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sections had come to my attention, follow- But I have lived among the New Enging the great waves of coöperative en- land country folk — those independent. thusiasm started by the “Union Stores”” upstanding, self-sufficient men, whose imitation of Rochdale methods in the '40's first instinct when a man talks coöperaand '50's, the “Sovereigns of Industry" tion is to suspect that he's a weak brother movement in the '70's, the immigrants' trying to shift his troubles on to their coöperative buying societies (when the shoulders; I remember the grim, tightflood tide of immigration began in the lipped, chin-whiskered, successful old '80's), and the ill-fated joint-producing farmer who remarked, at an agricultural associations urged by the Knights of college coöperation rally (after an enLabor thirty years ago.
thusiastic lecturer had spent himself in
IN BUSINESS TO MAKE MONEY FOR ITS PATRONS THE COOPERATIVE STORE AT NORTH DIGHTON, MASS., ONE OF THE STORES THAT REFUND THEIR PROFITS TO THE
PEOPLE WHOSE PURCHASES MAKE THEM
picturing what his hearers could do bybutions to reserve, and building funds) combining), when asked what he thought down to the little informal clubs of six of it all: “Let 'em blow: they can't to a dozen men at the state colleges, who hurt me noan." And I should have said pool their grocery orders, buy at wholesale that the apostle of human brotherhood, rates, and cut off 20 per cent. of the cost. even when using the primary argument of And even these surprising figures are saving money by working together, had undoubtedly far from the whole story; a long career marked out when he came for Dr. Ford discovered, in gathering his to proselyte in New England.
statistics, that with the single exception But mighty is an Idea, if it happens to of one bulletin in 1907 on “Distributive be the truth. Dr. James Ford, in his ad- Coöperation in New England” by the mirable book recently issued, “Coöpera- Massachusetts Labor Bureau there has tion in New England,” lists twenty-seven been no official cognizance whatever of coöperative stores, of native Americans or this whole movement. In only one of the English emigrants, in cities and towns of six states did the state department of agriMaine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and culture know more than a handful of the coConnecticut, with about 13,000 members, operative organizations among its farmers! doing a yearly business of more than I venture to predict that the next five $1,500,000, and (unrelated and each work- years will see some most far-reaching ing alone as they are) saving perhaps changes and developments in this matter. $150,000 a year for those who buy through There are unmistakable signs of an awakthem. More than half of these have been ening consciousness in our democracy of started in the last decade.
the potency of this principle of combinaDr. Ford found, also, thirty stores in tion, ich has in England created the Massachusetts and one in Vermont, serv- monster coöperative movement (above reing 5,000 or more Swedish, Belgian, ferred to), whereas we, by neglecting the French, German, Lithuanian, Finnish, keystone fact of modern life, have perHebrew, Polish, and Italian workingmen, mitted our captains of industry to use and saving a small percentage on the it for their own aggrandizement and pile million or so dollars of yearly purchases. up billions of dollars in the hands of a few
Moreover, largely through the granges, trust organizers and directors. there exists to-day some form of coöpera- Among these significant facts are: tive production (like creameries), or (1) The creation by the new United marketing, or buying among farmers in States Secretary of Agriculture of a Bureau almost every township of western New of Rural Organization, under the direction England, there being, for instance, 125 joint of Prof. T. N. Carver, of the Harvard Decreameries (probably 25 of them of the partment of Economics, one of the ablest purely democratic type); strong organiza- and most constructive social philosophers tions for the selling of fruit, cranberries, of our generation. This new
new bureau potatoes, flowers, and market garden pro- is to study and develop coöperative buying duce; supply associations for wholesale and selling among the farmers, following buying of grain and fertilizers in every out the recommendation of Mr. Roosevelt's one of the six states; besides many stores Country Life Commission.
Country Life Commission. The time is and purchasing clubs, chiefly among the about ripe for a federation of all these 150,000 grange members.
associations for agricultural buying, In addition to these, there are num- management, production, and selling, berless semi-democratic associations; who which would be the first step toward revobuy jointly from the Harvard Coöpera- lutionizing farming in the United States. tive Society (which has effectively served (2) Conferences were held at Plymouth, its members for a quarter of a century, Mass., and Attleboro, Mass., in April and which last year did a business, in by twenty-five delegates from successful books, clothes, furnishings, furniture, sta- coöperative stores — the associations tionery, coal, and wood, of $393,000 Plymouth, Greystone, North Dightom saving 9 per cent. besides large contri- tleboro, Lynn, and Jamaica Plain, w
Palmer Coöperative Store of Boston, the About a year ago he started the ConCoöperative Association of Bank Men, sumers' Coöperative Company, at 149 the Interstate Coöperative Union, and Tremont St., Boston, which, with a memothers — that will probably result in the bership fee of $5, sells to its members immediate formation of a central whole- "standard goods at
"standard goods at standard prices, " sale buying society, which, by purchasing from pianos and automobiles to watches, for all these societies and other affiliated stoves, clothing, nursery stock, and whatones, will greatly increase their savings. not. The member pays full price in
This is the first trembling step here advance, and half the discount secured along the path blazed in Great Britain, from the manufacturer is at once credited where since 1902 the English and Scotch to his account (so that the initial $5 is wholesale societies have been com- usually wiped out on the first $25 worth bined, so that in 1909 this central body of purchases), there being also a probability acted for nearly 1,500 wholesale societies of a future dividend from the other half in purchases aggregating more than of the discount. $160,000,000. This advance is due largely This company is not purely coöperative, to the initiative and enthusiasm of Dr. in the democratic sense, because the stock Francis F. Whittier, of Boston, head of is not all held by the members on a onethe Consumers' Coöperative Company, man-one-vote plan; but its founder plans, and founder of the Interstate Coöperative when the public is sufficiently educated Union, an organization for spreading and the society is strong enough, to turn education on this subject, directed by it into the straight Rochdale type. Meansuch men as Dr. Whittier, Dr. James while, he stands as one of the foremost Ford, Mr. Harry C. Bentley, head of the working figures in the New England Boston School of Commerce, Mr. John coöperative movement. Stone Allen, assistant editor of the Youth's (3) Another tremendous advance was Companion, Mr. George H. Brown, of made last year by the Producers and Brown & Nichols's School, and others. Consumers' Exchange of Maine. As I Dr. Whittier is a physician, who, after a have said, many of the special New Engsuccessful professional career (and as land crops have strong selling organizafounder of the New England Baptist Hos- tions: the flower-growers of Eastern pital), has for nearly three years spent his
Massachusetts have for twenty years time in helping the coöperative idea in the coöperated to some extent, and the Boston Eastern United States. He came to it Coöperative Flower Market is to-day an through the church: his professional work effective association for joint leasing and twenty-five years ago among the poor purchasing; the Market Gardens of Hartof New York and Boston, and his effort ford also purchase jointly and sell in to work out what he calls "applied uniform association boxes; the Vermont Christianity.” He started a dispensary in Maple Sugar Makers' Association has Boston in connection with the Ruggles for twenty years tested, graded, packed, Street Baptist Church; and in casting and sold its members' product; the Maine about for other means of alleviating the Potato Growers' Exchange, started in the human misery which confronted him, he summer of 1911, had sold for its 500 memgradually saw that the best way to help bers, by January, 1912, 667,000 þushels these unfortunates was to teach them of potatoes; and last July nine farmers' their power to help themselves -- the unions federated at Bangor for the purprinciple, of course, applying as well chase of machinery and fertilizer and the to a professional man making $20,000 a sale of potatoes on a commission of only year as to a laborer at $2 a day. (An one cent a bushel; four associations of additional impetus was given to his Maine and Massachusetts fruit-growers thoughts in this direction, by the way, were planning, in 1911, a New England through an article in the World's WORK Fruit Growers' Union; since 1907, the on the prodigious success of coöperation New England Cranberry Sales Company in some of the Western States.)
has been grading and packing, advertising,
and selling this product, immeasurably the Boston market. There was a glut raising the standards, and doing for its of lettuce just then. Several dealers 253 members a business of $622,000 in would make no offer at all. At last one 1910-11 (including more than half of the offered him 5 cents a crate (holding 18 Cape Cod crop) at a ridiculously small heads) which, of course, wouldn't pay for cost. Another most interesting new plan the crate alone. The farmer turned away, is the Middlesex Coöperative Garden declaring he'd haul his lettuce back home Company, organized at Hudson, Mass., and feed it to his hogs. Yet that very day
1910 — which has spent $15,000 in thousands of heads of lettuce were being preparing its 1,000 acres for growing bought by consumers in that very city for asparagus and apples, on the basis of from 5 cents to 8 cents apiece! common ownership, operation, and, ulti- (b) Dr. Whittier, of the Consumers' mately, selling and buying, aiming to Coöperative Company, purchased recently educate its members to the last pitch of a lot of fine parsnips for 20 cents a bushel — agricultural science and to produce an the wooden box alone being worth about ideal community farm.
half that. On the same day his household But beyond all these, in some aspects, bought parsnips at retail at 5 cents a pound. is the action of the Producers and Con- (c) A case of personal experience: last sumers' Exchange, of Brunswick, Me., fall the apple market went bad, and from which proved a failure, owing to the our Maine farm we hauled 100 barrels of old, old cause of poor business manage- our crop of beautiful Baldwins to the ment, but the idea of which is practical. railroad station and dumped them into a This coöperative concern cut loose from freight car at $1 a barrel -- perhaps one the grange and opened its membership tenth of a cent an apple, net. Yet apples to all farmers, with the aim of becoming no better were retailing in the city five “the sole middleman between the Maine miles away for from 2 to 5 cents apiece. farmer and the Boston consumer." Its (d) The Consumers' Company received more than 2,000 farmer members could an order for a set of dining room furniture ship their produce in carload lots to the in high-grade quartered oak — six chairs, potato house which the Exchange had in sideboard, and china closet. A big manuBoston, fronting on the railroad track, or facturer made a price of $450. It seemed they might send goods in lesser bulk to high. The next man quoted $375. The the society's store — the Exchange having company at once took the order themdecided to take city consumers into mem- selves at $275, had the furniture built, bership and to sell at retail as well as whole- duplicating the stock quoted on, to the sale. The plan was to secure for the farmer purchaser's entire satisfaction - and made wholesale prices (much more than he now a profit of $85 on the transaction. gets), sell to the consumer at 10 per cent. One could fill this magazine with similar advance on this (much less than he now absurdities. Of every dollar which you, pays), and distribute profits, out of
profits, out of the consumer, spend, I, the producer, rethe 10 per cent. above expenses, to both ceive about 35 cents. The 65 cents goes to a producer and user.
series of middlemen, occasionally in excesHere we have the Big Thing which is sive profits, but far more frequently in bound to come as soon as the man who waste between them and in their hands. grows something and the man who uses Investigation into the causes of the high it realize what each pays for the present price of meat, for example, has shown absurd, cumbersome, wasteful method of clearly that producer nor wholesaler nor getting this something from one to the retailer was making exorbitant profits: other. And here is where the Government's the main trouble was that there were too new bureau can be of inestimable service. many retail butcher shops, each doing
Consider, for an instant, some details too small a business, maintaining expensive of the present method:
stores and delivery service, and duplica(a) A few months ago a truck farmer ting one another's delivery expense. hauled a load of lettuce five miles into It comes back mainly to that characteristic American crime of waste, the elimina- 4. Market prices should be charged tion of which by shrewd individuals has and no credit given or asked. been the major element in founding many 5. Profits should be divided in proof our greatest fortunes as when Mr. portion to the total amount of purchases John D. Rockefeller built the Standard made by every member (with deduction Oil pipe lines; or when P. D. Armour, for dividend and education as herein noticing a stream of dirty water from a noted. See 1 and 8). pipe in one of his slaughter-houses, de- 6. The principle of “one member, one manded what was in it and was assured vote” and the equality of the sexes in it was "only bristles from the hogs" membership should obtain. that dirty bristle-water being at present 7. The management should be in the the basis of a great industry employing hands of the officers and committee, thousands of men.
elected periodically. So the question becomes: How long 8. A definite percentage of profits should are the American people (with the object- be allotted to education. lesson before them of Great Britain-whom Every failure recorded, and there have we laugh at as slow and old-fogeyish — been hundreds, has been due to poor as well as almost every other civilized management (which will ruin anything, country), how long are we going to con- from a church to a saloon), lack of coöperatinue to whine about the High Cost of tion, or a departure from these rules. Living when we are throwing away mil- There is no possibility of failure to-day lions of dollars every day in preventable with the exercise of the same intelligence wastes, which could be saved by simply a man would use in any ordinary business. applying the principle of democracy to A society of workingmen, of farmers, of such everyday matters as buying what we clerks, of professional men, of anything, use and selling what we produce?
has this modern discovery at its command, If the consumer can save 20 per cent. if it will but use it. and the farmer get 20 per cent. more by And let us face the truth about the most getting together, isn't it about time they discussed question of our day in this got together?
country: that the trust problem is what There isn't any question nowadays it is, is our own fault. We have failed about the coöperative supply store. Any in the democratic, in the Christian, ideal, group of a score or more consumers, homo- by failing to work together, and leaving geneous enough to work in unison, can re- to a few forceful individuals the powers duce the cost of much of what they use of this tremendous force of Combination from 10 per cent. to 20 per cent.by applying the primary recognition of which was ordinary good business management and man's first step toward civilization, but the principles which have been tested for whose full development in business and nearly seventy years. That little group industry has come only in our own time. of flannel weavers at Rochdale, England, That is to say, we have permitted a who met in 1844, out of work and in few men to combine us, or deal with us desperate straits, to consider how they separately, for their profit, instead of might jointly better their condition, by combining ourselves for our own profit. some miracle corrected the practical errors Police legislation may have been needed, in the plan of Robert Owen, the pioneer may still be needed, to cope with the conof coöperation, and formulated basic centrations of industry and wealth; principles which have carried hundreds of but the effects of such political and coöperative stores to success.
legislative efforts are as nothing comThese were:
pared with the simplest exercise of the 1. Capital should be of their own pro- collective power of the consumers.
. You, viding and bear a fixed rate of interest. as an individual, may receive scant notice
2. Only the purest provisions obtain- from a railroad president, a banking able should be supplied to members. magnate, a great manufacturer, a trust
3. Honest measure should prevail. manager controlling a necessity of life: