Mr. Wilson to Mr. Seward.
Nuremberg, October 20, 1877. (Received Nov. 28.)
Sir: * * * Thanks, in part, to our Centennial Exhibition, this year I am enabled to give a more encouraging report than formerly respecting the importation of American products into this part of Germany. As stated in former reports, I am unable to give correct and full information as to the amount of the products of our country consumed in this consular district, although I am satisfied it is very considerable, and increasing from year to year. Recently, since our great Philadelphia Exposition, it has become more manifest that our export trade has been stimulated. Indeed, I feel that I cannot say too much in praise of the results of that exhibition, from a patriotic stand-point, and before closing this report I propose to refer to it more at length.
Since Bavaria has no sea-port, most articles used here, coming from the United States, are entered at the ports of Hamburg, Bremen, or Rotterdam. The direct importations upon which there is no duty are petroleum, wheat, lard, canned meats, fruits, Florida cedar-wood for pencils, and all kinds of hardware, machinery, &c.
There is one firm here that imports and consumes, annually, upward of a half a million dollars’ worth of American lard, mostly Western and New York refined, in manufacturing an article called “schmalz,” or “cooking-butter,” [Page 74] which is substituted for and said to be an improvement on the old article of German schmalz, made from poor butter and other ingredients. The new article, made from lard and other fatty substances, after passing through some chemical process, produces an article of a rich yellow color, resembling the best quality of dairy butter. It is run into molds, and, when cooled off, is stiff like the bars of common yellow soap. It is a. favorite article with the German cooks, and is also used largely by the bakers and others for shortening, and by the very poor as a substitute for butter, and, of course, comes much cheaper. It is a profitable business to the manufacturer.
new imports of american goods.
Although this city and many of her public buildings are lighted with gas, in most private houses and workshops American petroleum is used, and the amount consumed must be large. Also, within the past few months, we notice many articles displayed in the shop-windows that were formerly not to be seen, such, for instance, as the Chicago canned corned beef and tongue, Oregon salmon, and other canned meats and fruits. Also white goods (muslins), such as used for sheeting, shirting., &c. One establishment has a variety of cooking and other stoves from Detroit, and some small machines and tools. I do not believe the sales have been extensive, since, from early times, the tools used here have been of the roughest and most primitive sort, and to be had at very low prices. The latter fact is, and has always been, the great desideratum. People here argue that their fathers prospered with such old-fashioned implements, and that they should follow in the same course, and so they will reason until they see that their neighbors are thriving more who use labor-saving machines and modern tools. But this will be only a question of time. I may here add that it is one of the peculiarities or weaknesses of the genuine Nuremberger to keep as near as possible to the medieval ages when the fame of their great artisans was world-wide. The farmers of this country are mostly small tenants, and cannot afford much outlay, and certainly will not indulge even in seeming extravagance, so long as they cannot see immediate gain by so doing, and, especially so long as human muscle, both male and female, is so available and so cheap.
successful introduction of american machinery into germany.
In my annual report for 1873 I referred at length to the efforts of Mr. Frederick Haag, a German-American citizen from Auburn, N. Y., to intro duce American machinery, farming implements, &c., into this his native country. Before emigrating to America Mr. Haag had become a practical mechanic and millwright. Therefore, in after years, having become familiar with American tools and machinery, he conceived the idea that he could successfully introduce into Germany our modern tools. He took an especial fancy to a turbine water-wheel, known as the “Little Giant turbine.” Mr. Haag knew full well that this article was just the thing needed by the millers and manufacturers living upon the small streams of his native kingdom of Bavaria, and that they were still using the wheels of the pattern handed down by their remote ancestors. These old wheels are the huge and awkward overshot and undershot, so unwieldy and impracticable, and always erected upon the outside of the mill, not only requiring much water, but liable to be useless the greater part of the winter by being frozen up. Mr. Haag, having purchased [Page 75] the patent-right of this wheel for the continent of Europe, came over with his two sons determined to conquer the antipathy of this people to modern tools, and especially their prejudice against our American patent-rights. When Mr. Haag first appeared among the millers of Bavaria, some four or five years ago, with his “Little Giant turbine,” and demonstrated to the miller its superior merits, and the folly of longer continuing the things in use here, at first, as he expected, he was met with sneers only; but, possessing indomitable pluck and perseverance, and having full faith in his ultimate triumph, he did not despair. However, before he could make any progress, he was obliged to enter into bonds, as a guarantee that his wheel would accomplish all that he represented. In every instance the wheel proved a greater success than he had claimed. After a few turbines had been placed in the mills their fame became great and a lucrative business assured to the Messrs. Haag, who have already put in, with perfect satisfaction, over four hundred wheels, most of them in Germany. They have recently sold the patent-right for Austria, and the reports of its success from there are also very cheering. The mills of the country being generally very old and tottering concerns and unsuitable for the times, the millers and others are calling upon the Messrs. Haag to build them new ones, after American or modern plans. They have already built 157 grist and saw mills completely, i.e., everything about the establishment except the outer walls, besides doing a great amount of repairing. In all these cases they contract to furnish the material, machinery, mechanical labor, &c. They have a large field for future work in this line.
Mr. Haag at one time imported four dozen mowing machines and one hundred dozen farming-forks, with handles complete. These took well; but the turbine, growing so rapidly in favor, has monopolized the attention of the Messrs. Haag to such an extent that they could not find other business so promising or profitable.
I am of opinion that very many of our improved farming implements could be imported here and disposed of at a good profit, provided the party or agent introducing the same was a practical farmer who understood the German language and character, and who had the combined merits of patience, energy, and common sense. A native born German would be likely to be the most successful. Also he should be capable and willing to explain all particulars respecting his machine or tools, so that, if a machine got broken or out of order, he could repair it, or be able to show how it ought to be done.
I am informed that there has never been a machine introduced into this country which will clean grain thoroughly, although there are several kinds here. Mr. Haag says he tried to introduce a first-class machine known as “a grain scourer and smut-separating machine,” which was one of the best in use. Still, the price was regarded as so high that it was impossible to sell it, when other parties delivered a machine for one-half the money. He says it makes but little difference whether the machine is first or second class, if it can be had at a low figure.
I have also heard that in some parts of the country American manufacturers are running in opposition to each other in their prices, which is having a detrimental effect; and the country is being overstocked with mowers and reaping-machines, which have been exported by most American companies manufacturing these articles to agents who receive them on credit. Also the country is filled with such articles from England, besides the imitation machines manufactured on the continent.
It is presumed that a good agent will make more headway with a bad [Page 76] machine than a bad agent or exhibitor can possibly do with a good one. To illustrate this, one thoroughly competent agent of a mowing-machine told me that he came in contact with another party representing an equally good American mower, when he challenged the opposite party to a contest. The result was, while No. 1 did the work in a most satisfactory way, the other was quite the reverse. After selling his machine, and being satisfied that the other mower was not at fault, and wishing to uphold the merits of all American machines, he proposed that they change mowers and continue the contest. This was done, and while he did equally as good work with the other mower, the stupid representative of No. 2 not only did poorer work than with his own mower, but badly injured the No. 1 machine. This unfortunate exhibitor then confessed that he did not know his business. Doubtless he was some pretender with good address, who wanted to travel in Europe at the expense of some other people. As this was told me by a responsible man, whom I well know, it fully confirms my idea that in these matters, as in most others, “it requires the right man in the right place.”
I can see no reason why our best farming-tools will not become more and more in demand, since they are so great an improvement on those used in this country, unless it be their seemingly extravagant price, which, as before intimated, is a powerful obstacle in this immediate neighborhood.
One great advantage our manufacturers have and will continue to have is their superior wood for the tools and machines. Our incomparable hickory and white-oak lumber is prized very highly in this country, where they have nothing approaching the same, unless it be imported. Heretofore, the best farming implements, such as forks, hoes, shovels, &c., used in Germany have been imported from England, and, I have heard it said, sold under the name of “American tools.”
The great staple of agriculture in Bavaria is hops, which are cultivated mainly by hand and cause a great amount of manual labor, and it has occurred to me that our American cultivators might be introduced to advantage, such, for instance, as are so indispensable in our large cornfields and vineyards. Also our best cooking and other stoves. In this connection I may mention that Dr. Seelhorst, secretary of the industrial museum of this city, takes a very great interest in having our excellent tools, &c., introduced into Bavaria with the view of placing better tools in the hands of the mechanics and other workmen of this kingdom j that they may be better able to compete with the skilled artisans of other nations. Dr. Seelhorst informs me that his museum has appointed a firm in Philadelphia as its corresponding and purchasing agents, with the object of furnishing the museum here with the most improved hand-tools and labor-saving machinery for introduction into Bavarian manufactories. The doctor having been a delegate from Bavaria to our Centennial Exhibition, he became thoroughly impressed with the idea that there must be a revolution for the better in the workshops of this country. He brought home with him some of the finest specimens of our mechanical tools, to be exhibited in the museum and in his lectures. He informs me the museum has recently received a small order of $1,000 worth of articles, preparatory to larger orders. He thinks there are a great many articles of our manufacture that can be successfully introduced into this country. He mentioned such articles of hardware as padlocks, door-locks, and door-knobs, which cannot be made here so nicely and so cheaply, and very many other articles. He also referred to the fact that there was no duty on such [Page 77] articles, except those that were nickeled and otherwise ornamentally finished, and then it was bat 5 or 6 per cent.
I may here say that I have had recently some correspondence with an American citizen residing at Bayreuth, in this consulate, who was formerly a resident of San Francisco. Two years ago this gentleman thought he would try, as an experiment, the importation of American muslins and other white goods into South Germany. He informs me that he met with good success, and might have done still better if our exporters would maintain fixed prices. He had made three different orders for these goods, and each time the prices were raised on him; then he stopped importing, and the prices went down again. He says the dealers here will not buy unless they can have a guarantee that the cost prices will have some stability; and he thinks it folly for our exporters to send any muslin but of the very best. He is also of the opinion that “Canton flannel” could be sold with much success here. He imported one lot, which met with a ready sale. The substitute for this article used here is not so good nor so cheap. He also thinks American leather could be successfully introduced into Germany, although we import much fancy leather from Germany and France.
the philadelphia centennial exhibition.
It gives me sincere pleasure to be able to bear testimony to the beneficial effects of our late Centennial Exhibition, and, too, not only from a commercial view, but from a social and political stand-point. Owing, in part, to the large emigration from Germany to America since it was first settled, the sympathy and admiration for our country and people from the masses of the people here have been strong and genuine. This was evinced in the late war for the preservation of the Union. Notwithstanding this, it cannot be denied that for a few years previous to the Philadelphia Exhibition there had been a growing prejudice against our people and the seemingly exaggerated stories of our wonderful progress, productions, &c. This was doubtless increased by the bad conduct of a few unprincipled adventurers, who had come over to this country to place swindling railroad bonds and other doubtful securities not negotiable in the United States, and to otherwise impose upon the credulity of this friendly people. Also, many of their own countrymen, who had left their fatherland very poor and humble, subsequently returned, invested with the new dignity and power of American citizenship and a superabundance of this world’s goods; and, without regard to the time, place, or staid customs of this people, were accustomed to indulge in swaggering, boastful, and other unseemly conduct, so that when our really meritorious citizens, such as merchants and mechanics, came here to introduce their goods and inventions, they were obliged to encounter more or less of this prejudice, and sometimes even obliged to listen to such offensive words as “brag” and “swindle.”
Two years ago I felt an earnest desire that our then contemplated Centennial Exhibition might be a successful one, and with that view I called upon many of the best manufacturers here, who had exhibited their goods two years before at the world’s fair at Vienna. I found that some of them declined to exhibit at Philadelphia, representing that they had made a losing business at Vienna, and intimated that they had not faith in security from fire and otherwise if they sent their goods to Philadelphia, to a city “where you have but few policemen and no army.” (I may here remark, so ignorant were some of this people of our republican institutions, that both myself and my colleague at Munich were [Page 78] applied to for appointments on the Centennial Exhibition police, presumably by parties who thought we had the power to assure them of such appointments, and who believed it would be difficult for Philadelphia to furnish the proper material in sufficient force.) Had the manufacturers and artisans of this country been less timid, and could they have been assured beforehand of the splendid success of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, it is believed they would have made a more creditable display. In this connection I may mention that the German commissioners, and very many of the visitors from this country to our exhibition, were cultured and enlightened gentlemen, who, since their return home, have written much for publication, delivered lectures, &c. and without an exception, so far as I know, have been unstinted in their praise of our country and our Centennial Exhibition. Notably among these gentlemen was Dr. George Seelhorst, the secretary of the “Gewerb (industrial) Museum” of this city. Dr. Seelhorst was one of the judges sent from Germany to the Philadelphia Exhibition, and before returning to Bavaria he visited the different industrial centers of our country, and returned enthusiastic in his praise of our country and the success of her great exhibition of 1876. During the exhibition he purchased for his museum here a great variety of specimens of the handiwork of different nations, especially of our superior mechanical tools, &c. During the last winter, 1876–’77, Dr. Seelhorst delivered a course of lectures in this and twenty-seven cities of the kingdom of Barvaria upon the Philadelphia exposition, and was very eloquent over the magnificent display made by the different nations, and especially over the remarkable developments our country has made during the first century of its existence. He illustrated his lectures by exhibiting to his audiences specimen models of our superior mechanical tools, miniature machines, &c., and pointed out their peculiar excellence. At the present time he is occupied in writing an illustrated catalogue of the tools named, which shall be sent throughout the country, without any cost, by the Nuremberg Museum, in order to introduce these products into common use. The result will be for the future to determine. I may here add, that at the request of the German government, these lectures are to be continued through this fall and coming winter, and the expenses of Dr. Seelhorst are borne by the government. The tools excited the greatest admiration. The learned doctor earnestly pressed upon his hearers the importance of their shaking off their lethargy, and making the greatest possible exertions in their different industries, if they would not be outdone by all nations. He told his hearers that the United States of America already outstripped most of the older nations except in matters of art, and as art required time, America would eventually not be behind other nations even in that.
Our exhibition gave us what we had so long needed, viz, an opportunity to advertise our handiwork to the other nations of the world. I believe our prospects are very flattering for an increase of trade with Germany, though in this immediate neighborhood I think the greatest difficulty will be the first introduction of our incomparable, although to this people seemingly costly, productions. After they have once had a fair trial, there will be no danger of our losing the foreign markets, and we can reasonably expect increased demand from year to year; provided, always, that our manufacturers do not rest on the laurels already won, but continue to improve in the future as in the past.
It is well known that Dr. Reulaux, the president of the imperial German commission at Philadelphia, made a report to his government, in which he characterized the German display at our exhibition as “billiaber schlecht” (cheap, but bad). I may here add, that Dr. Seelhorst, in [Page 79] his lectures, substantially indorsed that report. At the time, this report of the chief commissioner created a profound sensation throughout the German Empire. It was a crushing blow to their overconfident exhibitors, and could not have been tolerated from any other source. Time has made it plain to all that Dr. Reulaux was correct, and it is to the credit of the German manufacturers that this day they are looking the matter squarely in the face, and their leading men are organizing industrial societies and holding conferences all over the empire, and putting forth their energies in order to place their productions upon a higher plane, and, if possible, to secure greater prosperity for all their industrial interests.
Socially, with foreign nations, I regard the results of the exhibition as most gratifying; for, whether a person be officially or otherwise residing abroad, it is pleasant to hear one’s country referred to in such complimentary terms as are now heard in all circles, and the praise is not the less agreeable because of its novelty.
Politically, all our countrymen cannot but be gratified that they are citizens of the United States, now it is so much better known and appreciated by foreign countries, and to know that the citizens of empires and kingdoms have returned from our great Centennial Exhibition and are telling their people of our capacity for self-government and of the marvelous growth, prosperity, and future brilliant prospects of the great republic.