The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941

THE COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT IN
TEXAS, 1870-1900
RALPH SMITH
The idea of cooperative dealing in the business world by
persons ordinarily considered outside the class of business men
originated among the factory laborers of England in the first
half of the nineteenth century and reached America during
the forties, where its development was postponed until after
the Civil War. The Grange, or Order of Patrons of Husbandry,
organized by Oliver H. Kelley, a clerk in the Bureau of Agri-
culture at Washington in 1868, and limited in membership to
persons dependent on agricultural pursuits, proposed to educate
the farmers by securing for them a fuller home life, more social
intercourse, and the benefits of cooperative dealing in business.
The Order spread rapidly, reaching Texas in July, 1873.
The Grangers attributed most of their economic ills to the
middlemen, i. e., commission merchants, produce buyers, and
wholesale and retail dealers. These business men charged high
fees for their services in moving the farm products to the manu-
facturers and back to the farmer. To evade this group, farmers
in some sections of Texas during the early seventies combined
and marketed their products collectively and contracted with
merchants to furnish them with supplies.' When the Grangers
became numerous enough to attract the attention of business
men, enterprising manufacturers and wholesale merchants pre-
pared lists of merchandise which they would sell to them below
the market price. This scheme did not work, because some of
the farmers would show their lists to the public and thereby
caused the merchants so much embarrassment that they found
it necessary to abandon the practice. Grange leaders observed
that these schemes of dealing directly with producers, though
simple enough, did not give complete satisfaction. A more eco-
nomical way of solving their problem was to bring as many
farmers as possible into the Grange and to organize joint stock
1Panola Watchman (Carthage), February 16, 1876. Grangers of Panola
and Shelby counties organized the East Texas Grange Association at
Carthage on June 15, 1875, and solicited propositions from warehouses in
Shreveport to weigh, store, classify, and handle their cotton. Panola
Watchman, June 30, 1875.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146052/. Accessed July 11, 2014.