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TIMELY TALKS ON THE TARIFF.
COTTON GOODS INDUSTRY NEEDS TARIFF PROTECTION-RADICAL INEQUALITIES IN WAGES AND HOURS OF OPERATION IN FOREIGN MILLS WORK TO DISADVANTAGE OF AMERICAN PLANTS-KEEN DO ESTIC COMPETITION PREVENTS MONOPOLY OR INFLATION OF PRICES-FALL TRADE CHECKED.
(This article has been written in the interest of the cotton business of the United States out of information furnished by a number of large and reliable mill owners and agents. It expresses the foremost as well as the most recent thought of that important industry and should be read with great care by everyone interested in the progress and prosperity of the great American staple.)
It has frequently been pointed out that the one article of universal utility is cotton. Fabrics made from this staple are used by the people of all lands, and in no other country is the amount of yardage in cottons greater than in the United States, both from the point of view of production and consumption. This industry is one which offers many striking examples in American progressiveness. Beginning in the early history of the Colonies, cotton was cultivated as a crop in Virginia and the Carolinas. Gradually the cotton belt widened until now it includes 13 of the States. Although there have been no interruptions on the part of the nations of the world to compete with the United States in the cultivation of cotton, the result has been ineffective from a commercial standpoint. The cotton grown in the Valley of the Nile is of long staple and of very fine texture and in all averages but 1,000,000 bales a year. So the world has to depend upon the crop grown in the United States, and from the consumption of the past few years it is shown that the normal needs of the manufacturers of cotton products exceed 13,000,000 bales. The small quantity of cotton grown in India is of short fiber and is used for the India mills for making cloths for their home market. All attempts at colonizing in Africa and other sections of the world with a view to raising cotton have proved costly and ineffectual. So the great question of producing the staple for manufacturing the cloth that clothes the world devolves upon the United States.
At the present time there are large textile mills exclusively devoted to the manufacture of cotton goods located in 42 States. The number of operatives immediately engaged in cotton mills is in excess of 500,000, and the mills of the United States are now consuming considerably over 4,500,000 bales of cotton annually.
From the primitive efforts of housewives who sought to spin cotton in a similar way to spinning of woolen yarns in the colonial days, the spindlage in this country has increased to a point where there are now over 36,000,000 machine-operated spindles in our cotton mills. There is nothing sectional about the cotton industry in this country. The South enjoys peculiar distinction in so much as it is the zone in which the cotton is grown, and it is fast becoming a dominant factor in the manufacture of cotton products. After more than a century of supremacy of the New England mills, from the point of view of consuming cotton, the South now holds this distinction. More than half of the cotton that is woven into cloths or spun into yarns for knitting purposes now comes from southern mills. Of course the products from the mills in the South are of a heavier and coarser grade than those of the eastern mills and the yardage record still stands to the credit of the New England and eastern plants.
Within recent months there has been keen investigation made by the Government into the status of the cotton industry with a view of determining costs of raw material, costs of manufacturing and of selling. The object has been to arrive at certain facts on which to base a change in the tariff schedules. The findings of the tariff commission carry out almost to the letter the contentions of manufacturers, that the industry is based upon the theory of protection being accorded them so that the American scale of wages may be paid and the other incidental overhead charges on the American basis may be provided for. Now that the tariff has been raised to the point of the chief issue in the pending national legislation, it is deemed proper that this newspaper, which is edited in the interest of business men, should regard conditions as they exist in various industries that are to be affected by tariff legislation. On facts gathered first hand by the staff of the textile department, it appears that manufacturers of heavyweight cottons and coarse cotton yarns are not as seriously threatened as others. Their advantage in geographical situation where their mills and the cotton fields are contiguous frees them from dangerous competition from England or other cotton cloth-producing centers.
It is in the division of the industry devoted to the production of fine cotton goods in plain and fancy styles that trouble is expected in the event of a heavy downward revision of the Payne-Aldrich schedules. The manufacturers of fine fancy shirtings, fancy cotton dress goods in woven and printed styles, are obliged to pay more for their yarns and more for finishing their goods than foreigners, and with a reduction in the tariff the goods from England, Scotland, Belgium, France, and Germany would enter into sharp competition with products of the New England mills and the growing number of southern plants that are now endeavoring to produce fine yarn goods.
In all of the discussion that has been made through the newspapers and in tariff debate generally, inequalities in the tariff schedules affecting cotton have been pointed out. This has been done by selecting special weaves which show by the count of the yarns the number of threads to the square inch and the quality of the yarns; that they were appraised under a double or triple classification. This heavy and cumulative duty in some instances is from 90 to 110 per cent, where the average cotton duty is below 60 per cent. With an example such as the above, the opponents of the tariff have made it appear that the entire basis of cotton-goods valuation was iniquitous. When the facts are studied, the opportunity is given for even a layman to understand how a cumulative tariff duty can be raised from a normal average of 60 up to and above 100 per cent. In the case of a fancy cotton dress fabric the body of the cloth may be of the finest yarn construction; a fancy woven pattern in mercerized cotton threads may be part of the fabric and the color affixed may be attained by fancy silk thread of cording. This would bring the cloth under an ad valorem duty of two grades of cotton and a separate duty on a fabric; part silk construction the total duty would in this case unquestionably be above 100 per cent. In estimating the reasonableness of the cotton schedules in the Payne-Aldrich tariff or in any other, the general effect of the measure as a revenue producer or as a means of protecting the industry must be taken into consideration. The analysis of the customhouse reports, covering the period during which the present tariff has been in force, shows that it has not prohibited importation. It was designed to foster and encourage the domestic manufacture of fine cottons and to this extent it has proved successful. The garment trade and that portion of the dry-goods trade which carries a stock of fine imported piece goods has continued to take an increasing yardage that keeps pace with the growth of the population of this country. At the same time domestic records show that American cotton-goods manufacturers are constantly broadening their market and are producing, season after season, goods of higher intrinsic worth.
The gravest situation which the cotton manufacturers in this country have to face is that of securing steady labor. Throughout the large towns of New England it is somewhat easier for the mills to secure competent labor, both male and female, but this is at a cost in wage which greatly handicaps the mills. In the South the labor question is one of constant disturbance. The mill organizations are broken up by operatives leaving in large numbers to go from one town to another where special inducements are made or where for some one of many reasons the mill operatives desire to make a change. The colonizing question has been tried without success in many sections of the South. One thing which has been the deterrent to the success of colonizing has been the steady increase in the value of manual labor throughout the South. The demands of the railways, the general lines of agriculture, the iron and coal industries of the South, and the lumber interests have drawn directly from the cotton plantations. Similarly they have drawn from the cotton mills. The confining labor in a cotton mill has not seemed as attractive to operatives as outdoor work that was obtainable at even better prices than could be secured in the mills. In conducting a mill it is essential that a complete organization be held intact. This requires an engineering force, spinners, weavers, loom fixers, general mechanics, and the general helpers. When any part of this required staff fails the mill is either greatly handicapped or compelled to shut down. All of these facts combine to make it a difficult matter to arrive at the exact cost of production of goods. In the estimate furnished to the tariff commission or to any investigating commission a theoretical and perfect condition is presupposed, and naturally the resultant figures are lower than are ever arrived at in the actual conduct and operation of the mill. Altogether, the situation with regard to cotton goods is one which breaks down any State barrier or local prejudice. It affects the welfare of the entire country, and the lasting benefit to our entire citizen body entitles so important an industry to a most careful consideration at the hands of Congress. Aside from the production of cotton the South is interested in developing its månufacturing interests, and the permanent operation of the textile mill in any southern town or city means much to all classes of tradesmen
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CSDERTALLATION ABUSES One of the things the revisionists must keep in mind if they are to give a fair business deal to Ameriean industries is the pract undervaluing the foreign-made goods in the market where they are produeerd, so that they come into our ports on a lower tarih danes than is justifiable under the actual cost of production. The Amers ican consuls and their staffs pay but little heed to the business inter ests of American manufacturers, and their reports show that they make no searching investigations as to rates of wages abroad of raw material in foreign markets, and the actual cost of producing merchandise. This applies with especial force to all lines of textiles The disadvantage of the American manufacturer can be understood when consideration is given to the fact that an importer may un wittingly be given a price on foreign textiles that is from 20 to so per cent under the actual cost of production and that this is made ihe basis of the invoice. When the goods arrive in this country the up praisers are prone to accept the figures set forth in the invoice, and when protests are made by American manufacturers a long and tedi ous complication arises. Many hearings have to be attended, and the outcome is uncertain.
Another matter of prime importance is in the count of cloths, A coarse yarn cotton fabric in which there may be s to 10 strands of yarn to the warp and 6 to 8 picks, would pass under the prosent custom policy as having only 18 threads to the square inch, a matter of fact, yarns from which this cloth is manufactured may be 13-thread yarn in the warp and 8-thread yarn in the filling This should properly make the classification of the cloth one of 104-thread count to the square inch, and would, of course, raino it to a much higher tariff duty. The fact that many thronds are used in a twisted yarn to accomplish the production of a honvy cotton fabric does not at present gain for tho cloth tho propor por centage of protection. Under the pending Underwood bills this distinction is not emphasized, and the lower duty on such goods would work a decided handicap to the American industry,