Barley Days

An examination of of some historical aspects of the period 1860-1890 in Prince Edward County[*]

Page 5 - McKinley Tariff and the end of the Barley Days

William McKinley.


According to County historian Janet Lunn, "barley had brought an elegance to the County which it hadn't had before". Truer words were never spoken about Prince Edward County. The County's economic foundation lies in agriculture and the Barley Days truly solidified it. Barley Days inspired competition between farmers, who worked even harder to make their money than they did before and the returns were much greater. Old money made from the Barley Days can still be seen throughout architecture in the County. But the Barley Days could not last forever. In 1890, the McKinley Tariff was introduced to the U.S.A. It was proposed by Congressman (future president) William McKinley in order to protect American industry from the competition of foreign imports. New York breweries could not afford to pay the 48.4% tax on Prince Edward County grain entering the U.S. and many were forced to close down. The closure of a number of New York breweries and relocation of others to the American Midwest lessened the demand for Prince Edward County grains, eventually ending Barley Days prosperity. But the Barley Days were beginning to wind down before the McKinley tariff was instituted. Just prior to the McKinley tariff, there was a 25-cent tariff placed on each bushel of barley entering the United States.

Overall, the McKinley tariff was highly contested because it drove up prices of farm equipment for farmers who were already deep in debt and failed to end the downward spiral of agricultural prices. The McKinley tariff may have created a lose/lose situation for the U.S.A. and County farmers, but the Barley Days will always be cherished in the collective memory of Prince Edward County.


* [back] - This project was developed by Isabel Slone (one of the Society's 2007 "summer students") and was in part funded with a grant from Young Canada Works, in part with a grant from the Municipality of the County of Prince Edward, and in part with this Society's research funds.



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