IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Trading grain now and then: the relative performance of early grain-futures markets


  • Joseph M. Santos


Popular hostilities toward futures trading in the United States date to the nineteenth century, when many Americans perceived then-nascent grain exchanges as little more than gaming parlours that existed to serve the illegitimate aspirations of gamblers--a depiction that, if anything, compromises the legitimacy of modern futures exchanges. Yet, agricultural historians have largely praised the performance of these early markets, which they contend were shaped by commercial interests who sought successfully to mitigate price risk. In any case, our understanding of how early futures markets performed is fragmented, and so such claims remain largely unsubstantiated in a quantifiable sense. Even so, futures-price data are available for the late-nineteenth century, thanks to the Chicago Board of Trade (CBT), which pioneered grain-futures trading in the 1860s. In this article, I test and compare the performance of wheat, corn, and oats futures prices on the CBT from 1880 to 1890 and from 1997 to 2007. My results indicate that grain-futures markets in both periods are efficient in the long run. Short-run performance is mixed, and inefficiency is more evident in the nineteenth century. On balance, my results support the notion that early grain-futures exchanges benefited commercial interests and the grain trade more generally.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph M. Santos, 2013. "Trading grain now and then: the relative performance of early grain-futures markets," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(3), pages 287-298, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:45:y:2013:i:3:p:287-298
    DOI: 10.1080/00036846.2011.597732

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1963. "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie63-1, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:applec:45:y:2013:i:3:p:287-298. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.