Page images
PDF
EPUB

as they make; and, when iron is low, they supply the greater part of the demand. The men with large capital keep their works always running, but, when iron goes below cost, stock up the greater part of their make, leaving the market to those who are obliged to sell; and, when iron comes up again at a remunerating price, they go into the market with a large stock, and sell out to a profit; while the smaller man, having sold as fast as he made, has no stock to sell at the advanced price, and frequently becomes a bankrupt before the high price comes. One establishment cleared one million pounds sterling in a single operation of this kind in 1844.

The capital employed in one of the large English works cannot be less than five millions of dollars ; whereas the largest works in this country do not employ over $500,000, or one-tenth the capital used in England, and by far the greater number of our works have not more than one hundred thousand dollars capital, or one fiftieth the capital of large English works; so that, in comparison with their works, ours are all small, and are made to suffer in precisely the same way as the small makers in England, and, if they succeed in breaking down our works, the price of iron will be whatever they choose to ask for it, as we will be obliged to buy of them.

Another great facility they have arises from the low rate of in. terest, and the custom of the bankers to loan money on the manufactured iron, and thus enabling the maker to hold his iron for a long time, and not force it on to a weak or declining market; whereas here, we must first sell at any price we can get, in order to obtain the buyers' notes, on which to raise the money necessary to carry on the works.

Another advantage they have over us is in freights to America, in comparison with freights from the interior to the Atlantic cities. The articles we send to England occupy great space, in proportion to their value; those we receive, being often the same materials manufactured, occupy but little bulk: hence the returning vessels are always short of cargo, and will bring iron for any price, rather than buy ballast, to be thrown away on arrival here. But the freights and tolls on our canals and railroads are always the same, and will average higher than the freight from England.

In view of these facts, upon what ground can it be expected that a repeal of the tariff will reduce the price of rails ? It is shown that the large establishments in Great Britain are able to hold their stocks for years, and that they actually do so whenever they deem it to be their interest to pursue such a course. of the duties on rails would put an end to the building of mills in the United States for making them; for with the history of the Iron trade in this country and in Great Britain before him no in

A repeal

dividual possessing ordinary prudence would risk his capital and labor in erecting works to manufacture railroad iron.

Under the operation of the compromise tariff, the Iron business had become almost completely broken down before the year 1842. The tariff of that year brought again into operation the furnaces which had been abandoned, and caused many more to be erected. Under that law the Iron business prospered, and was rapidly gain. ing strength, when it was again checked by the act of Congress of 1846. The great demand for Iron in Great Britain, in the years 1846 and 1847, for the construction of railroads in that country, prevented the operation of the law of 1846 from being seriously felt until about two years after its passage. But when the railroad mania began to subside in Great Britain, it was soon discov. ered that the Iron business of the United States was again in the power of the iron-masters of that country, and our furnaces were blown out and abandoned.

The following letter of Theo. Fenn, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to the Secretary of the United States Treasury, may be regarded as containing a fair statement of the condition of the Iron trade in every part of this country from the year 1842 to 1850.

Harrisburg, November 12, 1849. SIR: Since my return home from Washington I have been engaged in procuring some iron statistics, which I send you, and will be able to give you more, which I shall get from good sources, immediately.

Dauphin county. In this county there were four furnaces and one forge previous to 1842, but one of which was making iron up. to 1842. All the others were idle. That furnace made about 40 tons per week, or 2,000 tons a year.

In 1843, '44, '45, '46, and '47, these were all in blast, yielding at the rate of about 40 tons per week each, or upwards of 8,000 tons per year. The rolling mill here was also going, making about five tons of sheet-iron per day, or 1,500 tons a year. The forge was also going, producing about 1,000 tons of iron in bars per year.

In 1846 the new furnace of Porter's was in operation, and the capacities of some of the others increased. The product of that year in pig metal was increased, as is estimated, to upwards of twelve thousand tons. The rolling mill and forge are in blast as usual.

At this time all the furnaces but two are stopped; the forge is stopped, but the rolling mill is doing about half work.

[graphic]

Mifflin county.-- In this county there are four furnaces. They were built previous to 1842, but there was but one in blast in that year, and that not the whole time. In 1843, ’44, '45, '46, and 947, these were all in blast, yielding about 150 tons of metal weekly, or 6,500 tons a year. At the present time but one of these is in blast, and that one is to stop in a few days. --Denango and Clarion counties. — There were in these two counties five furnaces previous to 1842, all of which were idle. In 1846 the number of furnaces was increased to upwards of twenty; some of the largest capacity; and the amount of pig metal made estimated at fifty thousand tons a year. There are only five or six of these furnaces now in blast.

Mercer county.-There are 14 furnaces in this county, about one-half of which are dead, and the balance doing a little to keep their hands from starving. In 1842 there were but two in the county, both of which were idle. In 1846 all these furnaces were in full blast, producing about 30,000 tons of pig metal a year. Their product this year is estimated at 8,000 tons. The rolling mill at Greenville has ceased operations. Yours, tauly,

THEO. FENN. Hon. W. M. MEREDITH.

The import of pig, bar, and scrap iron, for the year ending June 30th, 1847, amounted to only $3,576,382; for the year ending June 30th, 1848, it amounted to $5,610,264, and for the year ending June 30th, 1852, it reached nearly $11,000,000; showing an increase of imports corresponding with the decline of the iron business at home. It scarcely admits of a doubt that, had the tariff of 1842 remained unchanged, the produce of iron in this country would have kept pace with the demand, and that, instead of having incurred a large amount of indebtedness to foreign capitalists for railroad iron, we should now be supplying the entire demand on better terms than it can be obtained in Great Britain.

But were it certain that, by abolishing the duties, the price of rails would be reduced thirty per cent., still but few of the railroad companies of this country would be in a better condition than they are at present. They have already carried more bonds to market than can be sold; and unless they resort to the common sense and safe method of building railroads by the application of their own money, instead of relying solely upon the sale of bonds to purchase iron, they will be compelled to suspend operations until & more propitious season.

Instead of repealing the law imposing a duty on railroad iron, it is the true policy of the country to use the advantages offered by the present demand, to build up and establish the American Iron trade upon a solid and permanent foundation. It would be much easier to do this than to find the means of purchasing foreign made iron. For if wisely managed, these two branches of industrythe building of railroads and the making of iron – would impart assistance and strength to each other; and both being sustained by the natural resources and labor of cur own country, there would be no danger that either would fail for the want of means. ;

Though none more than we desire to see the accomplishment of a complete system of railways in every part of the country, yet we deprecate the spirit of impatience that would urge the work on regardless of consequences, crushing in its mad career the iron business, a branch of industry of more vital importance to a state of civilization than all the advantages that can be expected from any one mode of public improvement.

The difficulty of obtaining means to carry on the numerous railroad projects already commenced affords strong evidence that the country has undertaken more work than can be accomplished, in the time proposed, with the means that can be safely drawn from other pursuits ; and, according to our observation, whenever any branch of business reaches that point, it cannot be sustained and successfully carried on by a resort to legislative expedients. In such cases Do act of the legislature can overrule the laws of industry and commerce. It may check their operations for a time; but every expedient designed to sustain a branch of business already overdone serves but to accummulate and make more certain the evil consequences involved in the violation of natural laws. . .

In view of the subject in all its relations, we have regarded the high price of iron as one of the most fortunate consequences of the spirit of public improvement now prevailing in this country. We have looked to this state of things as a means of building up the Iron trade of the United States, and of freeing it from the control of the iron-masters of Great Britain; as a means of creating a market in our mineral districts for a vast volume of agricultural and horticultural products, which would never find a market elsewhere; and finally, as a means of making our inexhaustible deposits of iron ore and coal supply the place of the precious metals, and become in time the very basis and most reliable support of all public improvements.

All this we firmly believe will be realized in time, if the General Government should pursue a wise policy in respect to the tariff on foreign iron. Already extraordinary results have been developed in this direction. The production of iron has greatly increased within the last two years; and if nothing should occur to check its progress in the next two years, the competition between the producers of this country and those of Great Britain will begin to operate in favor of the consumers. No branch of industry ever introduced into this country has grown with more rapidity, or attained a greater degree of importance in the same length of time, than has the manufacture of rails within the last eighteen months. We find in several of our most reliable exchanges a list of sixteen iron establishments which it is said will turn out 160,000 tons of rails during the current year ; this will be sufficient to lay about 1,600 miles of road, and we know that there are other establishmènts not enumerated in the list.* The capital invested in these

* List of 16 mills and their estimated production for the year 1854 furnished by a correspondent of the Philadelphia Bulletin. Montour Iron Works, Danville, Penn- Trenton I. W., Trenton, N. J.. 15,000

sylvania............... tons 18,000 Massachusetts). W., Boston. Mas 15,000 Rough & Ready, Danv., Pa.... 4,000 Mt.Savage I. W.,Mt.Savage, Md 12,000 Lackawanna, Scranton, Pa..... 16,000 Richmond Mill, Richmond, Va. 5,000 Phoenix 1. W., Phoenixv., Pa.. 20,000 Washington Rolling Mill, WheelSafe Harbor, Safe Harbor, Pa.. 15,000 ing, Va.................... 5,000 Great Western, Brady's Bend, Pa 12.000 Crescent Works, Wheeling, Va. 5,000 New Works, Pittsburg, Pa..... 5,000 New Mills, Portsmouth, Ohio.. 5,000 Pottsville I. W., Pottsville, Pa.. 3,000 Cambria I. W., Cambria, Pa.. 5,000 Total................... 160,000

Represented Items in the production of 160,000 tons of Railroad Iron. Pig Iron required .......... 1 1-3 ton per ton of rails............ tons 113,333 Coal used.................5 1-4 tons per ton of rails................ 840,000 Iron Ore..................3 1-2 tons per ton of raus................ 560,000 Limestone.................1 1-8 ton per ton of rails ................ 214,333

Total number of tons raw material............................ 1,826,666 Labor employed from the Materials in the ground to the finished rail in market.

In mining, transporting and delivering coals, p. ton of coal at $1,92.. $1,612,800 * In mining, transporting and delivering iron ore, p. ton of ore at $1,60, 896,000

In mining, transporting and delivering limestone p. ton at 65 cents.... 138,666 At and about the furnace p. ton of Pig Iron at $3,00................ 663,466 At and about the Mill, per ton of rails at $12 ...................... 1,920,000 Carrying Rails to market, say average $2............. ............ 320,000 Number of men employed, 18,500-yearly earnings, $300 per head...$5,550,932 Population supported, 5 times 18,500, equal to..................... 92,5000 Breadstuffs consumed per annum, 92,500 persons, at $50 per head. ... 4,625,000 Capital employed in rail iron Works now erected....

......10,000,000

Other interests as below : Owners of Coal Lands-royalty-valued on a ton af rails at $1,84.... $294,000 Coal Operator his average profit valued on a ton of rails at 95 cents.. 152.000 Owners of Ore Lands-royalty-valued on a ton of rails at $1,41..... 225,000

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »