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

Consular reports, Issues 196-199 online

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undersell them.

They think they are abundantly protected from us in the iron and steel
trade by their blast furnaces, which, they claim, are at all times prepared to
fill any orders promptly and cheaply, but they nevertheless say that should
the time ever come when the American can favorably compete with their
blast furnaces and their steel trade, he (the American) would immediately,
through formation of trusts and rings, keep up the prices, and that the Gov-
ernment would have to come to the rescue of the German or home industries.

They do not seem to be at all alarmed at the present state of affairs, but
acknowledge that a change may come at any time and that it is none too

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soon to look forward to the ways and means to grapple with it when the lime
does come. They claim that the American manufacturers have one great
advantage over them, and that is that the Americans do not have to pay any
accident insurance premiums, hospital dues, etc., which come out of their
pockets, whereas in America, the workman has to stand these costs himself
or do without. Of course, they say nothing about the difference in the
wages paid in America and Germany, the difference in the cost of produc-
tion, or the expense of sending our products over here.

As I have said time and time again, the only way to get the German trade
is to have the goods here and men to sell and push them. There will be
little trouble in getting the trade ; the difficulty will be in preventing them
from throwing such obstacles in the way that will prevent our holding it after

we once have it.


Mayence, February 4, iSgj, Consul.


For six months or more, steel has been imported from the United States
into Wales for use in the tin-plate trade, and much interest has been aroused
in the newspapers devoted to the iron and steel trade. Last week, the first
large shipment was made into this, the distinctively metal district of Eng-
land. As showing the effect which this new course of trade is likely to have
on the iron and steel business here, I send editorial articles published in the
Birmingham Daily Post of January 21 and 22, and also a letter from the cur-
rent issue of the same paper, giving a chemical analysis to show the quality
of the steel sent from the United States.


Birmingham, January 2^, jSgy. Consul.

[From the Birmingham Daily Post, January 21, 1897.]

The announcement made by the New York correspondent of the Standard that 1,600
tons of steel billets are on their way from Philadelphia to this country for delivery in Hirmirig-
ham is an unpleasant reminder for our English steel producers that there is a limit to the ex-
pansion of prices, and that values, like water, soon find their level all the world over. Now,
in this country, for some time past, prices of iron and steel, as well as of other commodities,
have been steadily rising, under the influence mainly of improved demand; but in the United
States the reverse process has been witnessed, owing to the widespread commercial depression,
traceable largely to currency causes. The result is that the United States has not only ceased
to offer a market of any value for our iron and steel manufactures, but is actually invading
our home markets with American-made iron and steel. There is nothing new, of course, in
the importation of American pig iron, which can be produced now at prices with which Eng-
lish and Scotch smelters can not pretend to compete, but it is crrtainly a new departure for
American-made steel billets to be selling for delivery in the English Midlands. The particular
consigDmeot referred to by the Standard correspondent, we believe, is in execution of grders^

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placed by local consumers with American agents a couple of months ago, and the price, de-
livered in Birmingham and Wolverhampton, we understand, is about jf 4 5s. per ton, or fully
los. under the English minimum. A large proportion of the present consignment is said to
have been bought on account of a leading local sheet-rolling firm for conversion into sheets
for galvanizing purposes. Considerable orders for American-made pig iron, for delivery in
Manchester, were placed al)out the same time at about 47s. to 48s. per ton, which, allowing
for freight, etc., would mean only 32s. to 33s. at the furnaces. Against such prices, it seems
hopeless for English smelters to attempt to contend, under present economic conditions; but
we have yet to learn if the trade is a bona fide one, and if a continuance of supplies at these
low rates can be safely reckoned upon. The Iron Age, the principal organ of the trade in
the United .Stales, would have us believe that the American steel invasion of Europe has
come to stay. Steel billets, we are told, can be profitably made at Pittsburg at 55s. and bes-
semer i)ig at 31s. 3d. per ton, these low prices being due not so much to the temporary depres-
sion of lal>or and materials as to the richness and abundance of the ores available and the
superiority of American manufacturing appliances. Thus, the Carnegie Company, who have
now the command of the rich Mesaba iron-ore deposits, are producing at their new Duquesne
furnaces as much as 610 tons each of standard bessemer pig daily, at a cost of only 1,600
pounds of coke to the ton, instead of 2,cxx) to 2,200 pounds, as in this country. Thus, in this
item alone, there is a saving of from 400 to 600 pounds of coke per ton. Two new furnaces,
moreover, which are approaching completion are estimated to turn out 1,000 tons of pig each
every twenty-four hours, or at the rate of 6,000 tons per week, when a further substantial
reduction in the fuel consumption may be looked for. The Carnegie Company, we are told,
is bent on conquering the markets of the whole world, and they have certainly been exporting
lately enormous quantities of billets, rails, and other materials; but as a commercial concern,
we presume the company is not prepared to trade at a loss, and in the event of any material
lowering of the standard of values in foreign markets, or any considerable increase in the
cost of material or labor in the United States, these exports would promptly cease. The
revival of business in the United Stales is already lifting the cost of production in the States,
and if English steel manufacturers could see their way to cheapen production on this side by
the adoption of American plant and processes, there would be little to apprehend in the futme
from American competition. For the moment, however, it must be admitted that in certain
lines we are beaten by our American competitors; or, in other words, that the upward naove-
ment of prices has reached, if it has not passed, the limit of safety.

[From the Birmingham Daily Post, January 22, 1897.]

The information we were enabled to give yesterday with regard to the importation of
American iron and sieel into this country appears to have provoked a good deal of comment
among the ironmasters and steel producers present at the weekly meeting of the trade in Bir-
mingham. To many of them the figures evidently came as a surprise, for the business is
at present confined to comparatively few channels; but whatever its real extent, we gather
that the prevailing oj^nion among those best qualified to speak on the subject is that the trade
is not likely to prove of an abidirtg character, because it is only under exceptional circum-
stances that it can pay American producers to deliver their metals here at the low prices
needed to compete with English makers. Without disputing this opinion, we think it well to
jx>int out that the exceptional conditions which have made these imports possible have lasted
now for several months, and there is no indication yet that they are passing away. Ever since
October la^t, consignments of American pig iron, chiefly from Alabama, have been arriving
freely in this country, and agents of American firms, we understand, are still soliciting orders
for l>oth pig iron and steel at very tempting prices. In a recent issue, the Iron Age expressed
its conviction that the export trade in American hematite pig was now established on a per-
manent basis, remarking that sales on a considerable scale were made during the past month

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on the basis of 47s. to 48s. per ion, delivered in Manchester. The export trade in steel rails,
it admitted, might not be permanent, although contracts for some 50,000 tons have been lately
booked for China and Japan, and the Carnegie Steel Company is said to be exporting thousands
of tons of billets, rails, and other materials every week. In explanation of this remarkable
trade development, ihe Iron Age explained that, under the new and improved conditions of
manufacture, bessemerpig could be produced at 31s. 3d. per ton and steel billets at 55s., or
al)out J!^2 per ton under the minimum selling price in this country. If these estimates are
well founded, it is obvious that no very exceptional market conditions are needed to enable
American iron and steel producers to wage a serious competition with English makers even
in this country, and that the American steel invasion, therefore, may have a longer life in store
for it than casual observers might suppose. Under present conditions, at all events, it is
abundantly manifest that in certain lines the Americans can compete with us successfully, if
they choose ; and they will doubtless elect to do so unless or until ihey can find a better
market for their products nearer home. In other words, the continuance of American com-
petition in iron and steel in this country def)ends largely upon the future of the American
home trade. If a market can be found in the States for the metallurgical products of Pennsyl-
vania and Alabama, the exports from those States will <|uickly dry up. Otherwise, our man-
ufacturers roust be prepared to find that American iron has come to stay.

It would be a mistake, however, to suppose from this invasion of English markets by
American ironmasters that the latter are beating us in the race for trade or in the magnitude
of their production. Up to a year ago they were well ahead of us, their output of pig iron
in 1895 totaling 9,446,308 tons, as compared with 7,895,675 tons in this country. Since these
statistics were got out, however, there has been a remarkable change in the economic and
industrial conditions of the two countries, and, as we were able to show some six months ago,
during the first half of 1896 the relative positions of the two countries as iron producers were
completely reversed. The official statistics for the second half of 1S96 are not yet procurable
in either country; but, according to the estimates of exports, based upon the number of
furnaces in blast, the production of pig iron in this country last year was not less than 8,750,-
000 tons — nearly one-third more than in 1892, and probably 10 per cent more than the total
output of the United States during 1896. During the same period the pig-iron output for
Germany is estimated at 5,800,000 tons; but Germany is a large consumer of English pig,
and the yield of the German blast furnaces, therefore, is no criterion of the iron and steel pro-
duction of the country. There can be little doubt, however, that in 1896 the United King-
dom fully recovered its lost supremacy as an iron producing country, and the only question
is, whether Germany or the United States is entitled to the second place. There is this dif-
ference in the two cases, however, that while the trade is steadily and even rapidly progressive
in Germany, the American iron trade since 1895 has been decidedly on the decline. This is
one of the risks inseparable from a trade which is dependent upon a single market. Germany,
like England, caters for all the world; but, under the high protective system favored by the
Americans, they have practically only their own home market to depend upon, and when that
is bad, as it has l)een throughout the past year, they must curtail their production severely or
seek an outlet for it in foreign markets at any price that will cover cost. This is no d( ubt
the secret of the recent great development of American iron exports. Production has, indeed,
been enormously reduced in the United States, but it is still apparently too large for absorp-
tion at home, and the American ironmasters have consequently been driven to find a market
for their products in England and other European countries, where the trade improvement
has lifted prices sufficiently to aflbrd an opening for American iron. Such competition is
doubtless exceptional, but it is nevertheless serious while it lasts, and it bids fair to last some
time. If the trade were being done at a loss, as some of our ironmasters seem to imagine, it
would not be of very long duration; but it has been going on now almost uninterruptedly for
the past three or four months, and its proportions are increasing. Only a few days ago we
published a cablegram from Philadelphia, annoimcing that negotiations were in progress
there for the sale of 20,000 tons of billets to European buyers on the basis of ^^3 15s. per ton

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delivered in this country, a price which is estimated to leave a fair margin of profit, even after
cost of handling and transport and middlemen's charges are deducted.

The continued prosperity of the British iron trade would seem to show that in good times
there is room in our markets for American as well as English iron; but it would be a fatal
mistake for English ironmasters to acciuisce in that state of things without making a determined
attempt to expel the intruder. The economical conditions of the trade are doubtless more
favorable in the Southern United States than they are in this country ; but against the cheap-
ness and abundance of coal and iron in Alabama we may fairly put the heavy cost of trans-
port by rail and sea to this country, and if the Americans still undersell us in our own markets
it must be because they have improved upon our processes and found some cheaper way of
making iron than is known to our ironmasters. Something of this kind is plainly indicated
by the figures we gave yesterday with reference to the yield of the new furnaces lately con-
structed by the Carnegie Company at Duquesne. One of these furnaces, we are told, has
produced an average of 6io tons of l)cssemer pig daily over a considerable period, and the
coke consumption per ton is only 1, 600 pounds, instead of 2,000 to 2,220 pounds, as in this
country. It is im|X)ssible to deny the value of this saving of 600 pounds of coke in every
ton of iron, and if such an economy is possible at Pittsbur % we fail to understand why it
might not be effected in Cleveland or Staffordshire. In addressing the Manchester Associa-
tion of Engineers the other day, Mr. Joseph Nasmith, the new president, made some very
pertinent remarks upon the importance of improvements in our iron-working processes, and
pointed to the enormous reduction which had taken place in the cost of steel rails as a con-
se(iue nee of the improved methods introduced a few years ago. Even pig iron, he pointed
out, has followed the same law, improved appliances having diminished the price by leading
to an increased output without increasing the charge for labor. In this direction, the enter-
prise or ingenuity of American smelters would seem now to have surpassed that of their
English comi)etilors, and it is for the latter to look round them and recover their lost ground
before it is too late. That the American competition in this country will long survive the
present trade depression in the United States we do not believe, but it is neither prudent nor
dignified for British ironmasters to be dependent u|K)n the tactics or opportunities of their
trade competitors, and even in times like these it ought not to be possible for steel and iron
producers in the United States to send their manufactures many thousands of miles to this
country at prices which defy British competition. That anomalous state of things would
seem to indicate either that our prices and profits arc excessive, which we do not believe, or
that there are cheaper methods of producing iron and steel than those which are generally
adopted in this country; and that is a matter which it behooves our manufacturers to look
into for themselves very seriously.

[Fn>m the Piirmingham Daily Post, January' a^, 1897.]

To (he Editor of thr Daily Post.

Sir: Referring to your recent paragraph on the large importations of American steel to
the Midlands, it will, I think, interest many of your readers to learn that its composition, if
the samples submitted to me are an average, is distinctly different to that of the bulk of Eng-
lish steel intended for similar purposes. Two specimens were sent to me for examination
some six weeks ago from South Wales, where American steel has been received before it
came to the Midlands, in which I found the following compositions:

Per ccBi. Per cent.

Carbon o. 135 0.18

I'hosphorus o. 11 o.I

Manganese 0.31 0.21

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The steels were supplied for tin-plate making, and I was informed by the users that their
working was in every way excellent. In nine cases out of ten, users of soft steel would say
that such material would be harder than is desirable for such work.

Such differences are very interesting, and this fact and the importance of the matter are
my reasons for giving these details, which, though not of common interest, may certainly

interest many of your technical readers.

jj" Paradise street, Birmingham.


"Quantity, large; quality, poor,'' are words heard every day when speak-
ing of the wine crop of the Rhine and vicinity for 1896. The mild weather
of the latter part of the year 1895 continued for the first months of the year
1896 and was very beneficial to the vines. The work in the vineyards com-
menced early, and seldom has it been the case that the vineyards could be kept
in such perfect condition, owing to the favorable weather. By the end of
March, the vines had all been trimmed and looked healthy, strong, and full
of sap. The sprouts were a little backward until the 1st of April, but the
warm rains soon brought them out in full force and strength, and better
prospects were seldom, if ever, seen for a most magnificent vintage. In
consequence of the fine quality of the cuttings or sets, a grejat many new
vineyards were started and the loss of vines in the old vineyards, caused by
the severe cold of the last few winters, was repaired. Though the weather
was somewhat unsettled in April, the vines made good progress. The much-
feared cold nights, so often experienced at that time of the year, did not
make their appearance, and though the weather in May was far from be-
ing satisfactory, the prospects in June were splendid — the vines were as
heavy with grapes as could possibly be expected. Heavy rains were followed
by very hot weather until the first days in July, when we had some cooler
weather, but it was again followed by a hot spell which advanced the quality
and general appearance of the grapes. Only in a few places was there any
appearance of disease; the peronospora showed in a few places, but was
quickly done away with. In August, came the unfavorable weather. August
is called by wine growers, the "cooking month," being always the hottest
month, but this year it was just the contrary ; it was rainy and cool and the
nights were really cold, so much so that the grapes did not ripen at all.
The quantity of grapes on the vines being so large, the vines should have
had very hot weather up to October, but we had so much rain and cloudy
and cool weather that the grapes began to rot and a disease (o'ldium) made
its appearance. In all parts of the wine-growing districts, a very large crop
was gathered and almost everywhere it amounted to what is called a "full
crop** in quantity, but the quality is very poor and the hopes the wine
growers entertained in the spring and early summer were by no means

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The product of the 1896 crop was in some places and districts equal to
the vintage of 1894; in some few places, a little better, but the exceptions
were few. The average results are what is called a ''small wine,*' which
has to be very carefully treated. It is a very light wine and useful to the
trade, as light and cheap wine has been very scarce in the past few years.
As before mentioned, the "new wine" must be very carefully treated, as so
many of the grapes began to rot in the early autumn and this will seriously
affect the quality. Even the early grapes gave very poor results. In Rhine-
Hesse, the sweet wines, the Friihburgunder and Portugiesex must, weighed
only from 56** to 72° Oechsle's wine measurement, with from 10 to 13^ per
cent acidity. The must of selected grapes in the lower districts weighed
only from 54° to 65® Oechsle, and in better parts 65° to 85°, with from 7
to II to 14 per cent acidity; in the Rhinegau (Asmanshausen), red grapes
weighed from 80° to 90** Oechsle, with 10 to 11 per cent acidity; in the
Middle Rhine districts, the Friihburgunder weighed from 68^ to 75° Oechsle,
with 854 to gj4 per cent acidity. The vintage of the Portugieser in the
Haardt district was finished about the ist of October and the results were
more than satisfactory as to quantity, but the quality, as everywhere, was
poor, the average weight being from 60° to 75** Oechsle.

The weather at the commencement of the vintage was bad and continued
to grow worse, so much so that the crop of grapes had to be gathered much
earlier than usual, but there was no use holding off, as the grapes could not
ripen and the longer they were left on the vines the worse the rot got into
them. Not for years has there been anything like such a large crop, but it
is the same story in all districts — quantity enormous, but quality poor. The
wine growers had the greatest difficulty in getting casks enough to hold
their wine.

On the Mosel, in some places, a little better result was shown and the
must weighed in the best districts from 55° to 85° Oechsle, with from 9 to
15 per cent acidity; on the Nahe, the average weight was from 55® to 70**
Oechsle, with 9 to 12 per cent acidity. The results in the Haardt district,
in the Palatinate, were pretty much the same — quantity very satisfactory, but
quality poor; the average weight of the must was from 55° to 85** Oechsle
and from 7 to 12 per cent acidity.

The 1896 wine will be a very light and a very cheap wine. Of course, a
great deal of sugar will have to be used to make it palatable. A general
estimate of the quantity of the wine crops for the last four years from the
Rhine and adjoining districts is as follows :


1896 130,000,000

1895 39,630,000

1894 74,610,000

1893 100,396,000

Mayence, January 26, iSgy, Consul,

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The pasi season will be long remembered in this country as the first in
which the American apple has invaded the markets of Germany in such
quantities as to reach all classes of dealers and consumers and demonstrate
beyond dispute its superiority over the native fruit in juiciness, flavor, and
adaptability to all purposes of the kitchen and table. The Pomological
Monthly, usually a good authority, is credited with the astonishing statement
that during the past season 6,000,000 double centners of American apples —
more than twenty times the import of any previous year — have been landed
at German ports, and this fact is made the text of an earnest appeal to Ger-
man communes and landowners to begin at once the planting and grafting
of apple trees.

While the figures above cited are an obvious overestimate, the fact
remains that the importation of American apples has been altogether unpre-
cedented, and the results have been, on the whole, satisfactory and promis-
ing for the future. Some of this success has been ,due, of course, to the
conjunction of a profuse and excellent apple crop in the United States with
a short and generally inferior yield, due to a cold, wet summer and autumn,
in Europe, which circumstance has enabled importers to sell American apples

Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 196-199 → online text (page 57 of 82)