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Prices of Crude Potroleum per Barrel at Oil City, Oc'sobor 20 tɔ Novembor 30, 1878.
Petroleum Fluctuations, Oct. 29 to Nov. 30, 1878.
WASHINGTON, D, C., December 19, 17. Mr. HUMPHREYS appeared before the committee in response to its invitation, and stated in reply to the chairman that he resides in Pittsburg; that he is an American by birth; that his trade is that of puddler ; that he has not been working at his trade during this present year, but is foreman of the puddling department of the Kerstone Rolling Mill; and that he was engaged in the occupation of puddling for 20 or 22 years.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you been connected with any of the trades organizations established among puddlers !
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes; I was among the number who founded the “l'nited Sous of Vulcan."
The CHAIRMAX. That is a comparatively recent organization, is it not ? Mr. HUMPHREYS. No. That is now merged into the Amalgamated Association of Puddlers.
The ('HAIRMAN. When was that association formed?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. It was tirst organized in 1858. It existed for a few months only, aud was then revived about 1860. During 1859 the organization was dormant.
The CHAIRMAN. Were you an officer of the association ?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. The object of the association was to improve the condition of the men generally, and to bring them into closer association with their employers.
The CHAIRMAN. Your object was to have harmonious relations with your employers!
The CHAIRMAN. Your object was to avoid strikes, if possible; but, if necessary, to resort to them? Mr. HUMPHREYS. C'ertainly.
The CHAIRMAN. After the formation of that association were strikes more frequent, or less frequent, than before? In other words, what effect did it have upon the ques tion of strikes? Mr. HUMPHREYS. They were not as frequent afterward.
The CHAIRMAN. Were you able to settle, by discussion, difficulties which previously had culminated in strikes
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes. Previously to that in the iron district (Pittsburg and its surroundings) we were troubled considerably with local difficulties-that is difficul ties confined probably to one mill. Those difticulties would have influence upon ather mills; and, in addition to that, we would have probably in the same mill a division in
sentiment among the men, with reference to prices, and various other things, and the object of the organization was, in the first place, to create unanimity among the men, and to bring grievances in a general way, as to prices, &c., before the manufacturers.
The CHAIRMAN. That is, you wanted to bring about such a uniformity of work and such a compensation for work as that there would not be these differences of opinion in particular mills
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes; and, in addition to that, we were satisfied among ourselves that there were a large number of men who followed the business, and who, at times, had a tendency to disgrace it. One object of the organization was also to try and make better men of that class of men.
Mr. THOMPSON. Was there a system adopted by which the difficulties between employers and employés might be discussed !
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes. I think that the first agreement, which was made in Pittsburg, was about 1862–63. There was a scale of prices agreed upon by a conference committee (a portion of it representing workingmen and a portion representing the manufacturers). That conference met at the request of the trades association; and the meeting resulted in the adoption of a scale of prices based upon the selling price of iron, so that, as the market-price of iron should advance or decline, wages would advance or decline accordingly. That scale existed until the spring of 1866. The agreement was that either party, on becoming dissatistied, should give ninety days' notice to terminate the arrangement. Iron advanced very rapidly in the market, and the men became satisfied that, under this agreement, they were not receiving in wages their fair proportion of the selling price of iron.
The CHAIRMAN, Was it the result of your organization, in regard to your relations to the employers, that those relations became more cordial, and that the employers were ready to listen to delegations of workingmen?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes. As I was relating, the first scale of prices required ninety days' notice to terminate the agreement. Along about 1866 the price of iron advanced very rapidly, and the workingmen thought that their wages did not advance correspondingly. Accordingly we gave the ninety days' notice, and terminated that scale; and then we demanded an advance of $2 a ton. We received that advance. The following winter the manufacturers gave notice to reduce the rate of wages $2 a ton. We had several meetings on the subject; but finally we agreed to disagree, and we had a strike. That was the strike of 1867. On the termination of the strike, our organization again sent a communication to the manufacturers requesting a conference. Each party sent a committee. We conferred, and then we agreed upon another scale of prices. That went into effect to be terminated by a notice of thirty days, I believe. That scale operated until 1874 or 1875. I believe it expired on the 6th of December, 1871. The manufacturers gave notice of its termination. Then we had another struggle, which finally resulted in another scale of prices, which is in force at the present time.
The CHAIRMAX. Was this last a strike, or was it a lock-out on the part of the pro prietors?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. The proprietors refused to run their mills without a reduction of prices.
The CHAIRMAX. Then it was a lock-out!
The CHAIRMAN. Then the “honors seem to be easy." You terminated the first agreement by notice, and the proprietors terminated the second agreement by notice; then you made a strike and they made a lock-ont.
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes; and the scale now in existence is a sort of compromise between the two.
The CHAIRMAN. Has there been any other strike in Pittsburg since 1857 than the lock-out which you have named?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No.
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No, sir; they were more frequent previous to the establishment of the organization than they were afterwards.
The CHAIRMAN. Then the effect of the organization has been, in your judgment, practically to reduce the necessity for strikes?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes; I think there is no question about that.
The CHAIRMAN. You are now on the employers' side. Are the relations between employers and workmen cordial and good at the present time i
Mr. HUMPHREYS. I think they are.
The CHAIRMAX. Is there any trouble now about the lack of employment in iron-works at Pittsburg?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. There is not employment for all the men.
The CHAIRMAX. How is that difficulty met? Is the work distributed, or are some men steadily out of work?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. The men, as a rule, are very friendly to each other. In the works in which I have been during the present year, there are some men idle; and, occasionally, those men who are at work give these idle men a few days' work, when they become in such a condition that they are thought actually to need the work
The CHAIRMAN. Is that done be any concentrated action among the men, or is it only an individual matter?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. It is individual.
The CHAIRMAX. You have no arrangement among the workingmen by which the work shall be distributed ?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAX. And this local association which you speak of does not deal with the question as to how to distribute the work?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. You are the foreman of a pudelling-mill. Do you feel constrained by any reason to ask whether a man who wants work is a member of a trades- union or not?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No, sir.
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No, sir; all that I require to know is whether the man is a competent workman.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there any class spirit in the Pittsburg mills that would drive out non-union men? Mr. HUMPHREYS. Not to my knowledge. The CHAIRMAX. Are puddlers in Pittsburg generally in the trades-union? Mr. HUMPHREYS. The majority of them are. The CHAIRMAN. Do you think that they nearly all are! Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes; nearly all are.
The CHAIRMAN. What do you understand to be the fact in that regard, through the country generally?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. The workingmen are, generally, in trades-unions, throughout the western portion of the country at least; I do not know much about the East.
The CHAIRMAN. Has not the introduction of Bessemer steel interfered very inach with puddlers, in the way of reducing the demand for their labor
Mr. HUMPHREYS. It has, to some extent.
The CHAIRMAX. Is not that the real cause why there is a surplus of puddiers seek ing work? Mr. HUMPHREYS. That may be partl; the cause.
The CHAIRMAN. For instance, for rails, all the iron that was not reworked fron old rails was formerly puddled?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Was not one-thiril of all the puddled iron in the United States formerly used for rails?
Mr. HUMPHREYS, Nearly one-third.
The CHAIRMAN. And the change in that respect would account for any distress among puddlers ? Mr. HUMPHREYS. It would account for a good deal of it.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there as much distress among the rollers and heaters as there is among the puddlers? In other words, is there as much surplus of rolling and heating experience seeking work, as there is of puddling? Mr. HUMPHREYS. I think there is, in proportion to the number,
The CHAIRMAN. How would you account for that; because there is no less rolling and heating wanted under the new demand for steel!
Mr. HUMPHREYS. The only way that I can account for it, is the fact that since the close of the war a very large number of rolling-mills have stopped. A good many of them have been torn down. I know several mills myself, which, since the panic, have been sold and torn down, the castings sold, and the machinery broken up and sold for old castings.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, machinery can be got rid of, but men cannot be.
The CHAIRMAN, Do you think that the trouble in regard to the demand for labor of pudillers is increasing or diminishing?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. I think that there is a slight improvement this fall.
The CHAIRMAX. In other words, you think that there is not such a pressure for work as there has been ?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No, sir. Still there is considerable pressure for work; but not to the extent that it was some months ago.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there positive suffering in Pittsburg, among those engaged in the iron business, for want of the necessaries of life?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. I cannot say that I know of any particular person or persons starving to death.
The CHAIRMAX. Are they resorting in unusual numbers to municipal relief?
The CHAIRMAX. Do you know anything about the pawn-broking business in Pittsburg—whether that has sensibly increased; in other words, whether these people have been compelled to pawn their property in orrler to get the means of life?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No, sir; I do not. I have not heard of men complaining that they had to pawn their property from sheer necessity.
The CHAIRMAx. Compare the condition of workingmen in Pittsburg, at this time, with their condition when yon first went into the business. Do you think that the condition of the iron-workers is better or worse with reference to the means of livirg, to general comfort, to the style of living, to intelligence, and to the education of families. Is the standard higher or lower than it was when you first knew the business? Mr. HUMPHREYS. I think it is higher.
The CHAIRMAX. Is there as much intemperance among the puddlers as there was formerly ? Mr. HUMPHREYS. I think not.
The CHAIRMAX. Do you know whether, during the period of high prices that prerailed prior to 1873, the puddlers cultivated habits of saving, and did save any surplus out of their wages?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Very many of them did.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, do you think that there is a more provident tone prevailing among the puddlers than formerly? Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes; more than there was previous to 1862–63.
The CHAIRMAX. Do you attribute any of that improvement to the existence of tradesunions ? Mr. HUMPHREYS. I certainly do. The CHAIRMAN. Do you attribute it mainly to that cause? Mr. HUMPHREYS. Mostly to that cause.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you not observed that in industrial occupations generally, the workingmen are, on the average, better off than they were twenty years ago-living in better houses and having more of the general comforts of life?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. They are where labor is obtainable.
The CHAIRMAN. Their standard is higher. They want to have better things than they had formerly. They are dissatisfied if they do not have them? Mr. HUMPHREYs. Certainly.
The CHAIRMAX. In the course of your experience in the iron trade you have seen periods of depression in business before ? Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that which we are now passing through any worse than previous ones? Is the suffering greater?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Comparatively speaking, I do not know that it is. There are a great many more people in the iron business, and to some extent it is worse.
The CHAIRMAN. But, to the extent that people are relatively employed, you think that the present period of depression is no worse than previons periods?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. There was apparently just as little demand then for iron or for labor
The CHAIRMAN. Did the city of Pittsburg at that time have to afford employment in any way to the unemployed people?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. I do not recollect. I was quite young then and did rot let the world bother me.
The CHAIRMAN. You evidently think that youth is the best possession.
The CHAIRMAN. Can you state whether there are any other trades-unie n organizations in Pittsburg, or the West, besides this iron association ?
Mr. HUMPHREYS. Yes, sir.