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The Iron Age
A. I. FINDLEY WILLIAM W. MACON
CHARLES S. BAUR, Advertising Manager
Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations and of
Published every Thursday by the IRON AGE PUBLISHING CO., 239 West 39th Street, New York
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upon prices of other commodities. Beyond question the amount of competition does determine the trend. The war time increase in prices was plainly due to reduction of competition among sellers, there being rather a great deal of competition among buyers, all the way from governments down to the ordinary workman.
Repeatedly one observes men computing the percentage by which a given commodity is above its "pre-war level" and endeavoring to judge whether or not the percentage is tolerable. In many cases there is conscious or unconscious reference to the quantity of circulating medium being responsible for the difference. Such reasoning is unsound. Reference should be made rather to the items of cost which the seller cannot control.
Undoubtedly very close connection can be traced between the course of prices and the volume in which money or its representatives, in bank checks, etc., circulates. The quantity of money is one thing and the rate of flow of money a different thing. It is obvious that conditions that cause prices to advance also cause money to circulate more rapidly.
One of the influences tending to bring prices back to normal, when there has been a wide divergence, is the wealth or property of the country against a large part of which bonds or mortgages exist, expressed in dollars, the number of dollars not fluctuating like the market price of a share of stock. Very roughly speaking, this wealth is about 50 times the amount of currency outstanding, while the money transfer in a year, in checks and the handling of currency, is something like 100 times the amount of currency.
Money and Prices
Progress along the path of readjustment is facilitated by recognizing truths even if unpleasant. Some are old truths, merely discredited for a time. One that should now receive general recognition is that the quantity of money or negotiable securities in circulation does not regulate the general level of prices. For a time after the war it was loudly preached that it did. No serious attention, of course, need be given to the cases of the countries in which the printing presses have been active, notably Russia and Germany, where prices in paper have increased as the product of the printing presses piled up. We are thinking about real money.
Before the war, there was debate on the quantitative theory of money. Its advocates cited figures to indicate that as the volume of circulation increased, prices rose, while usually the counter argument consisted chiefly in questioning whether there was a connection. Lately the detailed study the Russell Sage Foundation has made of commodity prices in the United States has indicated that there has been no general advance in prices in a century. Instead there have been three peaks —in connection with the war of 1812 or the Napoleonic wars, our Civil War and the World War —while declines occurred after the first two, during a general period of about 30 years in each case. Almost throughout the period of more than a century, the quantity of money was increasing.
In another respect there is fresh information on this subject, since the operation of the Federal Reserve system has been observable. Since this system was established, there have been variations in the quantity of money in circulation, but the ups and downs have tended to follow rather than precede the ups and downs in prices.
Trends in prices are made by competition, which is slightly different from prices being made directly and solely by competition. Competition may be the keenest ever seen and yet not force the price of the commodity involved to anything like its record low level, on account of the competitors not being able to reduce their costs to the previous low level. There has to be a descending spiral, for in the case of practically every commodity, the cost of production depends largely
The decision of the Refractories Manufacturers' Association at its annual meeting recently in Chicago, to increase its endowment for research work, will be welcomed by steel makers, and particularly by those experimenting with the blow-torch open-hearth furnace. Among the difficulties encountered in bringing about the perfection of this style of melting unit is that of obtaining a brick for the side walls and roofs which will withstand the intense heat and the abrasive action of the gas and air blasts. Commercial brick now available are made for temperatures of 2700 to 2800 degrees Fahr., while it often happens that in furnaces of the type referred to the temperature will rise to nearly 4000 degrees, as was brought out at the October, 1921, meeting of the American Iron and Steel Institute. This wide divergence between what brick will do and what they are now called on to do prevents attaining the full possibilities of furnaces of the McKune, Egler and other similar types. Relining is necessary at more frequent intervals than is the case with the ordinary open-hearth furnace. The end sought in these blow-torch furnaces is an increase in production through a shortening of the time from charging to tapping; but if the furnace has to be relined frequently or cannot be kept in continuous operation on one lining for as many heats as can be secured from the older type furnace, there is a considerable offset to the gain. It is claimed that an electrically sintered magnesite brick can be made which will stand up under the intense heat. Refractories makers say such a brick would be very expensive and impractical in a commercial way, but this is an opinion and is subject to revision. The matter is worthy of thorough research in view of all that may come out of it in increasing the production of steel and at the same time reducing the unit cost.
Foreign Iron Ore Favored
Producers of iron ore in Eastern States find themselves in a deplorable situation owing to the suspension by the Interstate Commerce Commission of the proposed reduction of 28 per cent in freight rates and handling charges on Eastern ores which had been filed to become effective April 1. At the same time, the proposed reduction of 20 per cent on ex-lake rates was suspended, the suspensions in both cases extending until July 30. At the same time no action was taken for the suspension of the reduced rates on foreign ore from seaboard to inland furnaces, and operators of Eastern mines declare that it would be impossible for them to compete with foreign ore. In fact, one important Eastern steel company has already contracted for a cargo of foreign ore, and it is fully expected that importations will be heavy during the next few months.
The commission announced that a hearing on the suspensions will be held in Washington, April 24, but the slowness with which such cases are disposed of leaves little ground for hoping that a decision will be reached in time to be of benefit this season to the Eastern producers. One important ore case has been pending two years. The suspensions were due to complaints filed by Buffalo iron and steel makers against reductions in ore rates unless reductions were made on coal and coke rates. There is, of course, much to be said in support of this position, but it is extremely unfortunate that a final decision as to ore rates could not be very promptly reached or that rates on foreign ore be raised, or the Buffalo interests satisfied by a prompt decision in regard to coal and coke rates.
Eastern ore producers have kept mines in operation with limited forces in order to provide employment for some of their men, and unless im
mediate action is taken by the commission making it possible for the Eastern companies to compete with foreign ore, hundreds of men will be thrown out of employment and the companies will suffer serious financial loss.
Without assuming to pass upon the merits of the claims made by the Buffalo companies, it is perfectly clear that the recent decisions benefit foreign producers at the expense of operations at home. A way to prevent such discrimination should be found immediately.
Railroad Work by Contract
The opinion handed down by the majority of the Interstate Commerce Commission last week, regarding contracts made by railroads in the spring of 1920 with outside shops for the repair of locomotives, has brought an expression of gratification and approval from the American Federation of Labor. But when it is noted that the commission was divided by a vote of six to five, that no order was issued and that the dissenting members gave excellent reasons for their positions, there is little in the action of the commission that looks like a victory for organized labor. Several of the dissenting members held that the case was one with which the commission had nothing to do, but considering it on its merits, they justified the action of the railroads.
The majority opinion was made up largely of analyses of estimates of the number of locomotives that could be repaired within a month or two after Federal control ceased. These figures were contrasted with what actually developed after the contracts were awarded. There is no question that extensive repairs were needed and that the necessity for action was urgent. In the case of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the majority report expresses the opinion that the additional expense of $3,000,000, due to having the work done outside, was not justified, but it adds that the imputation of an ulterior or dishonest motive is without support in the record of the case.
In separate opinions by Commissioners Potter, Lewis and Campbell, the danger and futility of criticising the action of the railroad executives are considered. Commissioner Potter was particularly emphatic in declaring that the responsibility rests with the railroads. "We should not reverse thenjudgment," he said, "upon a record of this late date, which in the nature of things cannot possibly give us even an outline sketch of the picture which confronted them." He added that there is never an excuse for a carrier to run any risk with respect to its motive power. If officers of the carriers did not exercise good judgment, they are responsible to the stockholders and not to the commission. This strikes right at the heart of the controversy, for if any functions are to be left to the railroad officials they must not be interfered with continually, but must be allowed to exercise their judgment to a very large extent.
One point was not developed and perhaps was not pertinent to the decision, but it is an open secret that although the action of the railroads at the time referred to in 1920 probably was not due to the position of the railroad brotherhoods, the threat of a general strike last fall and the continued insistence upon maintaining the unreasonably high schedule of wages have driven the railroads to resort to any expedients that could be devised to curtail expense. One of these expedients has been the making of contracts, not only for repairs, but also for maintenance of way, and it seems inevitable that more contracts of this kind will be let unless the railroad employees consent to a revision of the wage schedule.
Fluorspar in the Open-Hearth
New light is thrown on the chemistry of basic open-hearth practice by an article from a German source in The Iron Age of March 23 on "Fluorspar in Open-Hearth Practice." It is important to American steel makers in view of the large tonnage of basic open-hearth steel made in this country. Fluorspar is used in almost every heat of such steel, but the common thinking as to its function has not gone beyond the thinning of the slag and the cutting of the lime.
The German studies show that fluorspar does more than this. It is an effective agent, when properly used, in removing sulphur from the steel. Comparing nine heats without fluorspar and nine in which it was used, the writer shows that in the first set, with all other conditions the same, the average sulphur content of the finished steel was 0.08 per cent and in the second set sulphur was down to 0.05 per cent. The author controverts the theory that desulphurization, when fluorspar is used, is brought about by the slag being thus rendered more basic, and he shows by actual results that the ratio of the oxygen of the bases to that of the acids was 1.67 without fluorspar and 1.30 when fluorspar was used, there being in the latter case a marked decrease in sulphur in the steel. The presence of too much sulphur in basic steels has been a matter of no small concern in this country, it being more difficult to remove this element than to remove phosphorus in basic practice.
The basic open-hearth process, once the young competitor of the Bessemer, has been gathering years, but apparently we have not learned all its possibilities. The chemical reactions involved are many and it is to be expected that other disclosures quite as valuable as those regarding fluorspar will be made from time to time, to the improvement of the process and the product. Recent information regarding the use of lime will bring changes in that feature of the process. There is also the matter of substitutes for fluorspar or the use of other additions to supplement it. All of this and like effort means a steady advance toward the goal of quantity production of high quality steel.
The most important deduction from the February statistics of British foreign trade in iron and steel, analyzed elsewhere, is that the pre-war balance between exports and imports is being restored. Imports, which have been relatively large in the last two years, have been declining until in February they reached the lowest figure since April, 1920. Pig iron imports, which were unprecedentedly heavy last year, were less in February than one-third the monthly average receipts in
1921. These facts demonstrate that the British industry is approaching a self-sustaining condition and becoming independent of .continental competition. It is to be noted that, total steel exports in February were much larger than those from the United States—228,370 tons, as compared with 133,975 tons, and over 30 per cent of the latter amount went to Japan. Not only in volume but also in countries sold to British exporters are maintaining a marked supremacy.
Buying Power and Steel Demand
The fallacy of predicting the volume of business on the appraised "needs" of the public has been proved repeatedly by divergences sometimes in one direction sometimes in the other. In the years 1905-6-7 there was a volume of business, particularly in investment construction, far above what would have been forecast except by the abnormally sanguine. In the other direction has been the failure of Mexico and Russia to buy in accordance with their apparent needs.
Buying power is a much better measure with which to gage the prospects of business activity, but this is only as to the sum total. In other words, people as a rule can be counted on to spend their money, but what they will be disposed to buy with their money is another matter.
To study this difference it may be illuminating to set together the estimates of national income made by the Bureau of Economic Research and the production of steel ingots. As the citation is of tonnage and not of market value, the Bureau's presentation not of actual income but of income reduced to "the 1913 dollar" is taken. In the first column of the table below is given the adjusted income, in billions of dollars, in the second the relative figure for the year named, 1913 being taken as 100, and in the third column is given the tonnage of ingot production.
Adjusted Relative Ingot Production,
Income to 1913 Gross Tons
1909 30.1 88 23,298,779
1910 32.2 94 25,154,087
1911 31.7 92 23,029,479
1912 33.2 97 30,284,682
1913 34.4 100 30,280,130
1914 33.0 96 22,819,784
1915 35.2 102 31,284,212
1916 40.7 118 41,401,917
1917 40.8 119 43,619,200
1918 38.8 113 43,051,022
There was a plain and consistent tendency in the steel ingot production to fluctuate in the same directions as the national income, but the fluctuations in steel were by far the more violent. The particular rise of steel in the war years was due, of course, to steel being a very important war material, and much of it was bought by capital expenditures of the United States and other nations engaged in the war. The war years are included in the above table chiefly because the presentation of the Bureau of Economic Research has an interest of its own, the figures extending through 1918. It is not assumed that the showing of steel in the war years is particularly illuminating.
As to the pre-war years, however, one observes that 1911 showed somewhat more income than 1909, but somewhat less steel, while for 1912 and 1913 steel took a great jump while income increased only a trifle. Thus the matter of how income was spent is seen to be important.
Steel is not bought by current income entirely, however. Particularly in years of heavy demand the steel is bought largely by capital expenditures, essentially the investment of accumulated savings. There are, however, great variations in the manner in which capital is invested. There may be at one time much investment in dwelling-house construction, involving little steel per dollar invested, and at another time much investment in factories and sky-scrapers, requiring much steel in proportion to the investment. At one time vehicle roads may be built and at another time railroads.
There is, therefore, no thorough and completely governing connection between buying power and demand for steel. Much less, it should be added, is there a perfect control of demand for steel by price for steel. Repeatedly it was argued in the early part of last year that the steel mills should, in essence, make a price that would move the goods. That is something that cannot be done. The people will spend their money as they wish. They do not weigh the relative cost of cinema performances and automobiling to determine how they will lay out their income, or the relative cost of dwelling houses and stock in hotel enterprises to determine how they invest their capital.
Questions Oil Supply Predictions
To the Editor: Twenty years from now the gasoline motor car will be gasolineless, the motor-boat a memory &nd the airplane a museum curio. Industry dependent upon the derivatives of petroleum will have to look tx> other sources for fuel and lubrication.
-All this is true — if the predication just made by the XJnited States Geological Survey is accurate. Fif.geologists have been figuring on the nation's resupply of oil and, from the Survey's office, have j jjje regu]t of their investigations — that the supPly oi crude oil in the United States will last twenty . There are only 9,000,000,000 bbls, left in the
. Ixanagine the havoc which exhaustion of oil would i^E- to this country. The automotive industry, with t>i]lions of invested capital, would be a total failure. many cars would fill junk piles is speculative. were 10,449,785 registered cars and trucks in -country in 1921, representing a normal increase the past year of 14.2 per cent. These would be ess. And the failure of the automotive industry have a decidedly bad effect upon the country a,s Instead of progressing the country would go
how does the oil industry as a whole receive zreport; how much of credence do they place in the ? Not a grea,t deal, for they call attention reports in past years and how they have to naught. But let us look into the past and reckon for the future.
ck in 1889 the Government's official bulletin, Resources of the United States," carried oil predictions. It stated that the principal oil ueing regions of the country were "Western Pennia, New York, the Turkey Foot and other disof West Virginia, the Macksburg and Lima fields Ohio, the Florence district of Colorado, and the oil of southern California." And, continuing, the ticle related "Not only are the localities above the chief petroleum producing districts in the United States, but the indications are that, with the possible
exception of Wyoming, they will continue to be so. ... The Illinois field is an exceedingly .small one, but with little promise for the future, while the Kansas and Texas fields will at the best probably produce only a few thousand barrels each year."
Oklahoma, reckoned in all sections of the country as the greatest of oil States, is not mentioned in this prediction. Since that prediction Oklahoma lias produced a billion and an eighth barrels, Kansas has produced two hundred million barrels and Texas seven hundred million barrels. Illinois, reckoned small, has produced approximately four hundred million barrels and California almost a billion and a half. And these States, not considered important at the time of the report, have since produced over 75 per cent of the entire country's production.
In 1909, in official bulletin 394, U. S. Geological Survey, it was admitted that Texas and Louisiana were factors in petroleum production. "It is estimated that the Texas fields will surely produce 200,000,000 bbls. apd Louisiana 50,000,000 bbls.," the report states.
Now to-day Texas has probably produced four times that much and is far from inactive, while Louisiana has produced 175,000,000 bbls.
And so it goes. Predictions were made in the past and shown to-day to be at fault. How, then, can an absolute estimate be made of the supply underground when new fields are being discovered with rapidity? The oil industry, as a whole, discredits the recent report of the survey.
There are countless regions in this country to-day where prospecting for oil has not been considered. The wildcatter has still to exhaust the regions around which are producing territory before he sets his derrick in other sta.tes. It is quite as probable that as much oil will be produced from States not even considered today as was produced from Oklahoma, which was not even considered in the report of 1889.
Notwithstanding these predictions we will still ride in motor cars, we will still enjoy a motor-boat trip on the lake, airplanes will not pass out of existence, and industry can rely on petroleum products to keep running, says the oil industry. R. W. Spake.
Additions to West Leechburg Plant
Capacity of the West Leechburg Steel Co., Pittsburgh, maker of hot and cold rolled strips and hoops and bands, will be materially increased by the addition of a new continuous hot strip mill, with 20-in. roughing stands and 16-in. finishing stands. This mill and the cooling beds, to be furnished by the Treadwell Engineering Co., Easton, Pa., will be electrically driven, the Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co. to furnish the motors and the other electrical equipment. The company also will install two large continuous heating furnaces, contract for which will probably be let this week. A new pickling house is to be erected, and the enlarged productive capacity calls for more warehouse room, which means the extension of existing storage space and a new building for that purpose.
Month Without Accident
During the month of February, there was not a single accident at South Works, Illinois Steel Co., which caused loss of time to any employee. This is the first month in the history of the plant as far back as the records go, when such has been the case and it is regarded as a splendid exhibition of cooperation on the part of every employee in bringing about so unusual an achievement. While the record stands out by way of comparison with those of other months, it actually covers a period of nine days more than a month, i. e. from Jan. 28, to March 5.
M. A. Hanna & Co., Cleveland, have issued their iron ore book for 1922, containing cargo analyses for 1921. Various statistical tables of interest to the trade are included, as well as a new table not contained in previous issues, showing freight rates from Lake Erie ports to interior furnaces from 1914 to 1922 inclusive.
Coal Strike Conditions Not Alarming
Many Iron and Steel Industries Supplied from Non-Union
Mines Not Affected—All Union Men Idle—
Large Supplies on Hand
Pittsburgh, April 4.—About 75 per cent of the coke used in Pittsburgh and nearby districts is made from non-union coal, the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. being the only important steel company in this and nearby districts the coal properties of which are operated under union conditions, and that company beside drawing freely from its own mines has been a liberal purchaser of non-union coal, and is estimated to-day to have a stock sufficient for at least 60 days on today's rate of operation of its steel works, which is between 65 and 70 per cent, taking in both its Pittsburgh and Woodlawn plants. The Republic Iron & Steel Co. has coal operations in the Connellsville district which are non-union, and also one at Russellton on the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad, which is union, but no coking coal is secured from the latter property. Brier Hill Steel Co. has mines in the Connellsville district and so also has the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. The latter is believed to be fortified for at least 30 days. All of the Pittsburgh and nearby plants of the Steel Corporation are supplied with coke made from nonunion coal and most of these plants have at least a month's supply in reserve.
The strike as far as union mines is concerned, is all that the union leaders claimed it would be, all mines being idle. The non-union district has not entirely escaped. About a dozen good-sized mines including four of the H. C. Prick Coke Co. were not working today because of the failure of a sufficient number of inside men to report for duty. These suspensions may prove only temporary, although it is a fact that union organizers have been pretty active in the Connellsville district, and by threats of violence usually made through the wives of workmen, a good many men who want to work are kept away through fear. Miners in the Connellsville district generally are well satisfied with the scale now prevailing, and are not eager to quit. It is passible that the celebration of Mitchell day, which was on a pretty extensive scale at Brownsville and some of the other big centers, Saturday, may have been partly responsible for the failure of inside men to report in full numbers this morning. It is too early to tell definitely the extent of the effect of union propaganda in the Connellsville districts.
Coke Output Gained Last Week
Uniontown, Pa., April 3.—Coke production in the Connellsville region again has shown a substantial gain during the week just closed. The principal increase has been with the H. C. Frick Coke Co., which has fired some 2000 additional ovens during the past ten days, bringing the coke production of the company tip to nearly 50 per cent, this representing approximately 6000 active ovens in the region. Independent coke production throughout the region also has increased, although the exact list of additional ovens fired during the week is not available.
Coal production in the region made a slight gain last week. Prices have not increased. Following a flurry a month or so ago, the coal market slid off slightly and has been more or less soft since although production has gained somewhat.
As the coal strike in the union fields is inaugurated, the Connellsville region to-day is practically unaffected. Union mines along the Monongahela River in the county are idle and one or two plants directly adjoining were idle to-day, although it could not be determined whether the men would remain out or not. Pamphlets asking the non-union men to join in the strike have been distributed throughout the region and
reports have been received that a number of union representatives have been at work. However, it is not thought that their efforts will have any important result.
Sheriff Shaw has issued a proclamation in accordance with the riot act prohibiting public gathering's and guaranteeing protection to property and individuals. The proclamation is largely in the nature of a formality and is not issued in anticipation of any serious difficulties. A number of special officers have been sworn in, extra State police are here and every precaution has been taken to meet quickly any emergency that should develop. Special guards have been put on railroad bridges and tunnels in the county.
Supplied Largely by Non-Union Mines
Chicago, April 4.—Practically all of the Pocahontas coal used in making coke for Chicago district furnaces comes from non-union mines which are still operating so far as can be learned. The high volatile coal in the mix comes largely from union Illinois and Indiana mines which are idle on account of the strike. Stocks of coal accumulated by Chicago district furnaces prior to the strike will take care of their needs about 60 days ahead. This is the case with the Illinois Steel .Co., the Inland Steel Co. and the Steel & Tube Co. of America. The Wisconsin Steel Co., which gets most of its coal from its own mines in Kentucky, has more than a month's supply and expects no interruption in shipments, as its operations are non-union.
The Illinois Steel Co. gets not only its Pocahontaa coal from non-union mines but also Elkhorn, a high grade of steam coal. If the strike is of sufficient duration, some local producers may find it necessary to use coking coal for steam purposes. It is not believed, however, that the railroads will commandeer Pocahontas coal as they prefer other grades.
Increased Mining of Coal . .
Washington, April 4.—A final spurt of activity in anticipation of the strike carried production of soft coal up to 11,437,000 tons in the week ended March 25, according to the Geological Survey. The output was the largest recorded since December, 1920, and exceeded by nearly 400,000 tons the lesser peak reached last October when consumers anticipated a possible railroad strike. Production was still far short of what the mines can produce and the railroads transport, for in the last week before the great coal strike of 1919, a total of 13,140,000 tons was recorded.
As the present rate of consumption and shipment abroad is not more than 8,300,000 tons a week, the output in the week of March 25 provided at least 3,000,000 tons to be added to consumers' stock piles. This confirms the forecast that stocks in the hands of consumers would reach 63,000,000 tons by April 1.
Like bituminous coal, the production of anthracite increased sharply during the week of March 25. The railroads serving the anthracite region loaded 40,065 cars as against 36,459 in the week preceding. The total production including mine fuel and local sales is estimated at over 2,000,000 net tons, close to the maximum for the region.
There is a surplus stock of 1,000,000 tons of coke on hand at by-product coke works, much of which may be considered as a substitute for anthracite.
The daily rate of production of by-product coke continued to increase slowly in February although be