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New Year’s Resolutions in 1928

A new year, a time for new beginnings, making a change or a new resolution. Yet it can also be a time for a reflection and pondering on the past. As such, this week’s blog will be reflecting upon the past – 1928 to be specific – and what individuals then, particularly millers, would have been facing in the coming year. Ten years on from the end of the First World War, individuals and industries would have had time to recover whilst they were blissfully unaware of the economic crisis that 1929 would bring along with the ensuing Depression. So at the beginning of a new year what would they have been looking forward to in 1928, and how does it differ from today?

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Since the end of the war, many millers from around the world had been struggling with the effects of overproduction. Britain was no exception and many millers may have entered the year worried about their livelihood and hoping for a solution to ease the pressure. Whilst a solution was sought for during the year, the first steps were actually taken the following year in 1929 with the formation of the Millers’ Mutual Association. This Association implemented a quota system that helped to deal with the effects of overproduction. So a wished for solution was on the horizon but firstly, 1928 would have to be traversed.

For some the future was not so gloomy, for some 1928 was a time for new beginnings. A smock mill in Kent is a good example of this. Stocks Green Mill had originally been built back in 1723. Since then fire and time had worn this mill away. However, 1928 would see the mill restored using parts of a windmill from Bexhill, Sussex. So 1928 meant new life for this mill, whilst other millers were concerned about over-capacity. It used the traditional mill stones, as opposed to the rollers, showing that there was still a space for traditional milling, just as there is today.

Meanwhile in America, they were seriously questioning whether these small mills and factories could survive. The conclusion drawn by Mr. Thomas N. Carver, Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University, was that there were ‘certain definite limitations upon the power of the huge concern’ so the ‘small manufacturing concern will therefore survive’ (p.60). This conclusion would have created hope for many small institutions like Stocks Green Mill back in Kent. Whether this hope was well grounded or not depended on individual circumstances. Stocks Green Mill, for example, did survive for a time but around 1963 it had collapsed, drawing a close to its long history.

Whilst the issues of overproduction encompassed the hopes and fears of many millers at the beginning of 1928, what of the resolutions that may have been made? Citizens in America were under the regime of Prohibition so there was no reason to resolve to drink less and they could have easily, and inadvertently, participated in ‘Dry January’. But what about millers, what new resolutions may they have been making at the beginning of 1928? Well, if they followed the advice of Mr. Wayne G. Martin Jr., then they would have chosen to ‘firmly…resolve in his own mind that he will spend more time in the future with his trade…Personal contact with the people who distribute, buy and consume the products of his plant is the only known way of keeping fully abreast of them’ (p.31). A new resolution that may have changed an individual’s business practices, for better or worse.

Some things, however, did not change. Fire was still a great concern and affected mills all around world. A fire at the Chang Foong Mill in Shanghai was reported in the 4 January edition of The Northwestern Miller. It destroyed two mills with the collective capacity of 2,350-bbl. Other elements of this edition of The Northwestern Miller revealed more aspects unchanged by the New Year. Companies still promoted their goods through the use of advert, and job opportunities still appeared. In this particular edition, a mill located in the Southern States was looking for a Sales Manager whilst another company was looking for an Assistant Manager aged ‘about 35 years old, clean cut, possessed of constructive initiative and aggressive, pleasing personality’ (p.61). Such aspects are still recognisable today and show that whilst some things do change, other aspects of daily life have not altered that much.