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100 years ago in Spokane: Retailers accuse wholesalers of driving up prices; barbers demand shorter workday

The soaring price of food, driven up by wartime shortages, continued to dominate the news. Everyone in Spokane was feeling the pain and fingers were being pointed.

One grocer took umbrage at the implication that retailers were driving up prices. He pointed the finger directly at the wholesalers.

“It is current talk that one wholesaler has seven carloads of lard in tierces which he declares he will hold until he gets 25 cents a pound for it, (and) that he has two carloads of beans, bought last fall at low prices, which he will not sell at less than 14 cents, (and) that he has a carload of rice, bought cheap and held for even higher figures than the present market,” he wrote, in an open letter.

He said that certain wholesale “jobbers” were holding onto these staples “purely for speculation.”

The head of the Spokane Retail Grocers and Butchers Association also wrote a letter, blaming wholesalers.

In any case, relief was not in sight. On the same day, Spokane’s large milk distributors announced an increase in the price of a quart of milk from 10 cents to 12 cents.

From the labor beat: Union barbers in Spokane were demanding a 10-hour workday, down from their current 11-hour workday. A journeyman barber typically worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with an hour break for lunch.

Their union was now demanding a 7 p.m. closing time and issued an ultimatum to employers.


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