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American Saws and their Makers

  Address by Mr. James E. Emerson at the Tariff Convention at New York - Proceedings of the National Tariff Convention (Philadelphia: The American Iron and Steel Association, 1882).  

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,

I am a saw manufacturer, and I propose to show you what has been done in the manufacture of steel for our particular branch of business during the last twenty five years by the American manufacturers as compared with the English.

I would first state that twenty years ago there was but little American plate steel used in the manufacture of saws in America. It was nearly all shipped from England. I know well - there is no one who knows better than I - the struggles which the American manufacturers have passed through in that particular branch of industry.

There is no branch of the steel industry that is more difficult to master than the rolling of large plates for circular saws. To-day there are only two, and I may even say but one, of the steel manufacturers of Europe who have succeeded in producing an article which saw manufacturers can depend upon.

Fifteen years ago the steel of the English manufacturer was sold at from $40 to $60 per ton above that sold by the American steel manufacturers at that time. The prejudice with which we sawmakers had to contend on the part of our customers was such that they demanded of us in many instances that the saws which they ordered must be made from English steel.

Indeed, so great was the prejudice that if they found by any means that the saws we made were made from American steel they would be condemned.

In 1874 a test of circular saws was made by an Association at Cincinnati. Thirteen of the saw manufacturers of the United States entered into that contest. It was a question of the metal of the plate that was tested, and not the particular construction of the saw. We entered into that contest with an offer of several premiums. The first premium was $100 in gold, and the others were of less value; and so complete was the spirit of fairness with which that contest was conducted that, after all the tests were made, every contestant signed a document indorsing the fairness of the test. When we got through the result was that the saws made of American steel had carried away every premium from $100 in gold down, and from that time the prejudice was conquered.

Then came in, from that time, the question of price, and today the steel manufacturers of England, in consequence of the Protection given to our steelmakers by the Government of the United States, find themselves able to bring the price of English steel down to that of the steel plate manufactured in this country.

Now, then, what have we sawmakers done under this? We have been able to enter the English market with our saws. The largest saw manufacturer in the United States to-day has a place of business in the city of London. We are exporting saws from the
United States into Canada and into other colonies of Great Britain; and we have been enabled by the skill and genius of American mechanics to place upon the market an article with which we can compete with them right in their own market.

I wish I had more time on this subject, that I might enlarge upon it, but I must keep within my limitation. I merely mention this to show the progress that has been made in the production of steel.

I will tell you now what the sawmakers want; and I think I speak for all the sawmakers of the United States. We ask only to be let alone. We do not want a higher Protection. We are protected; and we want the duty left as it is. We are able to take care of ourselves, under the Protection of the last few years; but the English have come here not only with saws but with files; and they have taken the machinery that was conceived by the genius of the Americans, constructed by their labor and mechanical skill, back with them to England, and copied it, and they are now manufacturing files in England and shipping them back to the United States in competition with American manufacturers.

With their cheap labor in the manufacture of tools and cutlery, where a whole family can be employed in finishing those articles, we cannot compete with them without a high duty. It is for that that we ask Protection to be continued toward the sawmakers as it has been, and extended toward all our other interests, and with it America has a bright future before her as a manufacturing country.

Wiktor Kuc
November, 2016
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