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

Consular reports, Issues 188-191 online

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perhaps as well as any recent event, how industries are revolutionized in a
brief time and how much care and study must be given in these days in
order to keep pace with new demands on the part of the public. It is also
interesting as showing how nearly allied speculation and business of the
most legitimate character may sometimes be.



Birmingham, May S, i8g6.

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[From the Birmingham Daily Post, May 7, 1896.]

In connection with the prevailing "boom" in the cycle trade, there is one department
perhaps more remarkable in its development and experiences than any other. We refer to
the manufacture of the weldless steel tubes, of which the framework of the modem cycle is
now universally constructed. The production of these tubes took its rise in Birmingham,
and at the present time is a very large and daily increasing local industry. Attempts to
produce weldless steel tubes by a drawing process, principally for rifle barrels, were made up-
wards of thirty years ago, and that the idea was practicable was demonstrated by the firm of
Christophe, Hawkesworth & Harding, of London and Paris, who laid down hydraulic ma-
chinery and supplied a considerable quantity of tubing both for nfle barrels and engineering
purposes. The process was, however, a costly and difficult one, and before it could reach its
modem developments it awaited some important improvements, both in respect of the draw-
ing appliances and the manipulation of the ingot from which the tube is produced. Among
■ the earliest inventors who addressed themselves to overcoming the difficulties incidental to the
drawing of weldless steel tulje was Mr. W. C. Stiff, of Birmingham, by whom, in associa-
tion with Mr. F. H. Lloyd, of Wednesbury, and afterwards with Mr. C. Faulkener, of Bir-
mingham, a number of improvements was effected, and an increasing business done in weldless
tube for engineering purposes. Mr. Stiff dissolved partnership with Messrs. Lloyd and
Faulkener in 1872, under conditions which precluded him from engaging in the business for
ten years. His mind, however, had been working upon the subject, and, at the termination
of the prohibited period, he took it up again in a practical way, and started the Credenda
Weldless Tube Company, which soon became widely known for the success of its processes,
and for a series of years was a financial success. It was at this time that weldless steel tube
began to be employed for the backbone and fork of the older type of bicycles and for the
framework of tricycles. Among the manufacturers so employing it were the Pope Manufac-
turing Company, of the United States, who supplied to Thomas Stevens the "Columbia"
bicycle upon which he made his memorable trip round the world. This machine had its
backbone and fork of Credenda tube, and on the completion of his journey Mr. Stevens wrote
to Mr. StifT testifying to the rigidity and faultlessness of these parts, and the perfect manner
in which they had stood the severe strain to which they had been put. Other machines
proved equally good, and the weldless tube came into very general use for the best build of
cycles. The great demand, however, arose when the "safety" type of Wcycle came into
vogue, the diamond frame requiring the use of a greater length of tubing and necessitating
that this should be as light as possible.

There are variations in the appliances for producing a cold-drawn steel tube, but the
principle of all is practically the same. Only a very high class of steel is suitable for the pur-
pose, and that hitherto employed has been chiefly Swedish charcoal steel containing a par-
ticular proportion of carbon. The steel is taken in the form of a billet 2 feet long and about
6 inches in diameter. A hole is bored through the center and it is heated, annealed, and
rolled into the form of a tube about i|^inches in diameter, and with a wall of about 10 gauge
in thickness. This is then drawn through a die and over a mandril by means of a draw-
bench, until a length of about 800 feet of tubing is produced, beautifully smooth and bright
lx)th within and without. This is not all drawn at once, but in a number of operations, and
between each of them the undrawn metal has to be repickled and reannealed to obviate the
crystallization to which the drawing process tends to give rise. The first drawings of the tube
are about three-eighths of an inch thick, but the thickness gradually decreases until a tube is
produced of which the wall is of the thickness of stout writing paper. This is the class of
tube that is employed in cycle making and that imparts to the machine those qualities
of strength and rigidity which seem out of all proportion to its exceeding lightness. A
good deal of technical skill is needed in the proper treatment of the metal, and there i£ great
danger of producing waste in the way of flawed tube, unless great care is taken in this

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respect; otherwise, the process is not a costly one. The essential features of the process not
being protected by patent, other firms followed in the wake of the Cr^denda Tube Company,
and as the new form of cycle came into favor tubes for its construction were produced not
only in this country, but abroad.

At the time that tubing of the character just described came into extended use and com-
petition began to be felt, the customary discount was 25 per cent off the list prices, and by
degrees it went up to 45 per cent. The year 1894, as our readers may remember, was an
unfortunate one for the cycle trade. The home demand had previously shown signs of
waning, and upon the back of this came a complete collapse of the American market through
the financial i>anic in the United States. The cycle season of 1894 was the worst there had
been for years, and the cycle and tube makers had their full share of the unpleasant experi-
ences of the manufacturers who used the commodity they produced. The discounts from
the list, already high, went up to 75 and even to 77^ per cent — a price at which tubes could
not be made at a profit. As a result, the Credenda Tube Company came out with a loss of
;f 8,000 in 1894, and, in 1895, with a further loss of ;f 13,000, while other public and private
concerns fared as badly. The lowness of prices had the result of bringing practically the
whole of the cycle-tube trade to this country, but this result was attended by a most remark-
able sequel. The American cycle makers, knowing that this stale of things could not be
permanent, and that there were already signs of improvement on their side of the Atlantic,
sent their agents over to Great Britain about February, 1895, and placed forward contracts for
practically the whole of the English output at the exceptionally low prices then prevailing.
Those contracts are still running, and are largely of an unremunerative character, hi the
season of 1894-95 the American cycle manufacturers built about four hundred thousand
machines; Init it is estimated that in the current season of 1895-96, ending July next, their
make will amount to a million, or even more, machines, and for about two-thirds of these
English steel tubing is lieing used.

The next incident is the revival of trade in this country following upon the last general
election, and quite a reawakening of the cycle industry through the rush of lady cyclists and
patronage of the wheel by members of the royal family. Owing, however, to the cute pro-
ceeding of the Yankees, the English cycle manufacturers have been at their wit's end for
steel tube. They had got all their other " components " in abundant supply, but no tube.
To use a familiar expression, they could not get their tube " for love or money." Some of
the tube-producing houses had, indeed, overestimated their producing power, and were being
uncomfortably pressed by those to whom they were already under engagement. Here and
there, however, and at some risk, tube makers spared a small quantity of tubing for the home
manufacturer, but at an exceptionally high price. With the view particularly of meeting the
home demand, tube companies have lately been springing up like mushrooms. Old and un-
remunerative concerns have been refloated with a degree of success that, to say the least,
must have astonished .some of those responsible for them. Among the companies that have
been formed since October last may be mentioned the British Seamless Company, Smeth-
wick; the Star Tube Company, Birmingham; the Rose Tube Company, Hales Owen; the
Cycle Manufacturers' Tube Company, Coventry; the Concentric Tube Company, Birming-
ham ; Brotherton's Tube Company, Wolverhampton ; the Reliance Company ; and the Per-
fccta Company, announced to-day, while others are in course of formation.

Shares in some of these companies have changed hands during the last week or two at
quite sensational prices. A great part of the capital subscribed is now being expended in the
laying down of plant with all speed, and ere long the tightness of the tube market will give
place to an ample supply of the needed commodity. It is not easy to forecast the prospects
of the cycle industry. There is doubtless room for considerable expansion, but the proba-
bility is that overproduction will be the result attained at no remote date, and with it the dis-
appointment of many of the sanguine hopes that are cherished by investors at the present

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I transmit herewith the drawing of a bicycle which has been invented in
Geneva, and which is to be exhibited at the Swiss National Exposition. It
is claimed for this machine that the position which the rider occupies upon
it is not only infinitely easier, but that by means of the support for the back,
his forces are far more effectively utilized and with considerably less fatigue.


His position, as shown by the drawing, is held to be the normal position of
a man in a sitting position, and the bicycle is therefore called " La Bicyclette
Normale." The inventor says in his prospectus:

The principle of the machine is the utilization of the considerable amount of force, very
little known, which is afTorded by a point of support. Without this jwint of support, the only
force a man has is his own weight. On the other hand, if the back be well supported, he has
in each leg a force more than treble his own weight, and which is, in fact, equal to the weight
he is capable of carrying combined with that of his own Ixxiy. The construction of the
"Normal Hicycle" is intended to make use of this considerable amount of wasted force.
The jxjint of support is the back of the seat, by means of which the cyclist's lx>dy is thrown
back and his legs lifted up, owing to the position of the pedals. The body is thus placed in
a "normal" ix)sturc (hence the name of the machine) — he is upright or leaning slightly l>ack-
wards. The "Normal Bicycle" presents the advantages of greater safety, perfect comfort,
healthy position, a greater power over the machine, greater speed, both uphill and on level
ground, and less fatigue.

It is also claimed for this bicycle that, being much lower than the ordi-
nary so-called ** safety" bicycle, it is much easier to mount.

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It has been tried in the streets here and made a favorable impression.
The ease with which it ascended hills was particularly noticeable.

*'La Bicyclette Normale *' has been patented in all the principal countries
of Europe and patents have been applied for in the United States.


Geneva, April jo, i8g6.


I have received a request for information on the following heads regard-
ing the importation of bicycles into Greece:

(i) Rate of customs duties on finished bicycles.

(2) Rate of customs duties on rough or finished bicycle parts.

(3) Can any finished or unfinished part of a bicycle be shipped more
economically under a changed clarification? For example, can enameled
bicycle frames be shipped as tubing and rated for duties accordingly?

(4) If rates or duties are discriminating, which are the favored nations
as to bicycles and to bicycle parts, and what is the extent of the discrimi-
nation ?

(5) Are there any facilities in the way of skilled labor at your port of
entry for assembling bicycles from finished parts ?

(6) Can goods be in Government storage preparatory to sales and prior
to the payment of duties?

(7) Is there any transit duty ?

(8) Will the duties be rebated for consigned goods that remain unsold
and are shipped back; if so, are the formalities onerous?

(9) What are the steamboat facilities between your port of entry and
New York, and which is the principal port of entry under the customs tariff?

(10) By what system are appraisements ad valorem made (if such apply
to bicycles and bicycle parts) ?

I answer these questions in order :

(i) Import duty, quay dues, municipal dues, with petty custom-house
disbursements, amount to about J 2, at present rate of exchange, per bicycle
or tricycle.

(2) Any part of a bicycle is rated as a whole bicycle.

(3) Whole bicycles completely fitted is the most economical way of im-
portation. Any attempts at declaring parts under changed classification are
more likely to result in heavy fines, besides much higher rates of duty.

(4) No discrimination.

(5) Every facility exists, not only for assembling bicycles from finished
parts, but even for making any part of a bicycle.

(6 and 7) There is a transit store at Pirneus, but goods must be declared,
cases or boxes opened, and contents ascertained and checked, and then

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Stored in transit. Afterwards, each case or box can be declared separately,
paying duty, etc., of course. Uncleared cases or boxes can be shipped back.
Goods can remain in the customs stores up to six months before being
declared, but the storage charges are very heavy. In the transit de|X)t
they can remain up to two years, the storing charges being comparatively

(8) Duties once paid can never be rebated.

(9) Most Atlantic liners assure through bills of lading. Goods may be
shipped via Liverpool, Marseilles, or Naples; reshipment is necessary at
those points. Piraeus is the principal port of entry.

(10) Ad valorem duties are levied on such goods as are not sp)ecified in
the customs tariff. Bicycles are specified.

Athens, May (5, i8g6.




Eight months ago, there were not more than four bicycles in use in this
city (Malaga) ; now, there are upwards of two hundred and fifty, all of which
may be said to have actually come into use within the past four or ^s^ months.
As yet, however, not one of what is called in Spanish "el sexo-bello" (the
fair sex) has had the courage to try the wheel. I presume, however, it will
not be long before some of the 70,000 of the " sexo-bello * * of this city
will make their debut on bicycles.

The object of this report is to give some information relative to the trade
here for the benefit of our people engaged in the manufacture of the wheel.
With such data as I have been able to gather, our manufacturers may be
better able to ascertain what to do in order to secure some of this trade. If
the bicycle for business and for pleasure has come to stay, its use will in-
crease in this country, as well as in other countries, and we should have some
of the export business in this line.

As I have stated, however, in former reports on the subject of our trade
with this country, there are certain hindrances which must be removed before
we can succeed in securing even an insignificant share in this new branch of
our export business.

We have, in the first place, to compete with the English, French, and
German manufacturers. If this means cheaper labor, as claimed by some,
and lower cost of material in these countries than with us, this is a factor to
be considered. In the second place, there is the item of higher freight rates
against us. In the third place, as practically all articles of American manu-
facture now brought here come through an agent in some European city, he
must have his commission, increasing the price of the article to the purchaser,
which is another point against us. In the fourth place, is the higher duty
that the purchaser must pay on the wheel that is brought from the Uoited

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States, as we are not included in the thirty odd countries with which Spain
has commercial treaties.

These hindrances exist not only in the case of the bicycle, but it is the
same on all manufactured products brought from the United States. If our
manufacturers can arrange to send their wheels direct, the second hindrance
will be removed, and the third will go with it. If the fourth hindrance be
overcome, the second would be regarded as unimportant, by reason of the
acknowledged superior energy, push, skill, and intelligence of our workmen.
This accomplished, the track will be practically clear for the purchase of our
wheels in this country.

I find, from the most reliable information obtainable, that the English-
made bicycle is more largely used throughout Spain than any other. It is
said to be superior in style and finish, with better steel, more durable, and,
in fact, more satisfactory than the French or the German make. American
wheels are not sufficiently known here to make a comparison in any respect
with those of European manufacture. In the northern part of this country,
there are said to be some American wheels in use, brought in, I am told,
from France through French dealers.

The weight of the wheel in use is from 10 to 14 kilograms.* Some of
the manufacturers send men as agents who can ride, furnishing them with a
wheel and sending other wheels as samples, with catalogues, models, prices,
etc. These work up the business, establishing agencies, the manufacturers
allowing the agent a percentage on his sales. Sales are made for cash, on
the installment plan, and at ninety days.

The names of the parties handling the bicycle in this city are Lorente y
Garcia, Marcos y Gomila, Don Pedro Temboury, and Don Alfred Gambell.
It would be well, perhaps, for our manufacturers to write to these parties,
sending them catalogues, with models, prices, etc;, but printed or written in

A beginning has scarcely been made in this part of Spain in the use of
the wheel. From what I am told, however, there is an increasing interest,
which will grow and spread throughout the cities and provinces.

As nearly as I can ascertain, the cost of a bicycle to a purchaser here is
from 500 to 1,400 pesetas, equivalent, in United States money, with the peseta
at par, to from J 100 to $280. The price depends on the material, make,
place where purchased, freight, duty, and agent's commission.

The duty is the same on all bicycles entering this port which are manu-
factured in France, England, or Germany, viz, 70 pesetas j^er 100 kilograms.
American bicycles pay 84 pesetas per 100 kilograms, or |2.8o more than
from the above-named countries. As the frame in which the bicycle is put
up is dutiable at the same rate as the bicycle itself, it should be of strong,
but light, material. The packing of the French manufacturer is said to be
the best as to lightness and strength.

The freight on each bicycle brought from France is, I am informed, about

• I kilogrj^in=j.24o6 pounds,

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7 pesetas (J 1.40). When brought from England, it is 40 pesetas ($8) each,
and from Germany 50 pesetas ($10). When, however, two or three are put
up in one frame, the freight is somewhat less.


Malaga, May 11, i8p6.


In view of the fact that the present is a most critical time in the history
of American commercial relations with eastern Asia and that every legiti-
mate and reasonable effort should be made without further delay to develop
and foster American interests, I have the honor to request the Depart-
ment's consideration of the premises and conclusions respectfully submitted

In presenting my views upon certain phases of a subject which finds, per-
hai)s, a far greater field of action in other parts of eastern Asia than in Siam,
I am prompted first by a deep sense of appreciation of the actual commercial
opportunity afforded by this entire coast line from Vladivostok to Batavia,
and which I have therefore given careful study and investigation, both be-
fore and since I had the honor of my present appointment, and, second, by
a realization that this opportunity not only is not understood in the United
States, but may not be until it is too late unless extraordinary efforts are put
forth to awaken our exporters, shippers, and merchants to the necessity of
immediate and continued exertion.

A mere display of colors, firing of guns, and '* dress parade " will not do ;
there must be preparation for a struggle that may be somewhat protracted
and for which the competitors are already strongly intrenched.

This picture might be viewed with discouragement were it not for the fact
that the rewards to be won are worthy of the contest. There are, indeed,
serious problems of oriental competition, cheap labor, etc., but I am not one
of those who believe that for such reasons we should withdraw from this great
extent of territory, population, and consequent opportunity. Rather should
the endeavor of conquest be all the better organized and strengthened, esj^e-
cially in the light of the remarkable and renewed efforts now being made
by Great Britain, Germany, and France to control the field. The louder
the cry of cheap labor and competition, the harder their agents work, and the
greater grow the number and cargoes of their steamers.

But mere general commercial reports will not suffice. At the present
time, rather, should the reports be specific. They should inform American
merchants (i) just what articles can be bought and sold, (2) at what prices
they must be marketed, (3) what are their weak points in competition, (4)
what are the strong points of competitors, (5) what exact opportunities are
open, (6) how payments and collections can be made most favorably for

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sellers and buyers, and (7) what are the best and cheapest routes to reach
the various markets.

Exhibits of all kinds of products and goods that are used extensively in
the far East and can be exported from the United States should be made,
say, with chambers of commerce in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.
This practice is becoming popular in Great Britain, Germany, and France,
with excellent results, and there is no reason why the manufacturers and
merchants of the United States should not be likewise assisted.

Commercial commissions similar to those sent out by commercial bodies
in France and England would be optional with chambers of commerce of in-
terested cities, such as those named above, and could undoubtedly do great

If Congress would see lit to make appropriation for commercial attaches
of legations, who could devote themselves solely to studying and developing
our trade relations in the different countries, valuable results might follow.
At present, it is impossible for ministers or consuls, with their other and
manifold duties and limited number of assistants, to devote the needed atten-
tion to this very important work, although they are now doing all in their

In this connection, it is well to note the recent action of the British
Foreign Office in detaching the consul at Canton temporarily from his post
to make the same kind of study of the same field for British interests. This
step has been applauded by the manufacturers and exporters of Great Britain
and was the principal point discussed in a recent address of Mr. Curzon on
the "Trade of the Far East.'*


Consul- General.

Bangkok, March 11 ^ i8g6.


I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of an **act to provide for
the registration of male residents in the Republic of Hawaii," which became
a law on the 17th instant.

Charge if Affaires ad interim.
Honolulu, April 26, i8g6.


Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 188-191 → online text (page 44 of 102)