Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/760

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
742
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

contracts. It was as full a control of an industry as could be had. Of course, large profits were possible; but capital was attracted to the field. As a result, new plants were started until there are at the present time works enough outside the trust to equal its output. But there is this striking difference between the trust and the independent manufacturers: the plants of the trust are capitalized for thirty million dollars; the independent plants, equal in capacity, represent an investment of only two million dollars.

The course of the linseed-oil trust has been analogous. In 1887, when the trust was started, it controlled between sixty and seventy per cent of the output of that product. As such it had the manipulation of the market and realized handsome profits, despite the fact that it had to face the independent crushers and was hampered by watered capital. But, to do it, it raised the price of linseed oil so high that the attention of others was drawn to the industry. The president of the trust in his report for 1891 said: "It is not considered by your board of directors advisable to publish a detailed statement of the affairs of the company, for the reason that we find by the experience of the past year that our statements find their way into the public press. If made in detail, information is given to our competitors, to the detriment of this company. There is no doubt whatever that the publicity given to our last annual statement caused the building of new works and consequent increase in competition." These independent crushers, strengthened by the newcomers and unhampered by weak plants, were able to wrest the market from the trust. Some months ago the trust sought a conference with its rivals and an effort was made to come to an understanding. That, however, has proved a failure, and competition ruled in the linseed-oil market.

Furthermore, it is impossible to get control of any article in general demand. Such an attempt may temporarily succeed, but there are powerful forces which will drag it down sooner or later. As an English writer says: "It is difficult to conceive of any body of capitalists being sufficiently powerful to monopolize an article in general demand and to use their monopoly for any length of time to the serious hurt of the public. Directly prices became prohibitive there would be a formidable movement in the opposite direction and the monopoly would break down."

The fate of the copper syndicate is a striking proof of this. This scheme consisted in nothing less than forestalling the market of the whole world in copper for the period of three years. This the managers attempted to accomplish, and did accomplish for a time, by buying the output of all the copper mines in the world for that period by agreeing to pay the mine owners thir-