Furthermore, even though agriculture was picking up after the Civil War, cotton prices began to plummet. For example, in 1867, cotton prices lingered around fifty cents a pound, but by 1894, it was as low as five cents a pound (Whayne 262). Also, during this time, railroads were entirely unregulated, and they were prone to price gouging and other abuses; so, railroad rates were now soaring, which caused transporting one's crop to become more expensive. Consequently, farmers in the late nineteenth century were suffering, and due to cotton prices plummeting and transportation rates increasing, farmers began to establish socialistic organizations, such as the Patrons of Husbandry, or Grangers, and later the Agricultural Wheel (Hopper 248).The first sign of socialistic farmer organization in Arkansas was efforts put out by the Patrons of Husbandry, or the Grange. The organization was created by "Oliver Hudson Kelley, a former clerk in the United States Department of Agriculture, and six other men" in December of 1867 (Hild). Furthermore, the organization did not reach the state of Arkansas until August of 1872, when John Thompson Jones, who is later chosen as the master of the national Grange in 1875, organized Arkansas' first local Grange chapter. By 1873, the Grange had already established fifteen chapters in the state and these chapters met in Helena where they founded the Arkansas State Grange. The Grangers pushed for crop diversification to help lower the dependence on growing cotton as the only cash crop, which would in turn raise the price of cotton if it was no longer overproduced, and the Grangers also pushed for the plantation owners to provide their workers with better homes and living conditions (Hopper 248). Also, the Grange was able to organize buying and selling agencies, banks, cooperative stores, and insurance companies; however, it was the inability of the Grangers to maintain these financial institutions that ultimately led to the decline of the Grange, which began in the late 1870s and was finally absorbed by the Arkansas Farmers' Alliance in the early 1890s (Hild).By the late 1870s, farmers belonging to the Arkansas Grange were beginning to look for another vehicle to protect and advance their interest, and the organization they found was the Agricultural Wheel, which succeeded the Grange as the most important socialistic farm organization in the South. The Agricultural Wheel was created on February 15, 1882, when "nine men who owned small farms met in a schoolhouse in Prairie County to discuss their common problems and agreed to form a farmers' organization"...

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