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Iowa History Daily: December 12 - America's Oldest Active Co-Op

Iowa History Daily: On December 12, 1887, the Farmers Cooperative Elevator of Marcus, Iowa, in Cherokee County started operations. The oldest active elevator in the United States and originally chartered as the Marcus Shipping Association, the co-op sought to give farmers a more fair shake on shipping the fruits of their harvests.

As railroads spread across the state to link Iowa’s farmers to far off markets, early freight rates frequently proved unfair. The railroads often built ‘line elevators’ to encourage freight shipping, however, a lack of competition allowed owners to exert a heavy toll on goods. In many instances, ‘line elevators’ realized profits approaching a 50% margin, meaning if a ‘line elevator’ could get $1 a bushel down the tracks, a farmer would get paid 50 cents.

Although cooperative elevators arrived in Iowa as early as 1868, the Marcus Shipping Association stuck around. With $410,000 in capital stock, the cooperative elevator helped Marcus gain esteem as an important shipping location between Sioux City and Dubuque. In 1912, the organization was renamed the Farmers Elevator Company.

After a 1989 merger with other area cooperative operations from Cleghorn, Cherokee, and Larrabee, the organization again was renamed, this time to First Farmers Elevator Company in recognition of the institution's important role as America’s oldest active farmer’s cooperative. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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