LackawannaLackawanna County News

Excerpts From The Scranton Times

The Scranton Republican, Tuesday Morning, October 2, 1894, page 3


English and Belgian Competition.
British Rails at $15. 73-Belgian Rails Still Lower
American Workmen in Competition
With Foreign Labor

In a brief conversation yesterday with a gentleman well acquainted with the resources of the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company, and the blast furnaces for the manufacture of iron, but not interested in either, and who is also acquainted with the intricacies of the tariff questions in a business and economic sense, the following answers to fitting questions were made. They are in line of general information, and are specific in the instances referred to.

Questioned as to his opinion as to the reason for the suspension and the probable outlook for the future, based upon the recent tariff measure, and the demand for rails, he said:

"The reasonableness of either a general suspension of steel rail and iron manufacturing or a hurtful cut in wages lies in the fact that the recent tariff reduction with insurance and other expenses added, will enable English manufacturers to place rails in the country at $25. per ton.

"This accounts for the shutting down of the South Side Steel mills. I "It is reported that a recent order was announced to be placed and certain New Orleans agents ,).'offered to do the work at a slight cut under the present English rate.

"This fact leaked out, and a bid was offered at $1.50 lower, and it was announced that the contract was awarded to a certain in the western part of the state.

"It was not long after this that the Carnegie Company at Pittsburgh tacked up notices announcing a reduction in wages. It is presumed they got the contract. The only good thing about it is that the wage-earner is able to earn something.

"The South Side mills have a splendid plant, the best probably in the world. When the competition is determined by the quality of the metal and the promptness to fulfill orders the Scranton Company need take no back seat, when it comes to cheapness the company may possibly decline.

"When you remember that the best skilled labor in English mills is put at 86 cents a day you will see how this will work.

"The latest price quoted for steel rails in England, free on board steamer, is 3 pounds 10 shillings which is $15.73. This is taken as ballast for the home-bound gulf cotton steamers and the freight is merely nominal.

"The outlet from Chicago goes down the Mississippi, and even if the western steel men could do their work at $16 per ton they could not undersell the English manufacturer on account of the freight to the gulf.

"Another element comes in the fact that Belgium, by reason of advantages peculiar to the situation in that country , is able to knock out the British, and I am not sure but that she will be ale to knock out our American industry.

"There is nothing in prospect that I can see for our own mills unless to compete with the foreign product in cheapness of labor in all departments of the iron and steel industry, and the making of special rails for which the South Side mill is adapted and superior workmanship and material, which with the true blue American tells against foreign influence and intrigue.

"When men in the iron, pottery, and wool business complain about a reduction in wages, they must remember that through an approximately free trade tariff they are placed in competition with the forei8l\ workmen whose wages are away down.

"So far as I can gather from hearing and reading, there is no great demand for railroad building except in South America. But to build in such countries as must buy their railroad steel from England; they can never do it cheaper than now, nor so poorly. I venture to say that England will not lay many miles or railroad in this country."

Transcribed and provided by Edward Godwin, 2002

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