Markets -

The public market or fair is one of the links which connect 20th century civilization with the early history of the human race. Its origin is found in the first concerted attempt at commerce, and its initial history antedates the oldest records, yet the essential principles of the primitive market were the same which underlie the modern Exchange, and even the details of its operation were in all probability not unlike those of the fine modern markets of Continental Europe.

The employment of the terms "market" and "fair" overlap at many points and in general usage, but they are perhaps best differentiated by applying the word "market" to a public selling-place continuously open during all, or a considerable portion of the year and devoted chiefly to the sale of provisions. The term "Fair" may then be specialized to signify a public selling-place for all classes of commodities - clothing, jewelry, etc., in addition to provisions - open only for a limited time - as the periodic Fairs which constituted so important a feature of life during the Middle Ages, and the famous modern fairs at Leipsic, Nijni-Novgorod, etc., referred to in the closing paragraphs of this article.

The recognition of the desirability of a common interchange of goods seems to be instinctive among all races. When the Aztec country was disclosed to European eyes by the Spanish invasion of 1521, it was found that the greater part of the trade between city and country and the bulk of all classes of the retail business of large cities was transacted in markets and fairs. In his African explorations, Stanley found fairs in periodic or continuous operation in parts to which no white man had ever before penetrated, the natives journeying to them from considerable distances to exchange goods.

The public market was in former generations a noteworthy feature of American life, but it has in recent years lost its first significance. There are few communities in which the free open market-places are patronized by the general public, and no covered markets to which the general producer has access, the stalls of those still in operation being occupied by tenants much in the same way as are ordinary retail stores. The wholesale or commission merchant, together with the retailer, have absorbed the place the market formerly held in public service.

New York retains several of its old markets - Fulton, West Washington, etc. - and meat, fish and general produce merchants do a big business in them, but the character of the custom has changed from exclusively retail to largely wholesale. The same remarks apply to Philadelphia and Boston. A considerable percentage of the sales in the Baltimore and New Orleans markets are at retail, but their accomodations are not accessible to the general producer.

American conditions are paralleled in England, but a strong contrast is found in Continental Europe, where markets of general use are found in all important cities.

The finest markets in the world are those grouped in the Halles Centrales of Paris - ten large halls, covering a total of 365,000 square feet and divided according to the character of the supplies - butcher's meat in one, fish in another, etc. About one-third of the space is devoted to wholesale and the balance to retail purposes. Lining the thoroughfares between the halls - some of the spaces open and some covered - are stands for fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc., and underneath are cold storage cellars for the use of producers on payment of a small fee. The annual sales reach large figures - an average of 100 million pounds of meat, 50 million pounds of poultry, 70 million pounds of fish, 50 million pounds of butter and cheese - and other items in proportion.

The Halles Centrales retain the first feature of the market or fair in that the producer and consumer are brought in direct contact. There are a great many permanent tenants, titulaires de places fixes, as in English and American markets, but in Paris they have no exclusive possession - ample space is reserved for all occasional or periodic vendors - any producer who desires may, by conforming with the regulations and paying the very moderate fees, occupy space and sell his goods. If he cannot spare the time to come into the city, he can ship his goods to any of the official salesmen, to be disposed of at auction, the only charge being a small commission on the sales. These salesmen are appointed by a municipal official and their methods are rigorously inspected and controlled.

Numerous smaller markets in other parts of the city supplement the service of the Halles Centrales.

The famous old butter Market at Cork, Ireland, is another institution worthy of mention as one of the best regulated of its kind. All the butter exposed for sale is tested, in bulk and without any name attached, and branded First Quality, Second Quality, etc., by a market committee, whose members also belong to the Common Council. No favoritism can be shown, as the committee are ignorant of the ownership of the butter they inspect. Merchants residing in any part of Great Britain can forward their orders for so many packages of certain qualities to local brokers, who buy on the market, charging the purchasers a commission of about fifty cents for each one hundred and twelve pounds - the fee being regulated by the same committee. On the following day, the prices of all qualities are published in all the morning papers of Great Britain, the grocer being thus informed of the correct price of the quality he buys.

The greatest Fairs in the world are the Easter and Michaelmas Fairs at Leipsic, and the Russian Fairs at Irkutsk, in Siberia, in June, and at Nijni-Novgorod, in European Russia, in July. At Irkutsk, Russian and Tartar merchants gather to exchange and sell skins, iron, clothing, coffee, spices and a great variety of other articles. At Nijni-Novgorod, merchants from all parts of the world assemble to traffic in every imaginable commodity, the selling accommodations there including more than 2,500 booths.

Arround Markets in The Grocer's Encyclopedia


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