Pairing voices with the data: deep dives into responses from the 1911 NCF survey

This summer I explored the National Civic Federation 1911 survey of labor and business leaders in my RA work for a Politics professor at Oxford. Though I ended up programming for most of my work, I did have reason to look into some of the smaller firms more deeply by hand. Throughout the process, I collected links to blogs, articles, and websites about some of these firms that I found particularly interesting. Below, I offer links to these external sources, pairing them with the response to the questions on the Sherman Anti-Trust Act given in my survey data. In the final project, I expect that the categorization of the responses, the region and industry of the respondent, and the founding date of the firm they are associated will be used in a statistical analysis of sentiment on the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, rolling up many of these interesting stories into a more general statement. But for now, if you love minutiae, dive in!


The Rheinstrom Bros, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1876

The Rheinstrom Bros developed 51 varieties of whisky, which they advertised using commemorative shot glasses for each brand. Read about them on Those Pre-Pro Whisky Men blog by Jack Sullivan

Their comment in my dataset:
"The Sherman Law should be amended so as to follow the Gorman Law of unfair competition under which damages can be secured."

Boggs & Buhl Department Store, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1869

Boggs & Buhl department store was robbed for $45,000 in 1921 by a team of four criminals, who also shot the attendant working at the time. After a two-week manhunt, three were captured, but the last criminal was not arrested until 1934. Read more about this treasured local institution on the History of the Buhl Planetarium website by Paul S. Korol, with interesting addenda by Glenn A. Walsh.

Their comment in my dataset:
"The government should regulate capitalization, and an Interstate Trade Commission should be established, with powers not unlike those now used in regulating common carriers by the Interstate Commerce Commission."

Bilgram Machine Works, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1884

Hugo Bilgram was a factory-owning engineer and inventor, whose interests in economics and politics led him to write influential anti-union pamphlets and to give lectures over lunch to his workers on the state of capitalism. Learn more about his story on HiddenCity Philadelphia from GroJLart.

His comment in my dataset:
"The one cause of present and past disturbances of business is the restriction which government places on the right to exchange the products of labor, by forbidding the use of credit however sound as a medium of exchange, except within certain arbitrary restrictions, whereby money obtains the power to exact a toll from the industrial world through excessively high interest rates. Every symptom of the industrial disorder points to an inadequacy of the volume of sound currency and an increased issue, similar to national bank notes, redeemable in gold and amply secured by wealth; limited in quantity only by the amount of security offered, and at a tax that is but little more than an insurance against a possible depreciation of some of the security, will effectively put a stop to all the abuses of wealth which neither the Sherman Law nor other half-way measures can remedy."

F.N. Joslin & Co., Maiden, Massachusetts

F.N. Joslin & Co. merchants released this Christmas card advertisement "To my Little Friend." See the card at the postcard collecting site CardCow.

The owner's comment in my dataset:
"I favor national incorporation for companies doing an interstate business. I am also opposed to holding companies. The government should regulate capitalization, and laws should be passed providing for publicity for commercial corporations. I favor an Interstate Trade Commission."

Schnull & Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1855

In 1906, Schnull & Co. campaigned against a new law prohibiting a preservative in ketchup, warning that it would make ketchup bottles explode. As a compromise, they were allowed to use some preservative but were prohibited from continuing to dye the ketchup red. An Indianapolis Morning Star headline writes, "Catsup to be Brown / And Every One Must Like It". Read this fascinating piece by Libby Cierzniak on the Historic Indianapolis blog.

Their comment in my dataset:
"Excessively high tariff, disregard of law by the trusts, delay in trials and decisions by the courts, and a weak and ridiculous banking and currency system have all joined in unsettling the stability of business conditions. We consider it feasible to return to old competitive methods, with modifications. The Sherman Law should be made more explicit, and railroads should be allowed to enter into agreements affecting rates."

St. Louis National Stockyards, National Stockyards, Illinois, 1873

The St. Louis National Stockyards consolidated the animal slaughtering industry to National City, a company town they established just east of St. Louis. The various slaughterhouses and meat-packing facilities stood eerily abandoned for decades after WWII before new development projects are began to tear them down. Read more by Chris Naffzinger in the St. Louis Magazine, and don't miss the comments at the bottom from former residents of National Stockyards.

George R. Collett comments for National Stockyards in my dataset:
"The Sherman Law should be repealed and a new law passed making good its defects. I favor a national incorporation law and a Federal license law. Too much uncertainty as to the meaning of the Sherman Law is a disturbing element in business."

Edgewood Distilling Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1874

Like other distilleries at the time, the Edgewood Distilling Company produced advertisements of their whisky products featuring young children. See their advertisement and other similar advertisements on the blog Bottles, Booze, and Back Stories by Jack Sullivan.

Company vice president George Paxton Diehl's comment in my dataset:
"I favor a national incorporation law and a Federal license law, and an Interstate Trade Commission. Disturbed business conditions are due to the attempted reform of, first, railroad abuses; second, big business abuses; third, municipal misgovermnent, and, fourth, retail liquor traffic. These reforms are too violent and sudden and have destroyed confidence. They savor too much of confiscation and restriction of constitutional liberty."

Evansville Gas and Electric Light Co., Evansville, Indiana, 1882

The Evansville Gas and Electric Light Company installed arc streetlights in Evansville in 1882, using two electrodes of carbon to create an harsh arc of light in the air. US cities and small towns adopted arc streetlights rapidly after their invention. Read about the lighting the streets of Evansville on The Evansville Boneyard by John Baburnich, and for more information on arc lighting, check out the Wikipedia page.

Company treasurer and general manager A. C. Blinn comments in my dataset:
"I do not regard the Sherman Law, as now interpreted, as clear and workable, and I favor its repeal. Congress should substitute therefor a law under which it would be possible for large corporations to operate which are doing an interstate business. Railroads should be allowed to enter into agreements affecting rates. I favor a national incorporation law, Federal license and an Interstate Trade Commission. In my opinion, the present disturbance in business conditions is due to activity on the part of the government in seeking to dissolve by means of the Sherman Law so-called trusts. I believe this has been very unwise, as under present day methods large corporations are a necessity, and should under proper supervision be permitted to conduct their businesses on a reasonable basis; and instead of lawsuits, instituted under what is almost universally considered an act unsuited to conditions as now existing, we should have new and reasonable laws, more in harmony with present day methods."

American Pad and Textile Co., Greenfield, Ohio, 1881

The American Pad and Textile Co., founded by E.L. McClain, manufactured horse collars used in the Spanish American War of 1898. McClain established Atco, Georgia — a company town processing cotton for use on his production line. Read more at the Greenville Historical Society.

His brief remark in my dataset:
"Business disturbance? Probably being a case of sulks on the part of 'Big Business' and some timidity on the part of capital."

Arkansas Valley Trust Co., Fort Smith, Arkansas, 1901

The Arkansas Valley Trust Company was founded by C.R. Breckenridge, who was a Congressperson for Arkansas. In his 1888 re-election, his party was convicted of election fraud for an incident where four armed white men stole a black ballot box with votes for his opponent John M. Clayton. After opening an investigation, Clayton was assassinated. Breckenridge was not implicated in either incident. Read more on his Wikipedia page.

C.R. Breckenridge's comment in my dataset:
"We must have concentration of production to keep pace with the world; and we must have control of it to escape commercial despotism. It must be controlled by government regulation in necessary cases, or else we shall drift into national socialism. The means should not be so complicated as to defeat the end. The Sherman Law should be amended; but I am not prepared to enter into details. Railroads should be allowed to enter into agreements affecting rates, subject to the approval and regulation of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and results should not be subjected to so many delays. The Sherman Act should apply to all men alike, without preference either to trade unions or any other class. I am inclined to favor a national incorporation law and also a Federal license law if necessary, or so far as to give adequate control. An Interstate Trade Commission is apparently necessary. Disturbed business conditions are due, in my judgment, to our bad currency and banking system ; the abuses arising from the present system of monopoly; the lack of proper control of monopolized industry; the fostering of monopoly and the burdens upon trade and the people of a protective tariff ; unlawful and unwise exactions of organized labor; extreme shortage of food crops, and great excess in the cotton crop."

American Screw Company, Providence, Rhode Island, 1860

The American Screw Company was the one-time largest manufacturers of wood screws, rivets, and machine screws, employing 2,500 people. Though none of the buildings remain, photos of the property and a collection of anecdotes from children and grandchildren of former employees are collected on the Rhode Island ArtInRuins blog.

Company treasurer George W. Thurston comments in my dataset:
"Prosecutions under the Sherman Act are chiefly the cause of disturbed business conditions. The Sherman Law should be repealed, unless properly amended to permit reasonable cooperation and consolidation. I do not favor a national incorporation law, Federal license, or an Interstate Trade Commission, as I believe that, with the Sherman Act properly amended and interpreted, the existing court should be sufficient."