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What will the aftermath be? What percentage of those who now have high hopes and whose profits on paper give visions of automobiles and steam yachts will be pauperized when the single vein of silver or gold, which promises so much, runs out? Nothing offers so much excitement for a stockholder as a mine and nothing so rapidly reduces him to common clay. It is said that the only two individuals who ought to go into a mining scheme are the practical miner and the rich capitalist who can afford to risk a big stake. To others the affair is pure gamble.
a stimulus to mining operations unequaled goes a long way to establish the nation in its
WHERE WILL THE MANIA END?
From present indications the mania for mining shares will continue well into 1907. Very many good judges of conditions see indications that it is only now developing and that it will be intensified later on. The New York City banks are getting scores of letters a day from their interior correspondents asking for information on properties known and unknown. One bank in the West telegraphed a subscription for 10,000 shares to a underwriting project. It is conservatively estimated that New York alone has supplied $150,000,000 to feed the fires of this craze, exclusive of the $50,000,000 sent into Mexico in the past three years. This is not waste capital by any means. A fair proportion plays its part in righteous enterprises. The yearly increase in our mineral wealth
The mining booms of the '60's and the '70's were extinguished almost before the participants had realized their loss. Mining stocks have to be paid for in cash. Brokers will not carry them on margin, and banks will not lend on any but the most reputable. There are scores of tragedies bound up in the musty bundles of certificates that many a family trunk contains. I have in mind the quick transition from riches to dependence and the bitter years that followed in the life of a friend who put his two-score years of savings into a mine that had evanescent value and in which the ore ran out in a night, and a syndicate of petty tradesmen in an East Coast English village who banded together and bought Kaffirs in the Barney Barnato boom and who are watching them drop, year by year, to almost nothing, with the annual loss on the shares more than offsetting the profits of their shops. These are not exceptional cases. They turn up in myriad numbers after each mining boom, and they will continue to so long as man has the getrich-quick craze, and plunges into investments without examining the character of the vendor and the nature of the property into which his savings are placed.
A mining boom is a natural concomitant of an era of such prosperity as this country is now experiencing. The psychology of the thing is that man seeks to meet increased costs of living and luxurious standards and. to equalize his income and his outgo in a questionable venture which may give him a little more spending money but is just as apt to plunge him far beyond his depth.
BY CHARLES MOREAU HARGER.
WESTERN land has increased in value during the past seven years at the greatest rate in history. It is selling now at higher prices than even in the other "boom of the '80's. Not only is this true in the welltested farming lands of the older settled sections of the Mississippi Valley, but it is as marked on the "high plains," where depression in realty values reached unexampled depths a few years ago.
For instance: The receiver of a bankrupt land and loan company tried in vain to secure 50 cents an acre for large tracts of western Kansas land; now you would be fortunate to get the same land for less than $10 an acre. Settlers who went West in prairie schooners in the early '80's and left in the middle '90's tried to induce Eastern holders of mortgages to surrender the evidences of debt in exchange for deeds. Failing, they packed their goods and departed, to Oklahoma or to the Northwest.
"We could have had possession of 200 farms merely by assuming the mortgages eight years ago," said the manager of a loan company. Now those farms are worth $1,000 each above the mortgages, and they have paid a good profit every year since the offers were made."
The Western States are given the largest increase, from an average of $13.22 to $18.55, though the South Central group is a close second. Wyoming leads in the percentage of increase, showing a gain in farm values of 81.3 per cent. in the past five years; Oklahoma, 76.7; North Dakota, 70.6; Illinois, 37.4; Iowa, 29.4; Kansas, 54-7; Nebraska, 54; Missouri, 42; Oregon, 47; Colorado, 52.
Compare these percentages with an average for the whole country of 32 per cent. advance. The highest values given by the report are in Illinois, $81.89 an acre, yet farms in Illinois sell every day for $150 an acre. Iowa is put second, with $69.09 per acre, but good farms are scarce at such figures. So with the lands of the Middle West; the sales at $40 and even $60 an acre as far west as the Sixth Principal Meridian, which cuts Kansas and Nebraska midway east and west, are common. Land is sought with an eagerness that seemed impossible less than a half-decade ago.
These figures, given for the five-year period ending January 1, 1905, may be increased fully 15 per cent. for the past two years. The movement of real-estate values has been more pronounced during that period than in any biennium preceding.
The economic effect on the Middle West from this "boom" in land values is attract- For three years speculation in land has ing attention from the financial world. To been one of the West's enthusiastic devobe sure, the Westerner decries the word, tions. To buy a farm for $3500 and sell it 66 boom." He declares that it is merely in three months for $5000 is as good as Wall healthy growth." But when the value of a Street. Yet it has not been the old-timer farm doubles in 24 months and is readily who has made the money. He had been sold on the market at the new figure without through the '90's, and was afraid to venture any increase in its production and without deeply. The newcomers, the men who added improvements, it can scarcely be the had seen land values rise in Illinois and more conservative term. Ohio,-bought the cheap lands and reaped the benefit. They are the ones who have been gainers from the land "boom.”
The Government has issued a bulletin giving some statistics from official sources for the years 1900-1905, but it does not tell all the story. According to this report the figures for the States in which the increase of acre value has been greatest are:
The new conditions are vastly different and upon them are based the belief of Western financiers that this land "boom" will never collapse as did the one of two decades ago. Several things contribute to this ar$15.51 gument, and they are worthy of consideration 20.00 from the Eastern investor interested in securities based directly or indirectly on the 54.83 Western real-estate conditions.
sibilities in the past decade. The agricul- hanced value of land brought under ditch is tural colleges, the experiment farms, the the most spectacular of any, it is the natgood-seed" trains, and the results of ex- ural effect of wonderful increase in financial perience have united to make the Western return. farmer master of his land to a completer degree than in the old days of early settlement. He knows what crops may be grown, how to plant those crops, and what variations to follow in preserving the fertility of the soil. Experiment stations are sending their bulletins free to tens of thousands of farmers scattered over the plains region. Some of them are in the well moistened Middle West; some are out in the "short-grass" country, endeavoring to determine the crops that will grow where less than 15 inches of rainfall comes annually. The old-time settler tried to farm in western Nebraska as he did in Illinois, and failed.
Even out on the dry prairies, where cropproduction is out of the question, except in the wet years, may be seen the settlers' "shacks." To be sure, there are also the little mounds of earth that tell of sod houses built twenty years ago and deserted, but the later comers do not expect to raise crops as is done "back East." They will make their income from cattle and sheep.
Alongside irrigation must be reckoned what is variously termed "dry fa ̈ming," 'scientific farming," and the "Campbell system." All are the practical application of the old knowledge that moisture will be absorbed readily by a pulverized surface, and that a blanket of powdered soil will retain the moisture beneath much longer than a rough and lumpy surface. This pulverized surface, or "dust blanket," is secured by frequent cultivation and specially designed implements. Its advocates point to the results: On fields tilled in the old way, with as little cultivation as will keep down weeds, crops burned up and worth little; on the other hand, yields of 30 bushels of wheat and generous incomes. To be sure, the past four years have been seasons of liberal rainfall and this has extended well out to the mountain foothills; but aside from that better tillage has accomplished much and accounts for the resettling of the "high plains" on an intelligent basis.
Of course there are other reasons for the increased prices, such as better conditions of rural life, the rural telephone, the free delivery of mail, and the lower rates of interest in Western communities. But these influences have been at work throughout the nation; they are not peculiar to the West.
Each year some 400,000 settlers pour in a stream across the Mississippi westward. This modern exodus results naturally and directly from the full settlement of the older States, and the desire of the younger generation for new homes. The homeseekers' excursions test the facilities of the railways; The West has entered on a new era. trains run in four sections on these monthly knows, or thinks it knows,-exactly what occasions as far as the lower Panhandle of crops to raise, and how to cultivate them to Texas, and out into the "short-grass" re- secure a permanent income from the farms. gions of the Dakotas. Travelers avoid excursion days if possible, so tremendous is the westward-moving throng. This has been the regular history of every month for three years; little wonder that land values leaped forward.
Another thing: New ideas in agriculture, outside of the results secured from experiment in the ordinary course of crop-production, have come to the fore. Irrigation is enormously developed and the Government Reclamation Service has not only made it respectable as an investment proposition, but it has added many hundred thousand acres to the tillable area of the West. Pumping machinery has been cheapened and perfected; natural reservoirs have been utilized to a remarkable degree, and the projects under way increase enormously the land within the influence of the artificial moisture. The en
It is so confident of this that it is paying the large prices for real estate, basing the price on the net income. Land that will produce a net return of $10 an acre per year is reasonably worth $100 per acre. Vast areas of alfalfa land do that,-and more. If it can be done every year, why not $100 land all through the West?
Inquiries sent to a hundred bankers and loan dealers of the Middle West have brought almost unvarying replies holding to this view. From Missouri comes reference to a farmer who in 1900 bought 40 acres of land apart from his own farm. For six years he has kept an accurate account, charging the land with every day's work, every load of manure. The net income was 14.2 per cent. annually on a valuation of $100. With the improved methods of agriculture it should pay as good an income on a valu
ation of $150, and will then bring that amount. In the sections farther west the bankers say the land is returning a fair income on the high prices, the enormous wheat crops being responsible.
One county in southwest Kansas sold over half the county's real estate for taxes last summer. Eastern mortgagees had been remiss in paying taxes on the lands to which they had in the course of legal proceedings acquired title; the county became the possessor and a tax sale followed. But the Easterners did not know that the lands had appreciated in value; they did not know that the Westerners would travel to the county seat in automobiles to attend the sale. That is what many did and the prices at which the lands sold at auction so replenished the county treasury that county indebtedness was paid and the officers received their salaries long past due.
plows are at work turning over the sod,and these Western farms are for sale! Land agents throng the depot platforms. One firm well out toward the mountains keeps six automobiles and several livery teams busy showing farms to its customers.
Many of these sales are made not to settlers but to speculators. Even the homesteaders who have haunted the land offices and waited their turns have remained only to file properly on their claims. "I find most of my buyers in Iowa," said one of the land dealers operating in the "high plains" section. "I bought 25,000 acres five years ago and have sold nearly all of it at an advance of $5 to $10 an acre. I go into a community of well-to-do farmers and by inquiry find one who has savings, say $2,000. I show him how he can double his money by the increasing prices of land out West and get him to go on a homeseekers' excursion. Almost every time he buys, how can he help it? In these wet years western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming look as well as Iowa, and the soil is as good if it is watered."
In the Western office of the Union Pacific Railway Company hangs a map showing the railroad lands from central Kansas to Denver, alternate sections on both sides of the track for 10 miles, according to the original With dry years may come disappointment. grant. For 20 years the road tried to sell Wheat sown in that section has in the past the land, offering the most liberal terms. lain in the ground from October to May It could dispose of only that lying in central without sprouting, but when it rains the Kansas; the western Kansas and eastern grain goes 30 bushels per acre. With dry Colorado portions remained on the market. Three years ago the sales began creeping westward. Now the map shows that practically all the land has been sold, even up to the very foothills of the mountains. The names of the purchasers with their residences are also there. Astonishingly wide is the range of their homes,-from Chicago to northern Minnesota, from Missouri to Michigan, some in towns, some in the cities, a few corporations, fewer yet partnerships. It shows the faith of the Middle West in the semi-arid belt.
In that same area are to be established experimental government farms, similar to those in the Panhandle, in southwestern Kansas, and in Nebraska. They will endeavor to prove the feasibility of dry farming" from the scientific side. Land sells in this upland, unwatered portion of the plains, for $6 an acre, three times its price of four years ago, and perhaps 10 times that of a decade ago. A "dry-farming congress" is proposed to spread the new propaganda. If by conserving the moisture of two years to raise one crop good production can be secured, it will mean liberal incomes, consider
years the high prices will fall,-but they will never again fall to the old level,-this much is certain. The tide of immigration is too strong for that. The speculator may be disappointed; the man who borrows heavily in order to buy at the high prices will be closed out as in the past.
But the speculator is in the minority. Speculation and heavy mortgaging are not present in the land boom of-to-day, as they were in the past. Disaster can be borne with greater equanimity.
The new land "boom" is a more sensible one than that of the '80's. It is based on what seem to be permanent conditions, or at least such a situation as appeals to the farmer as certain to continue. With farm products bringing 40 per cent. more than five years ago, with rainfall in the West showing year after year of abundance, with seekers for new homes knocking at the door, how can farms fail to increase in price? The optimists say the rise in values will go on as rapidly for many years to come; the more cautious content themselves with the prediction that land will not be worth less than now. The doubter can get no hearing
*PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT (STANDING ON PLATFORM OF TRAIN). REVIEWING UNITED STATES MARINES AT CAMP ELLIOTT, PANAMA.
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT spent three, the President's visit, because, being the raini
days, in November, in the Canal Zone on the Isthmus of Panama, making a thorough inspection of all the work there in progress, and going over with the minutest care possible in the time available all the machinery of work and administration on the canal. The trip was made on the battleship Louisiana, which anchored off Colon on November 14. On the way back the President dictated a special message to Congress dealing with the whole Panama Canal question, embodying the results of his investigations, with comments, which was transmitted to Congress on December 17. This trip of Mr. Roosevelt's was especially noteworthy as marking the first time a President of the United States ever left American soil during his term of office. The message itself is further remarkable from the fact that it is the first ever transmitted to Congress "with illustrations." Twenty-six large, excellent photographs, depicting conditions of life and methods of work on the canal, were sent with the document.
The menth of November was chosen for
Illustrations in this article are from photographs which accompanied President Roosevelt's Panama message to Congress.
est month of the year, it was the period when Panama looked its worst and the work was carried on under the greatest disadvantage, and, moreover, it is the season which, according to the long experience of the French Canal Company, is most unhealthy on the Isthmus. During Mr. Roosevelt's sojourn almost every moment the rain descended in floods. The President visited all the hospitals, administration buildings, and workingmen's quarters along the Isthmus; went in a tug along all the water courses, traveled from one end to the other of the Panama Railroad, inspected the Zone police force, ate lunch with the workingmen, and at the engineers' mess, talked with the foreign consuls, made speeches in Panama and Colon, and was received formally by President Amador. His general verdict was that, considering the epic nature of the task on which they were engaged and its world-wide importance, the officers and men of the canal force, from the highest to the lowest, are doing something which will redound immeasurably to the credit of America, which will benefit all the world, and which will last for ages to come." There are a few points to be criticised, but in the main, says