Commodity Prices During the Depression Era

Illinois man discusses the fluctuations in commodity prices that impoverished many farmers during the Depression Era

| Good Old Days

The Depression Era did not arrive on a specific day, various economic indicators were evident some years earlier. My dad often discussed neighboring farmer friends losing their land at the conclusion of World War I when commodity prices dropped, making it impossible for them to pay for land that they had purchased at an inflated $600.00 per acre, and they also lost their original smaller farms in the 1920s.

A new neighbor persuaded my dad to buy the new Fordor Ford Sedan in 1923 for $750.00, but he didn't like that car so he traded it in on a new 1924 model 4-cylinder Buick which was $1,040.00. Then dad bought a new 1924 Fordson Tractor including a new Oliver two bottom breaking plow for $465.00 total. There was no sales tax in that era. In 1925 my mother bought a Kodak folding 2 A Brownie Camera at E M. Leslie's store for $9.50, reduced from $10.00 the preceding week when the War Tax from World War I was taken off such items. Prices are given to indicate values on what I remember of a bygone era.

EM. Leslie's store was closed when he went broke, and the bank beside it had failed. Mom met an old neighbor coming out of the bank so he told us that this was the saddest day of his life, because bank regulators required all stockholders to sign over all of their properties, so he lost his farm.

We had little idea of the impending depression other than my dad grumbling about $8.00 for a fat hog. A grain elevator went bankrupt so my dad lost around $400.00, being as unsold grain always goes into the bankruptcy settlement, so he got nothing. Remember, that was nearly the price of a new tractor. On dollar day Robeson's sold Headlight brand bib overalls for $1.00 per pair, so dad bought a pile high enough to last for a year. We knew nothing of designer labels, we didn't have a new faded look, and bought a larger size due to shrinkage, because Sanforizing was not known. Blue chambray shirts were 75ft, canton flannel husking gloves were 98ft per dozen, a 100 lb. bag of potatoes was $1.00, a

48 lb. bag of flour was in a cloth bag for 98ft, and a 100 lb. bag of sugar was $4.00 in a cloth bag inside a strong burlap bag. My dad's lost grain could have bought a lot of things.

The 1928 election concealed the hard times. Republican candidate Herbert Hoover talked of two cars in every garage, and prosperity was just around the corner. My dad was a fourth generation Democrat, and I well remember a neighbor man yelling at me in glee that my dad's candidate had lost, but that man's joy was short-lived.

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