Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Demise of the Horse and Mule Era and the Rise of the Automobile and Tractor Era---Part 2. I think history and econ buffs will enjoy this.

Between 1915 and 1960 the horse and mule population in the US decreased by 22,404,000 (yes, millions). Notice it increased prior to 1915.

The decrease over this time span was primarily due to the advent of the automobile for personal and commercial use (urban) and tractors for agricultural use on the farm (rural).

This period is also known as a golden age for agriculture and productivity down on the farm.

I would like to put a little different spin on this productivity miracle.
Source: Humane Society
 The passage below is from a Census Report from 1934. It gives an estimate as to how much acreage is needed to grow a variety of food commodities to feed a horse or mule for one year.  Remember, at this time this was the "fuel" source for agriculture.  Part of the yield from growing food HAD to be diverted to feed the livestock help produce the rest of the harvest.

Source: Fifteenth US Census
The amount of acreage needed varies depending on the combination of commodities used. Let's just informally use a ratio of 5 arable acres to grow food for one horse or mule.

This means from 1915 to 1960, 112,020,00 (that is 112 Million!) FEWER acres of land were required to be used for horse and mule fuel (22.404 million fewer horses and mule X 5 acres).

Put in perspective, this is equivalent to the combined TOTAL acreage of the agricultural States of Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana, that did not go to the feeding of horses and mules but to people.

Note: I am assuming no change in technology and the horse and mule population would have stayed pre-1915 constant.  Maybe, maybe not.

Physical land resources, especially in urban areas, were freed up for alternative uses and allowed those areas to progress at a different pace and on a different trajectory.

The untold story of advancement in technology is also reflected in the demise of the horse and mule powered economy.

Just thought that was interesting.  Hope you do too.
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