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

Consular reports, Issues 188-191 online

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German works, not only blast furnaces and Bessemer establishments, but
sheet and wire mills, of the very latest types and constructed so as to work
at a minimum cost for labor. Most of the large German and Belgian iron
and steel companies have complete engineering plants of their own, which
are supported largely by work done for outside parties, and are thus enabled
to make all needed appliances and repairs at prices far below the rates
charged by independent contractors.

Nothing seems to have been more surprising — and, it might be added,
discouraging — to the commission than the enormous advantages which they
found their continental rivals enjoy in respect to the low cost of railway
transportation, both for ore and coal and for their finished products, from
the mills to shipping ports. In Westphalia, for example, they found a large
steel-making establishment paying 82 cents per ton for hauling its product
to the wharves at Antwerp, a distance of 150 miles. This is about one-third
the cost of similar freights from the Staffordshire district to London, a dis-
tance of 1 13 miles. All this is in addition to the fact that much of the work
of transporting coal, ore, iron, and steel is done in Germany by the Rhine,
the Moselle, and numerous canals, on which the rates are even lower than
those by rail, so that in respect to transportation, the advantages of the



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208 GERMAN VS. BRITISH IRON AND STEEL MANUFACTURE.

continental operators are not only decisive, but appear likely to be perma-
nent.

Another feature of the German iron industry which especially impressed
the commission was the admirable discipline which is maintained among the
workmen, the quiet, machine-like steadiness and regularity with which their
duties are performed. The reix>rt says:

Each man worked as if he were a piece of machinery fitted into its proper place, which
did exactly the right thing at the proper moment, because it could not do otherwise.

This result is attributed to three causes — natural temperament, the fact
that nearly every German workman has served in the army and has learned
there the lesson of implicit, unquestioning obedience, and, finally, the far-
reaching and intelligent supervision exercised by the Government over all
the relations between employers and employed and the complete protection
which is thereby secured to the laborer in all his rights as an employee and
citizen.

Superintendents and foremen in German iron mills, even the head men
of working gangs, are in most cases men who have been prepared for their
work by sj^ecial scientific and technical education, and the result is not only
efficient and economical management, but a cordial and sympathetic relation
between managers and their operatives. At some of the works, special
schools are conducted during evenings, at which the head engineer and his
assistants give lessons to the younger workingmen in drawing, designing
machinery, all the engineering processes incident to the construction and
repair of works, and' the chemistry of iron and steel manufacture. To the
degree that a man is educated, he generally becomes tractable and self-respect-
ing, and when such instruction is supplemented, as is often the case, by a
two-years' course of study in a technical college at the cost of the employer,
the young man is prepared for, and morally bound to, a career of loyal, in-
telligent service.

Another important discovery, as recorded in the report of the commis-
sion, is the extent to which industrial operations and the promotion of export
trade in Germany are under control of syndicates or associations of manu-
facturers, which regulate the output in their special branches, control and
maintain prices, and systematically work together to secure a steady and prof-
itable outlet for their products. There are powerful syndicates of coal
operators, coke makers, pig-iron producers, and many others, and one which
is of especial interest in this connection, known as the Syndicate of Engi-
neering Works and Metallurgical Establishments, which, although only 4
years old, includes seventy-three different works, has a working capital of
$125,000, and has established permanent exhibitions of the products of its
members at all the principal ix>rts of the Mediterranean, and is now working
up Central and South America. It has the active assistance of German
consuls wherever its operations extend, and is said to have increased its sales
200 per cent during the year 1894. By means of this systematic combina-
tion, the German iron and steel makers are enabled to wield a powerful,



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CHEMICAL INDUSTRY IN GERMANY. 209

concentrated infltience on que^ions of transportation, legislation^ etc., and —
what is of far greater importance — maintain high and uniform prices in the
home market, and thus enable its members to sell in foreign markets at
prices which even England finds it difficult to meet. There are thus two prices
for nearlj every article manufactured in Germany — the selling price for home
consumption and the selling price for export — and the former is uniformly
the higher of the two. As the report of the commission states it, *' the
syndicates do not appear to unduly raise prices, but they take good care to
secure higher rates from home than from foreign buyers," and this, as has
been often remarked, is a kind of enterprise against which the exporters of
other nations, struggling to gain or maintain a footing in the markets of the
South and East, find it very difficult to compete.

Summing up the whole case, therefore, in the light of the commission's
report, it would appear that the German iron and steel workers enjoy certain
distinct advantages over those of Great Britain, and among these are desig-
nated, principally, more disciplined labor, highly educated and competent
management, harmonious cohesion between operators and assiduous success
in the cultivation of foreign markets, low royalty rates, a protected home
market, and, above all^ far cheaper inland transportation.

May there not be in all this some lessons, especially that relating to the
systematic cultivation of foreign trade, which our American iron and steel
workers, so richly endowed with natural resources and so masterful and pro-
gressive in their own special field, can well afford to study and utilize?

FRANK H. MASON,

Consul' GeneraL

Frankfort, February //, t8g6.



CHEMICAL INDUSTRY IN GERMANY.

In the great chemical industry, the tendency of manufacturers to guard
themselves, by combinations or '* trusts," against the general fall in prices
has made further progress. Nevertheless, in some articles — sulphate, soda,
and sulphuric acid, for instance — there was a heavy decline and proportion-
ate losses. Chloride of lime, also, was affected by the new process of pro-
duction. Trade in heavy chemicals with Russia recommenced under great
difficulties, England having taken possession of the market. **The German
chemical industry," it is said, "would welcome with great heartiness further
commercia^ treaties, provided the German import duties had not thereby to
be reduced." Trade with the silver countries remains difficult, but with the
United States is reviving, and fairly developing with Australia and New
Zealand. The output of artificial manures was large and is steadily increas-
ing.

It is estimated that in Germany in general, the soil is given but one-
seventh to one-tenth of the fertilization which a rational system demands.
The reason is the very unsatisfactory condition of German agriculture, and
No. 189 4.



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2IO HOW MINERAL WOOL IS MADE.

for what artificial manures the farmers buy, they exact very long terms of
credit. On the other hand, thanks to the extreme cheapness of raw mate-
rials, the manures can be produced at very small cost.

Coal tar was in active demand, and the price was resolutely maintained,
and even raised toward the end of the year. Anthracene held its position,
but with sluggish sale. For aniline colors, 1894 was a good year. New
connections were opened and the Russian treaty realized expectations, but
the silver hindrance caused exports to India and China to decrease. Several
of the coal-tar color factories are now giving their attention to the produc-
tion of medicines.

Carbolic acid fluid and crystal were dull, with declining tendency. Lu-
bricating oils were in steady demand, but varnish manufacturers suffered
greatly by the high price of shellac.

H. F. MERRITT,

Consul,
Barmen, Noifember 2J, i8g^.



THE WIRE-NAIL INDUSTRY OF GERMANY.

The German wire-nail industry in Rhenish- Prussia, Westphalia, and Sile-
sia has experienced such an extraordinary development in the last fifteen
years that, besides supplying the enormously increased home demand, the
export has increased 250 per cent. There is hardly another article of the
German iron industry which can show an equal increase in its export figures.
According to official statistics, the wire-nail export increased from 82^^ tons
in 1880 to 282 tons in 1894. The value of the exports during the fifteen
years amounted to about $25, 000,000. The principal markets are England
and Japan, which took nearly one-half of last year's export. Argentina and
Chile are the most important buyers among the American countries.

H. F. MERRITT,

Consul.

Barmen, November 2j, iSgj.



HOW MINERAL WOOL IS MADE.

Of those who know mineral wool, or silicate cotton, as it is sometimes
called, probably only a small number are familiar with the simple process by
which it is made.

The wool itself, serving a variety of useful purposes, as a nonconducting
covering against heat and cold alike for steam pipes and cold -storage- room
walls, as a sound deadener in floors of buildings, and as a means of fireproof-
ing, is, as its name implies, a soft and wooly substance, consisting of a mass
of very fine mineral fibers interlacing one another in every direction, and
thus forming an endless nqmb^r of minute air cells.



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INDUSTRIAL USE OF LIQUID AIR. 211

The wool appears on the market in a variety of colors, principally white,
but often yellow or gray, and occasionally quite dark, and is made by con-
verting scoriae and certain rocks, while in a molten state, into a fibrous con-
dition by a steam blast directed against the liquid material. Blast-furnace
slag forms the raw material for one variety of the wool and sandstone for
another, yielding, respectively, slag wool and rock wool, the latter being
preferable for pipe covering, because of the absence of sulphur, which, with
moisture present, becomes an active corroding agent.

The furnace slag or the rock, as the case may be, is melted in a large
cupola, and as it trickles out at the tap hole in a somewhat sluggish stream
it meets a high-pressure steam jet which atomizes the woolen material, if it
may be so termed, blowing it in fleecy clouds into the storage room pro-
vided for it. Soft and downy, the stuff settles wherever a resting-place offei-s
itself, the heavier wool coming down first, while the lighter portions are
blown further along by the force of the steam and settle in the more distant
parts of the room. The material thus naturally grades itself into varieties
of different qualities.

A thousand pounds of wool per hour are turned out by one of the cupo-
las, and after the storage room has been blown full, the flocculent mass is
pushed into bags, ready for the market. The whole process affords an ad-
mirable and interesting illustration of the utilization of a formerly waste
product.

H. F. MERRim,

Consul,
Barmen, November 2jy iSgs-



INDUSTRIAL USE OF LIQUID AIR.

An interesting illustration of the rapidity with which purely scientific
discoveries frequently become the starting points of new industries is fur-
nished by the case of liquid air. It is not a long time since liquid air was
produced for the first time in quantities great enough to admit of its ap-
plication for purposes of research; yet steps are already being taken to
treat liquid air as an article of commerce and to turn it out upon a large
scale.

As in most cases of the kind, laboratory methods require modification
to suit the needs of wholesale production. Patents are being taken out for
machinery which, though constructed upon the principles of that used for pur-
poses of research, will attain the desired end with greater directness and
with the omission of several intermediate steps. The necessary reduction of
temperature to the critical point of air has hitherto been effected by the suc-
cessive employment of liquefied gases boiling at lower and lower points on
the scale. But the final decrement of heat has been won by the cooling
effect due to the rapid evaporation of the product itself. The new apparatus



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212 INDUSTRIAL USE OF LIQUID AIR.

dispenses with the use of these intermediate cooling agents and relies en-
tirely upon initial compression by powerful engines and subsequent partial
expansion of the compressed air under carefully regulated conditions.

Most people probably have seen, at one time or another, the familiar
lecture-room experiment of forcing a piston suddenly down a cylinder and
showing the ignition of a scrap of touch-paper by the heat thus produced.
If, while the compression is maintained, the cylinder and its contained air
be cooled to the original temperature, then, on suddenly withdrawing the
piston and allowing the air to regain its original volume, there will be a fall
of temperature corresponding to the rise on compression. If, now, the cooled
air could be used to reduce the temperature of a second quantity of air before
expansion, it is evident that, starting from a lower point than the first batch,
the second would, on expansion, reach a lower point. This is the principle
of the new liquid-air apparatus.

A powerful engine compresses air, which is cooled, as far as possible, by
ordinary refrigerating methods and passed into a spirally coiled pipe over
I GO yards long. This pipe is inclosed in a second spiral. By means of a
throttle valve at the end of the inner spiral, a certain proportion of the com-
pressed air is allowed to expand in the space between it and the outer pipe.
Thus, the stream of compressed air from the pump is cooled by that portion
which has been allowed to expand, and arrives at the throttle valve in a colder
state than the portion that preceded it. Consequently, it reaches a still lower
temi:>erature on expansion, cooling yet more powerfully the advancing stream
in the inner tube. By carrying this cumulative cooling effect sufficiently far,
the circulating air is at last brought down to its critical point and liquefies,
after which a continuous stream of liquid air is merely a question of engine
power.

It is impossible, without the aid of diagrams, to explain clearly how the
continuity of the process is maintained, but the cycle of operations can be
readily apprehended. There is compression, expansion in a closed chamber,
and utilization of the cold thus produced to repeat the cycle from a lower
initial temperature.

The inventor, Herr Linde, who is a man of great experience in refriger-
ating machinery and methods, believes that a large demand will shortly arise
for this most powerful of all refrigerators. In the meantime, his apparatus
produces with the greatest ease a substance for which there is already a large
industrial demand — oxygen gas. During the process just described, the air
becomes steadily richer in oxygen until that gas forms some 70 per cent of
the product. This relatively pure oxygen is sufficiently good for certain pur-
poses, and it may be further purified from nitrogen if desired. The price
of oxygen gas thus obtained compares favorably in respect of cost with that
[)roduced by the methods now in use.

It would have been gratifying to have been able to announce that this
commercial application of recent scientific ideas had been made in the
United States, but, unfortunately, in this, as in so many other cases, it has



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THE INDIA-RUBBER INDUSTRY. 213

been "made in Germany," where there is at present a very high standard
of technical knowledge.

It is obvious from what has been said that this process is an affair of
engineering far more than of chemistry. This remark applies to many
of the most important and lucrative manufacturing processes of the day,
and engineering chemistry, or chemical engineering, is just one of the things
in which the Germans excel.

H. F. MERRITT,

Consul,

Barmen, November 2j, iSqs-



THE INDIA-RUBBER INDUSTRY.

The world's consumption of india rubber has been growing so enormously
during the past few years that the time does not seem to be far distant when
the demand will greatly exceed the supply. Already the difficulty of getting
a sufficient quantity of rubber to meet the current needs has led consumers
to fear that there will be an early famine. One of the chief causes of this
heavy increase in consumption is, of course, the employment of the material
in the bic ycle trad e, and long before the limit has been reached in this direc-
tion, sCirothSTTTeld, that may be quite as wide and general, is being opened
up in the use of pneumatic t ires upo n vehicles ojjiU desmptions.

The United ^aSs^isl he largest consumer of india rubber at the present
moment, but that country is followed pretty closely by Great Britain. The
other markets follow a long way behind, but the quantity imported by France
and Germany is a no mean proportion of the trade done in this material.

It is certain that the threatened famine in india rubber, or, more properly
speaking, caoutcl^ ouc. would not be so imminent as it is if the owners of the
plantations in West Africa and elsewhere had been a little less reckless in
their method of tapping the trees. In order to more easily get at the milky
juice, it has long been the custom in West Africa and in some of the South
American states to cut down the trees bodily, so that the collectors only
secured one lot of caoutchouc from each tree instead of a large number of
periodical yields. The prevalent idea that this policy was justified by the
almost unlimited range of forests producing caoutchouc was very soon found
to be groundless, and, now that it is too late for them to have any immediate
effect upon the supply, stringent regulations have been made to prevent the
cutting down of trees in many countries, and owners are going to a great
deal of expense in laying out new plantations, which must take several years to
come to maturity. In the meantime, efforts are being made to compensate
for these limited supplies by producing artificial india rubber, and several I
new processes have lately been brought out in France and Germany, though '
without, as yet, producing india rubber of a suitable quality upon a commer-
cial scale.



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2 14 THE INDIA-RUBBER INDUSTRY.

The most obvious way of meeting the demand for this material is to give
more attention to some of the other rubber-producing trees that are to be
found in considerable quantities in South America and elsewhere. At the
present moment, French capitalists are trying to make profit out of the
scarcity of india rubber by utilizing the balata, which, for many years past,
has been employed upon a small scale for a variety of purposes.

There are at least two descriptions of balata, one white and the other red,
the latter being known in the English colonies as the "bullet tree," a cor-
ruption, no doubt, of the native word ''bolletrie.'* The species being ex-
ploited in French Guiana is the Mimusops balata, a magnificent tree which
is peculiar to all the Guianas. It attains a height of from 90 to 100 feet.
The wood is very much sought after for cabinetmaking, on account of its
beautiful color, while it has also the property of resisting the depredations
of insects. These merits are almost fatal to the existence of the tree as a
rubber producer, and in some of the South American states, forests are being
cut down without any regard to the profit that can be secured by tapping
them in an intelligent manner. In Venezuela, the tree is also to be found
in great abundance, and, in point of fact, it grows very freely in the moun-
tainous districts of the northern states of South America. Nevertheless, in
British Guiana, immense forests are found in the low-lying districts of swampy
Canje.

In a report on the balatas, published recently by M. Hayes, a coloniz-
ing agent, it was said that there was a sufficient expanse of forest in the
Guianas to allow of the exploitation of rubber being carried on for centu-
ries. It was, however, necessary that something should be done to prevent
the wholesale destruction of the Mimxisops balata, which would very soon
disappear if allowed to be cut down indiscriminately for its wood, and one
of the richest and most prolific resources of South America would thus be
destroyed. In fact, both in Venezuela and Dutch Guiana, the trees are cut
down with a view to collecting as much of the juice as possible, and in French
(iuiana, the same process was, for a long time, employed. When the trees
are thus felled, circular cuts are made every 12 inches, and receptacles are
placed underneath to catch the juice. The bark is also removed from the
tree and juice extracted from it by presses.

In British Guiana, it is only permissible to tap the trees without felling
them, and a similar restriction is now imposed in the neighboring French
colony. The English method of collecting the rubber is to make horizontal
incisions halfway round the tree and connect them with a vertical channel
to allow of the fluid flowing down into the receptacle ; but a better method
is said to consist in cutting out rectangular pieces of bark, from which the
juice is extracted by presses. Alternate rectangles must, of course, be left
on the trunk, and these can be removed at the next tapping, when the ex-
posed parts of the tree are sufficiently healed. To secure perfect vitality in
the tree, it is preferable to tap it only over a third of its circumference every
five years.



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THE INDIA-RUBBER INDUSTRY. 215

If properly carried out, the collection of balata rubbgr is a very profit-
able industry. One traveler in French Guiana, who was accompanied by
three men, collected 666 liters of juice in one hundred and nineteen days,
which produced, on coagulation, 720 pounds of rubber. Had the men
been able to give their time exclusively to the collection of rubber, there
is no doubt that the production would have been doubled or tripled. It is
estimated that a single balata will supply 2 pounds of rubber every year
without suffering, to any appreciable extent, from the tapping.

The system usually employed for securing coagulation is to pour the
liquid into large, shallow pans about 4 inches deep. A hard crust very soon
forms at the surface, and this is removed to allow of another crust forming,
and so on until the whole of the juice is solidified. The crusts are then
hung on lines to dry.

The balata rubber, though perhaps slightly inferior to caoutchouc for
certain purposes, and notably as an insulating medium, is yet specially adapted
for a great many uses, such as machinery belting, mackintoshes, surgical
appliances, etc., and its merits are so far recognized that a considerable trade
has grown up during the past two or three years in the Guianas. While the
exports of balata rubber from British Guiana in 1881 were only 41,000
pounds, they were no less than 363,480 pounds in 1889, and though the
total fell in 1892-93 to 237,450 pounds, the value has been rapidly increas-
ing and for the two years named was J 100,000.

In Dutch Guiana, the industry has not been carried on in such a system-
atic manner. Nevertheless, two American companies are exploiting the
balata on a large scale and are sending the product to the United States.

That the industry can be made a very profitable one is seen in the price
paid for the rubber, which varies, in Paris, from 3 to 8 francs (57 cents to
ji.54) per kilogram (2.2046 pounds), according to quality. It is evident,
therefore, that while industrial enterprise is lying under a cloud in South
America, it may be to the interest of capitalists to turn these balata resources
to account, the more so as rubber is one of those things that are not likely to
suffer depreciation to such an extent as to make production un remunerative.

In this connection, a few notes are added to show the condition of Ger-



Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 188-191 → online text (page 30 of 102)