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The Carpet Wool Tax

The Carpet Wool Tax image
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Mr. Arthur T. Lytnan, of the Lowel Manufacturing company, Boston, Mass. who is one of the largest and most suc cessful inanufacturers of carpets in New England, was recently asked by a mem ber of the New York Reform club to give his views on carpet manufacturing as affected by the wool tariff. The posi tion of Mr. Lyman as a foremost manufacturer of carpets gives his views an authority which no outside testimony can command. Mr. Lyman says: Carpets and their prices are of general interest in the United States, for though rare luxnries not very many years ago they have become articles almost o: common necessity. The general state of well being in this conntry of energetic people and of great natural wealth has afforded a great market for the products of the wonderful loom invented by Bigelow, and first put into use at the Lowell Carpet company, at Lowell, Mass. , and of many other ingenious preparatory machines. These labor saving inventions and the universal demand have caused an immense production and low prices, and the great coinpetition of late years has left to the manufacturers generally but little profit and not seldom a loss. Substantially all of the wool used in niaking carpets comes from abroad, and cbiefly froin Russia, Asia Minor, Persia, India and South Ainerica. These wools are chiefly long, coarse wools, and being raised nnder favorable natural conditions, and by people whose modes of life are very inexpensive, they are of very low cost. The necessity for revenue from any and every source dnring the civil war after a time cansed a considerable duty to be placed on carpet wools, avowedly for revenue. When the war was over and the debt had been greatly reduced, and many taxes were taken off, this heavy tax on carpet wools was unfortunately left. It had not caused the raising of carpet wools in this country, because other wools and other products could be raised to much greater advantage, and because the conditions existing here were not favorable. The tax on this admirable material considerably increased the cost of the carpets used so largely by the people. Of course the temptation to cheapen the fabric by the mixture of substitntes foi wool was great. But until within a few years the machinery employed woulc! not admit of the 'extensivo use of what has of late years been used in enormous quantities, the cheap cattle hair, pretty much like that used for inixing with mortar. The ingenious machines lately invented enabled manufacturers to use enormous quantities of cheap hair, cheap until the enormous demand foi it, with the increased dnties of the McKinley bill on wool, made it almost ai costly, though not nearly as good, ai wool itself . Cotton was nsed largely f or the warps in place of worsted. The McKinley bill seems to have a special spite against carpet wools, and those who wish to rnake or use wool carpet. All noils (the short fibers of wool largely used f or the wef t of carpets) wer excluded by the monstrons dnty of thirty cents per pound (200 and 300 per cent. in many cases), and the tax on other materials was greatly increased., Moreover, the ambiguities of the law and some rather f orced constructions of it by the treasury department have stül further increased costs, and so multiplieó doubts and qnestioas that there are few kinds of carpet wool the duty on which can be snrely known. These increased difficulties and impediments and the largely increased duties obliged caryet mannfacturers to advance the prices of carpets after tht passage of the McKinley bill- an advance on all wool carpets of about 10 per cent. The effect of an increased cost of wool is at once to give an advantuge and an opportnnity to those who use cheapeí materials, and so it greatly stimulateê the increased use of cotton and cattie , nair, ana oí au kinds ot waste and ■ shoddy and torn np carpets. The increase of price by the manu1 facturers may not have been fully feit in the retail shops, because on staple articles the retailer io slow to advance ■ prices nntil his old stock is gone, and i becanse his margin of profit enabled him still to sell without loss, which was not the case with the manufacturera, or because he snbstituted for the all wool carpets those with a greater or less proportion of cheap substitutes for wool. Of conrse if one cannot afEord to pay for a wool carpet there is no reason why he should not have a cotton carpet, i f he wants it; but then he might also put down common cotton cloth. There is no moral reason perhaps (though Ruskin would not admit it) why he should not buy a tapestry carpet, made chiefly of jute, with a veneering of printed wool; but if the duty on wool had been taken off instead of having been largely increased " the price of the best Brussels carpets, ' instead of being put up ten cents a yard, J might have been reduced ten or fifteen l cents a yard, and an all wool ingrain or ( extra super carpet might have been sold for less than a (largely) cotton and shoddy ingrain may sell for now. Thus an article of general use has been largely and needlessly increased in price, although it might well have been I proved in qnality and largely reduced in cost by the free admission of carpet f wools, which would have hurt almost no i one and would have benefited every one. The inanufacturers who ruake copper bathtubs, boilers, sinks and general copperware are now ia a trust and enjoying 45 per cent. protection. They have raised prices, which one of the rnembers 6ays "we are going to nraintain."