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Q. It can hardly be possible, I should think.-A. From 1877 to 1879 were poor years, I know, in the mackerel business.
Q. You have evidently given the figures for 1879, notwithstanding you got them from the census report for 1880; and then you say that the succeeding years up to 1883 were better still?-A. Yes, sir; I say that in those four years the profits, particularly of the mackerel fisheries, were exceedingly large. The schooner Edward E. Webster, of Gloucester, stocked $104,000 in those years ("stocked" is the term used in the business), and, in dividing, 20 per cent is taken for expense of fittings, etc., 40 per cent for the crew, and 40 per cent for the vessel; there is over $40,000 for those four years for a vessel that cost some $10,000 or $12,000. But there were many other vessels did as well.
Q. What fishing was she engaged in?-A. Mackerel.
Q. Where?-A. She sailed from Gloucester.
Q. Where did she catch her fish?—A. Wherever they were; they might have been on our shores or in the bay, probably on our shores.
Q. Were you agent for that vessel?-A. No.
Q. Have you been, from that time down to now, the agent for any American fishing vessels?-A. No.
Q. So that whatever your information is, it is not information derived from your personal knowledge of business transactions?-A. No, it is derived from the statements of the owners of these vessels made to our organization.
Senator EDMUNDS. I ask you this question, because, when we go over to Gloucester, which is the grand headquarters of these people, we should call their attention to the alleged very heavy profits that are being made in the business, and therefore I should want to know precisely what you mean and what your sources of informa
The WITNESS. During the time these vessels were doing so well they were very good to give out for publication the results of their trips.
Q. Was the case of the Webster, which you mention, a case of extraordinary luck, or did that luck apply to the whole fleet?-A. The case of the Webster was probably a case of skill on the part of her captain. He has got a positive genius for catching fish, but there were other vessels that did nearly as well. The Nellie M. Rowe was fishing the last two years and she made $55,000, which was really better in proportion.
Q. Supposing the whole number of vessels to be a thousand, what would be the average?-A. That we do not know.
Q. What do you think it would be, taking the whole business together?-A. I haven't any means of knowing what it would be for the whole.
Q. You do not mean to say, then, that you state the instances of the Webster and the Rowe as being fair samples of all the vessels engaged in the business?-A. Not at all; I merely wanted to show that it was possible to make such a large quantity of money. And I remember that the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, in his report published in 1883-I can not quote from memory-after mentioning some of these large stocks of vessels, made a remark something like this: If it is remembered that these vessels fish only eight months in the year at the utmost, and most of them only from four to six months, it appears that the business has been very profitable for many, and that the greater part of the fleet made fair returns.
Q. That is the Canadian commissioner you speak of?—A. No, the United States Commissioner. He makes that statement in the Report of the Fish Commission for
WHOLESALE AND RETAIL PRICES.
Q. How do the retail prices of fish in this market compare with the wholesale prices? What has been the advance per pound, or per cent, or any way you choose to state it, so that we shall understand it?-A. I don't know much about the retail prices.
Q. Do you know anything about it?-A. Well, I know that that is one of the things which do not vary very much. The mackerel market now is a fluctuating one, down one day and up the next, varying constantly.
Q. Take it last week, or to-day; what is the retail price of No. 1 mackerel in Boston?-A. There is hardly any mackerel eaten in Boston. Codfish
Q. Do you think there is no retail price?—A. I suppose there is, but I don't know what it is; I never had occasion to inquire; I know that very few mackerel are eaten in Boston.
Q. Take codfish; are codfish eaten here?-A. Yes, sir; I should say that the retail prices of codfish would be probably from 6 to 8 cents a pound.
Q. What grade or number?-A. There is no number on codfish. It is simply a question of bank fish or shore fish.
Q. You do not mean those that are skinned and put up in boxes?-A. No; I mean the whole fish.
Q. What is the wholesale price?-A. The wholesale price to-day is about $2.75 for bank fish and $4 for the best shore fish per quintal of 112 pounds.
Q. Then the retail price is more than double the wholesale price?-A. Yes, sir; when I speak of the retail price I mean selling the fish singly.
Q. That is what you mean by "retail?"-A. Yes, sir.
Q. So that, if I went to you as a wholesale dealer, and bought 112 pounds, supposing you would sell me a package at the wholesale price, and then I sold it right back to you-if you traded with me as a grocer-you would pay me double what I paid you for it?-A. About double; but you must remember that they go through two or three or four different hands, and consequently there are that many profits on the goods. Then as to the retail price there is a difference. You may go to Blackstone street, where the dealers sell to the poor people, and they do not get the profits that the dealers do up town where they pay high rents and expect to get a good deal more. The retailers who sell to the poorer classes would vary the prices of fish more in accordance with wholesale prices. I have seen them quoted down there at very reasonable retail prices.
EFFECTS OF THE TREATY OF 1870-71.
Q. You did not observe any special effects upon the market from taking off the duty under the treaty of 1870-71?-A. It resulted probably in an increased importation of the cheaper grades of fish.
Q. Now let me come to the termination of the treaty in 1885, when the duty was put on. Did you observe any effect on the market from that?-A. There was a very considerable falling off in the importations during the first three months of the year.
Q. How as to the prices?-A. The prices were not affected. We had here last year a large supply left over.
Q. I am not on the reason; I want to stick to that particular point at this moment. We will assume then that the price immediately afterwards was not affected, and we will assume that there were some importations, as I suppose there were? A. Yes.
Q. Then the foreign importer, the producer of fish, had to pay his 50 cents or $1 on a certain number of pounds-I have forgotten what it was. Out of whose pocket did that dollar finally come? If the price in this market was not affected, it did not come out of the consumer or American middleman; then it must have come out of the foreign producer, must it not? He did not make as much by that sum, did he?-A. It came out of him for the time being.
Q. In that case it would be clear, would it not, that it must have been that much loss to him?-A. It came out of him on the things which we have on our shores. You must understand that there are some kinds and grades of fish that come from the provinces that we do not get on our shores at all.
Q. Such as
WHOLESALE AND RETAIL PRICES OF HERRING.
-A. Such as herring. All the fat herring consumed in this country are importations from the provinces..
Q. We will speak of herring. Are herring graded?—A. They are graded as large, medium, and small.
Q. Take the larger herring, which are the best, I suppose?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. What was the wholesale price of herring during the season of 1884 and down during the winter of 1884?-A. I haven't looked up those points, and I could only speak from memory. I should say $4.50 per barrel.
Q. How many pounds?-A. The Massachusetts law does not provide for any number of pounds. Say 200 pounds. That is the way we sell mackerel.
Q. Have you the retail prices for herring?—A. No.
Q. What was the wholesale price of that same kind of herring in the summer of 1885? A. It began at $5, and went down during the spring to the exceedingly low price of $3.
Q. Which spring?-A. This last spring. There was a very heavy supply of herring last year.
Q. So that on herring, so far as it appears from your testimony, the putting on of the duty did not affect the wholesale price in this market?-A. No.
Q. And you have said that it generally does not affect the retail prices at all as to any kind of fish?-A. I speak more of codfish. I do not know what the retail price through the country is.
Q. I am talking about Boston; and Boston, we think, is quite a considerable part of the country.-A. Not as a consumer of mackerel or herring.
Senator FRYE. I suppose that when this witness speaks about the market for mackerel, herring, or anything of that kind, he refers to the wholesale price, and not to the retail.
The WITNESS. That is all I know about. We sell to the large shippers, and I have no knowledge of retail prices.
Senator EDMUNDS. Now you can go on and state anything else you desire to. You spoke about some reports.
The WITNESS. I was going to say that the statement has been made that our fisheries were injured, and the illustration that has been given to show it was the decline in the tonnage. The decline in the tonnage was owing entirely to different causes. According to the statistics of the United States Commissioner of Navigation, the average tonnage during the years 1854 to 1866, which was the period of the reciprocity treaty, was 155,179 tons.
From 1866 to 1873, when the duty was imposed, it fell to 89,034 tons.
From 1873 to 1885, during the operation of the treaty of Washington, it fell to 82,988 tons.
Now, the average tonnage fell during the time that we paid duty something over 60,000 tons, and when we had free trade again it only fell 6,000 tons.
Q. Since the duty was reimposed has the tonnage increased or diminished?—A. It has decreased a little and will probably decrease a good deal next year, owing to poor success. If you follow the thing up you can see very closely that the tonnage engaged in fisheries varies up and down from year to year during a period of three or four years, according to the success or failure of the fisheries. I remember that in 1877, 1878, and 1879 we had very small catches of mackerel, and the fleet fell off a good deal. In 1880 we had a good catch. In 1881, and up to 1884, the fleet increased considerably. The mackerel fleet in 1881 was 298 vessels, with crews numbering 4,258; that is, New England-Massachusetts and Maine.
In 1884 it had increased to 361 vessels and 5,617 men.
In 1884 it was 759 vessels and 8,778 men.
Now, I think 1881 and 1882 were the profitable years on account of the high prices of codfish. In 1883 there was a very considerable increase of the cod-fishing fleet, an increase of between 50 and 60 vessels and 900 men. That was the improvement for one year.
One reason why I think our fishermen will receive more damage than benefit is on account of the export trade. We are going to sell all the fish that are exported, and we have a very considerable trade in provincial fish with Haiti. Within the last three days I have sold 3,000 quintals of codfish in bond to be landed here to be packed in Nova Scotia. That is a distinct injury to the interests of American labor, to do the packing of goods and to furnish the casks out of the country. That falls particularly upon the Maine fishermen rather than the Massachusetts. Massachusetts cod-fishermen pickle the codfish. That swells them up and makes them look white, and they sell some salt and water with them when they are sold. The Maine fishermen dry their codfish very largely, and in previous years they have relied largely upon this export trade, and have sold a large part of their codfish to be exported. We are now competing with them. My firm has been working up that business, and we are selling very large quantities. Mr. Nickerson, of Boothbay, a member of one of the largest fishing firms in Maine, told me three days ago that he thought the effect of having a duty on fish would cause him a loss this year of $5,000. He realizes the fact that it is going to hurt him very seriously in his sales of codfish. Senator EDMUNDS. Just explain how that is.
CANADIAN COMPETITION IN LABOR AND MATERIALS.
The WITNESS. They can do the packing a little cheaper down there in Nova Scotia; they get their casks cheaper and their labor cheaper. On codfish it is a very close thing, and a matter of 10 to 12 cents per quintal will result in turning the scale.
Q. If there were no duty, and if packing can be done cheaper there, why would they not do it still?-A. Because the customers here don't like to buy Nova Scotia packing; they prefer to do the packing themselves, and then they know what they
are packing. They fear that if they trust it to somebody else some inferior fish may be put in.
Senator EDMUNDS. Taking the case you have stated, I do not see-probably it is because I do not understand the business-if you can find a market for your fish in Haiti, and if it is cheaper to pack them in the British provinces than to pack them here, irrespective of the question of duty, why the temptation of the man who wanted to make the most money out of it would not be exactly the same.
The WITNESS. It is just as I tell you. They prefer to do their own packing. It has been a very difficult matter within the past year to get them to buy these Nova Scotia fish in bond, but we have now succeeded and are now selling them very large quantities. It may work that way again, supposing the duty should be taken off. But in the past, before the duty was imposed, the Maine and Nova Scotia fishermen were exactly on a par in regard to the sales of fish in this market.
By Senator FRYE:
HAITIAN DUTY ON FISH.
Q. Is there any duty on fish in Haiti?-A. Oh, yes.
Q. How much? A. I don't know what the duty is; it is quite large.
Senator EDMUNDS. Their duty is the same, whether the fish come from Nova Scotia or from Boston?
The WITNESS. Yes; it makes no difference. The duty this year has had a distinct effect in raising the prices, because the catch has been light.
IMPORTED AND DOMESTIC HERRING.
We are obliged to get the most of our herring from the provinces, because we don't seem to get a supply. I have compiled some figures for five years, and I find that the only year in which the receipts of domestic herring in this port were anything like those from Canada was in 1880, when we had 26,492 barrels from domestic ports against 29,000 from Canadian ports.
The next year is 1881. In that year the American fisheries only produced 12,000 barrels against 44,000 in Canada.
In 1882 there were 10,500 barrels from domestic ports against 41,900 from Canada. Eighteen hundred and eighty-three furnished 9,121 barrels from American ports against 84,650 Canadian.
In 1884 the domestic receipts were 7,885 barrels against 55,000 from Canadian
Senator EDMUNDS. When you say that this year the duty has had a distinct effect"-I believe that was your phrase-in raising prices upon herring, you mean that the American fish product and fish catch made the market price?
The WITNESS. No, not on herring at all. We only catch the cheaper grades of herring on our shores. All our best herring must be imported from the provinces. We have no other sources of supply. Last year, as I told you, there was no supply. This year they have got a moderate catch.
EFFECT OF DUTY ON PRICES.
When we want to buy any goods we have got to give the prices that they name there, and then add the freight, duties, and other expenses; then they say to us, "If you want fish at that price, you can have them;" otherwise they won't ship.
By Senator EDMUNDS:
Q. So in that case you think that the duty is paid either by the wholesale dealer here, or by the retail dealer, or by the consumer, or by all of them together, as the case may be?-A. Yes.
Q. Do you know what effect the wholesale price has had this year upon the retail price?-A. No, I don't know. It must be higher.
In New England, as I understand, the herring are only eaten by the Irish population; I don't think anybody else eats them. They are in the habit of buying herring by the barrel, I fancy. The very small shopkeepers buy a single barrel of herring and peddle them out by the piece.
Q. So you do not know whether the peddling out to separate families of half a dozen a day has raised the price or not?-A. No. I don't come in contact with those people at all. The wholesale dealers and jobbers in Boston could probably give you
S. Doc. 231, pt 5-44
information, because they are in communication with these people who make these sales, but I don't sell in that way. I sell to the wholesale dealer.
Q. You sell to the jobber?-A. I sell to the jobber. I do not come in contact with these people, and do not know anything about it.
Q. You think that the retail prices are higher?-A. I think the retail prices must be higher; herring are now selling at $6.50 that were selling at this time last year at $4.50, an advance of about 60 per cent. So I think the retail price must be higher.
Q. The retail dealer, however, who sold out his supplies in very small lots to families and was making 150 per cent profit, might make profit enough on the whole business by not raising his prices, following the wholesale prices, and consequently having more sales?-A. Possibly.
Q. How that is you do not know as a fact?-A. All I know is that the jobbers tell me that it is difficult to sell the fish at the high prices; that it diminishes the consumption; that people can not afford to pay those high prices. The Southern trade would certainly be very much affected. There is a cheap grade of herring that is used in the South. Herring worth last year $1.40 per barrel in Halifax would cost here about $2.75. We could not sell those; they would not take them off our hands, and the Southern people must have eaten something else. This year we know that they are beginning to want them. Herring are a little higher in Halifax. When business is generally good these fish come here and pay duties, and a profit is made. More than half the fish we import are of kinds that we do not get on our shores.
In the pickle-cured codfish Massachusetts has no competition with the Provinces at all. Their fish are nearly all dried, and of those dried fish we are selling this year the larger part in bond. No Bank fish are coming here duty paid.
Q. The pickle-cured are all dried before they are sent to this country, are they not?-A. They are dried a little-not much.
Q. They are dried enough to pack in bales?—A. Oh, yes; they put them in boxes. They are the fish that a great many people like because they look white. They are really not so good a fish to those people who really know what a good codfish is. There is a market for all we can bring into this country of the best class of fish from the British Provinces, and no matter how low the prices of other fish may go, those best class of fish will always bring a good price. The best grocers in the city want those fish, and will pay for them, and will have them, and if there is a duty on them we have to make a larger price.
So with large mackerel. My firm has sold a great deal of mackerel to Gloucester and Portland and even to Provincetown. Only the other day I sold $1,000 worth of mackerel to go to Provincetown. We have always had a large trade with Gloucester. They would not come to Boston to buy fish and take them down there, paying freight on them, if they could get such mackerel from their own vessels.
Q. What are those mackerel?-A. Larger mackerel. The mackerel on our shores have run small of late years.
Q. What grade?-A. They are No. 1's or large 3's.
Q. Take that $1,000 worth you sold lately to Provincetown, what grade were those?-A. Those were fat mackerel, mostly 1's and 2's; some 3's.
Q. What did you get for them?-A. We sold one lot unculled at $10.50.
Q. You do not speak of unculled mackerel as large mackerel?-A. They are large and medium, not inspected-mackerel just as they were caught, large and small, the larger part of them being medium size. I sold some to Provincetown for $15 a
Q. Were those sold for consumption?-A. Yes.
Q. For the home trade?-A. Yes, for the home trade. The Provincetown party we sold to is an owner of fishing vessels. He had no luck, and some one of his partners has been scouring the coast of Nova Scotia.
BOSTON TRADE WITH PROVINCETOWN AND GLOUCESTER.
Q. As I understand it, that Provincetown sale was for consumption at Provincetown and along the Cape, and the party who bought from you wanted to fill an order?-A. He wanted to pack them and sell them to wherever his orders may have come from.
Q. Is not the same true as to Gloucester?-A. Certainly. This is not a question of this year, because they have been doing it for the last six years. But I mean to