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Monday, May 13, 2013

Generating the Wealth of Nations 9: Transportation Costs Within the US

This shows what happened to transport costs in the US from 1800 to 1900, based on data in a couple of Douglass North's books, and which I found in Walton & Rockoff, Economic History of the United States:

(Click to enlarge.)

Note that the drop in freight rates is particularly rapid beginning about 1830, which is precisely when India's and China's chare of world manufacturing output starts to fall dramatically.

And the following table shows freight rates on the Mississippi River, to and from New Orleans.  The dramatic drop in upstream shipping was, or course, caused by the introduction of steamships on the river.  (Prior to that, at least according to the legends handed down) is that flatboat or rafts were used to ship goods to New Orleans.  These were then broken up and sold as scrap wood or as firewood, and the crews walked back home (or just stayed in New Orleans).

Average freight rates per hundred pounds of cargo between Louisville, KY, and New Orleans, Louisians, 1800 – 1860, from Walton and Rockoff, American Economic History

Time Period



Before 1820




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