The 2010 book by Emily Lambert, “The Futures: The Rise of the Speculator and the Origins of the World’s Biggest Markets,” takes the reader into the history of commodity exchanges and the men who made their mark on those markets. The author focuses on the storied Chicago Mercantile Exchange, first formed in 1898, in part to help protect farmers from the risks of their volatile line of work, but which was also used by unscrupulous speculators like Kosuga to get rich quickly.
Chapter 4 is devoted to the machinations of Kosuga and Sam Siegel, which heavily influenced how laws surrounding commodity trading would be shaped. The influential market, known short as “The Merc,” served as the model for similar exchanges that popped up internationally as the 20th century unfolded.
Kosuga Was Part of a Large Population With Russian and Polish Heritage
Kosuga always felt most at home in his hometown of Pine Island: it is where his family and friends lived, where he first learned how to farm and came to love onions, and it was a place that was conscious of and celebrated the Russian and Polish ancestry of many of its residents, Kosuga included. During his youth, there used to be local festivals and celebrations of each year’s harvest that were influenced by the Polish tradition called “Dożynki.”
Elaborate traditional costumes were worn, and people danced to polka music, all while big decorations made to resemble onions surrounded the events. For many, the highlight of these celebrations was the crowning of the Onion Princesses and Onion Queens, who would wear costumes and dance.
Kosuga Was a Businessman During a Booming American Economy
Kosuga was busy becoming an onion magnate in the mid-1950s, a time when America was experiencing an economic boom. Having come out victorious from the Second World War — and without having endured the physical destruction Europe had to recover from — the country began a period of intense industrialization and consumerism that, in many ways defined the identity and reputation of the United States.
Many commercial brands and iconic companies that still thrive today were founded around the time Kosuga and his business partner Siegel were scheming to become rich. Some examples include the popular dinner chain “Denny’s” and fast-food icon “McDonald’s” — founded in 1953 and 1955; the tax company “H&R Block,” which began in 1955; and the retail company “Williams Sonoma,” which opened its first store in 1956.
India’s Very Own Kosuga
Mangesh Varpe, a farmer from the town of Kalamb in the Indian state of Maharashtra, aspires to one day be like Vincent Kosuga. An onion farmer himself, he earns a living by traveling to Mumbai and selling his produce there. He has said that selling onions in markets in the big city has awakened in him a sense of entrepreneurship and a desire to barter and negotiate prices.
“I want my onions to go overseas, and this market will help me achieve my dream of becoming Vince Kosuga,” said Varpe in 2017, “don’t underestimate this powerful vegetable…when it sells, it makes a poor farmer like me very happy”. As far as reaching the commercial heights Kosuga did, Varpe still has a long way to go.
Kosuga Helped a Major Trucking Company Get Started
Carroll Fulmer Logistics is a transportation and logistics business with humble beginnings dating back to 1954, when Carroll Fulmer himself began hauling farm produce to markets in the American South. In 1961, he began transporting vegetables to the East Coast, which is when he met Kosuga. According to Carroll, Kosuga got his attention by throwing an onion to the back of his head.
The two became fast friends and business partners, and Carroll ended up moving his family and most of his business to Pine Island, Kosuga’s hometown. With Kosuga’s help, he founded the Ridge Truck Brokers company, which specialized in long-distance produce delivery. Over time, these ventures became the Carroll Fulmer Logistics Corporation, which these days works with some of America’s largest companies.