« AnteriorContinuar »
than it was for the three or four years preceding the organization of the American Tin Plate Company; although it was at that time asserted, with perhaps no good ground for doubting the truth of the assertion, that it was chiefly the fierce competition among the tin plate manufacturers that led to the organization of the American Tin Plate Company.
The price of tin plate seems to illustrate the influence of a great corporation, and at the same time the readiness of the corporation not to take advantage of its influence at every opportunity, but to maintain on the whole steadiness of price at rates that do not seem unreasonable, if they are compared with those preceding the organization of the corporation. Of course the improved facilities for production coming from the magnificent organization of the Steel Corporation and its plentiful capital have decidedly lessened cost, so that a lessening of the price of the finished product might be expected without any lessening of wages or of profits.
IRON AND STEEL*
The charts representing the iron and steel prices show in a very striking way the various fluctuations during the period of pools and industrial combinations, the influence sometimes, especially in the days of the early pools, seeming apparently very unfavorable to the consuming public, at other times favorable. There is any
Corp t, No 1 Corp
*Prices from the United States Industrial Commission to 1898, thereafter, from Iron Age, the American Iron and Steel Association, and from Mr. W. J. Filbert, Comptroller of the United States Steel Corporation. These figures to 1912 are those used in the Government suit against the United States Steel Corporation by the Government and accepted by the Steel Corporation.
A an B an Can
perhaps nothing in the charts to indicate that the combinations have had any material effect during the last few years.
Nails and Wire. On Chart VI we find illustrated the price of steel billets, line D, which, for our purposes, may be considered the raw material, together with the price of wire nails, line C, that of smooth wire, line B, and that of galvanized barb wire, line A. The line H represents the margin between steel billets and wire nails.
If we note this line H carefully, we shall see that during the earlier period presented, especially from the years 1890 to 1895, there was a steady decline in the margin as well as in the price of both steel billets and wire nails, the fall in the price of nails being more rapid than in that of steel billets, until, in 1894 and the early part of 1895, the cost of production plus the profit of the nails if figured on this basis amounted to not much more than 25 cents a hundred pounds.
During the latter part of 1895 there was a very sudden and rapid rise not merely in the price of wire nails but also in the margin, showing a very decided increase in profits. A second rise, although not so great, was made in the earlier part of 1896, the margin also increasing almost proportionately. It will be seen also that there was a slight increase in the price of steel billets, but no large increase-nothing that in any way corresponded to the very rapid increase in the price of wire nails, and this price soon lessened. This great increase in the price as well as in the profit was caused by the formation of the wire nail pool. It seems clear that the makers of this pool did not expect to be able
to hold their monopoly for any great length of time, and that in consequence they thought it best to push their advantage as hard as possible for the time being, feeling certain that in the not distant future competitors would come into the field, so that their prices would again need to fall. It takes time, of course, to build new competing plants; and in the case of industries such as those of steel, a well-organized pool can, if it wishes, practically control the market for a considerable length of time. Their prices increased rapidly from $1.45 a hundred to $1.68, to $2.25, to $2.55, where it held for six months, before the break came. At the end of that time, after some eighteen months of practical monopoly, competitors had succeeded in providing facilities for manufacture, so that the pool was broken and prices fell back to a competitive rate, though not so low as they had been before the organization of the pool. It seems probable that the boldness of the pool managers in pushing prices so high even extended the time of the monopoly. Competitors enough to break the pool would have arisen sooner, had not each one anticipated its speedy collapse on account of its high prices promising enormous profits. Each believed that some one else must very soon enter the field.
Even after the break in the wire nail pool, the margin during the years 1897 and 1898 remained considerably higher than it had been for three years before the formation of the pool, with, however, a slight decline. It seems probable that the margin during the years before the formation of the pool had been so low that the business was really unprofitable.
In January, 1899, the American Steel and Wire