Ebenezer Howard always denied that he found inspiration in the windy city, but all subsequent chroniclers of his life agree that he must have got the germ for his idea of the garden city here, in his lodgings on Michigan Avenue. Towards the end of 1879 Howard joined a debating society, the Zetetical Society, which mainly attracted freethinkers; it already included George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb, with whom he was soon on good terms. An agricultural depression, product of poor harvests and intense overseas competition following the opening-up of new land in the Americas and Australasia, conspired to reduce cereal acreage in England and Wales by one quarter between 1879 and 1900. Howard has discovered it at that point. Spence claimed 'Thus were the first landlord's usurpers and tyrants', as were all their successors. He has responded to the Back to the Land movement, which had created at least twenty-eight more or less utopian nineteenth-century communities, almost all rural.