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Henry W. Sage on Proposed Great English Salt Trust (1889)
  • Contributed by Alan Flood (Apr. 2005).
  • Bay City Daily Tribune - Thursday, April 25, 1889 (Page 4)

    RUIN THE BUSINESS.

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    H.W. Sage Gives His Vies Upon the Proposed Great English Salt Trust.
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    If the Trust Should Raise the Price New York Salt Fields Would be Opened.
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    H. W. Sage, the well known capitalist of Ithaca, New York, and the liberal patron of West Bay City, is making a few days stay in the city with headquarters at the Fraser house. He is looking unusually well, and seems at peace with all the world, transacts business with characteristic celerity and talked freely upon matters of local interest to THE TRIBUNE last evening.

    "Our mill is already running and our output of logs will be fully adequate to its capacity. We of course are but little affected by the tie up of logs which has given rise to complaint from some sources, as our supply comes in by rail. But I do not think any of the mill men will experience serious trouble. There is the seed time and the harvest for which the Lord provides, and I feel no uneasiness." a statement which the speaker supplemented with a gentle laugh. "I am confident we will have plenty of rain within thirty days."

    "No, I did not see Wellington R. Burt in the east. What's he going abroad for anyhow?"

    "The generally accepted opinion here is that his mission includes a conference with English capitalists who are ambitious to establish a salt trust on this side."

    At this stage of the interview the veteran businessman hitched his chair closer, squared himself and gave forth words of wisdom that will strike a responsive chord in the average American heart. "I do not know that Mr. Burt has or has not gone to England on the errand stated. I have heard of a project to form a salt trust through the purchase of our outfit for a term of years by monied men of England, but I have never been corresponded with on the subject and have no definite knowledge concerning it. But this I will say, I am unqualifiedly opposed to any combination or monopoly that aims to advance the market value of a staple commodity at the expense of the masses. The system is wrong, vicious and contrary alike to the better principles of business and morality. Men who enter upon such undertakings and suffer through a miscarriage of their plans are without sympathy from me. The pernicious effects of trusts, monopolies and combinations, call them what you may, calls for the strongest condemnation."

    "How about the Michigan Salt association?"

    "That is a combination not in the nature of a monopoly, but in the interest of an economical administration of the affairs of those comprising it. It is not an organization to corner or control the market, but to enable us to carry on our business at a less expense than would otherwise be incurred by the individual members. There is no money in salt at going rates, and did I not already own a plant I would not engage in its manufacture.

    "But to return to this salt trust. It would be an injudicious and losing venture even from a business standpoint. Suppose the foreigners came to be back of this scheme, should buy up the entire product of the Saginaw valley, the lake shores, and of Syracuse. The price that they propose paying, I have understood is 63 cents a barrel. Of course their idea and purpose would be to secure a monopoly, control the market and advance the price so as to reap the greatest possible returns. That is natural and what men who have the opportunity are accustomed to do. Let them run it up to 95 cents a barrel. What would follow? It would stimulate the production of salt all over the country. All western New York is underlaid with salt and its resources would be developed for their full value. The market would be glutted and at the expiration of the five or ten years for which the trust had control we would have a supply far beyond the demand and our salt blocks here would not be worth maintaining. So that, aside from the wrong principle involved, the trust would result in loss to the Saginaw valley salt producers."

    The sewerage system of West Bay City was suggested to Mr. Sage and brought a response as prompt as forcible: "It is a piece of monumental folly. I do not see how men who are supposed to be wise in such matters could be guilty of such an asinine mode of procedure. But I suppose they wanted to expend money in public improvements and found this as a vent. They are actually putting in sewers there sufficient in size and capacity for a city ten times in size. And what is worse the sewers will be a detriment rather than a benefit because they will soon become the depository of excrement and offal that will be a constant menace to the health of the people. To make sewerage effective and of value, a system of water works is absolutely essential. They have none in West Bay City. Had they acted for the best they would have bonded the city for about $25,000, put in their water works, afforded a supply to every house-hold and thus provided the means of carrying off the accumulation of filth which will now pile up in the sewers which are too big, too expensive and practically worse than useless."

    Mr. Sage also took the two cities to task for the entangled condition in which they had placed the bridge question, but as the legislature has at length cut the knot, his remarks on the subject would prove less interesting than if the embarrassing situation had not been relieved.

    Related Pages/Notes
    Henry W. Sage
    Related Bay-Journal Pages
    Heritage/People/
    Bio.: Henry W. Sage.
    People Referenced
    William R. Burt
    Subjects Referenced
    England
    Fraser house
    Ithaca, NY
    Michigan Salt Assoc.
    Saginaw Valley
    Saginaw Valley Salt Producers
    Salt trust
    Sewer system
    Syracuse, NY
    Water works
    West Bay City, MI
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.