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THE FRENCH STEEL INDUSTRY IN WAR TIME

The individual report on the condition of the iron and steel industries in France, referred to in the proceeding chapter, together with the comments of The Iron Age thereon, were as follows: Joseph G. Butler, Jr., Youngstown, Ohio, who represented the steel trade of the country on the American Industrial Commission to France, arrived in New York on the return journey of the commission on Oc. While the general report of the commission, which went out under the auspices of the American Manufacturers’ Export Association, will not be published until late in the year, The Iron Age is able to give its readers below Mr. Butler’s report of his investigations into the war status of the iron and steel industry of France.

W. W. Nichols,

Chairman American Industrial Commission to France.

My dear Sir:

In accordance with your request, I beg to submit the following report, which is the result of observations and information obtained, regarding the particular industry represented by me.

Quite unfortunately, there were only a few visits to steel plants of any importance and the information gained is rather superficial. I noticed a dearth of labor-saving devices, and quite prominently the absence of safety appliances. I also observed that notices to the employees calling attention to probable dangers were not as plentiful as in any model plant in the United States. It is quite probable that there are many plants in France that are more up-to-date than those we visited.

I have information in regard to the condition of the iron and steel business in France at the outbreak of the war, but we are only concerned with its present condition and its probable condition when the war is ended.

The acquisition by Germany at the close of the so-called Franco-Prussian war resulted, as in well known, in Germany taking over the tremendous fields of iron ore and coal located in Alsace-Lorraine. It is my belief that this absorption is largely responsible for the prosperous condition of the iron and steel business in Germany and its being in second place in the world’s production. I am assured by men prominent in the iron and steel trade in France, and by others connected with the government, that the war will not end until these valuable mineral deposits have been restored to France. It is remarkable that with this serious handicap, France has been able to accomplish so much in the way of steel supplies for its munition plants and other plants making war material accessories.

From my observation, nearly all the iron and steel now produced in France is being turned into war material and materials required for other purposes have been furnished in a minimum and scanty way. In other words, the whole of the iron and steel interests in France have been mobilized by the French Government.

The last report I have seen on steel and iron production in France is dated May, 1915, but I am told on good authority that since that date the production has doubled.

With the reacquisition of the Alsace-Lorraine iron and coal deposits and possibly the acquirement of other fields which our French friends seem to have in mind there will still be a shortage of coal. However, it is expected that after the war closes, France will necessarily be obliged to export a good portion of its production of iron and steel, by reason of the increased productive capacity of its iron and steel plants.

Incidentally I might mention that, when we were in Marseilles my attention was called by the Chamber of Commerce to the fact that France would be in a condition to export large quantities of iron ore from Algeria to the United States, and if this project could be worked out and return cargoes of American coal brought to France it would be very desirable, meeting the shortage of coal, which is inevitable. The analysis of this Algerian ore shows the quality to be such as would produce high-grade steel materials. A detailed analysis will be furnished to any one who may be interested.

It is interesting to note that in the departments of Calvados, Manche and Orne, there are rich deposits of iron ore yielding in some cases 45 to 50 per cent metallic iron. These deposits before the war were leased by the Thyssen group of German steel manufacturers, but are now in the hands of the French sequestrators. I understand that quantities of this ore also were in great demand, and frequently shipped to the iron works of South Wales.

I examined the steel plant making steel by the electrical process, but the examination was very brief. I have assurance, however, that the manufacture of steel by electricity in France has been very successful not only mechanically but financially and is sure to grow. There seems to be a large area in the eastern part of France where water-power is available, and I think that many new plants, and much activity will prevail in this particular region, when affairs again become settled. The use of water-power will overcome to a large extent the shortage of coal.

I think that when the war ends, the imports to France from the United States of iron and steel will be confined to special forms and that France will be able to compete not only with the United States, but also with other countries in the matter of exports of general iron and steel products.

With the port improvements contemplated at Bordeaux and Marseilles, world-wide markets will be opened for France. The contemplated improvements at both these places will, no doubt, be fully cared for in other special reports, or perhaps in the general body of the report which the commission may issue. The canal at Marseilles should receive special mention in the general report.

The tariff question in France is in about the same condition as in the United States, with the exception that in France custom duties are handled quickly and settled expeditiously by the government. Duties may be raised or lowered over night to meet contingencies.

The labor in French iron and steel plants is paid very much less than in the United States; in many instances one-half and even less. There are very few disturbances, and dictatorial labor unions such as we have in the United States are unknown in France.

A large number of women are employed in France doing men’s work, which keeps wages at a lower level than would otherwise be possible. All the members of the commission have seen in their travels women doing men’s work, and performing manual labor which in our country would not be thought of for a moment. Employment of women in steel and munition plants has, of course, increased the number of women workers since the war commenced. This, I think, is largely brought about by the patriotic feeling which prevails all over France. “Working for France” is a slogan rooted and imbedded in the minds of the people, whether they are soldiers, or engaged in any other occupation which may tend to end the war and save France.

Cooperation in France among all manufacturers of iron and steel and in fact all other industrial works, is marvelous, and could well be imitated in our own country. The various special branches of metal trades have both local and national syndicate organizations for the discussion of their trade problems, and means of voicing the particular needs of their trade, on which a majority sentiment has been expressed. These chamber syndicates are in turn combined into a National Union. These national unions are members of the Comite des Forges de France, which is the cap stone of the trade organizations of the steel and iron industries. The most striking fact to an American regarding the personnel of the governing board and general committee of the Comite des Forges de France is that a considerable number of its members are in one or the other of the legislative bodies, and practically hold positions at the head of the Government Committees, organized to look after the very business in which they are engaged.

In spite of the fact that at the beginning of trench warfare, France had lost behind the German line 80 per cent of her normal pig-iron production, and 70 per cent of her steel production, it has been possible by the utilization of lower grade ore in other districts of France, and which were not exploited to any extent previously, to increase the steel production of the country 100 per cent over that of last year. The interesting fact regarding this is that of the production which has been cut off the larger part in pig iron is of so-called Thomas iron (non-Bessemer), and in the case of steel, mostly “Martin” or acid open hearth. Neither of these products enters to any considerable extent into the manufacture of projectiles. The plants in the center and southern part of France were already producing the special qualities of steel required for artillery use, hence the amount of special quality steel brought in from foreign countries, in both the raw and semi-manufactured state, was an immediate necessity for the country at outbreak of hostilities. It is also noticeable, and based on information obtained from leading steel manufacturers, that many idle and in some cases abandoned plants have been rehabilitated and utilized as far as possible. As a matter of fact, I am told that there is not a single idle plant of any kind formerly engaged in the manufacture of fabrication of steel that is not now in full operation, either in its original form or by being transformed into a munitions plant.

It is only too evident that the present pre-occupation of steel manufacturers is to bend every effort to assist in the final military victory of the Allies. However, I met steel manufacturers, conversing with them freely, and their mental attitude is that when the military victory has been achieved and France has again entered into possession of her own, they are determined to succeed in producing a close union with the British producers and thus prevent a rapid return of German industrial prosperity. With this fact in mind, it seems clear to me that the United States will have to make up its mind in which field it will choose to work. It certainly will be impossible to continue to hold a position of theoretical neutrality.

Welfare work in Le Creusot is in a high state of efficiency. Comfortable modern dwellings are furnished the employees at low rental. Hospital facilities are of the best and everything is done to bring the workman in close and harmonious relations with his employer.

It has been suggested that I embody in this report something with reference to the mines in France, but as the data concerning them has been printed in public documents of the French Minister of Mines, I will omit this detail with the single word that these reports include minerals of all kinds.

I am indebted to John Weare, representative of the United States Steel Products Company in France, for valuable information in the preparation of this brief report.

Joseph G. Butler, Jr.

In the early part of December I was requested by the Financial editor of the New York Times to give my views on the present outlook and more particularly with reference to the condition of the American Iron and Steel industry, brought about by the war. This letter to Mr. Phillips is copied.

December 20th, 1916.

Mr. Osmund Phillips, New York, N. Y.

My dear Mr. Phillips:

I have before me your circular letter of the 8th instant and your kind favor of recent date.

In reply to your question What is the outlook for business in the early months of 1917?

The outlook is good. Our mills and plants for several months could not nil the domestic orders even if the war orders were entirely withdrawn. I am told that all the recent orders placed are firm and are to be filled regardless of the ending of the war.

Will the end of the European war mark the end of the present period of prosperity?

This is a broad and doubtful question. I do not think the end of the war will end the present period of prosperity. There will be a temporary halt. I might add in this connection, that in my judgment the last overture from the Kaiser may result in the cessation of the war, but I believe this period to be quite a distance off. There are three parties in Germany. First, the Kaiser and the Prussian Military circle, who have been in charge and have carried their own way up to very nearly the present time. Second, there are the people of Germany who are the common people, the good substantial people, the majority of whom have been kept in ignorance of the real beginning of the war and the cause for its continuing. These people are commencing to get information and as time goes on will be in full possession of the facts. Third, the business men of Germany. There are no better nor more substantial business men any place in the world than those in Germany; these men are really responsible for the building up of Germany and it is my opinion that these people are now responsible for the pressure that is undoubtedly being brought on the Kaiser and the military party for the settlement of the war. I believe that this pressure will continue until a settlement is made. These business men recognize that the longer the settlement is put off the harder it will be for Germany.

In your opinion, what proportion of the country’s total trade, both foreign and domestic, during the past year, was due to the war?

I think about one-half of the trade of the country is due greatly, directly and indirectly to the war.

Do you think that labor demands have exceeded labor’s fair share of the increase in profits?

I do not think labor demands have exceeded labor’s fair share. The high cost of living fully offsets the greater wages paid.

Do you think present wage rates can be maintained?

I do not think that present wages can be maintained indefinitely. There will undoubtedly be a reaction with a certain reduction in the cost of living and labor will have to share in the reduction.

What do you think of the important legislation passed in 1916 affecting business, including the eight hour day, increase in income tax, the shipping bill, retaliation against foreign trade interference, etc.?

The eight hour a day law was an abnormal affair undoubtedly forced through for political purposes, and never should have been passed and should be promptly repealed.

The increase in the income tax is all right.

The shipping bill will be valuable if the right kind of men are put on the Commission. Some of these under consideration are wholly incapable.

I believe this answers all your questions.

Very truly yours,

J. G. Butler, Jr.

When the special report I had prepared and published reached France I was favored with a number of letters from prominent people in that country, containing comments on the same. There were probably one hundred of these letters, from among which I have selected the following as of sufficient interest, either because of their comments or the prominence of the writers, to make them worthy of reproduction here:

French Republic.
Mr. J. G. Butler, Jr.,
Youngstown, O.

Dear Sir:

I thank you for the interesting data which you kindly sent me on the development of the French Steel Industry during the war.

My compatriots cannot be otherwise than sensible of the praise which you have given them.

They will find in your report an authorized opinion of the efforts which they have made to make secure the National defense.

Yours very truly,
A. Mirman,
Minister of Commerce and Industry.

Consulate-General of the United States of Americ, Rue Des Italians (28, Boulevard Des Italiens)

Paris, December 6, 1916.
Joseph G. Butler, Jr., Esquire,
Youngstown, Ohio,
United States of America.
My dear Mr. Butler:

I am in receipt of your good favor of November 9, 1916, enclosing a reprint of your report on the French Steel Industry, for which you have my best thanks. I have read it with a great deal of interest and must congratulate you upon getting a great many solid facts into a very small compass. In my opinion you have covered the situation very intelligently and the information you give ought to be of great value to our manufacturers in the United States.

I cannot tell you how glad I was to see you over here and I only wish that more of our people would come abroad to study conditions at first hand.

I have also received a letter from your friend, Mr. Warren, and from Mr. Douglass saying all sorts of nice things about me which, I hope, were merited.

Very sincerely yours,
A. M. Thackara.

Republican Committee of Commerce,
Industry and Agriculture.
Paris, November 30th, 1916.

Mr. J. G. Butler, Jr.,
Member of the Industrial Commission of France.
Youngstown, Ohio.

Dear Sir:

I acknowledge receipt of the interesting report that you have made on your return from France, and I trust that this voyage will have allowed you to learn to appreciate our fine country, and that the results of your visit will be good and fruitful for the exchange of our products with North America.

You need not thank us for the reception that we have given to the American delegation in France. It was our duty to receive heartily our American friends; it was for us a cherished duty to tighten again the bonds of cordiality which exist between the two countries.

Personally I myself have been very glad to be introduced to you.

Yours Very truly,
MONCURAND,
Sénateur de la Seine.

Meurthe & Moselle,
Office of the Prefect.
Nancy, France, November 28th, 1916.

Dear Sir:

I have read with the greatest interest the interview which you gave upon your landing in America to the American newspapers.

I feel very much impressed by your own remembrance and I myself feel honored, as a French citizen, by your sympathy for my country.

The poor city of Nancy has suffered since your visit. We buried yesterday, the victims of the Friday bombardment. Big shells have been thrown on the city. One fell right in the center, in this vicinity, in a populous street, many women and children have been killed, a mother and her two little girls what a dreary sight is war, the way of the war inaugurated by the Germans, for it is the shame of all humanity. We have inhumed our poor victims, washed the blood that reddened pavements, put in order the rubbish of the houses and have come back again to our daily work.

Yours very truly,
Mirman, Prefect.

To J. G. Butler, Jr.

Lyon, Le 28 November 1916.

Consulat Imperial de Russie a Lyon

Mr. Joseph G. Butler, Jr.
Youngstown, Ohio.
United States.

Dear Sir:

I am pleased to acknowledge receipt of your favour of the
November, and of the copy of your report respecting the French
Steel Industry. I thank you for same.

I have read your report with high interest, on various questions referred to, and particularly the Comite des Forges de France, and the works of Messrs. Schneider & Co. at Le Creusot.

I should be happy if a further good opportunity could afford me the pleasure of meeting you again, and I remain, dear sir,

Very truly yours,
C. Calor.

Chambre
Des Deputes
Commission du Budget.

Paris, November 30th, 1916.

Mr. Joseph G. Butler, Jr.
Youngstown, Ohio, U. S. A.

My dear Mr. Butler:

I duly received your favor of Ocst, and of Noth, and also the documents which you kindly sent me. I have read them with greatest interest.

Of course, I have at once communicated your report in French to the Chambers of Commerce and I was pleased to place such a useful and well established document at their disposal.

I trust to hear from you soon, and with very kind regards.

I beg to remain,
Cordially yours,
Maurice Damour.
Depute de Lands.

Bordeaux the 29th November, 1916.

Dear Mr. Butler:

I beg to tender you my very best thanks for the copy of your report on French Steel Industry in war time you so kindly sent me.

I learned a lot by reading it, and it is comforting to know that on the other side of the Atlantic, we have friends not sparing their time and their energy, for helping us through the tremendous struggle we are fighting.

Your flag is made of the same colors as our flag, both are the same symbol of human rights and Liberty.

Yours very truly,
D. G. MESTREZAT.

Joseph G. Butler, Jr., Esq.,
Member of the American Commission to France,
Youngstown, Ohio, U. S. A.

11 Ironmonger Lane London 31st January, 1917.

J. G. Butler, Jr., Esq.,
Youngstown, O.

My dear Mr. Butler:

I have received your lines of the 29th ultimo, and your most charming verses which accompanied them; also your report on the French Steel Industry, which I read with very much interest.

The people on your side do things in a very thorough manner. For instance, I do not think that we have sent a deputation to consider the state of trade in France, but numerous committees, dealing with various important trades of the country, are conferring in regard to “trade after the war conditions” I hope with advantage.

I trust that out of all the trials of war time there will emerge a period when the angel of co-operation with healing in his wings will again have a chance of being heard.

My wife sends you her kindest regards, as I do also. I have most pleasant memories of my visits to the United States and of the hospitalities which you and your hospitable brethren invariably extended to me.

Believe me, Yours sincerely,

Wm. R. Peat.
Lyon, Nord, 1916.

Ministère de la Guerre
Inspections Generales
5e Arrondissement
Lyon

9, Rue President Carnot

My dear Sir:

I beg to thank you sincerely for that reprint of your report on the French Steel Industry, which I have read through with great pleasure and most interest.

Besides, I am glad to take such an opportunity to remember the time we spent together so agreeably in Lyons, and remain, dear sir,

Yours very truly,
A. D’AMAND.
Paris, Deth, 1916.

Mr. J. G. Butler,
Youngstown, O., U. S. A.

Dear Sir:

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letters of November 6th and 9th, in which you send to me the text of the report of your trip in France and an interview that you have granted to a representative of a newspaper before landing.

I thank you very kindly for this information and I wish to testify to the pleasure afforded me by the good impression which you brought back of your trip. I beg you to be so kind as to excuse me for delaying so long in answering your letter a delay caused by the work that we give to the intensive effort toward the production of war material.

As you have made the request of me, I shall tell you very frankly the few observations which have been suggested to my by the reading of your report.

First of all you have noted the lack of any safety apparatus in the factories and the lack of placards by means of which, in the United States, the attention of the laborer is called to the probable dangers of his profession. The last part of the observation is particularly well founded, but you must not forget that working conditions in France are quite different from those existing in the United States. In our country, the metal workers are taught more slowly; as a rule they start their apprenticeship earlier and their professional education wards them against the dangers of the plant. As to the safety apparatus, perhaps they have been neglected in some workshops erected during the war, but they are required by law and always installed in times of peace.

I can tell you that as far as the Schneider’s establishments are concerned, special safety regulations were established twenty years ago, with such care that they are actually in use almost without modifications up to the present time.

I have had looked up, some records on the fatal accidents in the French and in the American metallurgical factories. I notice that, according to the report of conditions of employment in the Iron and Steel Industry in the United States, the percentage of fatal accidents in America was 1.86 for 1000 laborers in 1909 and 1910, while in France it was only 0.6 for 1000 laborers.

The comparison of these figures will show you the accuracy of what I have just indicated to you. As to wages it is certain that the French wages have nothing in common with the American prices, but the cost of living is much less.

One cannot therefore compare the figures according to the report which gives the exchange between the monetary units of the two countries.

Finally, in the chapter “Collaboration between the Manufacturers” it is shown that the production of which the French industry has been deprived, consisted entirely of Thomas, or Basic (Bessemer) Steel and acid Open Hearth Steel.

In reality the East and North departments of France, which have been invaded, were producing chiefly Basic Bessemer pig iron and steel. Open Hearth, Acid and Basic steel figured only as a relatively small tonnage.

As you take an interest in the social question, I thought I was doing right in having addressed to you, by the same mail, a copy of our pamphlet on social economy.

I trust that the materials which you will find in it will allow you to complete the data that you have been able to gather in the course of your trip.

Yours very truly,
Schneider & co.
H. COQUEUGNOT

Paris, December 2nd, 1916.
Mr. J. G. Butler, Jr.,
Youngstown, O.

Dear Sir:

I have had the honor to receive your letter of November 9th and was very much pleased to note your very interesting report on the French Steel Industry.

I thank you for sending this document which I immediately communicated to our several metallurgical departments concerned.

I thank you, too, for the kind mention you make of our relations during your stay in France and beg you to believe dear sir, in the assurance of my best regards.

Yours very truly,
Schneider & company.
Maurice DEVIES.

Arles-sur-Rhone, Deth, 1916.

Mr. J. G. Butler, Jr.,
Youngstown, Ohio.

Dear Sir:

I have received with your favor of the 19th of last November, the copy of the report which you drew up following your trip to France about the steel business in France during the war.

I have had it translated, for, as I very much regret to be obliged to tell you, I do not know the English language, which deprived me of the extreme pleasure of conversing directly with you and obliged me to remain your silent neighbor, when I had the privilege of being near you.

The reading of your report has interested me very keenly and informed us in France of many things about France.

You have been so kind as to add a very elegant piece of poetry about our two flags comprising the same colors that the sun blends in its radiant light, but which none the less preserve their symbolical import. May they continue to float thus together as formerly for the glory of our two nations, which are actuated by a common impulse, though differing in expression.

I trust your visit to France at this unfortunate time through which we are living, will have a happy effect upon the continuance of the good relations between our two countries.

Thanking you deeply for your considerate attention, I beg to extend to you and the other members of your Commission the expression of my sincere regards, believe me, sir,

Yours very truly,
A. Verán,
Architecte des Monuments Historiques.

French Embassy.
Washington, D. C., Fe, 1917.

I offer you, my dear Colonel, my best thanks for the most interesting account you kindly sent me of your experience in France and of the sentiments inspired to you by your stay among my compatriots.

Sincerely yours,
JUSSERAND.

Louis Nicolle 17, Avenue Bosquet Paris

December, 1916.

My dear Sir:

I am much obliged to you for the reprint of your report you kindly sent me.

I have read through it with the greatest interest, and although I am a textile manufacturer, I found some very interesting suggestions in it, and at the same time compliments to my country of which I am very proud.

I hope some further opportunity may bring us into contact again and in the meantime, I remain,

Yours very sincerely,
Louis Nicolle.

Reims, December 15th, 1916.

Dear Mr. Butler:

I thank you for your very interesting communication on the Steel Industry in France and on its future. I am quite of the same opinion with you and I congratulate you for what you have brought to us.

I cherish the best remembrance of the visit to Reims of the American Commission and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you again.

I forwarded your kind regards to Mr. Representative Damour, who begged me to send you his regards.

Ever at your service for all that could be service to you, I beg you to accept, dear Mr. Butler, the expression of my sympathy and of my most devoted friendship.

Jacques Regnier,
Sub-prefect, Reims.

Paris, Derd, 1916.

Mr. J. G. Butler, Jr.,
Youngstown, O.

Dear Sir:

I duly received your letter of November 9th, in which you were so kind as to enclose a copy of the report on the French Steel Industry which you made out following the trip which the American Commission has made recently in France.

After reading carefully this report which interested me very keenly, I can tell you that it represents precisely the actual situation of our Steel Industry.

With my best thanks, I remain,
Yours very truly,
J. Maurice.