Agriculture in 1901
Agriculture was the number one industry in the United States in 1901. Thirty-eight percent of Americans were farmers, 10,710,000 in all, representing by far the largest occupational group in the country. But the industry had been in a state of accelerated change since the 1880's. The numbers of family farms dropped rapidly over those two decades, with 7 million farm family members leaving for jobs in cities during that period.
Additionally, new technology created pressures on small farmers who had to go into debt to be able to purchase modern equipment of the type on display at the Exposition. The financial crash of 1893 brought with it bank failures which, when combined with high railroad rates and low prices for grain and cattle, served to drive tens of thousands of farmers out of business in the years before the Buffalo Exposition.
And, by 1900, enormous farms, the 'factory farms' of their time, were growing. It was not unusual to find wheat farms of 10,000 acres whose owners operated 10 threshing machines, 50 reapers, and hundreds of horses.
Although the trend toward fewer, larger, and more technologically-supported farms was under way, it wasn't until 1996 that the number of farmers amounted to a mere 3.5% of the American workforce (3,400,000).
In 1901, visiting farm families found a plethora of appealing exhibits in the northeast area of the Exposition grounds. Because exhibits and buildings related to agriculture represent the largest number of any at the Pan-American, they are presented here as a group.