The Quest For Food and Raiment

Hunger Makes the Hordes Migrate, for Man is a Land Animal

ELBERT HUBBARD September 1 1913

The Quest For Food and Raiment

Hunger Makes the Hordes Migrate, for Man is a Land Animal

ELBERT HUBBARD September 1 1913

The Quest For Food and Raiment

Hunger Makes the Hordes Migrate, for Man is a Land Animal


TO SECURE food is man’s primal need. This has always been the most important business in the world, and it always will be.

Hunger is the first incentive in migration.

Our ancestors belonged to the Aryan race. They had their rise in the uplands of India, And out of India came the swarming, hungry hordes in six great migrations.

The first migration stopped on the fertile banks of the Nile, and there civilization was born.

The wealth of Egypt came from the raising of wheat. The overflow of the Nile supplied moisture and nutrition, and the soil laughed a harvest.

The next migration was that of the Assyrians, who settled on the banks of the Euphrates and the Tiber.

And there they built two great cities, Babylon and Nineveh.

But rich as were the plains of Assyria, food failed at times.

In the Bible we read an account of how certain of these Assyrians are compelled to go down into Egypt and beg for food. And we learn, later, how Joseph, with the help of the Egyptians, cornered the corn market.

From Assyria the tide of migration moved on to Greece, and from Greece to Rome.

Each of these great world-powers— Egypt, Assyria, Greece and Rome—had its basis in agriculture.

Out of the surplus that the farmers produced, the cities were built.

All great municipalities had their rise in a herdsmen’s camp; then came the fort ; next the trading-post ; then a city.

But no city can continue great that is not supported by a prosperous agricultural district.

In the time of Alexander, three hundred and fifty years before Christ, we hear of the hungry Persian hordes marching upon Greece.


Prices of foodstuffs aviated, and the Persians were compelled to do something just as we are to-day.

All and each of these proud, great civilizations, in turn, were brought low when the farmer ceased to be prosperous.

Power in the past has centered in the cities. The farmers were plucked of their best. The cities drained them of their men, and of their treasure.

War and commerce took their brightest boys.

Editor’s Note.—The following contribution from this well-known writer will restate many old things that perhaps the reader may have forgotten. History is one of the best teachers. The lessons of the centuries, while they do not turn the individual much from his usual path, do in the aggregate have their influence upon the Nation. If there is one thing that outstands in the past it is the fact that national movements, race efficiency, and mental supremacy are indebted to ideas rather than to acts. It is the volatile elements that count and not horse-power.

Finally, nothing but the cities remained, and then these cities icent down to the dust of forgetfulness.

The star of empire moved to the west.

The prairie-schooners, of but a few years ago, revealed for us the great law of migration. Land is the great mother of us all. We feed off of the land, and the dictum that man is a land animal has never been disproven or even disputed.

Men prosper mentally, physically, morally and spiritually only as they are in close proximity to the soil.

To-day the available acreage of the world has all been taken up. Within a very short time we have seen a marked advance in the cost of food supplies,

and we have also seen a marked advance in the value of land.

But for the first time in history we are not free to pack up and move on, simply because there is no place to go to.

We are now obliged to face the food problem; and we are doing so, not by moving on, but by remaining where we are and bringing science to bear in our farming.

Food prices are higher, simply because population has increased in the cities faster than in the country.


The best labor, the brains, the inventive ingenuity, and the capital have settled in the cities. It is the same old story—all things move in circles.

We have been doing over again just what Egypt, Assyria, Greece and Rome did in the olden times—not exactly, perhaps, in the same way, but with a like result.

We have drained the country of the best, and while there has been immense progress in the cities, the farmer has practically plodded along in the same old way. This he would continue doing indefinitely, were it not for the fact that we have suddenly been aroused by the cry of high prices.

The thought of hunger has startled us into action. The statement that New York City is constantly within fortyeight hours of starvation has brought the question of food home to our minds in a way that America has never before viewed the proposition.

The farmer now holds the key to the situation.


Before the days of James Watt—or, say, a hundred years ago—all manufacturing was done in the home. Wool was carded and spun and woven in the kitchen.

The word “wife” means weaver. The woman made the fabrics and she made the clothes.

All of the big manufactories in New England had thèir rise in home industries, where the ingenious Yankees whittled things out by the fireplace or in the sun.

Ax-helves, hoes, brushes, shovels, knives, clocks, artisans’ tools—all were made in the homes. Back of every house was a little building known as the “shop,” and in this shop the boys and girls evolved a deal of skill in manufactuure. Clocks were made here,

and then the good man of the house went out and peddled them over the country.

Man-power was the only power known.

Then came in the utilization of falling water, and we built gristmills and cloth-factories, where weaving was done, situated by the side of the running stream.

The difficulty of this was that in the winter the stream was frozen, so the water could not be utilized, and in the summer, for several months, the stream was dry.

The steam-engine revolutionized the business of manufacturing, and transferred the factory from the home to a separate building.

With the aid of the “joint-stock company and increased capital, manufacturing became a business, separate and apart from the household industries.

Many farmers invested their savings in “shares,” and moved to town, where the youngsters found work, and the old folks vegetated until death, in pity, took them.

The “abandoned” farms of New England came as a natural result.


These big factories offered good returns to capital. To the laborer they gave the whole evening to himself. He cleaned up his work and went home to rest and amuse himself.

Manufacturing towns were a great fascination for the farmers’ girls and boys. It meant a quick cash return— your money on Saturday night. The lights and the lure of the city attracted. Music, dancing, games, and the mixing of many people were a great inducement.

The increased demand for food from factory towns suggested a better quality of farming, and so horse-power came in to replace hand-power.

Farming became a Western business.

Instead of the hand-reaper, told of in poetry and legend, we had the inventions of Cyrus McCormick and James Oliver.

Maud Miller wasn’t in it.

Constantly increasing, from a machine that required one man to drive and one to rake off the sheaf to be bound, we had a machine that not only cut, but bound, threshed and bagged at one time.

But horse-power was the motor.

America has twenty-five million horses. We had more horses than Germany, England, France and Spain combined.

Also, the cost of horses to-day is higher than it has ever been before.

One-fifth of all the farmer raises goes

to feed and care for his horses.


There are three processes in civilization. One to dig, the next is to carry, and the third is to manufacture.

We have discarded horsepower in the matter of transportation. The steamboat, the locomotive and the automobile do our lugging. Things are brought from the farthest corners of the world and laid down in our big cities, all by mechanical power.

The railroads carry a person one mile for two cents; and they carry a ton of freight one mile for a cent and a half. This is all they have to sell—transportation. And it is all mechanical transportation.

No man ever got rich running a pony express.

Among the owners of stage coach lines, never a one in all history became a millionaire.

The bare cost of transportation by horse-power would be ten cents a mile per person and twenty-five cents or more per ton for goods. If the roads were bad it would cost very much more. In the winter time where there is snow, transportation of people and property would be impossible during a great deal of the year. Throughout Canada, mud is king for several months.

Mechanical power has solved the problems of carrying and making.


The first business of man, however, is to dig. And we are still digging by hand, or with the aid of animal power.

The man with the hoe and the slanted brow is simply a man who has been unable to take advantage of mechanical power in his business. All of his vitality, all of his potential ability to think, goes into the eternal labor of digging food out of the ground.

James Watt applied mechanical power by the use of steam.

Fulton applied the principle to water transportation.

Stephenson invented the locomotive and gave us the same idea for land transportation.

Hargreaves invented the spinningjennv and practically solved for us the question of manufacturing.

But farming is still lagging a hundred years behind, pulled by manpower and animal-power.

The farmer has been short of inventive genius, and short of capital. The only things that he has had a plethora of are debt and labor. He has borne the big burdens. Well has it been said that the farmer’s work is never done. No wonder that the girls and the boys flee the fields.

Where there is water power, many farmers have lighting-plants and sta-

tionary engines. But for field use the wonders of electricity offer the farmer no relief. Electricity, at the last, is not power. It is only a method of transporting, transferring or harnessing it.

When we see the trolley-car flying along through the country, we say that it is being run by the power of electricity. This is a fiction, for we know full well that, in order to secure electricity, we have to have dynamos somewhere to generate the juice. And we generate it with the use of fuel or water-power.

The farmer can not hope for redemption through electricity, because the farmer’s business is to move around over a space of perhaps several miles, and he must carry his fuel on his back, so to speak.

No stationary engine will answer his purpose. And this is the reason why horses have been necessary.

But just as we have abandoned the use of horses in transportation and manufacturing, so will the farmer have to abandon horses for the bulk of his heavy work.

The first move in the direction of using mechanical power on the farm was when we ceased to use horses for threshing grain.

The horse-power, where a dozen horses were driven round and round on a sweep, and the power was imparted with a tumbling-rod, is something that all of the graybeards born in the country remember well.

The steam traction-engine, which threshed for a score or more of farmers, was a great move in the direction of economy and co-operation. It did the work at one-half the expense that horses could do it.

However, in the neighborhoods where coal was scarce and water was not right at hand, there was a deal of dead lift and labor in hauling. I have seen two teams of horses working steadily, one hauling water and one coal, in order to keep a thresher going.

If this threshing machine was operating ten miles from the coal, it required two teams to haul coal.

And as the price of wheat advanced, the inventors of the world have cast around in their minds for a cheaper power than that supplied by the steam engine.


Wood, as fuel, is now practically out of the question.

Coal is heavy, cumbersome and often scarce. Gas can not be transported, and has other limitations.

Gasoline is volatile, is affected by temperature, can not be transported in wooden barrels, has to be stored underground, and increases fire risk. Besides, its cost is more than double that of kerosene.

Kerosene-oil seems the best, cheapest, most easily obtained, most condensed and most valuable fuel known.

A pint of kerosene has more potential power in it than the same quantity of dynamite. Dynamite has a wonderful power to destroy. But a mushroom can lift just as much as the same weight of dynamite, provided you give it time.

A lichen growing in the crevice of a rock can split the rock.

Frost has a tremendous power to lift and disintegrate.

Gasoline, gallon for gallon, is not so valuable for purposes of power as kerosene, unless you want a quicker explosion and wish to travel faster.

The ideal thing for very fast transportation would be dynamite, but the trouble is that it carries a man so much faster than he can think that the shock disintegrates his molecules. Where a moderate, sure, steady power is required kerosene is the substance.

Kerosene is nature’s own fuel.

Only a few years ago, when Colonel Drake discovered petroleum in Pennsylvania, it was believed that there was no supply of this oil in America, save in this little tract around Oil City and Titusville.

Since then, oil . has been discovered not only in Pennsylvania, but in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and other states. And we hear the statement made by competent engineers that the State of California, alone, has enough oil within reach to supply the needs of the United States for a hundred years.

The question now is not so much where is petroleum, as where is it not?

In Western Canada there are vast supplies of oil, practically untapped. Alaska, China, Terra del Fuego, South America, Mexico, Russia—all have vast supplies of oil.

The business of searching for oil in the bowels of the earth, and pumping it up, is practically in its infancy. All we have endeavored to do, so far, is to bring up just enough oil to supply our needs.

The volatile element in petroleum is naphtha or gasoline. The pitchy substance, the asphalt, has to be removed in order to get a quick, clean combustion.

Then by mixing a certain amount of air with the kerosene, liberating just enough of the oil at a time, a quick ignition can be accomplished.

In the use of steam for running a steamboat, ninety-five per cent of the power is lost. For instance, if a steamboat is soon to sail, she has to begin firing up eight or ten hours before she uses her steam. All of this time fuel is being consumed. Water is not heated directly from the fire but we heat steel and the steel heats the water.

Then we run the steam through pipes in order to turn certain machinery.

Forty-five per cent or so of the potential power in coal goes up the smokestack. Another forty-five per cent is lost in friction and the process of making real power out of heat-units. Only ten per cent gets to the propellers, and half of that is spent in useless heating of the water, leaving five per cent to push the ship on towards her destination.

It was once prophesied that no ship could cross the Atlantic under her own steam, because she could not carry enough fuel to meet her requirements. And so all steamships were rigged sails, and steam was once used only when the wind was not favorable.

The problem yet in transportation is to get an engine that will carry its fuel on its back. And so the smallest quantity of fuel in point of bulk and weight is what the world demands.