Mr. Steuart to Mr. Seward.
Leipsic, October 27, 1877. (Received November 21.)
Sir: In response to the instructions contained in your circular of August last, concerning the development of trade between the United States and foreign countries, I have the honor to report as follows:
Within the past few years, in this district, a great interest in American manufactures has been developed; and especially since the Philadelphia Exhibition has the reputation of our products acquired such prominence and been so favorably sustained and noised abroad by the intelligent Germans who visited the exhibition, that a demand has arisen for them to such an extent as to compel the serious attention of those who supply the wants of the public. Although the Germans resist innovations upon the manners and usages to which they have been for so long a time accustomed, and while they are slow to accept novelties and distrustful of all foreign importations, being strongly prejudiced in favor of their own productions, et the opportunities, though few, that have lately been afforded them of examining and acquiring a knowledge of American products have created a very spirited inquiry and demand on the part of consumers which the merchants must satisfy. For instance, hardware-dealers find it necessary to keep in stock tools and implements of American make, because they are considered the best and most durable; in stationery stores are to be found American gold pens, fancy table cards, much superior to those made here, paper-weights, twine-holders, pen-racks, letter and bill files, and other practical articles for the use of merchants, which are made so cheaply and tastily in America that large quantities are sold here; shirt-dealers are compelled to provide American shirting cotton to meet the wishes of their customers; and I was recently informed by one of the largest dealers in fancy goods and notions in this city, whose stock is gathered from all parts of the world, that he considered American silver-plated ware as the best, and sold it as such, and that his sales of American articles were constantly increasing. Indeed, one often hears, from men of good judgment, the opinion that all American productions are so practical, tasty, good, and cheap that they must come into general use, and that were it not for the [Page 43]obstacles presented by our tariff (greater in some places than in others), they would soon be introduced into all countries. In this city enterprising commission-houses are seeking connections with American manufacturers in all branches for supplies of their products, believing that in the near future a good business can be established. One house here, long engaged in the sale of American oil cloth, has added recently to their stock American paper-hangings, which are made by us much better and with far more taste than in this country, and they are now bringing over samples of prints, cotton sheetings and shirtings, also medium carpets, which they hope successfully to introduce.
Silver-plated goods are so generally used, and those made in America are so far superior in composition, finish, beauty, and strength to those made in this country, that, with proper presentation, there can be no doubt of their successful introduction. Merchants with whom I have conversed say that it will go slow at first, and that the manufacturers must be very particular with the goods sent over to this market in order to protect their reputation and secure confidence, but that from the present outlook the successful introduction of American goods into this country must be admitted.
It is highly important that our manufacturers should select well-established and favorably-known houses to act as their agents, as well to obtain the confidence of the public as for their own security. Applications for consignments or samples from houses without reputation or indorsement should be rejected.
I would call attention to the great advantages afforded by the spring and fall fairs held in this city for the introduction of new products into Germany.
Leipsic is the commercial center of Saxony, and one of the great trading centers of Europe. Each spring and fall a great fair is held, to which buyers from all parts of the world are congregated in very large numbers. They remain from one to two weeks solely for the purpose of seeking out, examining, and purchasing the products of the factories from all the German States, as well as what may be presented from other countries. I would suggest, as a good plan, to send a line of samples to meet the opening of one of these fairs (especially the spring fair, which is the largest and best attended) under the charge of a man who thoroughly understands the manufacture of the goods, one who has a good stock of patience, and who will adapt himself to the peculiarities of the people with whom he will be brought into contact. A knowledge of the language is very desirable in so far that inquiries, descriptions, and explanations are much more satisfactory to both parties when given direct than when an interpreter has to be used.
It will be seen at a glance that, by such an opportunity as above mentioned, an agent could cover more ground and show his wares to more persons from various parts of the country in a few days than he could by weeks of travel. He could learn what styles and designs are required by the different markets he wishes to supply, could select agents in such places as he considered most suitable, and if he found sufficient encouragement might establish a depot for his wares.
Since the Leipsic fairs have about lost all interest for American buyers, except, probably, in the one article of furs, I would be pleased to see them utilized by our manufacturers for the introduction of American products.
United States Consul.