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Farmers' Alliance
The Farmers Alliance was an organized agrarian connected in the west economic movement among American farmers that developed and flourished ca. 1875. The movement included several parallel but independent political organizations the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union among the white farmers of the South, the National Farmers' Alliance among the white and black farmers of the Midwest and High Plains, where the Granger movement had been strong, and the Colored Farmers' National Alliance and Cooperative Union, consisting of the African American farmers of the South.
The quest to achieve a First Transcontinental Railroad across the U.S. was delayed somewhat by the American Civil War before being finally completed in May 1869. There followed a rush to complete additional railway lines to open up new frontier areas for economic development, a situation in which the United States government and the great railroad companies of the day maintained a common interest. Rather than directly undertaking railroad construction as a public works project of the federal government, Congress granted cash loans and grants of public land to subsidize construction. Some 129 million acres (52.2 million hectares) of public land was ultimately transferred from public ownership to the privately owned railways as part of this process.
The region faced enormous costs to replace the buildings destroyed in the war and the factories looted. The capacity of the gutted financial market to make loans was grossly insufficient for the needs of the region, exemplified by the 123 counties in Georgia with no banks whatsoever even in 1895. Merchants, finding a sellers' market, extracted extraordinary profits through inflated prices and usurious credit terms.
The National Farmers' Alliance, commonly known as the "Northern Alliance," was established on March 21, 1877, by a group of members of the Grange movement from New York state. The group sought to organize in order to fight what they deemed the unfair practices of the railroad transportation mill, for the reform of the tax system, and for the legalization of Grange-sponsored insurance companies.
This first organization proved largely ineffectual but does seem to have provided the inspiration for the first effective Alliance group, which was established on April 15, 1880, by newspaper editor Milton George in Chicago. George's paper, Western Rural, gave the new organization public exposure and inspired the establishment of chartered local organizations, beginning in Filley, Nebraska and soon spreading throughout the American Midwest. Dues were not collected in the earliest phase of Northern Alliance's existence, with editor George financing the group's launch a fact which spurred growth. Within a month more than 200 locals had been chartered, with claims made that 1,000 local groups had been established by the end of the organization's first year.
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