United States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce.

Consular reports, Issues 196-199 online

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Italian factories turn out very fair work, but they are lacking in several
important elements: First, the material used in construction ; second, lack
of necessary capital ; third, the want of confidence on the part of the buyer.
The material used comes in the main from abroad; hence an increase in
cost, due to transportation and customs duty.

With the exception of one or two principal factories, there is great scarcity
of capital, and, in consequence, it is extremely diflftcult to start a large, well-
equipped factory and keep it in running order.

Finally, there seems to be a want of faith on the part of the people here
in supporting a national industry of this sort, owing to the fact that the pro-
duction of such establishments is extremely variable, and the name of a
manufactory does not always guaranty the quality of the work produced.
Then, too, the bicycle being an object placed in the category of luxuries,
and used almost exclusively for amusement, the purchasers, in the main, are
more prone to invest in a foreign article than in one produced in their own
country, for the same reason that a fashionable woman prefers to have her
gowns made in Paris rather than in Italy.

In the matter of price, the Italian machine ranges from J70 to ^100. The
Italian machine compares favorably with that made abroad. It may be noted,
however, that it is slightly heavier (from 4 to 6 pounds) than the English
bicycle. At the same time, it must be remembered that the Italian peninsula
is, in large part, mountainous, and for general use here it is not a disadvan-
tage to employ a machine slightly heavier and more solidly constructed

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than those destined to be used in cities and level country. It may be roughly
stated that about four-fifths of the bicycles used in Italy are of foreign make,
being chiefly English or German, the former excelling in finish and the latter
being superior in strength and solidity. The prices of these machines range
from JI60 to $130, the general opinion among wheelmen, however, being
that a good machine can not be had for less than JI90.

The prospect for opening up a large export trade to this place in Ameri-
can bicycles is, in my opinion, most favorable, for the following principal
reasons : First, bicycling here is in its first stages, and it is destined to in-
crease enormously in the future ; second, almost any novelty placed upon
the Italian market, if well and judiciously advertised, stands every chance of
being a pronounced success, the field being unexplored, because as yet no
American house has made any vigorous effort to introduce successfully its
products; third, the bicycle being, as before mentioned, rather an article of
luxury than of necessity, the cycling class seems hardly satisfied with the
European product, and much prefer using machines of American make.

The only obstacle at present worthy of notice to the successful intro-
duction of the American bicycle is its high cost. Were it not for the fact
that it is the highest-priced machine in the market, there is no question
but that it would be universally adopted to the exclusion of all others. Then,
too, American houses often retard rather than advance their chances for ex-
tending the trade by an injudicious selection of their Italian agents, in the
choice of whom the utmost care should be exercised, in order to avoid select-
ing men of incompetency and no knowledge of commercial matters and
whose financial standing in the community in which they live is not satis-

As yet, in Italy, women have not taken very enthusiastically to bicycling,
but the interest taken by them in this district is daily increasing, especially
those who aspire to a position in the fashionable world, as it seems to be
considered quite the proper thing and in excellent "form" for a woman of
a "smart set** to be an expert bicyclist. With Italian women in general,
there seems to be a strong, deep-seated, traditional prejudice against all
forms of athletic sports, and it will be some time before that prejudice can
be done away with ; but it is undoubtedly a fact that the bicycle has been
a most active agent in encouraging them to abandon such prejudices and to
take up athletic sports in the interests of their physical well-being as well as
for their diversion. It may be stated approximately that at present, in Italy,
only 5 per cent of the people using bicycles are women.

I would suggest for the Italian trade that three different classes of bicycles
be made — first, a machine very highly finished, with nickeled and gilded
mountings, something which should be very showy and which would retail
for not more than 600 francs ($1 15.80) ; second, a good machine, less elab-
orate, but well finished, that would sell for not more than 450 francs ($86.85) ;
third, a simple but strong machine, what might be called a popular type, that
could be purchased for 300 francs ($57.90). These prices, of course, being
the retail cost here in Italy.

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To diminish the expenses of the custom-house duties it would be a good
plan to establish a workshop in northern Italy for putting the parts together,
or mounting the bicycle, as it is called here, its component parts being
shipped unmounted from the United States. This suggestion, I think, is
well worth the consideration of our manufacturers, as by sending the ma-
chines over unmounted, the customs duty is reduced to a minimum. Skilled
labor, it may be added, costs, comparatively speaking, about one-fourth of
what it does with us.

It would be well to open a general agency in Milan, the commercial
capital of Italy, where active and energetic agents could be found acquainted
with the American methods of doing business, and subagencies in the various
cities and towns throughout the Kingdom.

These agencies and subagencies might be obliged by contract to buy a
stated number of bicycles yearly, the number being proportionate in a meas-
ure to the inhabitants of the place — that is, in the principal cities and larger
towns. In the smaller country villages, very good agents could be found
among the municipal secretaries and teachers of the communal schools who,
as a rule, are enthusiastic cyclists. For the promise of a bicycle for a given
number of sales effected, they would be very ready to act as agents.

The sending out of a traveling inspector would be highly advantageous,
a man who could be presented in the various clubs, who could become ac-
quainted with journalists, and who would go about the country stopping at
the principal centers of cycling, becojne acquainted with those chiefly inter-
ested in the sport, organize bicycle jaunts, and exercise his ingenuity in every
way that would tend to keep up a lively interest in the sport. It would re-
quire rather a judicious selection to hit on just the right man, who ought to
be a person of good education and more or less reputation in the sporting
world, and it would be well to leave to him the appointing of the great
majority of agents and the general management of more important advertis-
ing. It would be highly desirable to allow a large commission to dealers
selling bicycles here and to advertise on a large scale, a thing which, as yet,
has not been done in Italy, and to offer special facilities to the members of
the two large clubs — the Touring Club and the Unione Velocipedistica.

With the bicycles it would be well to adopt the same plan which has
worked so successfully in the case of the sewing machines — that is, selling
on credit and allowing the purchaser to pay in weekly installments.

I am firmly convinced that if the suggestions offered are carried out, and
the appointment of agents of ability and energy is made, and widespread
but judicious advertising is undertaken, the exports of American bicycles in
this district can be largely increased. No more auspicious moment than the
present could be chosen. The people are ready for the American bicycle;
the only thing that will prevent its universal use is its price, and our manu-
facturers who are seeking to develop an export trade must be ready to reduce
their profit on the individual machine.

I would also further suggest that all advertising matter in the shape of
books or pamphlets be printed in the Italian language, or at least in French,

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because, as I have had frequent occasion to remark in reply to letters from
individual firms, the sending over of advertising matter in the English
language is a sheer waste of time and money.

As to the method of payment, it is altogether out of the question to
demand that purchasers here send cash with the order. No commercial
house in Italy transacts its business in that way and those desiring to intro-
duce their merchandise into Italy must show a disposition to conform in a
measure to the commercial usages and customs of the country.

It has been suggested to me that American houses should make a deposit
of their wares here, each article to be paid for upon its being sold, which
method, it seems to me, might prove satisfactory, as there could be various
plans invented for guarantying the deposit and preventing frauds in the case of
unscrupulous dealers. This disposition to abide by the commercial laws and
customs of the country and to study the wants of the buyers is the element
which goes far toward giving that large amount of success which the German
exporter enjoys in comparison with his American rival, and until our people
adopt a similar plan, the advantage will always remain with their competitors.

It is incumbent upon me to acknowledge with thanks the valuable assist-
ance of Mr. Ernest Jesurum in preparing the foregoing. This gentleman is
consul at Venice of the Italian Touring Club, and those desiring to develop
their trade in this district might find it advantageous to correspond with him.


Venice, December ^p, i8g6. Consul,


Despite the very favorable concessions made to Russian petroleum in the
German-Russian commercial treaty of 1891, the signing of which was one
of the first official acts of Count Caprivi, and notwithstanding the later re-
ductions of railroad freight for the same interest, Russian petroleum exporters
in Germany have as yet not been able to claim any great success in their
contest with the Standard Oil Company of the United Stales, although the
fact exists that in 1895 ^^^ sale of Russian petroleum in Germany had some-
what increased and that, too, at the expense of American importations for
the same year. However, the current year shows a considerable decline in
the quantities of Russian petroleum consumed. The importations of petr9-
leum from the United States and Russia into Germany during the last three
years are shown by the following quotations of quantities:



UnhcTslares.l^^-R - -

Double c'wts*^ Double cw/s.*


7» 574, 139
7» 492, 577


* X double cwt.M2ao.46 pounds.

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In the first nine months of 1896, 288,843 double cwts. of petroleum have
come into Germany from Russia, against 333,694 double cwts. in the same
space of time during 1895, ^ compared with 4,642,842 double cwts., against
4,476,268 double cwts. from the United States, in the same periods of time.
As the largest importations of petroleum occur in the three months of Octo-
ber, November, and December, no exact conclusion can be reached from
the quoted quantities as above given. Still, the fact is most evident that
notwithstanding the efforts of Russian exporters and their German agents to
advance the sale of Russian petroleum and gain the German market, and
considering that the Russian product is considerably cheaper than the Ameri-
can, the Russian exporting dealers find the road to success in establishing a
great demand for their petroleum a most difficult problem. Their failure
may be traced to a comparison of their own barnacle-like methods of intro-
ducing the Russian oil among consumers with the push and enterprise of the
Standard Oil Company's management, which keeps an army of agents in
Germany, constantly alert and active, who not only interview and make
arrangements with wholesale firms, but also with retailers, in the face
of certain granted advantages to sell only the American product. There-
fore, in view of this reality, representatives of the Russian Government at
Bremen and Hamburg, in accordance with suggestions to them from Germans
interested, advise the Russian petroleum exporters to make similar and im-
mediate plans for promoting the sale of Russian petroleum in Germany.
Otherwise, instead of the much-sought- for greater market, their interests are
in danger of decrease.

The preference shown in Germany for American petroleum may in part
be explained by the circumstance of the superiority of the lamp oil burner,
which is especially constructed for the use of American petroleum and gives
forth a very excellent, clear flame, aided as well by the large quantity of
carbon contained in the American oil and its ready tendency to absorption
in the wick; whereas the Russian lamp burner is narrow necked and can be
used only for Russian oil, the very confined wick emitting a rather weak,
unsatisfactory flame.

The Russian Government deputies have also made the suggestion to Rus-
sian exporters that care be exercised by them to see that lamp burners more
suitable for Russian petroleum be procured and brought into the market,
and, if necessary, an increased sale invited by making some sacrifices in
their introduction ; perhaps selling for half cost price would bring as a reward
in compensation a great increase in demand for Russian petroleum, and thus
make competition brisk for the American product. Our American agents
will therefore have to continue alert and active, keeping a shrewd insight
into affairs. This is why such good results in the past have been effected in
international trade, and as an outcome, American exports have increased.
It is really to this character of work and the well-organized forces and the
individuals engaged that will be due, in a great measure, the future success
of transatlantic enterprises. It would be well if other American manufac-

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turers with large foreign interests would emulate and adopt the same active
business methods. Their efforts would be amply rewarded by greater ulti-
mate success and increased financial gain.

Glauchau, December 4y i8g6. Consul,


When, a few years ago, electric lighting was shown to be a technical and
economic possibility, many well-informed persons predicted that, as the use
of electricity increased, the consumption of gas and petroleum for lighting
purposes would proportionately diminish, and the ultimate ruin of gas in-
terests, especially in the larger cities, was confidently foretold. Neither of
these results has been realized, or now seems likely to be, at least in Ger-

The prophets of a dozen years ago could not, of course, foresee the
improvements that would soon be made through the use of incandescent
burners, nor the wide adoption of gas and petroleum engines and the greatly
extended employment of gas for warming and culinary purposes. From of-
ficial statistics, it appears that the consumption of gas in Germany during
the year 1895 aggregated 733,000,000 cubic meters (25,884,900,000 cubic
feet), for the production of which 2,750,000 tons of coal were employed.
The number of gaslights in use was 5,734,672, the number of gas motors was
15,644, aggregating 52,000 horsepower, while the 180 electrical-lighting
plants in the Empire supplied 950,000 lights of an average power of 16 can-
dles each.

All the more important gas companies show a marked increase in prod-
uct. The Frankfort City Company, for instance, made last year 5,600,000
cubic meters of gas, against 4,000,000 cubic meters in 1885, and the Berlin
City Gas Company, 103,913,000 meters, against 74,337,000 meters per an-
num ten years ago, while the English Gas Company at Berlin shows a pro-
portionate increase of product, notwithstanding the fact that electric lighting
was begun on a practical basis in Berlin about the year 1885 and has reached
a large development there.

All this might be ascribed to the rapid growth of the principal German
cities and the tendency of the people to forsake the villages and smaller
towns, where petroleum is mainly used for lighting purposes; but, on the
other hand, the increased consumption of petroleum has been not less
marked and steady during the same period. For instance, the imports of
petroleum from 1866 to 1870 averaged annually about 70,436 tons, or, reck-
oning 7 barrels per ton, 493,052 barrels. From 1876 to 1880, the average
annual import had risen to 235,280 tons, and from 1886 to 1890, 556,887

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tons. During the period since 1890, the import of petroleum by years has
been as follows:




Tons. Barreis.
675* 525 I 4,628.696
743.433 I 5,204,031
765,100 5,355.700
785,109 5,495, 7«4
8n,o55 5,677,406

During all this period, the product of native petroleum from the wells in
Silesia has shown a steady, although relatively unimportant^ growth, having
risen from 1,309 tons in 1880 to 15,620 tons in 1895.

Notwithstanding every effort of the importers, backed by the favorable
influence of both the German and Russian governments, to increase the
importation and use of Russian petroleum in this country, the American oil
completely dominates the German market and, to all appearances, will con-
tinue to do so. A comparison of the imports of American and Russian
petroleum into Germany during the past four years presents the following


From United


From Russia.


325, i9«

There is, perhaps, no more brilliant chapter in the record of mechanical
progress than that which records the successive inventions by which the
efficiency of gas motors has been raised, step by step, to the high economic
standard which rules to-day. The first recorded tests in this field were made
by Tresca in March, 1871, who, with the primitive Lenoir motor, the first
of the so-called ** internal-combustion " engines that was applied to actual
work, found that its efficiency, with a combustion of 96 cubic feet of gas,
was but 0.04 per cent. In our day, there are hundreds of gas engines which,
with a consumption of 16 to 18 feet of gas per horsepower hour, yield a
mechanical efficiency of 80 to 85 per cent, thus equaling steam engines of
the very highest and most perfected type.

In the block stations of the City Electrical Works at Frankfort, there are
now at work two single-cylinder gas engines of 35 horsepower each, built by
Gebriider Korting, near Hanover. These machines have been subjected to
the most exhaustive tests for the purpose of establishing the latest and highest
standard of efficiency upon which to base comparisons, with the result that
the gas consumption per horsepower hour is as low as 17.23 cubic feet with
gas at 64° F. and 16.81 feet with gas at freezing point (32*^ F.).

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In addition to their greater economy in fuel, as compared with steam
engines, these motors have the important advantages of occupying small
space; direct coupling, with elimination of belts and gearing; smaller cir-
cumferential speed of armatures; the avoidance of feed -water apparatus; coal
storage, with its dirt and smoke ; and the greater general readiness of the
whole plant for any emergency which may arise from the varying require-
ments of currents produced.

In a country where every detail of engineering and mechanics is so care-
fully studied as in Germany, especially in all that relates to the economy of
service, it is certainly of the highest significance that, in electric lighting,
the best German experts now give their unqualified verdict in favor of the
** block system'* — that is, to small independent stations, worked by gas en-
gines, instead of large central stations, with dynamos driven by steam.


Frankfort, November 2^ i8g6. Consul- General,


Of vast importance to enterprising America in promoting her textile in-
dustries is the example of rapid progress made in recent years by Germany
in pattern drawing and designing. France has long borne the palm of su-
perior merit in these particular branches, leading the world unrivaled for
years and years back; but Germany's rapid strides of late years bid fair to
make her in the near future a most formidable rival of France in designing
and pattern drawing for textile fabrics. It would seem that America, with
all the spirit of alertness, activity, and practical inclination which character-
izes her people, has been slow in adapting a system of art which is such an
important feature in the demands of her great and ever-growing industries.
Thirty years ago, it is said, designers or pattern sketchers were almost un-
known in the German Empire. Since then, branching out from the German
technical schools, whose excellent systems of instruction are everywhere rec-
ognized and conceded to be superior in qualifying pupils for all kinds of
professions or trades, pattern drawing has been pursued with most satisfac-
tory results to the present day. Of late years, the rush of young men to
this branch of art designing and pattern drawing as a profession has extraor-
dinarily increased. In the Royal Industrial Art School at Plauen, in Vogt-
land, which city is the main center of the embroidery and curtain industry,
about two hundred young apprentices in designing annually finish their
course. There are other large schools established in various parts of Ger-
many, the principal ones being situated at Dresden, Berlin, and Crefeld.

Three ways are open to every young man desiring to attain an education
in pattern drawing and designing, viz: He can either bind himself for a cer-
tain length of time as apprentice to an independent designer, who sells his
pupils* sketches at discretion to manufacturers; or he enters the workshop of a

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manufacturer, who places the apprentice in charge of one of his draftsmen
until the apprentice becomes a full-fledged designer, when he gains promo-
tion according to his own ability and originality of idea ; and, lastly, a young
applicant having means may attend one of the academies of fine arts estab-
lished by the State, where the highest proficiency is to be obtained. Here,
pupils are thoroughly qualified according to the methods of the best teachers,
whose instructions are most effectively and systematically carried out.

Of late, city communities have also spent large sums of money in estab-
lishing schools for pattern drawing. At the Academy of Fine Arts in Bar-
men a department for the education of designers is about to be established
by the State, and a prominent expert designer from Saxony, well skilled in
the education of draftsmen for the textile trade, has been especially engaged
as principal teacher of the school. This is what is needed in America —
schools adapted to the local wants of American industries; schools which
are modern and which offer collections always accessible to apprentices and
young designers ; and schools not only attaining academic prominence, but
also keeping pace with the demands of art at the present time. It was prin-
cipally those magnificent schools, collections, and State workshops which
the far-seeing Colbert established in the seventeenth century in France, and
which are now distributed all over that country and abundantly sustained,
that have brought the French textile industry up to its present unrivaled stand-
ard of excellence. Pattern drawings from the Lyons Academy of Design,
in their superior and artistic idea of the language of forms and flower design-
ing, have taken first place among all designs, and have, by their beauty of
conception and originality, largely influenced for years, everywhere, pattern

Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 196-199 → online text (page 47 of 82)