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Episode 657: The Tale Of The Onion King

Lots of onions.
Jess Jiang
/
NPR
Lots of onions.

This show originally ran on October 14, 2015.

Vince Kosuga was an onion farmer back in the 1930s. A pretty successful one. But farming wasn't enough for him. He also liked to make bets on wheat and other crops.

Then he had an idea: Why not try his luck with the crop he knew best?

Today on the show, how Kosuga made millions on the greatest onion trade the world had ever seen. His scheme to corner the market got so out of hand that it eventually caused the Chicago River to flow not just with water but with onions. Onion farming hasn't been the same since.

Music: "Waiting All Day" and "Roadhouse Fight."

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Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.
Keith Romer has been a contributing reporter for Planet Money since 2015. He has reported stories on risk-pooling among poker players, whether it's legal to write a spin-off of the children's book Goodnight Moon and the time one man cornered the American market in onions. Sometimes on the show, he sings.