W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois.

Economic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t online

. (page 20 of 22)
Online LibraryW. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du BoisEconomic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t → online text (page 20 of 22)
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when the new crop of cotton is at hand. The production is sold in Dallas, New
York and Boston. We have delivered to one customer 225,000 pounds of yarn.t

Both this mill and a similar Mississippi venture failed.

The Southern Stove Hollow-ware and Foundry Company was temporarily
organized on the 15th day of February, 1897 and was permanently organized
and incorporated at Chattanooga, under the laws of the State of Tennessee, on
August 15, 1897. Our charter provides for a capital stock of $5,000, to be divided
into shares of $25 each, which are sold only to colored people, either for cash

* National Negro Business League, 1900, p. 207.
i National Negro Business League, 1903, pp. 54-55.

Co-operative Business 161

or upon monthly payments, but in no case is a certificate issued until fully
paid for.

The Foundry was built and began operations on a small scale on or about
October 27, 1897, and has now increased and been perfected until we manufac
ture stoves, hollow-ware of all kinds, tire grates complete, boiler grate bars,
refrigerator cups, shoe lasts and stands, and other kinds of castings generally
made in foundries. We also do a repair business which has now grown until
it has become a business that pays well and is one of our chief sources of

The land, buildings, machinery and all patterns are fully paid for except
part of the stove patterns, and these we are paying for in products of our
foundry ; and we can say that we are virtually free from debt. Of the capital
stock authorized we have sold $1,466 worth, and this has all been used strictly
in equipping the plant; but this sum does not represent now the worth of our
plant, as all our profits have been allowed to accumulate and have been used
in business.*

The enterprise was quite successful, but at last failed for lack of capi-
tal; nevertheless, in 1900 it was reported from Chattanooga:

We have two foundries there, owned, operated, controlled and worked and
run by colored men, capitalized today at $25,000. These foundries have passed
the stage of experimentation; they are now certainties; they are paying in
stitutions. Everything they manufacture they have orders for. Their work
is in demand. They have not as much capital as they need and as they wish,
but with that amount of capital they succeeded in the manufacture of stoves
and cooking utensils and skillets, and grates for furnaces and foundries; and
right there in Chattanooga they have a great demand for that work.t

Coal mining has been tried:

Something over a year ago the idea got into the heads of some of us to or
ganize and conduct a coal mining corporation, and we did, and the Birming
ham Grate Coal Mining Company came into existence in the city of Birming
ham, Jefferson county. By some accident of fortune it was my lot to be
elected president of this company. Our capital stock was fixed at $10,000. We
leased a rich mine, which was at the time standing idle, and proceeded to get
hold of some coal

We leased these mines for five years, paying a royalty for the land. We
began working and began putting out coal on the 27th of September last year,
1899. We have mined from that time, mining from 25 to 30 tons of coal per
day, up to 125 tons per day ; and soon we will roll from the earth to the top and
put on the cars, 250 tons per day.t

Spencer Red Brick Co., and the East Ithaca Red Brick and Tile Co., have
twelve and three members, respectively. Both plants are equipped with up-
to-date machinery and steam power. Their business is making brick and
drain tile. Both plants were built, the machinery set and installed by George
Washington Cook during the years 1906-7. The total paid up capital is $6,000
and $22,000, respectively, and they own 17 acres and 8 acres.

Mr. Cook has been in the brick business for the last twenty-eight years and
for eleven years was manager and superintendent of the Ithaca Building and
Paving Brick Co., at Xewfield, which position he held at a salary of $1,200 a

Atlanta University Publication, No. 4.

j- National Negro Business League, 1900, p. 53.

} National Negro Business League, 1900, pp. 106-108.

162 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans

year. The last year he was at Newfield he leased the plant with an option
and sold the same to the Scrantou Fire Brick Co., of Scranton, Pa, He then
went to Ithaca and built a new plant near Cornell University at East Ithaca,
on a branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. As he was unable to supply the
trade with one plant, and not wishing to have any opposition in the trade, he
took up another in Spencer, N. Y., 18 miles south of Ithaca, on two branches of
the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and formed a Negro stock company. The ma
chinery of both plants was put up by Mr. Cook.

The East Ithaca Red Brick and Tile Co. employs 25 men and has a daily
capacity of 35,000 and 1,500 tile per hour. The Spencer Brick Co., employs 40
men and has a daily capacity of 50,000.

The Hill Horseshoe and Overshoe Co., Denver, Col., manufacturing horse
shoes; membership, 40. In 1907 began manufacturing to the amount of $800,
having a total paid up capital of $25,000; originated in 1905, incorporated in
1906, stock selling at 10 cents per share.

The Black Diamond Development Company was organized October, 1905,
under the laws of Arizona, with a capital stock of 500,000 shares at a par
value of $1 per share, full paid and non-assessable.

The 80 acre leasehold, which it purchased one year ago, being located six
miles southeast of Chanute, Kansas, Neosha county, and entirely surrounded
by good producers, has now five large gas wells all complete and their pro
duct ready for the market. These wells are decidedly above the average in
size, having a capacity of more than 12,000,000 cubic feet of gas per day.

March 20, 1907: Since the report on the foregoing pages was made to the
company there has been continuous development done on the property of this

Well No. 6 has been drilled and seems to be another good gas well, and is
located one-half mile south of our other wells and on one of our new proper
ties. The pipe line is Hearing completion and it is only a matter of a few
days until we will be delivering gas to the Kansas City Natural Gas Co., and
our Kansas City friends will be burning Black Diamond Development Com
pany s gas in their homes and factories. The price of Black Diamond Devel
opment Co. s stock has advanced to 50 cents.


The President of the Title Guarantee and Trust Co., New York, writes
of the founder, W. E. Benson:

About five years ago he came North with a proposition to buy about 0,000
acres of magnificent timber and farming land surrounding Kowaliga, organize
an industrial corporation with substantial capitial, build cheap farmhouses,
establish small mills, sell on easy terms or lease small farms, teach profitable
farming and sensible lumbering, develop the turpentine industry, and gen
erally furnish work through the winter for a population that otherwise would
be idle, or worse. A number of us helped him organize his company, buy
his land, and commence the development. At first $20,000 was raised, of which
$10,000 was furnished by his father and others at home. Subsequently he
secured $10,000 more for additional land and improvements, and six months
ago he bought 1,600 acres of turpentine forest to round out his plantation, now
comprising 9,000 acres, and secured $20,000 additional stock subscriptions so
that the capital of his company now paid in is $50,000. Its primary object is
not to make money, and those of us who subscribed were prepared to lose
our money, but now do not expect to, and it looks as if it might be another

Co-operative Business 163

case of wise philanthrophy at 5 per cent or better. The campaign has not
been an easy one.

The manager reports in 1907:

- The Dixie Industrial Company was incorporated under the laws of Alabama
in 1900, with a capital 6*f $10,000, and secured its first tract of 5,000 acres of land
with a few dilapidated cabins. The company now has a paid up capital of
$53,000; owns nearly 9,000 acres of splendid farm and timber land, operates a
saw-mill, shingle-mill, turpentine still and a plantation store. It has built 18
cottages and leases 40 farms, furnishing employment to nearly 300 Negroes.
The company has cleared over 20 per cent on the entire capital invested,
having accumulated a surplus of more than $12,000 up to date. At the last
meeting of its directors an annual dividend of 4 per cent was declared and an
additional capital stock issue of $47,000 was voted, placing the total capitaliza
tion at $100,000.

Two annual statements follow:

1st. December 31, 1901


Cash on hand $ 1,023 16

Merchandise on hand 25464

Secured loans and notes 942 54

Sawmill plant, cost machinery, tools and

building 2,000 00

Real estate, actual cost, 6,478 acres farm and

timber lands 26,369 00

Preliminary and legal expense 462 66

Total $ 31 052 03

Capital stock paid in ... ... $ 21 ,120 00

Bills payable 102 23

Notes and interest on deferred payments on

real estate 9,777 20

Surplus balance on profit and loss account. . 52 60

Total $ 81,052 03

6th. December 31, 1906

Cash on hand

Bank of Wetumpka $ 714 22

Bank of Alexander City 79 09

Bank of Montgomery 500 00

Current cash 410 35 $ 1,703 66

Bills receivable 2,432 44

Accounts receivable 8,340 58 10,779 02

Merchandise and supplies on hand . . H,011 98

Personal property 10,559 3(5

Real estate 55,291 59 73,962 88

Preliminary expense 570 59

Total $ 87,016 15

Bills payable-
Unpaid installments for land and

other bills payable $ 17,599 86

Accounts payable 3,147 21

Capital stock 53,82000

Surplus, close 1905 $ 7,047 65

Balance P. and L. statement 5,401 43

Surplus this date $12,449 08 12,449 08

Total.. $87,01615

164 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans

Oyster Beds

The Negroes of Warsaw, Ga., are, with a few exceptions, engaged in the oyster
industry, the men principally as oyster gatherers and the women and children
as oyster shuckers. Ninety per cent of all the labor employed in the oyster
industry of the State is Negro. The factories are encoitraging the Negroes to
lease and plant oyster land and many of them are taking out leases. The
most important lease is that of the Georgia Benevolent Fishermen s Associa
tion. The organization is fourteen years old and is the oldest chartered organi
zation among the oyster Negroes for business purposes. The association has
45 members and a lease of 2,0(X) acres of oyster ground. The company is doing
well and reported that they had over $1,000 in the bank. Six of the Warsaw
Negroes are members of this association. There is another valuable lease of
oyster lands about 10 miles from Warsaw that is held by Negroes.*

This kind of co-operation is widespread.

Co-operation in Transportation

Jim Crow street cars have led to two interesting experiments, one a
partial failure and one successful for seven years:

In Nashville there was an attempt to run an automobile line of carriages.
About $20,000 was raised by general subscription and expended; but the com
pany was first cheated by the company selling the carriages, which proved
too weak for the hills, and afterward the electric company broke its promise
to furnish power. The company pluckily attempted a power plant but was
not successful. The carriages ran regularly for several months, and are still
run occasionally for special parties.

North Jacksonville Street Railway, Town and Improvement Co., Jacksonville, Pla.

In 1901 the city council passed an ordinance giving the conductors of the
street railway the right to assign and reassign passengers to seats in the cars.
This ordinance was looked upon by many to be worse than a direct separate
car, for the reason the conductors could seat you in a seat in the car and if he
wanted that seat for a white person, could make you get up with your wife
and your girl and compel you to take another. He was also given police power
to arrest you. This act brought about a strike. Our people, almost to a man,
stopped riding on the cars. Our leaders met at St. Paul A. M. E. Church in that
city at a called meeting, and passed resolutions to start a company, to pur
chase automobile carriages. I was asked by a friend or two to go to this meet
ing. This I refused to do. I thought this to be my time to go to the city coun
cil and ask for a franchise to build a colored park and street railway of our
own to go to. This I did

The Negroes themselves fought us from start to finish, but the svhite men
who had the granting of this franchise, said : "We have actually made the
colored people mad for passing this bill they called obnoxious and by giving
this grant to them, it will pacify them. They will never build it anyway, but
we shall clear ourselves."

And, too, the then President of the city council was a personal friend of
your humble servant, a man whom we had worked with in the office two
years previous to this time

Everybody began to look upon the project to be a practical one and a money
maker, provided it was properly handled; hence I had gotten a friend of

Work, in Southern Workman, January, 1908.

Co-operative Business 165

mine to assist in interesting two parties in the matter, and the same time I
was talking with two other parties. We had perfected our arrangements with
two men to build the road for a described sum. At the same time a banker
and an outside friend of his were figuring with me on a basis to do the con
structing for $20,000 cheaper than the original people. The first people heard
of this and undertook to force me to sign a contract, agreeing to give them the
price they wanted, which was $20,000 more than the last parties were ask

The road paid the last quarter as follows:

To May, collected $ 1,221 05

To June, collected 1,815 00

To July, collected 1,5M>0 00

Our expenditures for the same time as above were $1,555, leaving a clear net
profit, this quarter, of $3,381.05

The whites hold the principal of our bond issue, and out of $150,000 capital
stock they own about $23,000, leaving in the treasury $100,000 of the shares and
in the hands of the colored men, as our books will show, $25,500.

The first day we ran our cars we handled 7,220 persons, took in $340 that day.
In five days after this a park that used to have a sign over the gate, saying:
"Niggers and dogs not allowed," was torn down, and the following Saturday
the colored baseball team played a game of ball out there.*

The white bondholders finally succeeded in foreclosing and getting
control of the company early in 1908.

Wilmington, N. C.

There was an effort in the years 1883-84 to build a railroad from Wilmington,
N. C., to Wrightsville Sound, a summer resort on the sea coast, 9 or 10 miles
from Wilmington. It was the intention of Mr. Martin (the superintendent)
prime mover, to finally extend the road to New Berne, N. C., via Onslow, N.C.
Rev. Joseph C. Price was elected President, Mr. J. C. Dancey, Secretary and
Treasurer, and I one of the Board of Directors.

When 9 miles were graded, some bridges built and crossties put down, Mr.
Martin died and there being no one found with anything like the push which
he showed, the company went to pieces. Several years after the whites
secured a charter, and carried out Mr. Martin s plans. They built the road
and are now operating it.

To this section belong the various church publishing houses already


Here We find naturally the largest number of enterprises and the
largest percentage of success. There have been and are many co-opera
tive grocery stores:

I am identified with what may be termed a combine of co-operative stores.
The first store was established at Keysville, Va., 1889. The firm name is Wilson
<fe Co., with a cash capital of $125 ; and $75 was used in buying a site. We com
menced then with $50 and the motto hung out, " Square Dealing."

The second store was established in the winter of 189(3 at Evington,Va., with
a capital of $55. Here we were given three months to stay. The whites said
to the blacks, " They will only be there three months."

* National Negro Business League, 1904, pp. 65-8.

166 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans

The third store was established in 1899 in the month of September with a
capital of $200 at Nameless, Va. After operating for a short time we established
that in a different community. The other was established by the side of a
white friend; this was established in the midst of colored people. Our busi
ness plans at once met our emergencies. Succeeds because every store is dis
tinct, yet a part of the great store, the system enables us to tide over smaller
stores without loss; to buy to advantage without risk, because we know when
and where we can put the goods. Succeeds because there is unity many
receivers of money but only one paying teller

From 1899 to 1900 we did business in those combined co-operative stores
amounting to $18,000. *

The People s Mercantile Association of Washington, D. C., was organized
April, 1902, under the laws of the District of Columbia with a capital stock of
$20,000, divided in 2,000 shares of $10 each, one- tenth share $1.

The object of the association is to open a department store or stores in the
District of Columbia and in other cities, and to carry lines of general merchan
dise. Today we have about 300 subscribers, representing about $4,000. t

Other instances are :

Greenwood, S. C.

The Palmetto Grocery Co., which is composed of Negroes, and is doing a suc
cessful general grocery business.

Dover, Del.

Co-operative store in Dover, Del., which deals in food supplies. It has been
in operation two or three years and is successful in a small way.

Richmond, Va.

The Students Tea Co., with about 150 stockholders, has branch establish
ments in Petersburg and Farmville, Va. It is a mercantile business dealing
in teas, coffees, spices and extracts sold through agents. Business 1906-1907,
$10,000. Total paid up capital, $2,000.

Little Rock, Ark.

Relief Joint Stock Co., a retail grocery store on weekly and monthly pay
ments, having 37 members. Business done 1906, $5,007.45 ; previous years,. 8,000;
total paid up capital, $3,000.

The business was organized in 1903. During the two years and six months
in business we did a very prosperous business until some dissatisfaction arose
amongst the stockholders, then we were forced to close down June 1, 1907.

The True Reformers grocery stores belong in this group. Retail dry
goods stores are less frequent, but growing in number.

Chicago, III.

Sandy W. Trice & Co., 1218 State street. Sandy W. Trice, President; A. J.
Carey, Vice-President; W. M. Farmer, Secretary; Geo. W. Murry, Treasurer.
A department store run on cash basis. Business April, 1906-7, $14,400 ; capitali
zation, $15,000; paid in, $10,000. Opened up June, 1900, firm named Trice <fc Wil
liams. Corporated 1906 as Sandy W. Trice <fr Co.

* National Negro Business League, 1900, pp. 189-5)0.
f National Negro Business League, 1902, p. 71.

Co-operative Business 167

J. H. Zedricks <fe Co., 939 West Lake street. A corporation. General mail
order house, manufacturing and selling general merchandise, also selling
goods by catalogue, correspondence and agents. Business in 1900, $800 ; 1907,
$500, for first six months. This shows an increase over the same period last
year. Total paid up capital, $2,500.

Established in 1905 by Mr. John H. Zedricks, 848 West Madison street, with
a capital of 60 cents. Have mailed 3,000 four-page circulars, with an additional
10,000 letters, going to all parts of the world. Have shipped small orders to all
parts of the United States, as well as to Liberia, Africa, the Republic of Pana
ma, Cuba and Hayti. Incorporated in 1907 for $2,500 under the State laws of
Illinois. Twenty-five page catalogue now in hands of printer.

Publishing has been a favorite method of co-operation.
A few of the newspapers are owned individually, but most of them by
groups of stockholders.

Negro journalism in the United States had its origin in the aspiration for
freedom. The first Negro newspaper in the United States was begun in New
York City, March 30, 1827, and was called The Journal of Freedom. Its editor
was John B. Russworm, a graduate of Dartmouth College of the class of 1826,
perhaps the first Negro to receive a degree from an American institution of
learning. Associated with him in the editing was the Rev. Samuel E. Cornish,
a controversialist of no mean powers.

This journal had an existence of but three years, and other attempts by
Negroes to publish newspapers failed of notable success until Frederick
Douglass started The North Star at Rochester, N. Y., in 1847. The name was
subsequently changed to Frederick Douglass s Paper, and Mr. Douglass con
tinued it up to the opening of the Civil War. For length of life, extent of
circulation, ability of matter contributed and commanding talents of its edi
tor, the publication was one which occupies a conspicuous chapter in the his
tory of Negro journalism.

The number of papers and periodicals devoted to the interest of the Negro
race has been variously estimated at from 150 to 500. In the newspaper direc
tories for 1905 was given 140 publications of every class. Accessable data give
reasons to believe that this number is at least 100 short. In the State of Mis
sissippi alone there are twenty publications appearing at regular intervals,
while one newspaper directory gives but four.*

Drugstores form a favorite line of co-operative effort. An incomplete
canvass in 1907 showed the following, nearly all of which were con
ducted by companies of three or more persons:

Drug Stores


. 10


. . . . 5




. 8


.... 7

Rhode Island

. . . . 1


. 4


.... 1

South Carolina


District of Columbia. .

. 14
. 16


. . .. 8


.... 2


. 21




.... 11


. 5


.... 4


. 1

North Carolina ....

. ... 10





New York

.... 5

Indian Territory

. 4


.... 3

L. M. Hershaw, in Charities, October, 1905.

168 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans

Of these 43 reported $189,883 invested and 516 persons employed. The
total investment may reach $500,000. Four typical stores report:

The Artesian Drug Co., Albany, Ga. Nineteen members ; two places f busi
ness. Capital, $1,360. Business: 1905, $16,400; 1906, $20,100.

The company was launched in 1902, with a paid up capital of $1,360. We
have been able to declare dividends successively as well as launch a branch
drug store with a $1,500 stock.

The People s Drug Co., Cleveland, Ohio. Seventy stockholders. Business
opened February 1, 1906 ; business done during eleven months of 1906, $4,000;
paid up capital, $1,300, July 1, 1907.

Certain men were led to believe that a drug store on a co-operative plan
could be made to succeed among the colored people of Cleveland. After a few
preliminary meetings among those chiefly interested, during which time sub
scriptions of stock at $1 per share were solicited with fair success, it was de
cided to undertake the enterprise. A pharmacist was secured, and the busi
ness was launched February 1, 1906, in a building leased for five years. The
store is neat and attractive, has a good location and is well furnished. It will
compare favorably with any drug store of its size in Cleveland.

Savannah Pharmacy, Savannah, Ga. Five members. Business 1906-1907,
$12,000; capital, $5,000. Incorporated.

Wyandotte Drug Co., Kansas City, Kan. Five members. Business 1906,
$18,000 ; capital, $675.

We have two clerks and a delivery boy, and have what the City Assessor
says is the third drug store in this city of 104,000 population, by the city census
of 1907, in amount of stock.

Undertaking has probably a larger invested, capital than the drug
business, but this kind of enterprise is usually conducted by individuals
rather than companies. There are, however, many groups like the

Moore & Burnett Co., Los Angeles, Cal. Eighteen stockholders. Three
establishments. Capital, $4,500; business 1906, $7,000.

Warren Hot Springs Furniture and Undertaking Co., Hot Springs, Ark.
Partners, 3. Undertaking, furniture, new and second-hand, bought, sold and

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22

Online LibraryW. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du BoisEconomic co-operation among Negro Americans. Report of a social study made by Atlanta University under the patronage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. together with the proceedings of the 12th Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University, on Tuesday, May t → online text (page 20 of 22)