Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/January 1890/The Future Situs of the Cotton Manufacture of the United States
By EDWARD ATKINSON, LL. D., Ph. D.
I have been asked to treat two subjects: 1. Is the present number or the recent increase of cotton-spindles in the United States actually or relatively in excess of the requirements of the population?
2. Is the South likely to become a formidable competitor with New England in the cotton manufacture?
I submit the facts from which I have made my own deductions, and from which each one may draw his own conclusions according to his own judgment.
When dealing with the first branch of the subject, as all are well aware, we must qualify any conclusion based on the actual number of spindles by making allowance for higher speed and greater product per spindle in recent years; hence larger relative product. On the other hand, we must qualify the data of the spindles by the consideration that the average number of yarn spun at the present time is much finer than it was twenty years ago; hence a less proportionate product per spindle.
Again, we must qualify our deductions derived from the actual number of spindles, after having made allowances for high speed and fine numbers, which may perhaps be held to balance each other, by taking into consideration the very rapid increase in both national wealth and general welfare in recent years; hence a greater consumption of cotton fabrics per capita. This increase in purchasing power and this choice of better and more expensive fabrics are very noticeable in the Southern States, and especially so in respect to the colored population on Sundays and holidays. After balancing higher speed against the finer number, this last element of greater power to purchase would lead us to assume, or to expect to find, a steady but moderate increase in the ratio of spindles to population: when I give the facts, I think many will be somewhat surprised at the justification which the figures will give of this hypothesis.
In treating the conditions of the South I date my computations from the year 1870. This was the year in which the worst effects of the war had been in part overcome. In 1870 our Southern friends made a fair beginning, on which they continued in rather slow and even measure in their progress until about 1880, when at last the new industries of the new South began to make progress with leaps and bounds; the greatest impetus being imputed to the Atlanta Cotton Exhibition by the Southerners themselves. It seems as if the display in this exhibition had shown to themselves, even for the first time, the wealth of minerals, of timber, and of other resources which proved to them that cotton was very far from being king even of its own land.
There is another very important factor which enters into this consideration to which no attention has been given in any treatise upon Southern manufactures that I have yet seen, namely, the great number of people in the Southern States who were clad in homespun or in hand-woven fabrics, both before the war and throughout the period of reconstruction down to 1870.
The moment attention is called to this element in the question, all will doubtless admit that a change from homespun to factory-made goods, whatever its measure may have been, was the equivalent of so much added population and so much increased demand for the products of the cotton-factories. Conversely, in any computation of the ratio of spindles to population at different dates, a deduction must be made in 1860 and 1870 for those who were at these respective dates clothed in hand-made fabrics. Perhaps it may be said, and perhaps it may rightly be said, that if an allowance must be made according to each man's judgment for all these variable elements of the problem, what dependence can be put upon the final figures? Each one may answer his own question or doubt in his own way. I shall only give what appear to be the facts, and I will say, as I have so often said before, that all statistics, unless qualified by sound judgment, are mere rubbish, not worth the compilation. I think many may be somewhat surprised, however, by the apparent certainty of the rule presented.
I have corresponded with a large number of my old Southern friends in respect to the homespun consumption of former times. I omit Texas from among the Southern States, for the reason that it has always been more like a Western State; that it never had any considerable number of cotton-spindles within its borders, and that its people were never clad in hand-made fabrics to any considerable extent. I include under the name of Southern States Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, including West Virginia.
In 1860 the population of these specific States numbered 9,650,000; in 1870, 10,432,000; in 1880, 13,665,000; and at the present time their population, without question, exceeds 17,000,000.
From the best information which I can obtain, and in the best judgment of old planters, dealers, and manufacturers, nearly the whole population of the middle or mountain section of these States, two to three millions in number—a very large portion of the colored people on the plantations, probably two or three millions more out of four millions—and a very considerable part of the population of country districts aside from these two classes, were clad in homespun or hand-woven fabrics prior to 1860. The average of the estimates which I have received would put more than one half, or about five millions of the population in 1860, of these Southern States into this class.
In 1870 very moderate progress had been made in displacing hand-made fabrics with the products of Southern factories, but the more prosperous people were consuming more Northern goods of finer quality. The average judgment of my correspondents indicates that in 1870 at least forty per cent of the population were clad in hand-spun or hand-woven fabrics. I estimate it at one third, numbering three and a half millions, in my succeeding computations.
At the Atlanta Exposition Mr. F. E. Clark, of the Pemberton Mill, and myself, computed the product of two hand carders, two spinsters, and one hand-loom weaver, who were working on thirty-two-inch Osnaburgs, about thirty-six picks to the inch, at eight yards a day of ten hours. Five operatives in the Pemberton could have turned out eight hundred yards of the same fabric in the same number of hours.
In my computation of the ratio of spindles to population I deduct 4,800,000 in 1860; 3,500,000 in 1870; in 1880 I make no deduction for hand-work, for the reason that the art was then nearly a lost art. A few home spinners and weavers may still be found only in the heart of the mountains of Kentucky and North Carolina. On this basis the cotton-spindles of 1860, numbering 5,235,727, bore the ratio of one spindle to each of 5·05 of the remaining population; 1870, spindles 7,132,415, one spindle to 4·92 of the remaining population; 1880, spindles 10,653,435, one spindle to 4·71 of the total population; 1889, September 1st, spindles estimated by the "Financial Chronicle," 14,175,000, one spindle to 4·52 of the probable population, now computed at sixty-four millions.
Our exports have varied, but not enough to affect the average materially. They are a little more in value now than they were in 1860, but not so much in ratio to product. These facts appear to sustain the theory that the increased purchasing power of the population will sustain a small relative increase in spindles per capita.
Now, any one can form his own judgment as to whether or not the spindles are in excess of our present population. In view of the greater variety of uses to which cotton fabrics are now put, in view of the greater purchasing power, in view of the very low prices of cotton fabrics, and in view of the extravagant habits of the people, my own judgment is that the spindles are not in excess of the population; on an even balance we may of course be subject to an overstock of special goods, such as affects some classes, especially export goods at the present time. In the long run I think that we are more likely to require a ratio of one spindle to four than to go back to the ratio of one to five persons. We now gain in population nearly or quite two millions in a year. The average of the next ten years may be two million two hundred thousand each year. On the basis of two millions which is substantially the present rate, if we require one spindle to each five of the population, we must add four hundred thousand new spindles every year to our present number; at one to four and a half, four hundred and forty-four thousand; at one to four, five hundred thousand, besides providing for the increasing wants of the existing population. It would then appear that we may require five million new spindles in addition to our present number during the next ten years, to meet the increased home consumption of cotton fabrics, no consideration being given to any increase in exports. Please do not exaggerate the importance of this forecast, and don't be in a hurry to double your investments.
Five hundred thousand spindles a year will only cost sixty to eighty million dollars, varying according to the number of yarn. Now, all life and progress consist in a conversion of force. We convert the food, the fuel, and the clothing which we consume—
1. To sustaining life.
We may, therefore, take any single element of our food as a standard by which to measure the relative increase of our capital into which it may be in part converted. My favorite standard is the egg standard! Agassiz went to the egg to find the unit of life, I go to the egg to find the relative standard of production and of savings. Don't crow very much over your own little egg; it may be only a Bantam. If each adult of the present population consumes hens' eggs at the rate of consumption in your own factory boarding-houses, the hen-yards of the country now supply about one hundred and twenty-five million dollars' worth of eggs a year, and by exchange and conversion into capital this sum would suffice to build all these cotton-factories and to supply the working capital as well, year by year.
Again, in two years only out of this ten ensuing, as much capital will be expended in the construction of new railroads in this country as the whole five million spindles which we may need in ten years will cost.
Or, again, if we assign only five hundred dollars to the construction of a dwelling-place to each five persons comprised in this increase of population, the capital which will be needed to house them will come to two hundred and twenty-five million dollars a year, or $2,250,000,000 in all.
So the world wags on, always within one year of starvation, within two years or so of being naked, and within a few years of being houseless and homeless, except for the work which we must do to supply the products which we must exchange with each other—eggs for cottons and cottons for eggs, etc.
This may be a pleasant prospect for our machine-shops. They will also have a good deal of work to do in substituting new spindles for old, and perhaps new looms for old, if the double-faced, fast-running, vertical loom does the work which is expected of it. How soon will your present noisy, cumbrous, and unscientific loom be invented out of existence? When will it be displaced by a smooth-running, circular loom? How about your carding-engines, your drawing and your combing machines? Are we to go on importing them? Yes, until the taxes are taken from the metals and from the other crude materials which are needed to make them. Iron has cost you for ten years previous to the present year (1889) ten dollars per ton on the common grades, and steel fifteen to twenty-five dollars per ton more than the same materials cost the machinists of Great Britain; thus enhancing the cost of your capital, and placing you at a disadvantage in competition with the manufacturers of Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and almost all the other manufacturing countries in which such materials are free from taxes. The lower the prices of metal the greater this disparity.
I think we shall not even secure our home market, much less extend our foreign sale, so long as the prices of crude materials are kept by taxation far above those of our competitors. If, however, there should be a change in the policy of the country, to which all events appear to be tending, and to which the advocates of both sides of the tariff question appear to be moving, and it should be decided that the crude materials, commonly called "raw materials" and the partly manufactured products which are necessary in the processes of domestic industry, should be imported free of tax, I think there could then be very little doubt that we should not only control our home market, but also secure a much larger share in supplying other nations with cotton fabrics than we now enjoy. The number of our spindles might then be almost indefinitely extended; and when the prices of iron, steel, and copper are the same in this country as they are in Great Britain, making allowance for the cost of transportation, as they would be if free of duty here, I doubt if any carding-engine, combing-machine, or spinning-machinery, or any other important part of the plant, except some specialties, could be imported from any other country.
The annual consumption of iron and steel in this country is now thirty-five to forty per cent of the commercial or known product of the world. It is equal to the entire commercial product of the world in the years 1865 and 1866. It is in excess of the largest product ever made by Great Britain. Now, it is upon supremacy in iron more than anything else that the control of commerce rests, and I think we shall soon hold it without lowering our prices materially, but in consequence of rising prices abroad. The deposits of fine iron ore suitable for making Bessemer steel are rapidly diminishing in Great Britain in ratio to the demand upon them. The coking coals, which are necessary in the work, are becoming more costly year by year. As the mines become deeper they become hotter, and the veins in Durham, the chief source of supply, are only two feet wide, and they lie horizontally, so that the miners must work at a great depth in a very heated atmosphere, lying on their sides. As the necessary consequence, although the wages of labor are much less, the cost of coke is much higher than it is in this country.
Great Britain now imports twenty per cent of all her ores. The chief supply of fine ore has been in the neighborhood of Barcelona, Spain, but that supply is becoming exhausted. When that time comes, Great Britain must get her supply of fine ores from the south of Spain—inside the gates of Gibraltar—from Algiers, or iron mines not yet worked to any great extent, three hundred miles from the extreme northern end of the Baltic Sea, in Sweden.
The supply of workmen capable of operating iron-furnaces and steel-works in Great Britain is also relatively small, so that with each advance in the price of iron, an advance in wages is demanded not due to improvements in the processes, but due to the relative scarcity of laborers. On the other hand, the demand for iron upon the furnaces, both of Great Britain and of this country, which for many years varied with the activity or depression in the construction of railroads in this country, is now active. The very rapid extension of railways, not only upon this continent but upon other continents, has induced an enormous demand for iron and steel for other purposes. Therefore, during the last years, 1888 and 1889, although the construction of new railways diminished from the standard of 1887 by fifty to sixty per cent, yet the demand for iron and steel has gone on increasing, and is now larger than was ever known before.
Again, the new sources of supply in this country are rapidly furnishing iron at low prices, but at such profits that the production increases very rapidly so as to meet the increasing demand. In spite of this, there are indications of an insufficient supply of iron the world over, from which, of course, the present rising prices have ensued. Now, the production of iron is a matter of relatively small consequence, either in the value of the product or the number of men employed, as compared with the consumption. Gauged by my favorite standard, even the present large production of iron in the United States is only equal in value to the product of hens' eggs.
Now, suppose for an instant that under these conditions of increasing demand we were to remove the duties. New England would at once supply herself with ores and coal from the vast and easily worked deposits of Nova Scotia. The New England production of heavy machinery would be resumed, and we should no longer send to Milwaukee for our heavy stationary engines, but should again make them either at South Boston or in Providence. Even then it would be doubtful if the supply of iron could keep up with the increasing demand.
Then imagine, if you can, what would be the effect upon the price of iron in Great Britain, if we were to call upon her only for a million tons extra, or only for the increase which we shall require next year. That would be a demand for about twelve and a half per cent in addition to the present product of her ironworks, and even the present product can not be kept up without a great increase of cost. Witness the recent statements in the London "Economist" to that effect.
Finally, let it be assumed that, without any reduction in the present low price of iron in this country, the consumers of iron in Great Britain—the machinists, the builders of ships, of locomotives, the makers of rails, and the like—were called upon to pay as much for their iron and steel as our consumers of iron now pay, what would be the result? They have had an advantage ranging from five to ten dollars per ton of iron, and from fifteen to thirty dollars per ton of steel, for many years, over our machinists, engine-builders, and ship-builders. Imagine what the conditions would be, if you can, if our relations were reversed, and if crude iron and crude steel could be had at lower prices in this country than in Europe; yet that is what is more likely to occur than anything else, and that time would be greatly hastened by the instant removal of duties on ore and coal, and perhaps by the immediate removal of every duty on pig-iron, although prudence might require a period of five years or so to carry out the latter policy by successive reduction.
I think we have been protecting the machinists, engine-builders, and ship-owners of Great Britain, and retarding the progress of our own, by keeping up a disparity in the price of the materials which form the chief element of cost from fifty to a hundred per cent higher in this country than they have been there. How can we expect to keep the control of the home market on machinery when the duty on the materials is fifty to a hundred per cent higher than on the machine itself? I think it is time this question was taken out of politics and settled by sensible men in a sensible way; but that may be a visionary theory, which I may not live to see reduced to practice.
I speak of this subject because it has a most important bearing upon the question which has been put to me. We can readily overstock our own market, which is small compared with the demand of the world. Glance at the accompanying pictures which represent the present conditions of the cotton manufacture of the great empire of China. In No. 1 is seen the cotton growing; in No. 2, the clearing from the seed by snapping a bow-string with the hand, which gave the name of "bowed Georgia" to Southern cotton before Whitney invented the saw gin; No. 3 shows the press; No. 4 the spinning-wheel, No. 5 the warper, and No. 6 the hand loom, as they have been in use since prehistoric times. In one of these pictures there is a bit of evidence of manual dexterity which is hardly credible: one woman appears to be spinning three strands from three separate rovings on one wheel.
The latest and most authentic computation of the population of the globe is fourteen hundred millions. The manufacturing or machine-using nations of the world—that is to say, the nations which have to any considerable extent adopted the factory system of making textile fabrics—consist mainly of the inhabitants of this country, of Canada, of Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland, numbering in all about two hundred millions.
The only nation, and, in fact, perhaps the only country, which makes cotton fabrics to any extent in excess of its own consumption is England. We import more cotton fabrics than we export, but they are chiefly of the finer kinds, or else they are laces, embroideries, and the like. I am not quite sure, but I think that even France and Germany import more cotton fabrics than they
No. 1.—Cotton Culture.
export, if the fine yarns are included in their import, which can only be made for them in Lancashire. There are, as you are aware, a few cotton-factories in Russia and a few in India, but their product in ratio to the consumption of the continent of Asia is utterly insignificant.
The number of people who are at this time clothed in handspun and hand-woven fabrics is more than double the number of those who yet purchase the fabrics which are made in our factories or in those of any other nation. I made a computation a few years since, and I think the conditions have not greatly changed, to this effect: that all the cotton fabrics exported from Europe and from the United States to China would only suffice to clothe sixty to seventy millions out of a computed population of four hundred millions—even at the ratio of only two and a half pounds of cotton to the head. I consider that ratio incorrect, although it is commonly used.
A large part of China in which there is a very dense population, and to which most of our drills and sheetings are sent, is in the same latitude as the northern United States. It is not as cold, but yet it is a cold country, and the common people are clad wholly in cotton fabrics. Here are one of their coats and some of their other garments. You can judge for yourself whether or not they consume more than two and a half pounds per head. This coat alone weighs nearly four pounds.
At five pounds per head, which is a much more reasonable estimate, the factory-made fabrics of this country and of Europe would not suffice to clothe more than ten per cent of the population of China. There has been an ill-defined dread lest China should build cotton-factories and then should undertake to clothe us with the products of the cheap labor of the "heathen Chinee."
Now, entirely aside from the fact that low-priced labor is not cheap labor, and that high-priced labor is cheap because more effective in making goods at low cost, I venture to ask if any of my readers ever bought or spun any Chinese cotton? I think very few of the present generation have had any experience even with Surats or India cotton. I think those who know even what India cotton is will not dread any serious competition from that, and the very few—perhaps I am the only one who ever bought any Chinese cotton—will after that experience lay aside all fear of Chinese competition in the contest for supremacy in the cotton manufacture. It is the whitest, cleanest, and most honestly packed, but also the shortest, meanest, and most worthless cotton of which I ever attempted to draw the staple or to put through a factory.
The Appalachian chain, gathering the moisture from the Gulf Stream and spreading it over the fertile cotton-fields of the United States, has fixed our supremacy in cotton production and probably in the cotton manufacture of the future, until Egypt is more fully redeemed from barbarism, or until the lands bordering upon the Paraguay and Parana Rivers in South America are more fully occupied by a dense and industrious population.
But perhaps the seat of the cotton manufacture of the future may not be wholly where the cotton grows. Cotton is a sun plant. It thrives best and yields the largest product in the hot, dry years when the dryness does not become a drought. The very characteristics of climate which promote the production of the fiber are to some extent inconsistent both with spinning and weaving, which call for a cool, moist atmosphere. The variety of Dacca muslin so fine as to have been called the "woven wind" is spun and woven only in the early morning by weavers who sit upon the ground under the trees where the humidity of the air is greatest. I believe they even dig a hole in the ground, in which they sit, so as to bring the web in front of them close to the ground.
This brings us to the question of prime interest to all of us. Will that Southern cotton land also become the principal site of the cotton manufacture of the United States? Upon this question I will first submit the facts, and I will then give the conclusions which I have myself derived from them.
The number of spinning and weaving mills in the Southern States which I have named, both before the war and subsequently down to 1870, was not sufficient to be considered a factor of any considerable importance. In 1860 the number of Southern spindles was about five per cent of the total number of spindles of the country. They were in by far the greatest proportion devoted to spinning coarse yarns to be woven upon hand looms and converted into Osnaburgs or into jeans, the latter mostly of the so-called "butternut variety"; goods dyed with the butternut dye, which color gave the name to the Confederate uniforms.
There were a few considerable and successful mills devoted to both spinning and weaving; notably at Columbus, under the able supervision of William H. Young and John Hill; other mills at Augusta, the Graniteville Mill, and a very few others.
In 1870 the number of Southern spindles was nearly three hundred and twenty-eight thousand, gradually and slowly increasing, down to 1880, to five hundred and forty-two thousand. In this period looms were being added to many of the spinning mills, and the change was going on from the homespun to the factory-made goods. It is only since 1880 that the additions have been made to the spindles of the South which have attracted so much attention.
No. 2.Cotton Ginning.
According to the "Financial Chronicle," there were in the Southern States named, in the cotton year 1888-89, two hundred and fifty-nine factories, averaging a little over five thousand spindles each, giving a total number of one million three hundred and forty-four thousand five hundred and seventy-six spindles in operation, with thirty-one thousand four hundred and thirty-five looms. The number of yarn spun was a fraction under No. 14 a gain in the fineness of the yarn, since my computation of 1880, of one number only.
If we deduct the few large mills, the average of the greater number is about four thousand spindles, ranging from one to six or seven thousand. The Southern consumption of cotton had increased from one hundred and eighty-eight thousand seven hundred and forty-eight bales in 1879-80 to four hundred and eighty-six thousand six hundred and three bales in the last cotton year. In addition to the spindles in operation, a few have been added, and it is estimated by the "Financial Chronicle" that, on the 1st of September of the present year, there were one million four hundred and fifty thousand spindles in the Southern States, of which about one million are in the States of North and South Carolina and Georgia. The list given in the Baltimore "Manufacturers' Record" gives a greater number, but many mills in that list are only projected. I therefore adhere to the carefully prepared statistics of the "Financial Chronicle."
It is on the Piedmont plateau that you are to look for competition if anywhere in the Southern country. The mills will be built upon the foot-hills of the Appalachian chain; in the uplands rather than upon the lowlands of the South. On the foregoing statement there has therefore been a gain in the twenty years that have elapsed since 1869 in Southern spindles, mainly in the last ten years, of about eleven hundred thousand spindles; certainly very rapid progress. But now let us look at the other side.
The gain in the population of these same States since 1870, on the basis of an estimate of our present population made by the Actuary of the Treasury Department, has been six million six hundred thousand. At the ratio of five persons to a spindle this absolute increase in the population of these same Southern States has called for the product of one million three hundred and twenty thousand spindles, or two hundred and twenty thousand in excess of the actual gain in the Southern factories. At the ratio of four and a half persons to a spindle, which is the present average, the gain in the population in these States requires the product of fourteen hundred and sixty thousand spindles. In these computations no cognizance is taken of the displacement of homespun fabrics.
If my computation is correct, that three and a half million people, who were clad down to 1870 in homespun fabrics, have changed to factory-made goods, in which estimate I am very much more than sustained by my correspondents, that change calls for seven hundred thousand additional spindles at the ratio of one to five, or seven hundred and eighty thousand at the ratio of one to four and a half.
These statistics, so far as they prove anything, therefore prove that while the spindles of the South have gained eleven hundred thousand since 1870, the demand of the South for cotton fabrics at the average of the country has increased in a ratio of more than double the product of their own increase of spindles; and I think all our observations tend to confirm these statistics.
A few sheetings and drills have been exported from the Southern factories and a few Southern goods have been sold in the West, but at the same time there has been a constantly increasing demand upon the North for medium and fine goods. These Southern goods which we have heard of from our salesmen were all made in the larger factories, which are well equipped with modern machinery—many of them being operated by men who would succeed anywhere—but they do not yet constitute a rule, nor must we forget or disregard the personal factor in dealing with this question. It is upon the personal factor, much more than upon proximity to the cotton-field, that the success of the Southern factory will depend. The advantage of position was only measured at a cent a pound four or five years ago. The freight from central Alabama to New England is now less than three quarters of a cent a pound. Very soon it will be down to half a cent; then what? The greater part of the Southern factories are, as you observe, too small to be economically worked, averaging but a fraction over five thousand spindles each. So long as these small factories are devoted to supplying Southern neighborhoods and Southern communities with checks, plaids, and heavy brown cottons, for which there is always a demand in that section greater than any other, they will succeed or fail according to the skill and aptitude of the owner or manager. It may have been observed that within the last few weeks there has been an overstock of these peculiarly Southern goods, and an effort has been made to check the production. Some of the Southern sheetings which have lately appeared in Northern markets must, I think, have been sold at less than cost.
I have referred to the personal factor as the main element in settling this question. In a small factory, wherever it may be, there must be such personal interest or individual ownership as to secure the necessary skill and judgment in the conduct of the work, and there must not be a set of stockholders who like cormorants swallow their dividends and demand them without regard
No. 3.—Baling and Pressing Cotton.
to the conditions of the market. In the larger mills, especially when owned by a corporation, the establishment must be of sufficient size to command the services of the most competent men, especially in the manufacturing department.
Does it not follow, from all these facts which I have submitted, that the competition of the Southern with the Northern factory, down to this time, has been more theoretical than practical? Is it not yet to begin, if it is felt in any considerable measure in respect to the home consumption of the East, the Middle States, and the West, aside from a very few heavy sheetings which have been sold in our Northern markets?
I must, therefore, again repeat the word of warning which I have so often given to my Southern friends: Beware of the isolated cotton-factory, and also beware of the small corporation; do not proceed upon the idea that, because the factory is near the cotton, it possesses any great advantage. Men who begin in a small way and who grow up with their business, or who have learned it elsewhere, may succeed, as many are now succeeding; but those who subscribe to the stock of an isolated Southern cotton-factory with the notion that a cent a pound or less advantage over the North in the price of cotton will assure success may get their experience at a high price when some other shrewder man buys the mill at a low price. In any event, under present conditions, not less than ten per cent a year on the cost of machinery should be charged off to depreciation. In many mills which I have visited, at least that portion of the machinery was going into the cost of the goods; in some cases without the knowledge of the owners.
Now, as to the future center or situs of the cotton manufacture. If you glance over the history of nearly all the principal arts, you will find that there has been a tendency for them to concentrate in special sections of given countries or states. Where and how such arts may originate may be to a certain extent a matter of chance; but, once established, it seems as if not only the manual skill and aptitude but the mental force of the whole neighborhood adjusted themselves to the special condition of these particular arts. Some one man invents or improves the machine, begins his work in one place, and makes money at it. This attracts attention; others gather in the neighborhood, and presently that place becomes the center of that specific art.
Go to Gloversville, in New York, away off on the high hills north of the Mohawk River: the whole population makes gloves and mittens. The art has existed there for so long a time that it has affected the language. If you are invited out to tea, when you are offered sugar and cream the hostess will ask you if you "take trimmings with your tea."
No. 4.—Cotton Spinning.
Go to Troy. One man invented nearly all the machinery on which the laundry-work is established, and all the laundries are called "Troy laundries." Then, since the laundry is the necessary adjunct of the shirt-factory, Troy and its neighborhood have become the center of the shirt, collar, and cuff manufacture. In this art the cutting and making of the shirt have been so perfected that it costs less to make the shirt than it does to do the laundry work upon it and get it ready for sale; while the women who operate the sewing and ironing machinery earn higher wages than even your best weavers, because they make the shirts at the lowest cost. It is only the woman who sews poorly who is a poor sewing-woman.
Go to Foxborough, Mass.—the whole population makes straw hats; over at Taunton and in that neighborhood, tacks and brads; down in Connecticut, around Meriden and Waterbury, all the brass-work of special kinds. Go to Leicester Hill, the important occupation is making cards for your factories, with some offshoots in Worcester. Even a single art divides up. Lynn makes fine boots and shoes for women; Brockton, common boots for men; Spencer, heavy boots for men.
The Dundee orange marmalade is another instance. Why should orange marmalade be made in Scotland, and not in Spain, where the oranges grow? I think the immediate benefit to the people in Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia might be greater in the introduction of the marmalade manufacture rather than in that of the cotton fabrics. The capital of a single cotton-mill would establish a great many marmalade-factories, and, like the eggs, there might be no end to the consumption.
Now, for one reason or another, the art of spinning cotton centered in Lancashire, England, first starting in and around Manchester. It stays in Lancashire. Manchester remains the center of the trade, but the trend of the spindles is away from Manchester proper. The spinners have for some years built nearly all the new mills at Oldham and other towns, seven or eight hundred feet above the sea-level, on the crest of the ridge beyond which the moors stretch away to Scotland. They may not have known why they went there, but it is the point where the relative humidity of the atmosphere is most constant. The rainfall is only about half what it is in Massachusetts, but the relative humidity of the atmosphere is very high, and you are always looking out for a shower. The dry, bad days for spinning are when the wind is from the east—that is, the dry wind in England coming over the land.
They are building a ship-canal to Manchester at an enormous expense, estimated at ten million pounds, or fifty million dollars, in order to save the railway freight on cotton from Liverpool to Manchester; but when the cotton reaches Manchester it will be taken over upon the cars and hauled up this heavy grade. The spinners did not make this change without a reason. What was it? Can there be any reason except the climatic conditions?
Our textile factories first gathered in centers where there was water power. It happened that Samuel Slater landed in Rhode Island, midway in the section where, I think, the cotton manufacture will stay. But water power carried many mills away up into New Hampshire, down into Maine, and elsewhere. That influence has gone by. Steam has taken the place of water power.
My judgment has been for a very long time that, barring one element which I will treat later, the greater part of the cotton spinning and weaving of this country will tend to concentrate along the south shore of New England, from New Bedford by way of Fall River, Narragansett Bay, and so on along the Sound, at the points to which coal can be carried in barges at very moderate cost, to which the cotton can be brought at diminishing rates of transportation from the South, and where the conditions of life are comfortable, the supplies abundant, and where all the subsidiary arts will gather or have gathered around the factories.
It is along this shore that the Gulf Stream exerts an influence somewhat like that which affects Lancashire. Although perhaps less in degree, the humidity of the atmosphere is more constant and more nearly consistent with the best conditions for spinning and weaving than it is in any other section of this country within my knowledge. I will not speak dogmatically upon this point, because I do not think we yet know enough of atmospheric conditions to be able to determine this question. It is one of the elements of the case. As this concentration takes place, as you so well know, the relative number of spare hands and the number of repair hands in each factory will be diminished; thus the general expenses will be reduced. The draft for help will be made upon the whole population, and the work will be subdivided in the way which is most conducive to the very closest economy.
To what extent weaving will be separated from spinning we have yet to see. I think that separation will go on as the work becomes finer and more dependent upon the changing fashion and fancy of the season than upon its quality for the sale of the product. That tendency is clearly apparent in the increase of fine spinning-mills in this section, in which no weaving is done. I have called attention to these points before.
Again, I am inclined to believe that any very rapid development of Southern cotton manufacture will meet a check from the yet more rapid progress of our Southern brethren in many other apparently minor branches of industry. These minor branches,
No. 5.—Reeling and preparing the Warp.
in the aggregate, are more important to the state and more conducive to diversity of occupation.
There has been up to this time a large reserve of unemployed people who could be drawn from the mountain sections of the South, where the factory-made fabrics have displaced the product of the spinning-wheel and of the hand loom, by which these people had been habituated to the textile industry. They are an excellent class of operatives, and, in passing from their isolated, narrow, and penurious lives on the hills to the factory and its surroundings, they have made a step in progress corresponding to that which occurred in New England when the farmers' daughters left the household and filled up the factories away back in 1840 and 1850. But it will be remembered that, with the progress of wealth and common welfare, all the farmers' daughters of New England have gone up and out of the textile factory into better paid branches of work, which are less monotonous, and which are more conducive to a satisfactory life.
The farmers' daughters earned from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and seventy-five dollars a year for thirteen hours of arduous work each day, in a low-studded, stove-heated, badly lighted, and non-ventilated factory. The French Canadians, who now in greatest number occupy their places, earn about twice as much per day and more than twice as much per hour, working ten hours per day, in the modern factory which I may presently show can yet be made a chosen sanitarium. As the earnings have advanced with the improvements in the processes and conditions of the work, the cost of the product has diminished, while the workman has received an increasing proportion and the capitalist a diminishing proportion of the joint product; but there was far greater opportunity for women to change from the factory to other branches of work in New England in former times than there will soon be at the South. We at the North were always a versatile people. We always had variety of occupation, whereas in the South nearly all the minor arts of life are in a very imperfect stage and in the very beginning of development; hence the change may be more rapid from the factory to other occupations.
Now, where it requires a thousand dollars or more of capital to set one woman at work in a cotton-mill, it only calls for two hundred or so to set one woman or man at work in a shoe-factory, in a clothing-factory, in a saddler's shop, or in any of the minor arts which may be counted by hundreds—each inconspicuous in itself, but the aggregate giving employment, even here in New England, to a force to which our factory population bears but the ratio of a small fraction.
I have stated the natural law which I think will be one of the
No. 6.—Cotton Weaving.
forces tending to concentrate the more important branches of the cotton manufacture along the south shore of New England. I hesitate to treat the subject of the influence of relative and absolute humidity upon cotton spinning and weaving, because none of us have yet any very accurate or scientific knowledge upon the subject; but, in order that a beginning might be made and the basis of an investigation might be laid down, I wrote to General A. W. Greely, giving the terms of the problem in a general way, and he has very kindly and carefully prepared tables for me which it might be judicious to incorporate in this report, giving the mean relative humidity three times a day—at 7 a. m., at 3 p. m., and at 11 p. m. as well as the temperature. These observations are averaged separately for each month in the year, and in the accompanying tables the mean for five years, 1881 to 1885, is charted. My hypothesis had been that somewhere between the elbow of Cape Cod and Staten Island the cotton manufacture of the United States would gradually concentrate. That hypothesis, so far as relative humidity may be a factor in the case, is fully sustained by these tables. From General Greely's figures I have taken the mean temperatures at the same hours of the day and the mean relative humidity in New London, Conn., and Augusta, Ga. The conditions are shown by curves on these charts.
As is quite well known, the term "relative humidity" defines the ratio of the moisture in the air to the amount which would saturate the air at a given degree of heat. Saturation being called one hundred, this factor is represented on the chart by percentage. The absolute humidity, or absolute number of grains of moisture contained in each cubic foot of air, will of course vary with the temperature of the atmosphere, and the absolute humidity at the South may be greater than that of the North, owing to the higher degree of heat.
I think all will agree with me that spinning and weaving depend more upon the uniform conditions of relative humidity in respect to spinning, perhaps more on absolute humidity in respect to weaving, than upon almost any other climatic condition. General Greely remarks: "In locations distant from the coast there is a greater diurnal range of relative humidity in the atmosphere, owing to the heating effect of the sun's rays upon the atmosphere, causing the temperature of the air to increase more rapidly than the dew-point, thus making the air relatively dry during the working hours of the day. It is possible that this condition has tended to drive the cotton-mills toward the southern coast of New England, where they are more completely covered by the vapor laden winds from neighboring waters, causing a reduced diurnal range in temperature and a more constant relative humidity."
In the chart which I have referred to, I have compared the relative humidity of the atmosphere at New London, Conn., with that of Augusta, Ga., from General Greely's tables, and I have added the data of New Bedford, Mass., from the private records which have been kept for a very long period by Mr. T. R. Rodman and his father. I have also compiled some data relating to Atlanta, Ga.
The general results derived from these two charts prove that the mean temperature of Atlanta is 123° Fahr. above that of New London, with 131 less per cent of relative humidity, and subject to a vastly greater variation day by day. Augusta, perhaps the principal center of the cotton manufacture of the South, yields a little different result: the mean temperature of New London through the year is 493°; at Augusta, Ga., 64·4°, a difference of a little over 15° in heat. The mean relative humidity at New London is 74·53 per cent; the greatest variation in the year, 23·4 per cent; the mean variation, 10 per cent. At Augusta, Ga., however, the mean relative humidity is 71·42; the extreme variation 55 per cent, and the mean variation 37·45 per cent in relative humidity, or nearly four times as much as at New London.
Now, I think no one would care to attempt fine spinning under a hot sun where the humidity of the outer atmosphere changed between seven o'clock in the morning and three o'clock in the afternoon from 84 per cent of moisture to 38, or from 93 to 50. Bear in mind that the variation charted, as I have presented it, is the mean variation of each and every day, averaged by months. It will be observed that this change in the humidity of the air makes the heat more comfortable and more easy to bear; that is the reason why our Southern friends complain of the heat of the summer as compared with their own when they come North; but, whether these conditions and variations are conducive to spinning and weaving cotton, my hearers are better judges than I am.
It may be remembered that we took this subject up some years ago, but I do not think it was then ripe. It might be judicious for the association to make some arrangement for a very thorough and complete study of this matter, in connection with a very visionary proposition which I am about to submit, for making use of freezing apparatus in tempering and controlling the air of factories. I was unable to take this subject into consideration until very lately, and I need to apologize for the superficial treatment which I have given it. I introduce it because I think it may be a most important and perhaps the paramount factor in determining
1. Where the coarse work, 13 to 20, may be done.
3. Where the medium, fine work, 40 to 80, ought to go.
I looked over a few numbers of the reports of the Royal Meteorological Society of Great Britain, and, while I find there are great variations in the relative humidity of the atmosphere in different parts of Great Britain, the changes are not as great as they are in this country, even between morning and night. I can not find any midday record as yet. I have sent for one.
Neither have I been able to find a record of a manufacturing town, but I should infer that the conditions of Buxton, one of the stations, might correspond to Oldham, Preston, etc. Buxton is, as you know, an inland health-resort on the peaks of Derbyshire, not far from Manchester, about a thousand feet above the sea-level, not much higher than Oldham, and facing the Gulf Stream. The mean temperature of the year at 9 a. m. is 44·15; 9 p. m., 42·5; extreme temperature, 1888, 79·2; mean relative humidity at 9 a. m., 90 per cent; 9 p. m., 92 per cent; highest point, 95 per cent; lowest, 80 per cent; variation, 15 per cent. No wonder it rains easily where the atmosphere is within less than 10 per cent of the saturation point almost all the time.
Since dictating the foregoing statement, Mr. Clayton, of the Blue Hill Observatory, has kindly computed the mean relative humidity of the atmosphere at Greenwich, England, from data within his possession, for the years 1884, 1885, and 1886. The mean of the hours 7 a. m. and 3 p. m. is 87 per cent; the extreme variation, from 95 per cent of humidity at 7 a. m., October, 1886, to 49 at 3 p. m., August, 1884. As I have before stated, the changes at Greenwich are very much greater than they are in Lancashire. I hope to procure figures for Lancashire, which I have sent for, before this report is published.
I have thus given some of the apparent advantages of New England over the South. I will now present some of the advantages of the Piedmont plateau, of the foot-hills, and of the upland country of the South, for the manufacture of coarse fabrics, even though the extreme of heat in the summer months is less conducive to continuous work throughout the year than the extreme of cold of our winter climate, and even though the humidity, both absolute and relative, of that section of our country is very much more variable than upon the south shore of New England.
While pointing out the advantage upon coarse numbers, I also call your attention to the indications that the demand of this country for coarse and unbleached fabrics is relatively diminishing while the consumption of the finer bleached and printed fabrics is relatively increasing. As soon as people can afford to wear a "b'iled" shirt rather than a gray cotton, or a fancy satine rather than a common print, they will have them and they can now well afford to pay for them.
I was under the impression until I took up this subject that the North had a positive advantage in pure water for bleaching and finishing, for the reason that all the rivers south of the lower margin of the glacial drift, which ended at the mouth of the Delaware River, are muddy or turbid during a large part of the year, and there are no ponds or lakes of clear water; hardly any of any kind in the cotton States. My correspondence with Mr. John Hill has disposed of this superficial doubt by calling my attention to the facility with which very pure and very soft water may be derived either from abundant springs or from artesian wells. There is no point to be made against the South on bleaching and coloring.
Again, so long as the supply of native operatives suffices, there may be a great field hardly yet occupied, in the production of coarse rather than of fine cotton fabrics, without trenching or taking away from us any part of the work which we can do in the best way. I think our Southern friends may develop a very important branch of textile industry in spinning and weaving below No. 20.
It will be observed that this whole problem turns upon an average advantage claimed by the South over the North of about one cent a pound in the price of cotton. This present advantage, whatever it may be, will be reduced whenever the volume of Southern railway traffic becomes greater and freight charges are cut down; but it may always be a considerable point on heavy goods. There is not, however, the full difference of the freight between the North and the South. Very few mills can supply themselves with cotton, even in the South, from the immediate neighborhood; and, when cotton must be baled and put upon cars for transportation, the local rates are apt to be quite heavy for short distances.
The advantages claimed by the South on account of the longer hours of work can not be admitted. In the first place, they will soon be shortened, either from choice or necessity; and, in the second place, I doubt if any very skillful manager now thinks that high speed can be profitably maintained more than ten hours a day.
Again, it is claimed that wages are lower in the South than in New England. This is true. The rate of wages is lower, but I doubt if the cost of labor is any lower, if as low. It may be in a very few of the best managed mills, but in taking the census of 1880 I made a very careful computation of the proportion of hands to spindles and looms, and after making every allowance for difference in yarn, in number, and in quality of mills, I found that there were substantially two hands employed in the South against one in New England, and this computation has been sustained by my observation in such mills as I have visited.
Now, it is well known that the more hands the more waste, the more want of discipline, the more lack of good work. In a recent report on Russian spinning by our friend Mr. Dobson, who spoke to us on carding-engines, he reaches identically the same conclusion in comparing Russia with Great Britain.
Doubtless there has been great improvement in Southern methods since 1880; with increased efficiency, the number of hands decreases; but the wages or earnings rise, and will continue to do so, until they become equal to what we pay.
I am, therefore, confident that we may hold a long lead, and that we need not yet borrow trouble from any competition in Southern factories after they have learned to keep their depreciation account, and after they cease to run the risk of bankruptcy by working their machinery into their fabrics without charging it off.
I might here rest my case; but I will venture to give a few more facts bearing upon this subject.
There is one development of science which may render the cotton -factory entirely independent of climatic conditions. One of the visionary theories which I presented many years ago has not yet been put into practice in any great measure. I suggested preparing the atmosphere which is to be used as an instrument for taking away the moisture from the slashers by carrying it into the sizing-room through a chamber filled with ice. Since that date there has been immense progress in the art of freezing. Frozen carcasses of mutton are now carried from Australia to England. When the trade was first established, the owners of the Victoria Docks in London prepared chambers which were cooled by ammonia machines sufficient to hold 3,200 carcasses. There were four chambers of 12,000 cubic feet each, supplied by a ten horse-power engine, delivering 10,000 cubic feet of air below the freezing-point per hour. There are now on the Royal Victoria Docks sixty chambers of 240,000 cubic feet capacity, supplied with 370,000 cubic feet of air below the freezing-point each hour, by a three hundred and twenty horse-power engine. These chambers will hold 80,000 carcasses of mutton at one time.
I lately put a very commonplace question to the F. W. Wolf Company, of Chicago, manufacturers of freezing machinery. I asked them, as if it were an every-day ordinary matter of business, at what price they would put down an ammonia plant suitable for maintaining the temperature of a cotton-mill three hundred feet long, one hundred feet wide, twelve-foot post, four stories high, at a uniform degree of 70° Fahr. throughout the summer. To which they replied:
"Yours of the 9th instant is at hand. We can furnish you one of our No. 5 Linde refrigerating machines, having a capacity equal to the melting of twenty-five tons of ice in twenty-four hours" (this is the standard of the effectiveness of this machinery).
"With this machine the temperature of a spinning-mill of the size given may easily be kept at 70° Fahr. We will furnish the whole plant, including the necessary cold-air pipes, ventilators, etc., for the sum of fifteen thousand dollars."
I have written to them to know what would be the cost of operating this machine.
Cotton manufacturers may yet be obliged to convert their mills into sanitariums, to which they may attract, not perhaps the most attractive women of the land, but those most capable of being attracted by attractive conditions of work, by offering them the most equable and pleasant temperature, most conducive to health, which they can find in any occupation open to them. This will only be in the line of all the other improvements which have been made in mill operation.
All progress consists in alleviating the noxious and arduous conditions of labor, in enabling the workmen to increase the product with lessening effort, in shortening the hours of labor, in raising the rate of wages, and in reducing the cost of production. In this line of progress there is room and to spare for us all. We of the North may retain what we possess and we may continue to gain in the finer branches of the textile arts. At the same time we may welcome our Southern friends in their effort to supply themselves and to share the wider markets of the world, which may soon be open to us by the removal of the duties on the crude or partly manufactured materials which are necessary in the construction of our factories and in the processes of our industry.
I am conscious that I have covered too much ground. My time does not suffice for condensing what I have to say. I have given my manufacturing friends an optimistic view of the future of cotton-spinning in this country. Bear in mind that for any immediate application these figures are all rubbish. There is at the moment an overstock of Southern goods, and apparently an oversupply of heavy goods and of colored goods in the North as well. Therefore, unless they act upon old Billy Gray's principle of moving against the evidence, and operating always when appearances are most adverse, they will conclude that, although we may require five million spindles in the next ten years, the man who puts in a foundation next year may make a great blunder.
I have ventured to suggest to the promoters of the Exhibition of 1892 that a considerable part of that undertaking shall be devoted to object-lessons in the development of the arts of life, taking as my example spinning and weaving. The distaff, used as it was in the days of Homer, may still be found in use in northern Italy. The hand loom and the spinning-wheel of prehistoric type are presented in these pictures from China. Other methods of spinning, and other wholly different forms of hand loom carried in the hand for weaving narrow stripes, may be brought from central Africa, and so the whole history of the textile arts may be gathered in one place, either by obtaining examples from different parts of the world, or any one may study the whole development of the cotton manufacture if, before it is too late, he will visit the heart of the eastern Kentucky mountains, and from there journey by way of the neighborhood mills of the South to the great factories of the North.