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Anybody can cut prices, but it takes brains to make a better article.
--Philip D. Armour
Philip D. Armour was born on May Sixteenth, Eighteen Hundred Thirty-two, near the little village of Stockbridge, New York. He died at Chicago, January Sixth, Nineteen Hundred One. The farm owned by his father was right on the line between Madison and Oneida Counties. The boys used to make a scratch in the road and dare the boys from Madison to come across into Oneida. The Armour farm adjoined the land of the famous Oneida Community, where was worked out one of the most famous social experiments ever attempted in the history of civilization. However, the Armour family constituted a little community of its own, and was never induced to abandon family life for the group. Yet, for John Humphrey Noyes, Danforth Armour always had great respect. But he was philosopher enough to know that one generation would wind up the scheme, for the young would all desert, secrete millinery, and mate as men and young maidens have done since time began. "Oneida is for those whose dream did not come true--mine has," he said.
The Armours of Stockbridge traced a pedigree to Jean Armour, of Ayr, brown as a berry, pink and twenty, sweet and thrifty, beloved of Bobbie Burns.
The father of Philip was Danforth Armour, and the father of Danforth Armour was James Armour, Puritan, who emigrated from the North of Ireland. James settled in Connecticut and fortified his Scotch-Irish virtues with a goodly mixture of the New England genius for hard work, economy and religion. His grandfather had fought side by side with Oliver Cromwell and had gone into battle with that doughty hero singing the songs of Zion. He was a Congregationalist by prenatal influence. And I need not here explain that the love of freedom found form in Congregationalism, a religious denomination without a pope and without a bishop, where one congregation was never dictated to nor ruled by any other. Each congregation was complete in itself--or was supposed to be.
This love of liberty was the direct inheritance of James Armour. It descended to Danforth Armour, and by him was passed along to Philip Danforth Armour. All of these men had a very sturdy pride of ancestry, masked by modesty, which oft reiterated: "Oh, pedigree is nothing--it all lies in the man. You do or else you don't. To your quilting, girls--to your quilting!"
When Nancy Brooks was beloved by Danforth Armour the Fates were propitious. The first women schoolteachers in America evolved in Connecticut. Miss Brooks was a schoolteacher, the daughter of a farmer for whom Danforth Armour worked as hired man.
Danforth was given to boasting a bit as to the part his ancestors had played as neighbors to Oliver Cromwell at the time, and the only time, when England was a republic.
Miss Brooks did not like this kind of talk and told the young man so straight at his red head. The Brooks family was Scotch, too, but they had fought on the side of Royalty. They were never rebels--they were true to the King--exactly so!
Now, there are two kinds of Scotch--the fair and the dark--the Highland and the Lowland--the Aristocrats and the Peasantry. Miss Brooks was dark, and she succeeded in convincing the freckled and sandy-haired man that he was of a race of rebels, also that the rule of the rebels was brief--brief, my lord, as woman's love. Then they argued as to the alleged brevity of woman's love.
Here they were getting on dangerous ground. Nature is a trickster, and she spread her net and caught the Highland maid and the Lowland laddie, and bound them with green withes as is her wont. So they were married by the Congregational "meenister," and for a wedding-tour fared forth Westward to fame and fortune. "Out West" then meant York State, and the "Far West" was Ohio. They reached Oneida County, New York, and stopped for a few days ere they pushed on to the frontier. The site was beautiful, the location favorable. And the farmer at whose house they were making their stay was restless and wanted to sell out.
That night the young couple talked it over. They had a few hundred dollars saved, sewed in a belt and in a dress bodice. They got the money out and recounted it. In the morning they told their host how much money they had and offered to give him all of this money for his farm. He was to leave them a yoke of oxen, a cow, a pig and six sheep.
He accepted the offer, the money was paid, the deed made out and the man vacated, leaving the bride and groom in possession.
So here they lived their lives; here they worked, planned, aspired and prospered; here, too, their children were born and raised; and down at the little village cemetery they sleep, side by side. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided.
* * * * * * *
"The first requisite in education," said Herbert Spencer, "is that man shall be a good animal."
Philip D. Armour fulfilled the requirements.
He was dowered with a vital power that fed his restless brain and made him a regular dynamo of energy for sixty-nine years--and with a little care at the last should have run for ninety years with never a hotbox.
He used to say, "If my ancestors had been selected for me by Greek philosophers, specialists in heredity, they could not have done better. I can not imagine a better woman than my mother. My childhood was ideal. God did not overlook me."
Well did this happy, exuberant, healthy man say that his parentage and childhood environment were ideal. Here was a family of six boys and three girls, brought up on a beautiful hillside farm amid as peaceful and lovely a landscape as ever the sun shone upon. Down across the creek there were a hundred acres of bottom-land that always laughed a harvest under the skilful management of Danforth Armour. Yet the market for surplus products was distant, so luxury and leisure were out of the question. And yet work wasn't drudgery. Woods, hills, running streams, the sawmill and the gristmill, the path across the meadow, the open road, the miracle of the seasons, the sugar-bush, the freshet that carried away the bridge, the first Spring flowers peeping from beneath the snow on the south side of rotting logs, the trees bursting into leaf, the hills white with blossoms of wild cherry and hawthorn, the Saturday afternoon when the boys could fish, the old swimming-hole, the bathing of the little ones in the creek, the growing crops in the bottom-land, bee-trees and wild honey, coon-hunts by moonlight, the tracks of deer down by the salt-lick, bears in the green corn, harvest-time, hog-killing days, frost upon the pumpkin and fodder in the shock, wild turkeys in the clearing, revival-meetings, spelling-bees, debates at the schoolhouse, school at the log schoolhouse in Stockbridge, barn-raisings, dances in the new barn, quilting-bees, steers to break, colts to ride, apple butter, soft soap, pickled pigs' feet, smoked hams, side-meat, shelled walnuts, coonskins on the barn-door, Winter and the first fall of snow, boots to grease, harness to mend, backlogs, hickory-nuts, cider, a few books and all the other wonderful and enchanting things that a country life, not too isolated, brings to the boys and girls born where the rain makes musical patter on the roof and the hand of a loving mother tucks you in at night!
Here was a mother who gave to the world six sons, five of whom grew to an honored manhood and proved themselves men of power. One of the girls, Marietta, was a woman of extraordinary personality, as picturesquely heroic as Philip Armour, himself.
This mother never had a servant-girl, a laundress or a dressmaker. The manicure and the beauty-doctor were still in the matrix of time, as yet unguessed.
On Sunday there was a full wagonload of Armours, big and little, to go to the Congregational Church at Stockbridge. Let us hope the wagon was yellow and the horses gray.
Do not imagine that a family like this is lonely. There is constant work; the day is packed with duties, and night comes with its grateful rest. There is no time to be either bad or unhappy, nor is there leisure to reflect on your virtues. No one line of thought receives enough attention to disturb the balance of things. To be so busy that you "forget it" is very fortunate. The child brought up with a happy proportion of play and responsibility, of work and freedom, of love and discipline, has surely not been overlooked by Providence.
The "problem of education" is a problem only to the superlatively wise and the tremendously great. To plain people life is no problem. Things become complex only when we worry over them.
So the recipe for educating children is this: Educate yourself.
* * * * * * *
When Philip D. Armour was nineteen the home nest seemed crowded.
The younger brothers were coming along to do the work, and the absence of one "will be one less to feed" he said to his mother.
The gold-fields of California were calling. This mother was too sensible and loving to allow her boy to run away--if he was going, he should go with her blessing. She got together a hundred dollars in cash. With this and a pack on his back Philip started on foot for the land of Eldorado. Four men were in the party, all from Oneida County.
He walked all the way and arrived on schedule, after a six months' journey. Philip was the only one in the party who did not grow sick nor weary. One died, two turned back, but Philip trudged on with the procession that seemed to increase as it neared the gold-fields.
Arriving in California, this very sensible country boy figured it out that mining was a gamble. A very few grew rich, but the many were desperately poor. Most of those who got a little money ahead spent it in prospecting for bigger finds and soon were again penniless. He decided that he would not bet on anything but his own ability. Instead of digging for gold, he set to work digging ditches for men who had mines, but no water. This making ditches was plain labor, without excitement, chance or glamour. You knew beforehand just how much you would make. Philip was strong and patient; he could work from sunrise to sunset.
He was paid five dollars a day. Then he took contracts to dig ditches, and sometimes he made ten dollars a day. Parties who were "busted" and wished to borrow were offered a job. He set them to work and paid them for what they did, and no more. It was all a question of mathematics. In five years Philip Armour had saved eight thousand dollars. It was enough to buy the best farm in Oneida County, and this was all he wanted. There was a girl back there who had taunted him and dared him to go away and make his fortune. They parted in a tiff--that's the way she got rid of him. There was another man in the case, but Philip was too innocent to know this. The peaceful hills of New York lured and beckoned. He responded to the call and started back home. In half the time it took to go, he had arrived. But alas, the hills had shrunken. The mighty stream that once ran through Stockbridge was but a rill.
And the girl--the girl had married another--a worthy horse-doctor. Philip called on her. She was yellow and tired and had two fine babies. She was glad to see her old friend Philip, but the past was as dead to her as the present. In her handgrasp there was no thrill. She had given him a big chase; and soon his sadness made way for gratitude in that she had married the horse-doctor. He gave them his blessing. Philip looked around at farms--several were for sale, but none suited him.
On the way back from California he had traveled by way of the Great Lakes and stopped two days at Milwaukee. It was a fine city--a growing place, the gateway of the West and the market-place where the vessels loaded for the East.
Milwaukee had one rival--Chicago, eighty-five miles south.
Chicago, however, was on low, flat, marshy ground. It would always be a city, of course, because it was the end of navigation, but Milwaukee would feed and stock the folks who were westward bound. So to Milwaukee went Philip Armour, resolved there to stake his fortune in trade. Opportunity offered and he joined with Fred B. Miles, on March First, Eighteen Hundred Fifty-nine, in the produce and commission business. Each man put in five hundred dollars. The business prospered. One of the great products in demand was smoked and pickled meats. At that time farmers salted and smoked hams and brought them to town, with furs, pelts and bags of wheat.
All the tide of humanity that streamed into Milwaukee, westward bound, bought smoked or pickled meats--something that would keep and be always handy.
These were Winter-packed. The largest packer was John Plankinton, who was a success. John was knowing, and he made Phil. Armour his junior partner, as Plankinton and Armour. Then business sizzled. They were at the plant at four o'clock in the morning. They discovered how to make a hog yield four hams. Our soldiers needed the hams and the barreled pork, so shortly more hogs came to market. The War's end found the new firm much stronger and well stocked with large orders for mess-pork, sold for future delivery at war-time prices, which contracts they filled at a much lower cost and to their financial satisfaction. Their guesser was good and they prospered.
Meantime, the city of Chicago grew faster than Milwaukee. There was a rich country south of Chicago, as well as west, and of this Philip Armour had really never thought.
Chicago was a better market for pickled pork and corned beef than Milwaukee, as more boats fitted out there, and more emigrants were landing on their way to take up government land.
One of Mr. Armour's brothers, Joe, was a packer in Chicago. Another brother, H. O., was in the commission business there. Joe's health, it seems, was pretty bad, so in Eighteen Hundred Seventy, Philip Armour came to Chicago, and shortly the house of Armour and Company came into being--H. O. Armour going to New York to look after Eastern trade and financing. In those days branch houses were unknown and packing-house products were handled by jobbers.
* * * * * * *
The Father of the Packing-House Industry was Philip Danforth Armour. The business of the Packing-House Industry is to gather up the food-products of America and distribute them to the world.
Let the fact here be stated that the world is better fed today than it ever has been since Herodotus sharpened his faber and began writing history, four hundred fifty years before Christ. In this matter of food, the danger lies in overeating and not in lack of provender.
The business of Armour and Company is to buy from the producer and distribute to the consumer. So Armour and Company have to satisfy two parties--the producer and the consumer. Both being fairly treated have a perfect right to grumble.
The buyer of things which Nature forces the man to buy, is usually a complainer, and he complains of the seller because he is near, just as a man kicks the cat and takes it out on his wife, or the mother scolds the children.
To the farmers, Armour used to say with stunning truth, "You get more for your produce today than you got before I showed up on the scene; and you get your money on the minute, without haggle or question. I furnish you an instantaneous market."
To the consumer he said: "I supply you with regularity and I give you quality at a price more advantageous to you than your local butcher can command. My profit lies in that which has always been thrown away. As for sanitation, go visit your village slaughter-house and then come and see the way I do it!"
Upton Sinclair scored two big points on Packingtown and its Boss Ogre. They were these: First, the Ogre hired men and paid them to kill animals. Second, these dead animals were distributed by the Ogre and his minions and the corpses eaten by men, women and children. It was a revolting revelation. It even shook the nerves of a President, one of the killingest men in the world, who, not finding enough things to kill in America, went to Africa to kill things.
"You live on the dead," said the Eastern pundit, reproachfully, out of his yellow turban, to the American who had just ordered a ham-sandwich. "And you eat the living," replied the American, as he handed a little hand-microscope to the pundit and asked him to focus it upon his dinner of dried figs. The pundit looked at the figs through the glass, and behold, they were covered with crawling, wiggling, wriggling, living life! And then did the man from the East throw the microscope out of the window, and say, "Now there are no bugs on these figs!"
That which we behold too closely is apt to be repulsive. Fix your vision upon any of the various functions of life and the whole thing becomes disgusting, especially so if we contemplate the details of existence in others. Personally, of course, we, ourselves, in thought and action are sweet and wholesome--but the others, oh, ah, bah, phew, ouch, or words to that effect!
Armour's remark about the village slaughter-house was getting close home. If bad meat was ever put out, it was from these secret places, managed by one or two men who did things in their own sweet way. Their work was not inspected. They themselves were the sole judges. There were not even employees to see and blackmail them if they failed to walk the chalk-line. They bought up cattle, drove them in at night and killed them. No effort was made to utilize the blood or offal and this putrefying mass advertised itself for miles. Savage dogs and slaughter-houses go together, as all villagers know, and there were various good reasons why visitors didn't go to see the local butcher perform his pleasing obligations.
The first slaughter-houses in Chicago were just like those in any village. They supplied the local market.
At first the offal was simply flung out in a pile. Then, when neighbors complained, holes were dug in the prairie and the by-product buried. About Eighteen Hundred Eighty-two, a decided change in methods occurred. The first thing done was to dry the blood, bones and meat-scrap, and sell this for fertilizer. Next came the scientific treatment of the waste for glues and other products. Chemists were given a hearing, patient and most courteous.
One day Armour beckoned C. H. MacDowell into his private office and said, "I say, Mac, if a man calls who looks like a genius or a fool, wearing long hair, whiskers and spectacles, treat him gently--he's a German and may have something in his head besides dandruff." MacDowell is one of the Big Boys at Armour's. He was a stenographer, like my old Bryant and Stratton chum, Cortelyou, and in fact is very much such a man as Cortelyou. "Mac" is the head of the Armour Fertilizer Works and is distressed because he can't utilize the squeal--so much energy evaporating. It is his business to capitalize waste.
It was the joke of the place that if a German chemist arrived, all business was paralyzed until his secret was seized. Jena, Gottingen and Heidelberg became names to conjure with. Buttons were made from bones, glue from feet, combs and ornaments from horns, curled hair from tails, felt from wool, hair was cured for plaster, and the Armour Fertilizer Works slowly became grounded and founded on a scientific basis, where reliable advice as to growing cotton, rice, yams, potatoes, roses or violets could be had.
"Meat" is the farmer's product. This meat is consumed by the people. One-half of our population are farmers, and all farmers raise cattle, sheep, poultry and hogs. Trade follows the line of least resistance; and the natural thing is for the local butcher to slaughter, and supply his neighborhood. There is only one reason why the people in East Aurora should buy meat of Armour, as they occasionally do, and that is because Armour supplies better meat at a lower price than we can produce it. If Armour is higher in price than our local butcher, we buy of the local man. The local butcher fixes the price, not Armour, and the local farmer fixes the price for the local butcher. Armour always and forever has to face this local competition.
"I am in partnership with the farmer," Philip Armour used to say. "Their interests are mine and their confidence and good-will I must merit, or over goes my calabash."
The success of capital lies in ministering to the people, not in taking advantage of them. And every successful business house is built on the bed-rock of reciprocity, mutuality and co-operation. That legal Latin maxim, "Let the buyer beware," is a legal fiction. It should read, "Let the seller beware," for he who is intent on selling the people a different article from what they want, or at a price beyond its value, will stay in trade about as long as that famous snowball will last in Biloxi.
* * * * * * *
Besides being father of the Packing-House industry, Philip D. Armour was a manufacturer of and a dealer in Portable Wisdom. His teeming brain took in raw suggestions and threw off the completed product in the form of epigrams, phrases, orphics, symbols. To have caught these crumbs of truth that fell from the rich man's table might have placed many a penny-a-liner beyond the reach of mental avarice. One man, indeed, swept up the crumbs into a book that is not half crumby. The man is George Horace Lorimer, and his book is called, "Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son." Lorimer was a department-manager for Armour and busied himself, it seems, a good deal of the time, in taking down disjecta, or the by-product of business. Armour was always sincere, but seldom serious. There is a lot of quiet fun yet among the Armour folks. When the Big Boys dine daily together, they always pass the persiflage. Lorimer showed me a bushel of notes--with which he proposes some day to Boswellize his former Chief. Incidentally, he requested me never to mention it, but secrets being to give away, I state the fact here, in order to help along a virtuous and hard-working young man, the son of the Reverend Doctor George C. Lorimer, a worthy Baptist preacher.
"Keep at it--do not be discouraged, Melville--a preacher's son is usually an improvement on the sire," said Philip D. Armour to Melville Stone, who was born at Hudson, McLean County, Illinois, the son of a Presiding Elder.
"I'm not worrying," replied the genealogical Stone. "You and I were both born in log houses, which puts us straight in line for the Presidency." "Right you are, Melville, for a log house is built on the earth, and not in the clouds." Then this came to Armour, and he could not resist the temptation to fire it: "Boys, all buildings that really endure are built from the ground up, never from the clouds down."
No living man ever handed out more gratuitous advice than Philip Armour. He was the greatest preacher in Chicago. With every transaction, he passed out a premium in way of palaver. He loved the bustle of business, but into the business he butted a lot of talk--helpful, good-natured, kindly, paternal talk, and often there was a suspicion that he talked for the same reason that prizefighters spar for time. "Here, Robbins, get off this telegram, and remember that if the rolling stone gathers no moss, it at least acquires a bit of polish."
"Say, Urion, if you make a success as my lawyer you have got to get into the rings of Orion; be there yourself, the same as the man that's to be hanged. You can't send a substitute."
To Comes--now Secretary of Armour and Company--"I suppose if I told you to jump into the lake you'd do it. Use your head, young man--use your skypiece!" And he did. This preaching habit was never pedantic, stiff or formal--it gushed out as the waters gushed forth from the rock after Moses had given it a few stiff raps with his staff. Armour called people by their first names as if they all belonged to his family, as they really did, for all mankind to him were one. He thought in millions, where other big men thought in hundreds of thousands, or average men thought in dozens.
"Hiram," he once said to the Reverend Hiram W. Thomas--for when he met you, you imagined he had been looking for you to tell you something--"Hiram, I like to hear you preach, for you are so deliberate that as you speak I am laying bets with myself as to which of a dozen things you are going to say. You supply me lots of fun. I can travel around the world before you get to your firstly."
For all preachers he had a great attraction, and it wasn't solely because he was a rich man. He supplied texts, and he supplied voltage. Most men put on a pious manner and become hypocritically proper when a preacher joins a group, but not so Philip Armour. If he used a strong word, or a simile uncurried, it was then. They liked it.
"Mr. Armour, you might use a little of your language for fertilizer, if times were hard," once said Robert Collyer. He answered, "Robert, I'm fertilizing a few of your fallow acres now, as any one who goes to hear you preach next Sunday will find out, if they know me."
A committee of four preachers once came to him from a country town a few miles out of Chicago, asking him to pay off the debt on their churches. It seems they had heard of the Armour benevolence and decided to beard the lion in his den. He listened to the plea, and then figured up on a pad the amount of the debt. It was fifteen hundred dollars. The preachers were encouraged--they had the ejaculation, "God bless you!" on tap, when Mr. Armour said: "Gentlemen, four churches in a town the size of yours are too many. Now, if you will consolidate and three of you will resign and go to farming, I'll pay off this debt now." The offer was not accepted.
When Armour was asked to subscribe one thousand dollars to a fund to provide an auditorium and keep Professor Swing in Chicago, Swing having just been tried for heresy, he said: "Chicago must not lose Swing--we need him. If I had a few of his qualities, and he had a few of mine, there would be two better men in Chicago today. Yes, we must keep Swing right here. Put me down for a thousand. I don't always understand what Swing is driving at, but that may be my fault. And say, if you find you need five thousand from me, just let me know, and the money is yours."
There is no use trying to work the apotheosis of Philip D. Armour: he was in good sooth a man. "I make mistakes--but I do not respond to encores," he used to say. When a man told of spending five thousand dollars on the education of his son, Armour condoled with him thus: "Oh, never mind, he'll come out all right--my education is costing me that much every week."
One of the Big Boys at Armour's is a character called "Alibi Tom." Time has tamed Alibi, but when he was twenty-two--well, he was twenty-two.
Now Philip Armour was an early riser, and at seven o'clock he used to be at the office ready for business, the office opening at eight. Sometimes he would come even earlier, and if he saw a clerk at work before eight, he might, under the inspiring spell of the brisk early-morning walk, step over and give the fellow a five-dollar bill.
Well, Alibi had never gotten one of these five-dollar bills, because he was usually in just before Saint Peter closed the gate. Several times he had been reproved, and once Mr. Armour had said, "Tom, be late once more and you are a has-wazzer." Shortly after this, one night, Alibi Tom had a half-dozen stockmen to entertain. They had gone to Hooley's and Sam T. Jack's, then to the Athletic Club and then they called on Hinky Dink and "Bath-House John," the famous Cook County literary light. Where else they had gone they could not remember.
It was about three o'clock in the morning, when it came over Tom like a pall that if he started for home now and went to bed he would surely be late again and it might cost him his job.
He proposed that they make a night of it. The stockmen were quite willing. They headed for the Stockyards, stopping along the way to make little visits on certain celebrities. At five o'clock they reached the Armour plant, and Tom stowed his friends away with the help of a friendly watchman. Then he made for the shower-bath, rubbed down, drank two cups of coffee and went to his desk. It was just six-thirty, and being Winter, was yet dark. He hadn't any more than yawned twice and stretched himself, wondering if he could hold out until noon, when he heard the quick step of "the old man." Tom crouched over his pretended work like a devilfish devouring its prey. He never looked up, he was that busy.
Mr. Armour stopped, stared, came closer--yes, it was Tom, the late Alibi Tom, the chronic delinquent.
"Well, well, well, Tom, the Lord be praised! You have given yourself a hunch at last--keep this!" And Armour handed out a brand-new, crisp, five-dollar bill.
Tom had now set a stake for himself--and it was up to him to make good, die or hike. He decided to make good. The next month his pay was raised twenty-five dollars, and it has been climbing a little every year since.
* * * * * * *
Philip D. Armour was a man of big mental and physical resources--big in brain, rich in vital power, bold in initiative, yet cautious.
He had two peculiar characteristics--he refused to own more land than he could use.
His second peculiarity was that his only stimulant was tea. If he had an unusually big problem to pass upon, he cut down his food and increased his tea. Tea was his tipple. It opened up his mental pores and gave him cosmic consciousness. Armour had so much personality--so much magnetism--that he had but few competitors in his business. One of these was Nelson Morris.
Now, Morris was a type of man that Armour had never met. Morris was a Jew, a Bavarian, who affected music, art and philosophy. Nelson Morris, small, smooth of face, humming bars from Bach and quoting Schopenhauer, buying hogs at the Chicago Stockyards and then killing these hogs for the gastronomical delectation of Christians, was a sort of all-round Judaic genius.
The Mosaic Law forbids the Jews eating pork, but it places no ban or bar on their dealing in it. Nelson Morris bought hogs at four A. M., or as soon as it was light. Armour found him at it when he arrived, and Philip Armour was usually the earliest bird on the job. Yet Armour wasn't afraid of Morris--the Jew merely perplexed him. One day Armour said to MacDowell, his secretary, "I say, Mac, Nelson doesn't need a guardian!"
The Jew was getting on the Armour nerves--just a little. Armour was always on friendly terms with his competitors. As a matter of fact, he was on friendly terms with everybody--he had no grouch and never got in a grump. Socially he was irresistible. He got up close--invited confidence--made friends and held them. There was never a man he wouldn't speak to. He was above jealousy and beyond hate; yet, of course, when it came to a show-down, he might hit awfully hard and quick, but he always passed out his commercial wallop with a smile.
When Sullivan met Corbett at New Orleans, Gentleman Jim landed the champion a terrific jolt with his right, smiled sweetly and said, "To think, John, of your coming all the way from Boston to get that--also this"; then he gave him another with his left. One morning, at daylight, when Morris got to the Stockyards, he found all the pens empty.
Armour and his pig-buyers had been around with lanterns all night hunting up the owners and bulling the market. "To think," said Armour to Morris, "to think of your coming all the way from Bavaria hoping to get the start of me!" Both men smiled serenely. The next week whole train-loads of pigs were coming to Chicago consigned to Nelson Morris. He had sent his agents out and was buying of the farmers, direct.
Soon after, Armour casually met Morris and suggested that they lunch together that day. The Jew smiled assent. He had scored a point--Armour had come to him.
So they lunched together. The Jew ate very little. Both men talked, but said nothing. They were waiting. The Jew ate little, but he drank three cups of tea.
Armour insisted on paying the check, excused himself somewhat abruptly, and hurried to his office. He sent for his lieutenants. They came quickly, and Armour said: "Boys, I've just lunched with Nelson Morris. I think we'd better come to an understanding with him as to a few things we shall do and a few we shall not do--he drinks nothing but tea."
* * * * * * *
Prior to the invention of the refrigerator-car, the business of the packer was to cure salt meats and pack them for transportation. Besides this, he supplied the local market with fresh meats.
Up to the early Eighties fresh meat was not shipped any distance except in midwinter, and then as frozen meat. Surplus Western cattle were shipped East alive--and subject to heavy risks, shrinkage and expense. About fifty per cent of the live weight was dressed beef--balance non-edible--so double freight was paid on the edible portion. Could this freight be saved? About this time Hammond, of Detroit, mounted a refrigerator on car-wheels, loaded it with dressed beef and headed it for New York, where the condition of the meat on arrival satisfied every one in the trade except the local slaughterer.
The car was crude--but it turned the trick--a new era had arrived. The corn-belt came into its own. "Corn was King"--the steer, the heir apparent.
Phil Armour saw the point. Pay freight on edible portions only. Save the waste. Make more out of the critter than the competitor can. Pay more for him--get him. Sell the meat for less. Get the business--grow. And he got busy perfecting the refrigerator-car.
Armour called together railroadmen and laid the project before them. They objected that a car, for instance, sent from Chicago to New York would require to be iced several times during the journey, otherwise there might be the loss of the entire load. A car of beef was worth fifteen hundred dollars. The freight was two hundred dollars or less. The railroadmen raised their hands in horror. Besides transporting goods they would have to turn insurance company. Armour still insisted that they could and should provide suitable cars for their patrons.
The railroadmen then came back with this rejoinder: "You make your own cars and we will haul them, provided you will ask us to incur only the ordinary risks of transportation." Armour accepted the challenge--it was the only thing to do. He made one car, and then twenty.
Fresh beef was shipped from Chicago to New York, and arrived in perfect order. To ship live cattle long distances, he knew was unwise. And he then declared that Omaha, Kansas City, Saint Paul and various other cities of the West would yet have great slaughter-houses, where livestock could be received after a very short haul. The product could then be passed along in refrigerator-cars, and the expense of ice would not be so much as to unload and feed the stock. But better than all, the product would be more wholesome.
Armour began to manufacture refrigerator-cars. He offered to sell these to railroad-companies. A few railroads bought cars, and after a few months proposed to sell them back to Armour--the expense and work of operating them required too much care and attention. Shippers would not ship unless it was guaranteed that the car would be re-iced, and that it would arrive at its destination within a certain time.
In the Fall, fresh peaches were being shipped across the lake to Chicago from Michigan. If the peaches were one night on the way they arrived in good order.
This gave Armour an idea--he sent a couple of refrigerator-cars around to Saint Joseph, loaded them with fresh peaches, and shipped them to Boston. He sent a man with the cars who personally attended to icing the cars, just as we used to travel in the caboose to look after the livestock. The peaches reached Boston, cool and fresh, and were sold in an hour at a good profit. At once there was a demand for refrigerator-cars from Michigan: the new way opened the markets of America to the producer of fruits and vegetables. There was a clamorous demand for refrigerator-cars.
The reason a railroad can not afford to have its own refrigerator-cars is because the fruit or berry season in any one place is short. For instance, six weeks covers the grape period of the Lake Erie grape-belt; one month is about the limit on Michigan peaches; strawberries from Southern Illinois are gone in two or three weeks.
Therefore, to handle the cars advantageously, the railroads find it much better to rent them, or simply to haul them on a mileage. The business is a specialty in itself, and requires most astute generalship to make it pay. Cars have to be sent to Alabama in February and March; North Carolina a little later; then West Virginia. These same cars then do service in the Fall in Michigan. It naturally follows that much of the time cars have to be hauled empty, and this is a fact that few people figure on when computing receipts from tonnage. Now, instead of the good old way of sending a man in charge, there are icing-stations, where the car is looked for, thoroughly examined and cared for as a woman would look after a baby. In order to bring apples from Utah to Colorado, and oranges from California to Arizona, icehouses have to be built on the desert at vast expense. And this in a climate where frost is unknown.
To work the miracle of modern industrialism requires the help of bespectacled scientists from Germany, and a fine army of artists, poets, painters, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, beside the workers in wood and metals.
The whole business is a creation, and a beneficent one. It has opened up vast territories to the farmer, gardener and stock-raiser, where before cactus and sagebrush were supreme; and the prairie-dog and his chum, the rattlesnake, held undisputed sway.
To the wealth of the world it has added untold millions, not to mention the matters of health, hygiene and happiness for the people.
* * * * * * *
The Scotch-Irish blood carries a mighty persistent corpuscle. It is the blood that made the Duke of Wellington, Lord "Bobs," Robert Fulton, James Oliver, James J. Hill, Cyrus Hall McCormick and Thomas A. Edison. It makes fighters, inventors and creators--stubborn men who never know when they are licked. They can live on nothing and follow an idea to its lair. They laugh at difficulties, grow fat on opposition, and obstacle only inspires them to renewed efforts.
Yet their fight is fair, and in the true type there is a delicate sense of personal honor which only the strong possess. Philip D. Armour's word was his bond. He never welched, and even his most persistent enemies never accused him of double-dealing. When he fought, it was in the open, and he fought to a finish. Then when his adversary cried, "Enough!" he would carry him in his arms to a place of safety and bind up his wounds. Rightly approached his heart was as tender as a girl's.
In business he paid to the last cent; and he expected others to pay, too. For clerks in a comatose state, and the shirker who would sell his labor and then connive to give short count, he had no pity; but for the stricken or the fallen, his heart and his purse were always open. He gloried in work and could not understand why others should not get their enjoyment out of it also.
He kept farmers' hours throughout his life, going to bed at nine o'clock and getting up at five. He prized sleep--God's great gift of sleep--and used to quote Sancho Panza, "God bless the man who first invented sleep."
Yet he slept only that he might arise and work. To be well and healthy and strong and joyous was to him not only a privilege but a duty. If he used tobacco it was never during business hours. For strong drink he had an abhorrence, simply because he thought it useless, save possibly as a medicine, and he believed that no man would need medicine if he lived rightly.
Philip Armour foresaw the possibilities of the West and the Northwest, and in company with Alexander Mitchell, "Diamond Joe" Reynolds, Fred Layton, John Plankinton and others, took great personal pride in the upbuilding of the country. He was possessed of an active imagination. In a bigger, broader sense he was a dreamer. In his every action and thought he was a doer. He was very fond of children and would drop almost any work he had in hand to talk for a few minutes with a small boy or girl. He kept a stock of small Swiss watches in his desk to present to his junior callers. His great hobby was presenting his men with a suit of clothes should they suggest anything out of the ordinary or do anything which attracted his commendation. Nearly all of those close to him were presented with gold watches.
It was in the late Seventies. Mr. Armour, with officials, was inspecting the Saint Paul Railway. A rumor was circulated that Armour and Company was in financial trouble, and Mr. Armour was so advised. His return was so prompt that it was suggested that he must have come down over the wire. He was very much incensed, and his first query was as to who had started the rumor.
The president of a Chicago bank had loaned Armour and Company one hundred thousand dollars, note due in ninety days. For some reason known only to himself, he had made a demand on the cashier for the payment of this note some sixty days before it was due, and very naturally, in the absence of Mr. Armour, did not get his money.
Everett Wilson at that time was a member of the Ogden Boat Club, and was quite friendly with a son of the president of the bank above referred to. This young man remarked to Mr. Wilson that he had never felt so sorry for a man in his life as he did for his father the day before. He said Phil Armour had come over to the bank--had bearded his father in his den, and had gone after him so fiercely--had gotten under him in so many ways--had lampooned him up dale and down hill, that there was nothing left of his father but a bunch of apologetic confusion, and that the interview had ended by Mr. Armour's throwing a hundred thousand dollars in currency in the gentleman's face. The young man said he never knew that a man could be so indignant and so voluble as Mr. Armour was, and that it had made a lasting impression on him.
Philip Armour had very high business ideals. To sell an article at more than it was worth, or to deceive the buyer as to quality in any way, he would have regarded as a calamity. He delighted in the thought that the men with whom he traded were his friends. That his prosperity had been the prosperity of the producing West, and also to the advantage of the consuming East, were great sources of satisfaction. To personal criticism he very seldom made reply, feeling that a man's life should justify itself, and that explanation, excuse or apology is unworthy in a man who is doing his best to help himself by helping humanity. But in spite of his indifference to calumny his years were shortened by the stab of a pen--the thing which killed Keats--the tumult of wild talk concerning "embalmed beef," started by a Doctor William Daly (who shortly after committed suicide) and taken up to divert public attention from the unpreparedness of the country properly to take care of the health of its volunteer soldiery.
Mr. Armour, as Father of the Packing-House Industry, was keenly sensitive to these slanders on the quality of the product and the honesty of the packers. The charges were thoroughly investigated by a board of army officers and declared by them to be without foundation.
Scandal and defamation in war-time are imminent; the literary stinkpot rivals the lyddite of the enemy; fever, envy, malice and murderous tongues strike in the dark and retreat in a miasmic fog. Here were forces that Philip Armour, as unsullied and as honorable as Sir Philip Sidney, could not fight, because he could not locate them.
About the same time came one Joseph Leiter, who tried to corner the wheat of the world. Chicago looked to Armour to punish the presumptuous one. And so Armour, already bowed with burdens, kept the Straits of Mackinaw open in midwinter, and delivered millions of bushels of real wheat for real money to meet the machinations of the bounding Leiter. Here, too, Armour was fighting for Chicago, to redeem, if possible, her good name in the eyes of the nations.
And Armour won; but it was like that last shot of Brann's, sent after he, himself, had fallen. Philip Armour slipped down into the valley and passed out into the shadow, unafraid. Like Cyrano de Bergerac he said, "I am dying, but I am not defeated, nor am I dismayed!" And so they laid his tired, overburdened body in the windowless house of rest.
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