Romance of Omaha, Chapter II
When Coronado, adventuring Spanish cavalier, came north out of Mexico in 1541 and discovered what is now known as Nebraska, he was lured by tales of fabulous wealth in the kingdom of Quivera and of gold in the famed "Seven Cities of Cibola."
He found neither the wealth of Quivera, nor the gold of Cibola and returned to Mexico a disillusioned adventurer. But he blazed the trail for thousands who came here later and made their own wealth by developing the country as the opportunity presented.
The tales of great wealth in the kingdom of Quivera were not exaggerated. But its wealth lay in the soil, which, of course, the Spaniard could not know and would not have cared about even if he had known.
Here Come the Pioneers
It remained for the pioneers who came west between 1846 and 1875 to discover the fortunes that lay ready for the making in the great inland empire that now stretches from the Mississippi river to the Rocky mountains, most of which is tributary, commercially speaking, to Omaha.
The founders of Omaha were men of vision, but even they failed to grasp the immensity of the land they helped to open to the world.
They laid the foundations of a great city. They played their part well and they left as a heritage to those who followed, their energy, resourcefulness and the ability always to look forward.
The western pioneer wasted little time in useless restrospection.
His eyes were focused on tomorrow and on those other morrows that stretched far into the alluring future. He mixed his practical plans with dreams and visions of the future and the result was the foundation on which our structure stands.
Dreams of Wealth Come True
Could the founders of Omaha return today they would find their dreams and hopes of wealth and empire come true.
They would see a city of 222,000 people, a state of 1,400,000 inhabitants and a territory tributary to the city they founded, containing more than 6,000,000 people and producing more than $2,000,000,000 worth of agricultural products every year.
It is necessary to talk of billions when speaking of the wealth of the region that is naturally and in a commercial sense tributary to Omaha.
This territory includes all of Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming, one-half the states of Iowa and of Kansas, and large sections of the states of Montana, Idaho, Colorado and Nevada.
Manufacturers and wholesalers of Omaha find their market within this region, though some of them sell their products in many other states and in foreign countries.
Wonderful Yield of Farms
Within this region are 310,00 farms valued at more than $6,000,000,000 and yielding as we stated before, $2,000,000,000 worth of farm products each 12 months.
These figures are staggering but Omaha alone produces $4,000,000 worth of manufactured goods every year. More than $300,000,000 of that amount is paid in turn to the producers of the Omaha tributary territory for the raw materials. More than $25,000,000 is handed out each year in wages to employees.
Omaha factories, packing houses and smelter, huge as they are, do not, however, by any means represent the total business done by and in this city every twelve months.
Omaha's wholesale houses distribute each year approximately $500,000,000 worth of merchandise, and the 1,600 retail establishments do an annual business of more than $150,000,000.
Business Over a Billion
Nor is that all. The Omaha Grain Exchange handles between 50,000,000 and 75,000,000 bushels of grain every year, valued at an average approximately $60,000,000 annually.
Additional enterprises in Omaha bring the grand total of business done in this city in a year to more than $1,100,000,000.
Even that total, large as it is, seems small when compared to the total business transacted in Omaha's trade territory, which covers all or a large part of nine states. The figures for the Omaha trade region amount to the fabulous sum of approximately $6,000,000,000 annually.
The total wealth of Omaha, its homes, its business houses, its railroad terminals, factories, packing houses, parks and public property, is estimated at $1,000,000,000 or more. The total wealth of Nebraska is estimated at several times that sum and the total wealth of the trade territory of Omaha almost inestimable.
Prospects Never Better
All this contributes to the prosperity of Omaha and of its surrounding territory and the prospects for the future were never so bright as now.
Development of a great inland waterway system, with the Missouri river one of its main arteries, will bring the much-needed readjustment of transportation rates to this part of the country.
Omaha will be the direct beneficiary of this development.
The working out of a practical plan of farm relief, the building of good roads throughout the entire region, the extension of electrical service to the farms of the west, are among the projects of the immediate future that promise great things for this section of the United States.
Agriculture Provides Wealth
And whatever will benefit this part of the country will benefit Omaha. This city, more perhaps than any other city in the country, is dependent upon agriculture for its prosperity and for its future.
The goods manufactured here are made chiefly out of the raw material grown on the farms of the west.
The greatest single business enterprise in Omaha is the packing industry which turns out nearly $200,000,000 worth of finished product every year and pays vast sums for livestock to the farmers and stockmen of the Omaha area.
Plans of the business leaders of Omaha include not only the extension and enlargement of the business enterprises now in the city, but also the establishment of other enterprises which will enable us to use more and more of the products of the farms of this vast region.
Omaha has as yet but touched the surface in the way of utilizing these products. The time is surely coming when Omaha will be teeming with industries that produce the finished articles from the raw material grown upon what was once the wild prairie and at one time regarded as the "Great American Desert."
Return to Table of Contents