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recovery in general prices in 1908 and 1909 is shown by the decrease in this purchasing power. Again, the large increase during the years 1911 and 1912 is caused by the increase in the price of petroleum not offset by so great an increase in the price of general commodities, although they were slightly increasing, while the decrease again in 1913 and 1914 is due in part to the decrease in the price of oil, in part to the increase in the price of commodities.
Taking the period as a whole, however, from 1900 to date it will be seen that this great combination, as practically all of the others, seems not to have raised the price of its chief product to an amount that corresponds to the rise in the price of general commodities.
Chart V, representing the changes in price in the tin plate industry, shows certain important changes in the course of prices that are noteworthy. The tendency toward high prices and profits is not so noticeable as that toward steadiness of price and toward increased profits, especially at times when the raw material is falling.
The standard unit taken for the price of the finished material is one box of tin plate, 14 by 20, full weight 108 pounds. The raw material used for this is 105 pounds of steel plus 2 pounds of tin. Although it is not quite accurate, it has been thought best to take for the basic price of steel that of steel billets. The line A on the chart therefore represents the price of the box of tin plate. The line D represents the price of the
*From the report of the Industrial Commission, Volume I, until 1899, thereafter by United States Steel Products Company. Labor cost furnished by Mr. W. J. Filbert, Comptroller of the United States Steel Corporation.
raw material by weight contained in such a box, although the steel is the unrolled steel billets. The line B represents this same amount of steel and tin plus the amount of labor required to manufacture the tin from the black plates, or the bars, not, of course, including the earliest operations. The cost of labor represents the average of a number of tin plate mills, and is authoritative. Although there has been no lessening of the wages of labor, although in fact the wages have been increasing, the labor cost per box, which in 1893 was $1.60, had decreased in 1897 to $1; in 1901, a year or two after the organization of the American Tin Plate Company, to 93 cents; in 1906, to 82 cents. After that there was a slight increase; in 1909 it stood at 84 cents, in 1910 at 89 cents, then declined somewhat, standing at 81 cents in 1915. It will be noted that since 1893 this labor cost per box has decreased by nearly one-half. The line C on the chart represents the margin between this cost of raw material plus the labor and the price of the box of tin plate, indicating the course of profits.
It will be noted that from 1894 until the middle of 1897, in spite of a decided drop in 1894, with a rapid recovery and another decline in the latter part of 1896, this margin between the cost of material and labor and the selling price of tin plate remained at considerably above $1 a box, sometimes amounting to $1.50, and averaging perhaps $1.30. During 1897 there was a decided decline in the price of tin plate, with a corresponding or greater decline in the margin, which continued steadily down until October, 1898, when it reached a point distinctly below $1, as low as 74 cents.
Somewhat before the organization of the American
Tin Plate Company, in December, 1898, there had been a decided increase in the price of tin plate, and this increase had been more than proportionate to the increase in the price of raw material, although that had advanced somewhat as early as June. It was of course known to most of the tin plate manufacturers that the combination would probably be formed, and presumably on that account the different establishments had already stopped their most vigorous competition. This increase in the margin between cost and selling price was fixed first at $4.215 a box and then at where it remained until the end of the year.
Although the figures from January, 1900, are on a different base, the chart represents accurately the conditions. In January, 1900, we note a decrease in price to $4.65 a box, a price maintained for eight months until September, 1900, when with one interval the price was cut to $4. This price was maintained without change until November, 1902, a period of more than two years, although a decided increase in the cost of raw material and labor had very decidedly lessened the profits. In November, 1902, there was another cut in the price. From 1902 until the present it will be noted that the prices of tin plates have in the main followed the prices of the raw material, although the changes have not been so rapid, the prices, when once fixed, remaining usually unchanged for a period of nearly a year, while the price of raw material shifts continually. It is noteworthy, however, that the margin of difference since the formation of the Tin Plate Company, and especially since its absorption by the United States Steel Corporation, in 1901, has been steadily decidedly lower