The United States and the Problem of Recovery after 1893

By Gerald T. White | Go to book overview
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Chapter VIII
Exports of Manufactures and Recovery

During the fall of 1897 exports of manufactures were beginning to share with agricultural recovery in attracting widespread attention. These exports were the source of considerable good feeling, for they indicated that the United States was acquiring a prominent place among industrial nations.

It was natural that during the days of depression manufacturers who suffered from diminished purchasing power at home should turn to foreign markets as possible outlets for their products. The reduced wages of a depression period, combined with other economies in operation, caused many American industries, particularly those related to iron and steel, to find not only a welcome relief for their products in foreign markets but also markets that they were able to retain and later expand in times of prosperity. This growing foreign trade was more than a safety valve during the depression; it was also a mark of maturity for a number of American industries.

Between 1893 and 1898 these industries sold their products to a minor extent in the markets of the underdeveloped world but also, much more notably, among the industrialized nations of Europe itself. The competition from the American manufacturer became increasingly consequential. During the fiscal year 1893, the last year before the panic, American-manufactured exports totaled $158 million. By the fiscal year 1898 they had increased steadily to $291 million, and in 1900, a year of renewed prosperity, amounted to $433 million. 1

After the passage of the tariff of 1894 it was not uncommon for a low-tariff paper like the New York Herald to stress the importance of foreign markets for American manufacturers as a means to prosperity. 2 This perception may have owed something to Grover Cleveland's refinement of traditional party doctrine in his message of December 1893 calling for tariff revision: that many branches of American industry were outgrowing the capacity of the home market to consume their output. These manufacturers needed lower


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