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Advantages Of The U.S. For Manufacturing

( Originally Published 1918 )



The working up of natural materials. Scarcely any product of agricultural, animal, or mineral industry is ready for the use of man until it has been reshaped or transformed in some way. The hand of man has to be set to this task, and the result is a manufacture — something made by hand, as the Latin derivation of the word indicates. We could not help referring to such fashioning over of materials in what we have already said : the cereals have to be ground, the sugar refined, the cotton spun and woven, the animal products worked up in various ways, the minerals gotten from the ore and shaped, the crude oil relieved of its impurities and other unpleasant qualities.

Antiquity of manufacture. Of course man has been at work for all his time on earth setting his hand and brain to the task of making the most out of what he has gotten from the soil. Manufactures go back so far that some authorities think the chief distinction between man and the lower animals is that man is the " tool-using animal " —a tool being really any form of instrument used in adjusting materials to human use. A history of human manufacture would be a history of the human race.

It would be a technological encyclopedia in many volumes. In this book we shall have enough to do if we start at once with our own country and the modern age.

Development of our manufactures. In general, down to the middle of the nineteenth century — a landmark in our industrial history to which we have had occasion to refer over and over again as the starting-point of this or that extractive industry — the value of the manufactures of this country was comparatively small. Agriculture was the chief occupation, and most of the articles required by the mass of the people were made in their homes, while the wealthier classes were supplied in large part by the importation of manufactured wares from other lands. The factory system, which secured a hold in England at the close of the eighteenth century, did not become generally established here until the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The development of our manufactures on a very large scale has, in fact, taken place since 1880. Numerous causes, into which we shall go further later on, have helped to produce this result ; they are increased supplies of raw materials produced here, increase of population, improved transportation, increased purchasing power of the masses, and increased foreign demand for our manufactures. At the present day we lead the world as a manufacturing nation, but our home market is so great, because of our vast population, that only a small proportion of our total manufactures is exported. The industries of the country are now very numerous and are coming to be more and more widely scattered over the land, but the more densely populated region of the Northeast is the typical manufacturing area. On the basis of value of manufactured products, the five leading states are New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts. Taken together, these states produce half of all the goods manufactured in the United States.

Value of our manufactures. The annual value of the products of our manufacturing industries amounts to about $25,000,000,000. The output of our manufacturing plants has more than doubled since the opening of the twentieth century. The largest class of manufactured goods comprises food and kindred products ; and in this class slaughtering and meat products constitute the largest items, followed by flour and gristmill products, The next class in value of output is the textile industries, among which cotton manufacture takes the first place. Iron and steel and their developed forms come third, and chemical and allied products fourth. The following summary, taken from a recent Census of Manufactures, exhibits some of the most striking facts about our recent manufacturing development.

Causes of our success. We have stated these remarkable and even startling facts and figures at .the outset, in order to show that there is here something deserving of description and of explanation. The world has never seen anything like this before. Here, three hundred years ago, was a raw country ; but there have been other raw countries that have had no such industrial development. Something beyond the mere newness of the land was operating in this case. Wherein lay the causes of such an unparalleled success ?

Our rich resources. Some of these causes we have already encountered, namely, the agricultural and mineral resources. There are in the United States, as we have already seen, abundant food supplies of almost all sorts and abundant raw agricultural materials ; thus are the consumer and the manufacturer satisfied. As for minerals, this country contains supplies of almost all that are required for the development of manufactures. It is particularly rich in coal and iron, the great essentials ; and this coal and iron, together with the limestone needed for smelting, are to be found either in proximity or so located that easy transportation routes connect them. Iron deposits, for example, are at one end of the Great Lakes, and coal at the other ; but, largely for the purpose of assembling them, there exists on the Great Lakes the cheapest and most efficient system of water transportation to be found anywhere in the world. Agricultural and mineral materials for manufacture are cheap and can be taken with little expense to places where they are wanted.

The transportation system. This leads us to speak of the transportation system in general ; we shall describe it more specially later on. Our facilities in this line are exceptional, notably in the most heavily populated regions, where are the seats of manufacture. Not only can we assemble materials readily but we can also get products to market easily and quickly. Most of the important manufacturing regions are on the seaboard, or salt water is accessible to them. As early as 1899 the freight traffic of the Great Lakes had become so large that they became the fore most internal waterway in the world, and the traffic was so heavy that more than five times as many vessels passed through the Canadian and American " Soo " Canal as through the Suez Canal. Of the railway system it is enough to say, for now, that it reaches the most remote regions of the country and shows a mileage far exceeding that of all European countries combined. Freight rates are comparatively low, so that here again is an element of cheapness to encourage production.

Freedom of trade. It is readily seen that ease of movement of products is a great feature in encouraging production. But in addition to unrivaled transportation facilities we are, in this country of about three million square miles and over a hundred million souls, without any commercial barriers. There are no frontiers to be passed between the Atlantic and Pacific — three thousand miles. This is the largest area in the world which is free and unrestricted by customs taxes or national prejudice. We are all one nation, and trade within our wide boundaries is free. This fact alone accounts for much in our industrial development which could not otherwise have been.

The demand for our manufactures. Thus we have had the natural resources, the opportunity to move products about freely, a quality of population able to adapt itself to new situations — especially through its inventiveness — and also markets for what-ever we could make. When we had little but forests, these were in demand in the countries with which we came most into contact — England, the West Indies, Southern Europe (England being always ready to buy our naval timber and stores). But a word more remains to be said about our population.

American progressiveness. We have said that America was long a frontier society. That meant, among other things which we have mentioned, that the colonists here were enabled to bring over what they chose of the European system and also to reject whatever there was in that system that did not appeal to them. Since many of the settlers migrated because they were dissatisfied at home, they readily left behind them the ideas that had irritated them. The whole situation, as we have seen, was calculated to make them independent and fond of doing their own thinking in their own way, and they fell into a national habit of striking out on new paths. We entered, therefore, upon our industrial course unfettered by the old order of things and with a tendency to seek out and adopt the best and quickest ways.

American adaptability. In the European countries the development was, so to speak, step by step and reluctant. People had become accustomed for generations to fixed methods of work, in which they had developed a high degree of skill, and they would not readily abandon them in favor of new ones. In Europe it was natural for the artisan class to resist the introduction of machinery into those trades by which it lived and so hand processes of manufacture persisted side by side with machine methods, whereas in the United States the machine easily usurped the whole field. For in this country the artisan showed no " inherited and intuitive adherence to old-fashioned methods," but a tendency, rather, to abandon hand processes and take up machine methods. The frontier society advances by longer strides, covering in a few hundreds of years at most the distance from the raw and crude to the civilized and polished. Likewise the laboring classes here have illustrated a marked mobility of labor unknown in other parts of the world and for this reason it is possible to attract to almost any region of the country the skilled labor necessary to develop any branch of industry. Consequently, when there were enough people here so that a factory system could be developed at all, it appeared promptly, and there was no great wrench in the life of society or of the laborers.

Independence of American labor. Also it must not be forgotten that in America there were no cut-and-dried social distinctions. In parts of Europe a son was almost or quite sure to follow his father's profession ; he was expected to do so, and not to try to thrust his head up among his betters. But here there was little to prevent a man from roving about from one occupation to another ; the traditional character of the "Yankee" is that of a nasal-voiced, wood-whittling person who refuses to be surprised at anything and who can set his hand to any job that turns up. Something of this character has been impressed upon the nation.

Civil liberty. And, finally, the influence of our form of government, with its ideals of freedom and equal opportunity for all men, has not alone allowed those who were here to live out their lives under a liberty greater than men have ever enjoyed before, but it has attracted to us men and women with mind and heart enough to appreciate and want such liberty. Our free government, unhampered business organization, highly developed educational system, and social system in general have all contributed to our industrial successes. Men living under such conditions develop hope and confidence ; they succeed, and then push forward again with renewed energy—for "nothing succeeds like success." American industrial pioneers have learned to dare greatly.

Importance of these social virtues. We have laid considerable stress upon these personal and social advantages enjoyed by our population, both here and in a preceding chapter on " The Human Element," because we believe that the common practice of referring American successes to natural resources, with comparatively little said about the quality and state of mind of the people, represents a decidedly narrow or careless outlook upon our situation. It is the men as well as the things that must be counted in if one is to get a clear idea of American industrial development.

Factors determining localization. Having viewed some of the broad, general reasons for American industrial growth, a question now emerges. Granted that the conditions of land and population made such industrial development inevitable, why are the centers of industry in general, and of this and that industry in particular, located as they are, and not otherwise ? To this question the " Report on Manufactures " in the Twelfth Census gives an answer which will serve as a good basis for our study. The reasons why a manufacturing industry is situated in one place rather than another are stated to be as follows : (1) nearness to materials ; (2) nearness to markets; (3) presence of water power; (4) a favor-able climate ; (5) a good supply of labor ; (6) presence of capital available for investment ; (7) the momentum of an early start. The first six of these items combine to limit broadly the area within which it is economically possible to develop an industry ; but, as the last item indicates, the exact place within this area where the industry takes root is very often determined by the influence of some pioneer whose personal interests have caused him to fix upon some special spot. Then if it chances that such an industry is successful, it soon gains a momentum strong enough to enable it to continue in the original locality, sometimes for a long period after the advantages which it once possessed have disappeared. We shall now take up briefly the seven items just mentioned as determining the localization of an industry and, in particular, of a manufactory.

Nearness to materials. This item, as well as most of the rest, requires nothing but illustration to make it clear. The paper industry developed near the spruce and poplar forests; the tanning industry near the tanbark and other tanning materials ; slaughtering and meat-packing developed near the stock-raising centers ; agricultural implements were manufactured near the hardwood forests and the iron-producing centers ; the glass industry located near its fuel — natural gas in particular ; the iron industry sticks to the coal region. Now if one could by magic transfer heavy bodies instantaneously from place to place, this item and the next one would disappear from our list —a munition manufacturer would not remain the year round in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but would take his business to the Maine coast or the White Mountains during the hotter months. The fact is that both these items mean saving of transportation costs, and the cheaper and swifter the transportation, the less powerful are these conditions of localization.

Nearness to markets. The market for products is found where men are—there is little market for anything in the Desert of Sahara. If one notes in the Census Atlas the movement of the center of population for the country, since about the middle of the last century, let us say, he has already noted thereby the general movement of the center of manufactures. A large percentage of the manufacturing of this country is carried on in states of dense population, such as New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Ohio these five states contain about one third of the population of the United States and produce about half, on the basis of value of our manufactured products.

Water power. This is the one powerful force in nature which can be employed in man's operations almost directly — as compared, for example, with heat and electricity. It is not necessary to transport water power, and so the manufacturer with it at his disposal has an important advantage over the one who uses coal. Before the days of steam the influence of available water power for the localization of manufactures was still more decided ; and this early impetus, combined with other forces, has tended to hold such industries in their original locations, even when steam as a source of power has become more important than water. New England had numerous rapid rivers, so that water power gave this section, especially in earlier times, an advantage in securing manufacturing eminence. The location of plants along the well-known " fall line " has been referred to in a preceding chapter.

Favorable climate. Where the climate is too warm the work-man sacrifices efficiency ; and the same is true of the other extreme, in addition to the fact that costs for heating have to be incurred. Much sunlight, again, saves illumination. The influence of a moist climate, with temperature fairly even throughout the day, was a factor favoring New Bedford and Fall River for the cotton-spinning industry. Recently investigations have been made concerning the influence of climatic and weather conditions upon labor efficiency, and it is found that extremes either of heat or cold tend to lessen the efficiency of factory operatives. When competition shall have become keener, reducing margins of profits within narrower limits, it may well be found that the factor of climate is much more significant for industry than we have hitherto imagined. Man is always an animal, made of flesh and blood, and it is not to be expected that he can emancipate himself from the influence of this factor, so powerful over all animal life.

Labor supply. Manufactures are made for men, not men for manufactures ; but without the men in sufficient numbers there are no manufactures. The virtual coincidence of the center of population and the center of manufactures, of which we have spoken, is due also to the dependence of industry upon workmen. An industry requiring thousands of laborers in a single plant cannot exist in a sparsely settled region. American labor is mobile, as we have pointed out, but not indefinitely so. The labor draws the industry, as well as the industry the labor. Manufactures regularly are established in sections where there is a good supply of labor near at hand. Here is where the New England towns have had a great advantage. They were surrounded by farms which had reached the point of exhaustion and could employ only a small number of the young men and women. The surplus labor moved naturally to the towns, and the early development of manufacturing was thereby favored. For a similar reason no extensive manufacturing plants can be located in those parts of the West where the additions to population are absorbed for the most part in a still incompletely developed agriculture.

Different industries in different sections. The result, in a big country like this, is that different sections are likely to specialize in different industries, thus supplementing one another ; and the fact that this is the case, plus the fact of interior freedom of trade, furnishes yet another good reason for our general preeminence in industrial lines. Nor must the copious stream of immigration into the United States be left out of account as contributing powerfully to our labor supply, and so to our manufacturing supremacy; but the immigrants tend to settle in the northern and eastern sections of the country, and so to influence the localization in these sections of plants demanding a large labor force ; that is, the large manufacturing plants.

Supply of capital. Much capital is required for the building of factories and the setting up of machinery. The day of the single owner or of the limited ownership of industrial plants has gone ; it needs the combined capital of many men to establish and operate a modern factory. But locally owned capital has always been an important factor in the development of American industries. Now some of the largest enterprises are financed from big financial centers remote from the place where the plant is located ; but many of the smaller concerns, and almost all of the earlier ones from which the contemporary industries have developed, have been financed by people on the ground. For example, a good deal of capital was set free in New Bedford by the decline of the whaling industry, and this was utilized, in good part, about the middle of the nineteenth century, for the establishment of cotton manufacture. A Siamese prince may now own shares in a New Bedford cotton mill, but the mill is in New Bedford because originally it was New Bedford people who put their money into it. Southern cotton mills also have been financed in large part with the capital of local townspeople.

Knowledge of local conditions. In many instances capital has been raised outside, but even so it can be obtained more easily after the men on the spot have expressed their confidence in the undertaking by investing in it themselves. People like to have good evidence as to the nature of the enterprise into which they are putting their capital, and there is no evidence so reliable as personal knowledge of the character of the material prospects and of the men who are to do the directing ; and these you get by close acquaintance with both.

The momentum of an early start. This point is closely connected with the last one. Let the conditions be good and let the local people put up the capital, and presently the industry gathers such headway that it is hard to overtake. The preceding factors explain the localization of industries within certain broad areas, but they ordinarily fail to account for the marked concentration of certain industries within a single town or city. As we have remarked, it was often the personal reason, or lack of reason, of the pioneer in the industry in question that did the business, he chanced to be in a certain place, not obviously unfitted for a certain industry, when he conceived the idea of starting it. Many industries continue where they were established, even though there are dozens of other localities where the product could now be made with equal, or even superior, advantage. We propose to illustrate this factor of the early start at some length ; it looks like chance, for it is not easy to penetrate into the circumstances that led the pioneer to make his start where he did ; in any case, there were miscellaneous reasons in the minds of many pioneers — too miscellaneous, perhaps, to classify.

Boots and shoes at Lynn. The boot and shoe industry of Lynn, Massachusetts, is a case in point. A certain skilled shoemaker chanced to settle in Lynn. He made better shoes than his competitors, and ended by making the boot and shoe industry of the town. Lynn was famous for its shoes as early as 1764 ; but had this man settled in Dedham rather than Lynn, the former town would probably occupy to-day the high position in this industry actually held by the latter.

Collars and cuffs at Troy. Take, again, the manufacture of collars and cuffs, an industry which shows the greatest concentration of any in the country. Troy, New York, manufactures about 90 per cent of all the men's collars and cuffs made . in the United States. Now it was nearly a hundred years ago that the making of collars started in Troy. At that time it was the fashion to make the shirts with collars attached, and the manufacture of separate collars was a novel departure. It is said that a retired clergyman of Troy, who owned a small dry-goods store, conceived the idea of making and selling the separate collars ; his wife and daughters made them by hand and starched and ironed them on the kitchen table. These collars sold as fast as they could be made ; and it was not long before the manufacture of separate collars and, later, of cuffs — and then of shirts as well — became an important local business.

Firearms in Connecticut. Connecticut is preeminent among our states in the manufacture of firearms and ammunition. Here, again, there was an early start, for Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, was one of the earliest makers of firearms, beginning his operations in Whitneyville early in the last century. In 1814 pistols were being made in Middletown, and before the middle of the century Samuel Colt, another inventor of firearms, had built factories in Hartford costing half a million dollars. In this state various other arms and munitions were being made in large quantities before the Civil War, and it has continued to pre-serve its advantage. At the time of the Spanish War, and again in the Great War of our day, it has been supposed by some nervous people that an enemy would certainly strain every point to make a successful assault upon Bridgeport or New Haven. There is no particular reason for such localization of the manufacture of arms and munitions except that they started early and met with success.

Other cases of specialization. Further illustrations of concentration of industries reveal the operation of several of the factors instanced above, in addition to that of an early start. In a recent Census of Manufactures of the United States fifty industries were selected to illustrate this concentration in varying degrees.

Thus, 86 per cent of the artificial flowers and plumes were being made in New York State ; 63 per cent, on the basis of value, of the automobile product was contributed by Michigan ; Massachusetts still continued to produce close to half of the boots and shoes of the country ; Connecticut made over 40 per cent of the brass, bronze, and copper products ; New York and Pennsylvania, taken together, manufactured over 70 per cent of the carpets and rugs ; New York, about 70 per cent of the fur goods, leather gloves, and mittens ; Pennsylvania and Ohio, together, about 70 per cent, on the basis of value, of the output of blast furnaces, steel works, and rolling-mills ; Pennsylvania and New Jersey, over 60 per cent of our silk goods ; Illinois, about 30 per cent of the product of slaughtering and meat-packing ; .and Louisiana and Texas, together, nearly 90 per cent, on the basis of value, of the rice-cleaning and rice-polishing industry.

Specialization by cities. With respect to the concentration of industries in particular cities, it may be said that according to a recent investigation Detroit, Michigan, was making over 25 per cent, on the basis of value, of the automobiles of the country ; Philadelphia, 30 per cent of the carpets and rugs ; New York City, a third of the men's ready-made clothing, over 70 per cent of the women's clothing, and nearly the same percentage of fur goods ; Gloversville, New York, a third of the gloves and mittens ; Paterson, New Jersey, one fifth of the silk goods ; Chicago, a quarter of the slaughtering and meat-packing products. Some of these cases can be briefly accounted for. The manufacture of ready-made clothing is concentrated in New York City largely because of the abundant supply of cheap immigrant labor that settles or is stranded there, because New York is an important port of entry for the materials used, and because New York received the impetus of an early start, the industry beginning there about 183o. And, again, hosiery and knit goods were manufactured in Philadelphia as early as 1698, and in Cohoes, New York, in 1832. The early start of Philadelphia was due to the immigration and settlement of a large number of skilled hand-knitters from Europe, while Cohoes received a strong stimulus in 1832 from the local invention and application of the first power knitting-machine in the world.

It is hardly worth while to pursue this topic of the localization of industries any further here ; we have now the general reasons and some examples of the special ones. Whatever else is needful for an adequate understanding of the subject will appear as we survey the several manufacturing industries by themselves.

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