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The Farriers' Wish: Historical Trade Journals at SIBL
This May is a month of celebration here at NYPL. A 100 year birthday for the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, and here at SIBL, we mark 15 years of operation. As appropriate for 100 years, NYPL will focus on many of its incredible research collections in the new exhibition Celebrating 100 Years, which will open May 14. On a smaller scale, this might be a good opportunity to mention SIBL's extensive collection of trade and professional journals.
Trade and professional journals are the insiders' guides, the insider's source of information about his or her profession, business or industry. Here at SIBL we emphasize them in connection with our extensive outreach to entrepreneurs and prospective business start-ups in our sessions on Market Research (also sometimes referred to as Marketing Research). When we do that, it is only natural we stress new and current news on trends and developments. So, it's easy to forget the far-reaching historical nature of SIBL's collections of trade journals, which go back well over a hundred years.
Here's one I stumbled over a little while ago: The Horseshoers' Journal. Opening a volume to the pages of the January 1907 issue, on page 6 this article caught my eye - "The Auto vs. the Horse". In it, after lamenting the unreliability of the auto truck, just beginning to become popular as a vehicle for deliveries, including highlighting an instance where one delivery company in Cleveland switched back to the horse and wagon, the article goes on:
"These passing incidents, taken in connection with the recognized high price of horseflesh, are but straws in the wind, what we may expect in a very few years from now. Indeed, the most violent hater of the automobile, if there be any of such, can well afford to stop and ask himself, what is going to become of the city commerce with the automobile out of the way and with the scarcity of horses reported? In view of the possibilities ahead we are almost driven to hope that some skillful inventor will be found who will rectify the many existing mistakes in the horseless machine, giving it a maximum of utility with a minimum of disappointment and loss."
We might tend to think of that time of transition as a moment of resistance from many trades - buggy whip manufacturers, horseshoers, etc. - to the changes to be wrought by the automobile. Yet here we have the equivalent of a horseshoes.com (yes, there is such a website) concerned not so much the status quo, as the importance and value of the animals that form the core of their business. As we know from benefit of hindsight, change did come; there are still buggy whips, but certainly not as many needed. And farriers themselves are fewer and farther between. But, the horse continues to be loved, and has perhaps become even more ennobled by the changes.
Just a bit more - since here at SIBL we frequently assist our reader with questions about finding statistics, here's a further quote from the same page:
"Despite the talk that the automobile means the exit of the horse, the latter is here to stay. According to the last report of the bureau of statistics of the department of agriculture, it shows that on January 1, 1906, there were 18,719,578 horses in this country, valued at over one billion and a half of dollars."
The statistic for the number of horses can be found on page 711 (link below) in the 1907 issue of Statistical Abstract of the United States (I leave the discrepancy to a typographical error in one or the other publication). And while the horse still is here to stay, they are not in as great number, as table 1239 (link below) in the 2011 version of the Statistical Abstract shows only about 7.3 million horse pet companions as of the end of 2006. A press release from the American Horse Council gives a different number, 9.5 million, which would seem to include working animals (race-horses, etc.), and points to a report of the statistical branch of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT). FAOSTAT has a nice little statistical calculator, and I'll leave off here so you can figure out how to get the statistic there...
NB: The Statistical Abstract of the United States is available online as pdfs from the Census Website.