Several circumstances have hastened the movement that is fast transforming California from a country of grazing, agriculture and prmitive mining into a highly complex society of varied manufactures. Within the last ten years the discovery of vast oil fields has gone far toward solving the fuel question, but the long-distance transmission of electric power promises to multiply every form of mechanical activity. The falls of the Sierra are destined to turn the wheels and spindles of industry in many distant centers of population.
Mr. Andrea Sbarboro, president of the Manufacturers' and Producers' Association, thus sets forth some of the main points in the story of the development of our manufactures:
We need go back less than fifty years to find the beginnings of manufacturing in California and it is needless to say that these beginnings were generally of the crudest character. Untl the discovery of gold the only productions of consequence that reached the outside world were hides and tallow.
With all of its productive capabilities, the state could not in its early days furnish those who came in search of gold the things which were necessary to satisfy their most ordinary wants. With many thousands of cattle ranging the great Spanish ranchos, butter in firkins must be brought from the east, as well as hamps and bacon, and dried apples hung on strings and then packed in barrels according to the old way.
The needs of the newcomers required to be supplied from the outside. For a time it occurred to no one to make or grow anything. The only thought of all was to dig out gold and then to return to the good things of civilization. In due time, however, the most imperative needs of manufacture on the spot began to assert themselves. First, perhaps, was lumber for shelter and for mining purposes. Gradually other much needed manufactures followed in rough form and the possibilities of natural production began to force themselves to the notice of those who had time to consider them.
All of this was followed by a development which has not had its equal upon any other spot in the world in rapidity of growth, in accomplished results and in great future promise. California is not only self-supporting in numerous manufactured as well as natural products, but it exports many of its manufactures and it stands as one of the great factors of the countries of the globe in the supply of articles of food to the people of the world.
Arriving in San Francisco in the early fifties, it was indeed very interesting to me, as it must have been to all early comers, to see, one by one, the articles of product from the soil and manufacture from raw material replacing those formerly imported from all parts of the world. Well do I remember how the first flour produced from the Lick mills at Alviso replaced the musty flower imported from Chile and New York via Cape Horn and sold as high as from $20 to $40 per barrel.
Sugar arrived from New York usually in a sweated condition, which caused much complaint by the dealers, yet it brought from 25 to 30 cents per pound. I was then in the grocery commission business, supplying the mines with all kinds of provisions. I remember how difficult it was to introduce a new California product or manufactured article on the market. People had been so long accustomed to the imported goods that they had then, as unfortunately, some few people have now, a prejudice against our own home-made articles, although in most instances everything that we produce or manufacture is far superior to that from abroad.
Little by little many of the imported articles were driven out of the market. Who could have foreseen that in less than fifty years the tables would be turned and that we would ship in enormous quantities back to the countries from which we originally obtained our supplies those very things that we had lately been importing from them? California flour may now be found in all parts of the globe; our sugar is supplying all the other states west of the Rocky Mountains.
Our wines are now greatly appreciated, not only by our own people, but are highly prized by connoisseurs in England, Germany and all parts of the world. California in 1902 produced over 40,000,000 gallons of wine, valued at over $12,000,000. This state is the only one in the Union where the true wine grape grows to perfection and, therefore, we can produce here as fine wines as are produced in any part of the world. So far, Americans are not wine-drinking people. They only use one-half gallon per capita per annum, as against fifty gallons consumed by all men, women and children in Italy, France and Spain, and in these wine-producing countries intoxicated persons are seldom seen.
Our fruits, both fresh, canned and dried, are exported to all parts of the globe, and the low prices at which they can be furnished to consumers bring them within the reach of the poor as well as the rich.
Our citrus fruits have replaced the imported, and we can raise sufficient to supply not only the inhabitants of our own country, but also many other parts of the world. Most people will be surprised to know that recently several hundred boxes of navel oranges were shipped from California to Italy by order of the government of the famous citrus fruit-producing country of Italy. Prunes, which we used to receive from Spain are now raised in this state in sufficient quantities to supply the world and, by the genius of the Californian, John Forsythe, the seeds are removed, to the pleasure and happiness of the housewife.
California is the largest shipping point on the earth for salmon.
Even seeds have assumed such an importance that they are supplied all over the United States and return the growers over $3,000,000 per annum.
Baking powder was one of the most difficult articles to introduce in California. All the early settlers from the east had been accustomed to use the Preston & Merrill brand and when Mr. Donnelly first introduced his California baking powder, although it was superior and a pure article, housewives refused to use it because they did not know its good qualities. To-day the gret baking powder manufacturing establishments of Schilling, Folger and Tillman & Bendel ship large quantities of the article throughout the United States.
In manufactures we have been a little slower in making progress. The cost of steam was formerly against us, but now fuel oil and water power put us on a level with the world.
The first boots and shoes were made in a small factory employing hand labor in 1860. There are now over thirty factories in the state, operated mostly by modern machinery.
The old Wells, Fargo & Co. building on the corner of California and Montgomery streets and several other of our oldest buildings, erected in the early '50s, used granite brought from China. The old postoffice building contained granite brought from Quincy, Massachusetts. Large granite quarries are now developing in several parts of the state and furnish proper material for the most modern buildings. Roofing slate is now also furnished from quarries in the state.
The manufacture of rubber hose, belting and molded goods from rubber prepared in the east began in San Francisco about eighteen years ago. its manufacture from crude rubber, imported at San Francisco from South America and India, began about eight years ago. These goods are now shipped to the east in carload lots.
Shipbuilding on the Pacific coast dates back to the time of Cortez, who established a shipyard at Zacatula on the west coast of Mexico in 1524. Later he built ships at Tehuantepec and at Acapulco to push northward for greater discoveries. From that time on, commercial, warlike and other causes have led to the building of ships and boats of wood along the coast of California and about Puget Sound.
As early as 1850 nine coasting schooners were built in a yard at North Beach. The first ocean steamer was turned out at San Francisco in 1864. The manufacture of iron ships on a commercial scale was not attempted until April, 1883. To-day shipbuilding is one of the great manufacturing industries of the state, employing thousands of wage-earners in over forty shipbuilding establishments. Every condition of ship-building required by the government and by the merchant marine can now be met here. Our Olympic and Oregon have proved that we can build as good fighting ships as are built in the world.
The manufacture of trunks, valises, etc., was established in San Francisco thirty-six years ago. Its products now embrace every kind of trunks, valises, handbags, etc., and are supplied to the Pacific states and export trade.
Our clothing manufacturers, who began to work on a small scale in 1865, are now producing most of the material used in the state, thus giving work to thousands of deserving girls and women.
Cordage manufacturing was one of the earliest industries, having been established in 1856. Its equipment now includes one of the two largest cable machines in the world, and its product commands a large home and foreign market.
Gas engines began to be built in the '80s. Since gasoline came into use this manufacture has increased rapidly, until now engines of this class, made in California, have the highest reputation, being supplied to all Pacific Ocean countries and even to some countries in Europe.
Leather tanning had a beginning in the early '50s at Santa Cruz. There being no lumber available at that point, tanning vats were constructed by felling some of the big trees in that locality and scooping them out for use as vats. To-day we have some of the best equipped tanneries in the world with a value in products ranging from ten to twelve million dollars. The California oak-tanned leather is famous for its high superiority in strength and wearing qualities.
Portland cement, of which so many millions of barrels have been imported from Europe, is now supplied in this state of as good, if not superior, quality to that imported.
One recent discovery which may become of great importance to the state has been that made of an asbestos mine located at Copperopolis in Calaveras county.
Asbestos rock for wall plaster and fireproofing columns in buildings and fire-proof floors is a very valuable acquisition for our new fine buildings. It is light in weight and grayish in its natural color. The long fibers are also used to make asbestos steam pipe covering. It can be used on the outside of buildings by adding one part of Portland cement and two parts of asbestos plaster. It becomes as hard as marble.
an interesting test of this new fire-proof wall plaster was recently made in the presence of Chief Engineer D. T. Sullivan of the San Francisco Fire Department, Captain Comstock of the Underwriters' Patrol, representatives of the Board of Underwriters and many of the prominent architects and builders of this city. The ordinary wall plaster was found to burn in five minutes, while the new asbestos plaster continued to withstand the fire. After fifteen minutes water was turned on and the wall found to be intact.
This article, if found in sufficient quantities, may revolutionize our building materials and materially reduce fire insurance. It will also prove a valuable protection to life in theatres and public hotels and buildings.
Many new industries and products are yet in their infancy in this state. While we produce a large quantity of olives and can produce sufficient to supply the world, still that industry is not yet on a paying basis generally. Olives are grown in that part of the world where labor is cheap. Most of the picking is done by women and children and, consequently, olive oil can be imported to-day into California much cheaper than it can be produced here, but as the state becomes more densely populated and the women and children of the farmers will find enjoyment in the healthy exercise of picking olives, then we will be able to compete in prices, as we do compete in quality, and make this industry a very profitable one to our farmers.
This is another industry which has passed the experimental stage. it has been demonstrated that silk worms can be raised and the raw silk produced in California more advantageously than in other parts of the world, as the state s practically exempt from the storms in the spring which frequently kill the worms in Europe. This industry requires cheap labor.
The raw material is now imported from China, Japan and Italy, and the American people pay every year fifty million dollars to those countries for raw silk. This is a work which occupies about sixty days in the spring-time when the farmer has little to do. If families of men, women and children would congregate s they do in Europe and feed the little growing silk worms, they would find this a very profitable industry. In Europe farmers depend upon it for their pocket money, many families earning, during these two months, from fifty dollars to five hundred dollars each.
The field of its immense resources has only yet been scratched over, but whether these industries will be developed in the near future, or in years to come will depend greatly on the increase of population and the labor market. It is well known that large manufacturing industries depend for their profits on large productions, frequently their margin of profit is a very samll percent of the cost of the manufactured article. Here labor is a large factor in industry.
A rise or fall in wages makes a large difference to the manufacturer. We can produce a great many articles which we now import from other countries, but we cannot dispose of them at a profit on account of the difference in wages. Living is as cheap in California as in most parts of the civilized world. Laborers can work here all the year round which cannot be done in other parts of the world. Therefore, the laborer can, if he use thrift and frugality, which unfortunately for him is not always the case, save more in California than elsewhere.
Our laborers have the facilities and generally profit by them of procuring homes for their families by the payment of small monthly instalments through the home building and loan societies. These institutions, when properly and honestly managed, have been pronounced to be the best financial institutions for wage earners ever invented by man. They have already helped many thousands of laborers to procure homes for their families, and the young man, be he laborer, clerk or mechanic, who has put a part of his monthly wages in these institutions, has found himself possessed, after a few years, of a snug little sum which in many instances has enabled him to lay the foundation for future independence. California is nearly the largest state and has more advantages than any other state in the Union. The time will come, therefore, when it will be the most densely populated state in America. Whether this will be soon or late will depend greatly upon the enterprise, prudence and sagacity which will be shown by the present generation.