The Wheat King

By Anne-Marie Culhane

I came across this fascinating short film today. It’s a loose adaptation of Frank Norris’s The Pit written in 1903 which I’ve been reading this as part of my research into wheat markets past and present. The Pit, set in Chicago, in part at the Chicago Board of Trade follow the life and fortunes of Pit Trader, Curtis Jadwin as he attempts to ‘corner the market’ (ie getting sufficient control of a  supply of a commodity in order to be able to manipulate the markets).  This story in turn was inspired by Joseph Leitner who for a short time in 1897-98 was the largest individual holder of wheat in the history of grain and lost an estimated 10 million dollars when the market crashed in 1898.  This silent movie made in 1909 was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1994 by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.