Anybody can cut prices,
but it takes brains to make a better
Philip D. Armour was born on May Sixteenth,
Eighteen Hundred Thirty-two, near the little village
of Stockbridge, New York. He died at Chicago,
January Sixth, Nineteen Hundred One. The farm
owned by his father was right on the line between
Madison and Oneida Counties. The boys used to
make a scratch in the road and dare the boys from Madison
to come across into Oneida. The Armour farm adjoined
the land of the famous Oneida Community, where was
worked out one of the most famous social experiments
ever attempted in the history of civilization.
However, the Armour family constituted a little community
of its own, and was never induced to abandon family
life for the group. Yet, for John Humphrey Noyes,
Danforth Armour always had great respect. But
he was philosopher enough to know that one generation
would wind up the scheme, for the young would all
desert, secrete millinery, and mate as men and young
maidens have done since time began. “Oneida
is for those whose dream did not come true mine
has,” he said.
The Armours of Stockbridge traced
a pedigree to Jean Armour, of Ayr, brown as a berry,
pink and twenty, sweet and thrifty, beloved of Bobbie
The father of Philip was Danforth
Armour, and the father of Danforth Armour was James
Armour, Puritan, who emigrated from the North of Ireland.
James settled in Connecticut and fortified his Scotch-Irish
virtues with a goodly mixture of the New England genius
for hard work, economy and religion. His grandfather
had fought side by side with Oliver Cromwell and had
gone into battle with that doughty hero singing the
songs of Zion. He was a Congregationalist by prenatal
influence. And I need not here explain that the
love of freedom found form in Congregationalism, a
religious denomination without a pope and without a
bishop, where one congregation was never dictated to
nor ruled by any other. Each congregation was
complete in itself or was supposed to be.
This love of liberty was the direct
inheritance of James Armour. It descended to
Danforth Armour, and by him was passed along to Philip
Danforth Armour. All of these men had a very sturdy
pride of ancestry, masked by modesty, which oft reiterated:
“Oh, pedigree is nothing it all lies
in the man. You do or else you don’t.
To your quilting, girls to your quilting!”
When Nancy Brooks was beloved by Danforth
Armour the Fates were propitious. The first women
schoolteachers in America evolved in Connecticut.
Miss Brooks was a schoolteacher, the daughter of a
farmer for whom Danforth Armour worked as hired man.
Danforth was given to boasting a bit
as to the part his ancestors had played as neighbors
to Oliver Cromwell at the time, and the only time,
when England was a republic.
Miss Brooks did not like this kind
of talk and told the young man so straight at his
red head. The Brooks family was Scotch, too, but
they had fought on the side of Royalty. They
were never rebels they were true to the
King exactly so!
Now, there are two kinds of Scotch the
fair and the dark the Highland and the
Lowland the Aristocrats and the Peasantry.
Miss Brooks was dark, and she succeeded in convincing
the freckled and sandy-haired man that he was of a
race of rebels, also that the rule of the rebels was
brief brief, my lord, as woman’s love.
Then they argued as to the alleged brevity of woman’s
Here they were getting on dangerous
ground. Nature is a trickster, and she spread
her net and caught the Highland maid and the Lowland
laddie, and bound them with green withes as is her
wont. So they were married by the Congregational
“meenister,” and for a wedding-tour fared
forth Westward to fame and fortune. “Out
West” then meant York State, and the “Far
West” was Ohio. They reached Oneida County,
New York, and stopped for a few days ere they pushed
on to the frontier. The site was beautiful, the
location favorable. And the farmer at whose house
they were making their stay was restless and wanted
to sell out.
That night the young couple talked
it over. They had a few hundred dollars saved,
sewed in a belt and in a dress bodice. They got
the money out and recounted it. In the morning
they told their host how much money they had and offered
to give him all of this money for his farm. He
was to leave them a yoke of oxen, a cow, a pig and
He accepted the offer, the money was
paid, the deed made out and the man vacated, leaving
the bride and groom in possession.
So here they lived their lives; here
they worked, planned, aspired and prospered; here,
too, their children were born and raised; and down
at the little village cemetery they sleep, side by
side. In life they were never separated and in
death they are not divided.
“The first requisite in education,”
said Herbert Spencer, “is that man shall be
a good animal.”
Philip D. Armour fulfilled the requirements.
He was dowered with a vital power
that fed his restless brain and made him a regular
dynamo of energy for sixty-nine years and
with a little care at the last should have run for
ninety years with never a hotbox.
He used to say, “If my ancestors
had been selected for me by Greek philosophers, specialists
in heredity, they could not have done better.
I can not imagine a better woman than my mother.
My childhood was ideal. God did not overlook
Well did this happy, exuberant, healthy
man say that his parentage and childhood environment
were ideal. Here was a family of six boys and
three girls, brought up on a beautiful hillside farm
amid as peaceful and lovely a landscape as ever the
sun shone upon. Down across the creek there were
a hundred acres of bottom-land that always laughed
a harvest under the skilful management of Danforth
Armour. Yet the market for surplus products was
distant, so luxury and leisure were out of the question.
And yet work wasn’t drudgery. Woods, hills,
running streams, the sawmill and the gristmill, the
path across the meadow, the open road, the miracle
of the seasons, the sugar-bush, the freshet that carried
away the bridge, the first Spring flowers peeping from
beneath the snow on the south side of rotting logs,
the trees bursting into leaf, the hills white with
blossoms of wild cherry and hawthorn, the Saturday
afternoon when the boys could fish, the old swimming-hole,
the bathing of the little ones in the creek, the growing
crops in the bottom-land, bee-trees and wild honey,
coon-hunts by moonlight, the tracks of deer down by
the salt-lick, bears in the green corn, harvest-time,
hog-killing days, frost upon the pumpkin and fodder
in the shock, wild turkeys in the clearing, revival-meetings,
spelling-bees, debates at the schoolhouse, school
at the log schoolhouse in Stockbridge, barn-raisings,
dances in the new barn, quilting-bees, steers to break,
colts to ride, apple butter, soft soap, pickled pigs’
feet, smoked hams, side-meat, shelled walnuts, coonskins
on the barn-door, Winter and the first fall of snow,
boots to grease, harness to mend, backlogs, hickory-nuts,
cider, a few books and all the other wonderful and
enchanting things that a country life, not too isolated,
brings to the boys and girls born where the rain makes
musical patter on the roof and the hand of a loving
mother tucks you in at night!
Here was a mother who gave to the
world six sons, five of whom grew to an honored manhood
and proved themselves men of power. One of the
girls, Marietta, was a woman of extraordinary personality,
as picturesquely heroic as Philip Armour, himself.
This mother never had a servant-girl,
a laundress or a dressmaker. The manicure and
the beauty-doctor were still in the matrix of time,
as yet unguessed.
On Sunday there was a full wagonload
of Armours, big and little, to go to the Congregational
Church at Stockbridge. Let us hope the wagon was
yellow and the horses gray.
Do not imagine that a family like
this is lonely. There is constant work; the day
is packed with duties, and night comes with its grateful
rest. There is no time to be either bad or unhappy,
nor is there leisure to reflect on your virtues.
No one line of thought receives enough attention to
disturb the balance of things. To be so busy that
you “forget it” is very fortunate.
The child brought up with a happy proportion of play
and responsibility, of work and freedom, of love and
discipline, has surely not been overlooked by Providence.
The “problem of education”
is a problem only to the superlatively wise and the
tremendously great. To plain people life is no
problem. Things become complex only when we worry
So the recipe for educating children
is this: Educate yourself.
When Philip D. Armour was nineteen
the home nest seemed crowded.
The younger brothers were coming along
to do the work, and the absence of one “will
be one less to feed” he said to his mother.
The gold-fields of California were
calling. This mother was too sensible and loving
to allow her boy to run away if he was going,
he should go with her blessing. She got together
a hundred dollars in cash. With this and a pack
on his back Philip started on foot for the land of
Eldorado. Four men were in the party, all from
He walked all the way and arrived
on schedule, after a six months’ journey.
Philip was the only one in the party who did not grow
sick nor weary. One died, two turned back, but
Philip trudged on with the procession that seemed
to increase as it neared the gold-fields.
Arriving in California, this very
sensible country boy figured it out that mining was
a gamble. A very few grew rich, but the many were
desperately poor. Most of those who got a little
money ahead spent it in prospecting for bigger finds
and soon were again penniless. He decided that
he would not bet on anything but his own ability.
Instead of digging for gold, he set to work digging
ditches for men who had mines, but no water.
This making ditches was plain labor, without excitement,
chance or glamour. You knew beforehand just how
much you would make. Philip was strong and patient;
he could work from sunrise to sunset.
He was paid five dollars a day.
Then he took contracts to dig ditches, and sometimes
he made ten dollars a day. Parties who were “busted”
and wished to borrow were offered a job. He set
them to work and paid them for what they did, and
no more. It was all a question of mathematics.
In five years Philip Armour had saved eight thousand
dollars. It was enough to buy the best farm in
Oneida County, and this was all he wanted. There
was a girl back there who had taunted him and dared
him to go away and make his fortune. They parted
in a tiff that’s the way she got rid
of him. There was another man in the case, but
Philip was too innocent to know this. The peaceful
hills of New York lured and beckoned. He responded
to the call and started back home. In half the
time it took to go, he had arrived. But alas,
the hills had shrunken. The mighty stream that
once ran through Stockbridge was but a rill.
And the girl the girl had
married another a worthy horse-doctor.
Philip called on her. She was yellow and tired
and had two fine babies. She was glad to see
her old friend Philip, but the past was as dead to
her as the present. In her handgrasp there was
no thrill. She had given him a big chase; and
soon his sadness made way for gratitude in that she
had married the horse-doctor. He gave them his
blessing. Philip looked around at farms several
were for sale, but none suited him.
On the way back from California he
had traveled by way of the Great Lakes and stopped
two days at Milwaukee. It was a fine city a
growing place, the gateway of the West and the market-place
where the vessels loaded for the East.
Milwaukee had one rival Chicago,
eighty-five miles south.
Chicago, however, was on low, flat,
marshy ground. It would always be a city, of
course, because it was the end of navigation, but Milwaukee
would feed and stock the folks who were westward bound.
So to Milwaukee went Philip Armour, resolved there
to stake his fortune in trade. Opportunity offered
and he joined with Fred B. Miles, on March First,
Eighteen Hundred Fifty-nine, in the produce and commission
business. Each man put in five hundred dollars.
The business prospered. One of the great products
in demand was smoked and pickled meats. At that
time farmers salted and smoked hams and brought them
to town, with furs, pelts and bags of wheat.
All the tide of humanity that streamed
into Milwaukee, westward bound, bought smoked or pickled
meats something that would keep and be always
These were Winter-packed. The
largest packer was John Plankinton, who was a success.
John was knowing, and he made Phil. Armour his
junior partner, as Plankinton and Armour. Then
business sizzled. They were at the plant at four
o’clock in the morning. They discovered
how to make a hog yield four hams. Our soldiers
needed the hams and the barreled pork, so shortly
more hogs came to market. The War’s end
found the new firm much stronger and well stocked
with large orders for mess-pork, sold for future delivery
at war-time prices, which contracts they filled at
a much lower cost and to their financial satisfaction.
Their guesser was good and they prospered.
Meantime, the city of Chicago grew
faster than Milwaukee. There was a rich country
south of Chicago, as well as west, and of this Philip
Armour had really never thought.
Chicago was a better market for pickled
pork and corned beef than Milwaukee, as more boats
fitted out there, and more emigrants were landing
on their way to take up government land.
One of Mr. Armour’s brothers,
Joe, was a packer in Chicago. Another brother,
H. O., was in the commission business there. Joe’s
health, it seems, was pretty bad, so in Eighteen Hundred
Seventy, Philip Armour came to Chicago, and shortly
the house of Armour and Company came into being H.
O. Armour going to New York to look after Eastern trade
and financing. In those days branch houses were
unknown and packing-house products were handled by
The Father of the Packing-House Industry
was Philip Danforth Armour. The business of the
Packing-House Industry is to gather up the food-products
of America and distribute them to the world.
Let the fact here be stated that the
world is better fed today than it ever has been since
Herodotus sharpened his faber and began writing
history, four hundred fifty years before Christ.
In this matter of food, the danger lies in overeating
and not in lack of provender.
The business of Armour and Company
is to buy from the producer and distribute to the
consumer. So Armour and Company have to satisfy
two parties the producer and the consumer.
Both being fairly treated have a perfect right to
The buyer of things which Nature forces
the man to buy, is usually a complainer, and he complains
of the seller because he is near, just as a man kicks
the cat and takes it out on his wife, or the mother
scolds the children.
To the farmers, Armour used to say
with stunning truth, “You get more for your
produce today than you got before I showed up on the
scene; and you get your money on the minute, without
haggle or question. I furnish you an instantaneous
To the consumer he said: “I
supply you with regularity and I give you quality
at a price more advantageous to you than your local
butcher can command. My profit lies in that which
has always been thrown away. As for sanitation,
go visit your village slaughter-house and then come
and see the way I do it!”
Upton Sinclair scored two big points
on Packingtown and its Boss Ogre. They were these:
First, the Ogre hired men and paid them to kill animals.
Second, these dead animals were distributed by the
Ogre and his minions and the corpses eaten by men,
women and children. It was a revolting revelation.
It even shook the nerves of a President, one of the
killingest men in the world, who, not finding enough
things to kill in America, went to Africa to kill
“You live on the dead,”
said the Eastern pundit, reproachfully, out of his
yellow turban, to the American who had just ordered
a ham-sandwich. “And you eat the living,”
replied the American, as he handed a little hand-microscope
to the pundit and asked him to focus it upon his dinner
of dried figs. The pundit looked at the figs through
the glass, and behold, they were covered with crawling,
wiggling, wriggling, living life! And then did
the man from the East throw the microscope out of the
window, and say, “Now there are no bugs on these
That which we behold too closely is
apt to be repulsive. Fix your vision upon any
of the various functions of life and the whole thing
becomes disgusting, especially so if we contemplate
the details of existence in others. Personally,
of course, we, ourselves, in thought and action are
sweet and wholesome but the others, oh,
ah, bah, phew, ouch, or words to that effect!
Armour’s remark about the village
slaughter-house was getting close home. If bad
meat was ever put out, it was from these secret places,
managed by one or two men who did things in their own
sweet way. Their work was not inspected.
They themselves were the sole judges. There were
not even employees to see and blackmail them if they
failed to walk the chalk-line. They bought up
cattle, drove them in at night and killed them.
No effort was made to utilize the blood or offal and
this putrefying mass advertised itself for miles.
Savage dogs and slaughter-houses go together, as all
villagers know, and there were various good reasons
why visitors didn’t go to see the local butcher
perform his pleasing obligations.
The first slaughter-houses in Chicago
were just like those in any village. They supplied
the local market.
At first the offal was simply flung
out in a pile. Then, when neighbors complained,
holes were dug in the prairie and the by-product buried.
About Eighteen Hundred Eighty-two, a decided change
in methods occurred. The first thing done was
to dry the blood, bones and meat-scrap, and sell this
for fertilizer. Next came the scientific treatment
of the waste for glues and other products. Chemists
were given a hearing, patient and most courteous.
One day Armour beckoned C. H. MacDowell
into his private office and said, “I say, Mac,
if a man calls who looks like a genius or a fool,
wearing long hair, whiskers and spectacles, treat him
gently he’s a German and may have
something in his head besides dandruff.”
MacDowell is one of the Big Boys at Armour’s.
He was a stenographer, like my old Bryant and Stratton
chum, Cortelyou, and in fact is very much such a man
as Cortelyou. “Mac” is the head of
the Armour Fertilizer Works and is distressed because
he can’t utilize the squeal so much
energy evaporating. It is his business to capitalize
It was the joke of the place that
if a German chemist arrived, all business was paralyzed
until his secret was seized. Jena, Göttingen
and Heidelberg became names to conjure with.
Buttons were made from bones, glue from feet, combs
and ornaments from horns, curled hair from tails,
felt from wool, hair was cured for plaster, and the
Armour Fertilizer Works slowly became grounded and
founded on a scientific basis, where reliable advice
as to growing cotton, rice, yams, potatoes, roses or
violets could be had.
“Meat” is the farmer’s
product. This meat is consumed by the people.
One-half of our population are farmers, and all farmers
raise cattle, sheep, poultry and hogs. Trade
follows the line of least resistance; and the natural
thing is for the local butcher to slaughter, and supply
his neighborhood. There is only one reason why
the people in East Aurora should buy meat of Armour,
as they occasionally do, and that is because Armour
supplies better meat at a lower price than we can produce
it. If Armour is higher in price than our local
butcher, we buy of the local man. The local butcher
fixes the price, not Armour, and the local farmer
fixes the price for the local butcher. Armour
always and forever has to face this local competition.
“I am in partnership with the
farmer,” Philip Armour used to say. “Their
interests are mine and their confidence and good-will
I must merit, or over goes my calabash.”
The success of capital lies in ministering
to the people, not in taking advantage of them.
And every successful business house is built on the
bed-rock of reciprocity, mutuality and co-operation.
That legal Latin maxim, “Let the buyer beware,”
is a legal fiction. It should read, “Let
the seller beware,” for he who is intent on selling
the people a different article from what they want,
or at a price beyond its value, will stay in trade
about as long as that famous snowball will last in
Besides being father of the Packing-House
industry, Philip D. Armour was a manufacturer of and
a dealer in Portable Wisdom. His teeming brain
took in raw suggestions and threw off the completed
product in the form of epigrams, phrases, orphics,
symbols. To have caught these crumbs of truth
that fell from the rich man’s table might have
placed many a penny-a-liner beyond the reach of mental
avarice. One man, indeed, swept up the crumbs
into a book that is not half crumby. The man is
George Horace Lorimer, and his book is called, “Letters
of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son.” Lorimer
was a department-manager for Armour and busied himself,
it seems, a good deal of the time, in taking down disjecta,
or the by-product of business. Armour was always
sincere, but seldom serious. There is a lot of
quiet fun yet among the Armour folks. When the
Big Boys dine daily together, they always pass the
persiflage. Lorimer showed me a bushel of notes with
which he proposes some day to Boswellize his former
Chief. Incidentally, he requested me never to
mention it, but secrets being to give away, I state
the fact here, in order to help along a virtuous and
hard-working young man, the son of the Reverend Doctor
George C. Lorimer, a worthy Baptist preacher.
“Keep at it do not
be discouraged, Melville a preacher’s
son is usually an improvement on the sire,”
said Philip D. Armour to Melville Stone, who was born
at Hudson, McLean County, Illinois, the son of a Presiding
“I’m not worrying,”
replied the genealogical Stone. “You and
I were both born in log houses, which puts us straight
in line for the Presidency.” “Right
you are, Melville, for a log house is built on the
earth, and not in the clouds.” Then this
came to Armour, and he could not resist the temptation
to fire it: “Boys, all buildings that really
endure are built from the ground up, never from the
No living man ever handed out more
gratuitous advice than Philip Armour. He was
the greatest preacher in Chicago. With every transaction,
he passed out a premium in way of palaver. He
loved the bustle of business, but into the business
he butted a lot of talk helpful, good-natured,
kindly, paternal talk, and often there was a suspicion
that he talked for the same reason that prizefighters
spar for time. “Here, Robbins, get off
this telegram, and remember that if the rolling stone
gathers no moss, it at least acquires a bit of polish.”
“Say, Urion, if you make a success
as my lawyer you have got to get into the rings of
Orion; be there yourself, the same as the man that’s
to be hanged. You can’t send a substitute.”
To Comes now Secretary
of Armour and Company “I suppose if
I told you to jump into the lake you’d do it.
Use your head, young man use your skypiece!”
And he did. This preaching habit was never pedantic,
stiff or formal it gushed out as the waters
gushed forth from the rock after Moses had given it
a few stiff raps with his staff. Armour called
people by their first names as if they all belonged
to his family, as they really did, for all mankind
to him were one. He thought in millions, where
other big men thought in hundreds of thousands, or
average men thought in dozens.
“Hiram,” he once said
to the Reverend Hiram W. Thomas for when
he met you, you imagined he had been looking for you
to tell you something “Hiram, I like
to hear you preach, for you are so deliberate that
as you speak I am laying bets with myself as to which
of a dozen things you are going to say. You supply
me lots of fun. I can travel around the world
before you get to your firstly.”
For all preachers he had a great attraction,
and it wasn’t solely because he was a rich man.
He supplied texts, and he supplied voltage. Most
men put on a pious manner and become hypocritically
proper when a preacher joins a group, but not so Philip
Armour. If he used a strong word, or a simile
uncurried, it was then. They liked it.
“Mr. Armour, you might use a
little of your language for fertilizer, if times were
hard,” once said Robert Collyer. He answered,
“Robert, I’m fertilizing a few of your
fallow acres now, as any one who goes to hear you
preach next Sunday will find out, if they know me.”
A committee of four preachers once
came to him from a country town a few miles out of
Chicago, asking him to pay off the debt on their churches.
It seems they had heard of the Armour benevolence and
decided to beard the lion in his den. He listened
to the plea, and then figured up on a pad the amount
of the debt. It was fifteen hundred dollars.
The preachers were encouraged they had
the ejaculation, “God bless you!” on tap,
when Mr. Armour said: “Gentlemen, four churches
in a town the size of yours are too many. Now,
if you will consolidate and three of you will resign
and go to farming, I’ll pay off this debt now.”
The offer was not accepted.
When Armour was asked to subscribe
one thousand dollars to a fund to provide an auditorium
and keep Professor Swing in Chicago, Swing having
just been tried for heresy, he said: “Chicago
must not lose Swing we need him. If
I had a few of his qualities, and he had a few of mine,
there would be two better men in Chicago today.
Yes, we must keep Swing right here. Put me down
for a thousand. I don’t always understand
what Swing is driving at, but that may be my fault.
And say, if you find you need five thousand from me,
just let me know, and the money is yours.”
There is no use trying to work the
apotheosis of Philip D. Armour: he was in good
sooth a man. “I make mistakes but
I do not respond to encores,” he used to say.
When a man told of spending five thousand dollars
on the education of his son, Armour condoled with him
thus: “Oh, never mind, he’ll come
out all right my education is costing me
that much every week.”
One of the Big Boys at Armour’s
is a character called “Alibi Tom.”
Time has tamed Alibi, but when he was twenty-two well,
he was twenty-two.
Now Philip Armour was an early riser,
and at seven o’clock he used to be at the office
ready for business, the office opening at eight.
Sometimes he would come even earlier, and if he saw
a clerk at work before eight, he might, under the
inspiring spell of the brisk early-morning walk, step
over and give the fellow a five-dollar bill.
Well, Alibi had never gotten one of
these five-dollar bills, because he was usually in
just before Saint Peter closed the gate. Several
times he had been reproved, and once Mr. Armour had
said, “Tom, be late once more and you are a
has-wazzer.” Shortly after this, one night,
Alibi Tom had a half-dozen stockmen to entertain.
They had gone to Hooley’s and Sam T. Jack’s,
then to the Athletic Club and then they called on Hinky
Dink and “Bath-House John,” the famous
Cook County literary light. Where else they had
gone they could not remember.
It was about three o’clock in
the morning, when it came over Tom like a pall that
if he started for home now and went to bed he would
surely be late again and it might cost him his job.
He proposed that they make a night
of it. The stockmen were quite willing.
They headed for the Stockyards, stopping along the
way to make little visits on certain celebrities.
At five o’clock they reached the Armour plant,
and Tom stowed his friends away with the help of a
friendly watchman. Then he made for the shower-bath,
rubbed down, drank two cups of coffee and went to
his desk. It was just six-thirty, and being Winter,
was yet dark. He hadn’t any more than yawned
twice and stretched himself, wondering if he could
hold out until noon, when he heard the quick step
of “the old man.” Tom crouched over
his pretended work like a devilfish devouring its
prey. He never looked up, he was that busy.
Mr. Armour stopped, stared, came closer yes,
it was Tom, the late Alibi Tom, the chronic delinquent.
“Well, well, well, Tom, the
Lord be praised! You have given yourself a hunch
at last keep this!” And Armour handed
out a brand-new, crisp, five-dollar bill.
Tom had now set a stake for himself and
it was up to him to make good, die or hike. He
decided to make good. The next month his pay was
raised twenty-five dollars, and it has been climbing
a little every year since.
Philip D. Armour was a man of big
mental and physical resources big in brain,
rich in vital power, bold in initiative, yet cautious.
He had two peculiar characteristics he
refused to own more land than he could use.
His second peculiarity was that his
only stimulant was tea. If he had an unusually
big problem to pass upon, he cut down his food and
increased his tea. Tea was his tipple. It
opened up his mental pores and gave him cosmic consciousness.
Armour had so much personality so much
magnetism that he had but few competitors
in his business. One of these was Nelson Morris.
Now, Morris was a type of man that
Armour had never met. Morris was a Jew, a Bavarian,
who affected music, art and philosophy. Nelson
Morris, small, smooth of face, humming bars from Bach
and quoting Schopenhauer, buying hogs at the Chicago
Stockyards and then killing these hogs for the gastronomical
delectation of Christians, was a sort of all-round
The Mosaic Law forbids the Jews eating
pork, but it places no ban or bar on their dealing
in it. Nelson Morris bought hogs at four A. M.,
or as soon as it was light. Armour found him
at it when he arrived, and Philip Armour was usually
the earliest bird on the job. Yet Armour wasn’t
afraid of Morris the Jew merely perplexed
him. One day Armour said to MacDowell, his secretary,
“I say, Mac, Nelson doesn’t need a guardian!”
The Jew was getting on the Armour
nerves just a little. Armour was always
on friendly terms with his competitors. As a matter
of fact, he was on friendly terms with everybody he
had no grouch and never got in a grump. Socially
he was irresistible. He got up close invited
confidence made friends and held them.
There was never a man he wouldn’t speak to.
He was above jealousy and beyond hate; yet, of course,
when it came to a show-down, he might hit awfully hard
and quick, but he always passed out his commercial
wallop with a smile.
When Sullivan met Corbett at New Orleans,
Gentleman Jim landed the champion a terrific jolt
with his right, smiled sweetly and said, “To
think, John, of your coming all the way from Boston
to get that also this”; then he gave
him another with his left. One morning, at daylight,
when Morris got to the Stockyards, he found all the
Armour and his pig-buyers had been
around with lanterns all night hunting up the owners
and bulling the market. “To think,”
said Armour to Morris, “to think of your coming
all the way from Bavaria hoping to get the start of
me!” Both men smiled serenely. The next
week whole train-loads of pigs were coming to Chicago
consigned to Nelson Morris. He had sent his agents
out and was buying of the farmers, direct.
Soon after, Armour casually met Morris
and suggested that they lunch together that day.
The Jew smiled assent. He had scored a point Armour
had come to him.
So they lunched together. The
Jew ate very little. Both men talked, but said
nothing. They were waiting. The Jew ate little,
but he drank three cups of tea.
Armour insisted on paying the check,
excused himself somewhat abruptly, and hurried to
his office. He sent for his lieutenants.
They came quickly, and Armour said: “Boys,
I’ve just lunched with Nelson Morris. I
think we’d better come to an understanding with
him as to a few things we shall do and a few we shall
not do he drinks nothing but tea.”
Prior to the invention of the refrigerator-car,
the business of the packer was to cure salt meats
and pack them for transportation. Besides this,
he supplied the local market with fresh meats.
Up to the early Eighties fresh meat
was not shipped any distance except in midwinter,
and then as frozen meat. Surplus Western cattle
were shipped East alive and subject to
heavy risks, shrinkage and expense. About fifty
per cent of the live weight was dressed beef balance
non-edible so double freight was paid on
the edible portion. Could this freight be saved?
About this time Hammond, of Detroit, mounted a refrigerator
on car-wheels, loaded it with dressed beef and headed
it for New York, where the condition of the meat on
arrival satisfied every one in the trade except the
The car was crude but it
turned the trick a new era had arrived.
The corn-belt came into its own. “Corn
was King” the steer, the heir apparent.
Phil Armour saw the point. Pay
freight on edible portions only. Save the waste.
Make more out of the critter than the competitor can.
Pay more for him get him. Sell the
meat for less. Get the business grow.
And he got busy perfecting the refrigerator-car.
Armour called together railroadmen
and laid the project before them. They objected
that a car, for instance, sent from Chicago to New
York would require to be iced several times during
the journey, otherwise there might be the loss of
the entire load. A car of beef was worth fifteen
hundred dollars. The freight was two hundred dollars
or less. The railroadmen raised their hands in
horror. Besides transporting goods they would
have to turn insurance company. Armour still insisted
that they could and should provide suitable cars for
The railroadmen then came back with
this rejoinder: “You make your own cars
and we will haul them, provided you will ask us to
incur only the ordinary risks of transportation.”
Armour accepted the challenge it was the
only thing to do. He made one car, and then twenty.
Fresh beef was shipped from Chicago
to New York, and arrived in perfect order. To
ship live cattle long distances, he knew was unwise.
And he then declared that Omaha, Kansas City, Saint
Paul and various other cities of the West would yet
have great slaughter-houses, where livestock could
be received after a very short haul. The product
could then be passed along in refrigerator-cars, and
the expense of ice would not be so much as to unload
and feed the stock. But better than all, the
product would be more wholesome.
Armour began to manufacture refrigerator-cars.
He offered to sell these to railroad-companies.
A few railroads bought cars, and after a few months
proposed to sell them back to Armour the
expense and work of operating them required too much
care and attention. Shippers would not ship unless
it was guaranteed that the car would be re-iced, and
that it would arrive at its destination within a certain
In the Fall, fresh peaches were being
shipped across the lake to Chicago from Michigan.
If the peaches were one night on the way they arrived
in good order.
This gave Armour an idea he
sent a couple of refrigerator-cars around to Saint
Joseph, loaded them with fresh peaches, and shipped
them to Boston. He sent a man with the cars who
personally attended to icing the cars, just as we
used to travel in the caboose to look after the livestock.
The peaches reached Boston, cool and fresh, and were
sold in an hour at a good profit. At once there
was a demand for refrigerator-cars from Michigan:
the new way opened the markets of America to the producer
of fruits and vegetables. There was a clamorous
demand for refrigerator-cars.
The reason a railroad can not afford
to have its own refrigerator-cars is because the fruit
or berry season in any one place is short. For
instance, six weeks covers the grape period of the
Lake Erie grape-belt; one month is about the limit
on Michigan peaches; strawberries from Southern Illinois
are gone in two or three weeks.
Therefore, to handle the cars advantageously,
the railroads find it much better to rent them, or
simply to haul them on a mileage. The business
is a specialty in itself, and requires most astute
generalship to make it pay. Cars have to be sent
to Alabama in February and March; North Carolina a
little later; then West Virginia. These same cars
then do service in the Fall in Michigan. It naturally
follows that much of the time cars have to be hauled
empty, and this is a fact that few people figure on
when computing receipts from tonnage. Now, instead
of the good old way of sending a man in charge, there
are icing-stations, where the car is looked for, thoroughly
examined and cared for as a woman would look after
a baby. In order to bring apples from Utah to
Colorado, and oranges from California to Arizona,
icehouses have to be built on the desert at vast expense.
And this in a climate where frost is unknown.
To work the miracle of modern industrialism
requires the help of bespectacled scientists from
Germany, and a fine army of artists, poets, painters,
plumbers, doctors, lawyers, beside the workers in wood
The whole business is a creation,
and a beneficent one. It has opened up vast territories
to the farmer, gardener and stock-raiser, where before
cactus and sagebrush were supreme; and the prairie-dog
and his chum, the rattlesnake, held undisputed sway.
To the wealth of the world it has
added untold millions, not to mention the matters
of health, hygiene and happiness for the people.
The Scotch-Irish blood carries a mighty
persistent corpuscle. It is the blood that made
the Duke of Wellington, Lord “Bobs,” Robert
Fulton, James Oliver, James J. Hill, Cyrus Hall McCormick
and Thomas A. Edison. It makes fighters, inventors
and creators stubborn men who never know
when they are licked. They can live on nothing
and follow an idea to its lair. They laugh at
difficulties, grow fat on opposition, and obstacle
only inspires them to renewed efforts.
Yet their fight is fair, and in the
true type there is a delicate sense of personal honor
which only the strong possess. Philip D. Armour’s
word was his bond. He never welched, and even
his most persistent enemies never accused him of double-dealing.
When he fought, it was in the open, and he fought
to a finish. Then when his adversary cried, “Enough!”
he would carry him in his arms to a place of safety
and bind up his wounds. Rightly approached his
heart was as tender as a girl’s.
In business he paid to the last cent;
and he expected others to pay, too. For clerks
in a comatose state, and the shirker who would sell
his labor and then connive to give short count, he
had no pity; but for the stricken or the fallen, his
heart and his purse were always open. He gloried
in work and could not understand why others should
not get their enjoyment out of it also.
He kept farmers’ hours throughout
his life, going to bed at nine o’clock and getting
up at five. He prized sleep God’s
great gift of sleep and used to quote Sancho
Panza, “God bless the man who first invented
Yet he slept only that he might arise
and work. To be well and healthy and strong and
joyous was to him not only a privilege but a duty.
If he used tobacco it was never during business hours.
For strong drink he had an abhorrence, simply because
he thought it useless, save possibly as a medicine,
and he believed that no man would need medicine if
he lived rightly.
Philip Armour foresaw the possibilities
of the West and the Northwest, and in company with
Alexander Mitchell, “Diamond Joe” Reynolds,
Fred Layton, John Plankinton and others, took great
personal pride in the upbuilding of the country.
He was possessed of an active imagination. In
a bigger, broader sense he was a dreamer. In his
every action and thought he was a doer. He was
very fond of children and would drop almost any work
he had in hand to talk for a few minutes with a small
boy or girl. He kept a stock of small Swiss watches
in his desk to present to his junior callers.
His great hobby was presenting his men with a suit
of clothes should they suggest anything out of the
ordinary or do anything which attracted his commendation.
Nearly all of those close to him were presented with
It was in the late Seventies.
Mr. Armour, with officials, was inspecting the Saint
Paul Railway. A rumor was circulated that Armour
and Company was in financial trouble, and Mr. Armour
was so advised. His return was so prompt that
it was suggested that he must have come down over the
wire. He was very much incensed, and his first
query was as to who had started the rumor.
The president of a Chicago bank had
loaned Armour and Company one hundred thousand dollars,
note due in ninety days. For some reason known
only to himself, he had made a demand on the cashier
for the payment of this note some sixty days before
it was due, and very naturally, in the absence of
Mr. Armour, did not get his money.
Everett Wilson at that time was a
member of the Ogden Boat Club, and was quite friendly
with a son of the president of the bank above referred
to. This young man remarked to Mr. Wilson that
he had never felt so sorry for a man in his life as
he did for his father the day before. He said
Phil Armour had come over to the bank had
bearded his father in his den, and had gone after
him so fiercely had gotten under him in
so many ways had lampooned him up dale
and down hill, that there was nothing left of his
father but a bunch of apologetic confusion, and that
the interview had ended by Mr. Armour’s throwing
a hundred thousand dollars in currency in the gentleman’s
face. The young man said he never knew that a
man could be so indignant and so voluble as Mr. Armour
was, and that it had made a lasting impression on
Philip Armour had very high business
ideals. To sell an article at more than it was
worth, or to deceive the buyer as to quality in any
way, he would have regarded as a calamity. He
delighted in the thought that the men with whom he
traded were his friends. That his prosperity had
been the prosperity of the producing West, and also
to the advantage of the consuming East, were great
sources of satisfaction. To personal criticism
he very seldom made reply, feeling that a man’s
life should justify itself, and that explanation,
excuse or apology is unworthy in a man who is doing
his best to help himself by helping humanity.
But in spite of his indifference to calumny his years
were shortened by the stab of a pen the
thing which killed Keats the tumult of wild
talk concerning “embalmed beef,” started
by a Doctor William Daly (who shortly after committed
suicide) and taken up to divert public attention from
the unpreparedness of the country properly to take
care of the health of its volunteer soldiery.
Mr. Armour, as Father of the Packing-House
Industry, was keenly sensitive to these slanders on
the quality of the product and the honesty of the
packers. The charges were thoroughly investigated
by a board of army officers and declared by them to
be without foundation.
Scandal and defamation in war-time
are imminent; the literary stinkpot rivals the lyddite
of the enemy; fever, envy, malice and murderous tongues
strike in the dark and retreat in a miasmic fog.
Here were forces that Philip Armour, as unsullied
and as honorable as Sir Philip Sidney, could not fight,
because he could not locate them.
About the same time came one Joseph
Leiter, who tried to corner the wheat of the world.
Chicago looked to Armour to punish the presumptuous
one. And so Armour, already bowed with burdens,
kept the Straits of Mackinaw open in midwinter, and
delivered millions of bushels of real wheat for real
money to meet the machinations of the bounding Leiter.
Here, too, Armour was fighting for Chicago, to redeem,
if possible, her good name in the eyes of the nations.
And Armour won; but it was like that
last shot of Brann’s, sent after he, himself,
had fallen. Philip Armour slipped down into the
valley and passed out into the shadow, unafraid.
Like Cyrano de Bergerac he said, “I am dying,
but I am not defeated, nor am I dismayed!” And
so they laid his tired, overburdened body in the windowless
house of rest.