The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Grangers

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GRANGERS (O. Fr. graunge, Med. Latin granea, a place to store grain, granum), the popular name for the Patrons of Husbandry, a secret association in the interests of agriculture. In 1866 the government sent O. H. Kelley (on the staff of the Department of Agriculture) to inspect and report on agricultural conditions in the South, and suggest means of improving them; he found them very wretched, and the farmers poor, backward and disintegrated. Considering organization the first requisite for self-defense, and for securing improved methods and needed legislation, he, with six others, formed in December 1867 the National Grange (Farm) of Patrons of Industry. Only farmers could be members; but their women were admitted both to membership and office. The machinery was like that of other secret societies; the local bodies were called granges, and each State had its State grange. There were four “degrees” in local granges, one in State (“Pomona,”) and two in national (“Flora” and “Ceres”). For the first four years the growth was slow; in 1872 it began to spread rapidly, in a year it had over 10,000 granges, and in 1875 its membership was 1,500,000, distributed through every State in the Union. By its rules the order was to have no part in political work, nominations, or discussions, and as an order it had none, but the members could not be expected to neglect the very object of its existence, and almost immediately they began work against railroad rates and discriminations, trusts, “futures,” oleomargarine, etc., besides forming the chief part of the great movement against hard money (see Greenback Party) — in all of which their organization, and the consequent bid for their support from political parties, aided them enormously. It is therefore not surprising that “granger” has become a typical adjective for all measures in the supposed interest of the Western and Southern farmers, or of which they form the chief support, the word having the sanction of the highest court (see Granger Cases). The Department of Agricultnre as a Cabinet office, the act for founding experiment stations and the Interstate Commerce Bureau are among the more legitimate fruits of the order; others are the subject of much difference of opinion. It has also done much to form co-operative societies, and attempted to make the grain-elevator system a portion of it. The political element, however, was discrediting the whole movement by its excesses and ill judgment, and finally took separate shape as the Farmers' Alliance and the Populist Party (qq.v), leaving the diminished Patrons of Husbandry to a useful and growing social and industrial influence. The farmers' movement had a membership of about 800,000 in 1874; but this had almost doubled itself in the following year, due to the reorganization of the preceding year. The National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union organized in 1889 was largely confined to the South where it gained considerable strength. The National Farmers' Convention held in Saint Louis in 1890 claimed to represent a membership of over 5,000,000 farmers. In 1892 a large part of the grange organisation strength went to swell the Populist party, which, in the presidential election of thai year, cast 1,041,021 votes.