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NP: July 21, 1864 Richmond Examiner: The Hucksters


There is a subject of deep interest to the citizens of Richmond, which demands the attention of the Council.  The extortionate prices demanded for all kinds of vegetables and other supplies in the markets, are the subject of serious consideration.  How the middle and poor classes of citizens supply themselves with the necessaries of life, is a wonder.  The rich care not for the cost, for their abundant resources enable them to meet any demands.  The speculators care not, for they make enormous profits on whatever they buy and sell.  But the classes we have mentioned, which constitute the large majority of the community, are made to suffer beyond endurance.  One of the causes of these high prices is the permission to the hucksters to buy provisions and retail them again in the market.  The hucksters are a small class of disreputable persons, being mostly shirkers of military service, who, combining together, are enabled to command the market, and exact any prices they choose from the necessity of the people.  In former times we had an ordinance prohibiting this traffic.  It was thought wise by the City Council, under peculiar circumstances, to repeal this wise regulation.  The consequence has been that the hucksters now besiege our railroad and canal depots, hover around our commission stores, and at once buy up in quantities every article of food that comes to the city, and immediately exhibit them in market at enormous profits.  It would seem that everything possible has been done, as if with the express design to starve the people of Richmond.  The Government seizes all the transportation of our railroads, and it becomes almost impossible for private persons to obtain transportation for anything, and when an article is permitted to reach us, it is pounced upon by harpy hucksters, who prey upon the wants of their fellow-citizens.  We call the attention of the Council to this latter grievance.  Their interference to prevent the evil complained of would meet the approbation of a large majority of the people, and contribute much to alleviate the distress of the community.

We feel assured it is the desire of the Council to do whatever in them lays to alleviate the present sad condition of the masses, and therefore take the liberty of making a suggestion.  This huckster question is an old sore that has bothered many Councils, but the time has come when it should be met fully and fairly, and the point decided whether it is absolutely necessary that the food consumed by our people should, after leaving the producer, pass through the hands of the hucksters, thereby receiving an enhancement of from fifty to one hundred per cent.  We would make this simple suggestion to the Council:  At the meeting which takes place to-day appoint a committee to examine into and report upon this subject.  If the committee, after a thorough examination of the subject, find that they can do no good, let them so report.  It will at least be some solace in our misery to know that our ills are beyond human remedy.1

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  1. “The Hucksters.” Richmond Examiner. July 21, 1864, p. 2 col. 2
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  • Lisa Fulton May 8, 2020, 11:29 am

    Fascinating article! Addresses a problem (one way or another) in all times. I looked to see if my letters contained any reference to inflation. Found this:
    Spann Jeffers wrote to his Sister Annie on 1864-10-22, from camp 7th SCC near Richmond, “behind the entrenchments…between the William and Charles City roads.” :

    “The Box has also arrived and I am daily enjoying its contents with my friends. The hominy especially is a great treat. We draw now as rations meal, beef, sugar, and coffee. Potatoes (sweet) are sold here, when cooked, for one dollar apiece for those of medium size – Just think of it – a soldiers pay worth eighteen sweet potatoes!”

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