Whips and Westfield
The whip business is supposed by some to be pretty nearly stalled by the incoming of the motor car. The facts are that there are not as many whips made now, and they are cheaper ones. But the decrease in the need for whips has been met most economically by uniting of the companies that make them. It is estimated on excellent authority that 97 per cent of the whips used in this country are made in Westfield. Of this amount 50 or 60 per cent are turned out by the U. S. Whip Company in its own plants. It has a good deal of competition–sometimes friendly, sometimes otherwise–in the business. Although it far outstrips all other companies, it does not have a monopoly, so as to crowd out its competitors. Of course, as business has slackened it has taken advantage of opportunity and has bought out several concerns.
There are now left several concerns, however, all active, and making their mark in the whip industry. There is first the New England Whip Company, the nearest in size and strength to the U. S. Whip Company.' It is a corporation, but its stock is understood to be privately and closely held as sort of family affair. Then there is the H. M. Van Duzen Whip Company, owned by the proprietor; the Cargill Cleveland Company, owned by the two partners named; the Horse Whip Company, the Steimer, Moore Whip Company and the Standard Whip Company. The last three are small companies, but all contribute their bit to the industry of Westfield. There are no shares of stock of whip companies in the public's hands except those of the U. S. Whip Company. A rough estimate of the property in Westfield owned by the whip concerns is $1,850,000 all together. With all this division, every house practically covers the entire field of the whip business, instead of making a specialty of one kind. Of course there are favorits brands, as of flour, but a whip's a whip for a' that, and each firm's customers covers about the whole country.
It would seem to be very hard, if not impossible, to find an industry not affected by the war in some way, and it is so with the whip makers. There are the riding crops and swagger sticks for officers, made to sell at from 10 cents to a number of dollars, made of cheap wood, cotton covered, or of rawhide, covered with leather, and perhaps with silver mountings. There was an attempt to make the cheap swagger stick popular, as a camp souvenir, something which the girls would take to, not merely to be used by soldiers in the service. That part of the program resulted in the selling of a lot of the little sticks, hut the demand did not equal expectations.
United States Whip
There has been a great change in the kind of whips sold. The fine coach whip, costing $5 or so, used in most effective way by the liveried coachman, has practically disappeared. Of the buggy whip there are still many used, but buggy riding is not what it used to be. Whalebone is still used for the core of good whips, but rattan is the chief factor in the "stick." Leather is used in various ways. Leather is higher, of course, but it can be obtained. Rattan comes from abroad and is hard to get anyway, and is much harder to transport, with the present scarcitv of tonnage, as it is so bulkv. It is understood that the United States Whip Company recently received a load of rattan, which has been since last fall on the way somewhere between Massachusetts and San Francisco. It is current report also that had it not been for the United States Company this last winter, some of the smaller whip concerns might have lacked a supply of rattan.
The story of the rattan market is another war story. Crude rattan comes from the Orient. The Germans had evolved the industry of getting it and making it into reeds and in form for use in various ways, as for examples, baby carriages and whips. Germany practically did the rattan business of the world. Now the crude rattan has to be brought from the Orient, and is even more bulky than the former finished German product, and because of this, and the need of cheap tonnage, it is sometimes brought by sailing craft. The whip men now have to fix it themselves, most of them having installed machines for this purpose. It is firmly believed that this rattan business has now been so well developed in America that when the Germans get through fighting they will find they have lost it. It can be done as cheaply and as well here as in Germany.
One of the big items in good whips is pigskin. There are no porkless days in the whip business. Skins which used to cost around 18 cents a foot are now to be had at 60 cents. There used to be a bamboo whip used in the West in connection with driving big teams on the harvesters. Bamboo is even more bulky than rattan and comes from Japan, usually by sailing vessels. Its shipment now has been cut out entirely, so far as the whip industry goes, at least. Whip makers get a lot of Government business. They make the 4Â½-foot hickory stock, and the 10-foot ambulance lash, for the so-called ambulance whip, which is, of course, used also as a better class of team whip. There have been Government orders for 350,000 to 500,000 of these for use on both sides of the water. There is also a Government order for 80,000 artillery whips or short jockey whips. There is a big whip trade with Australia, South America and Mexico. A large part of this was formerly held by Germany, but the American manufacturer now literally holds the whip hand.
The United States Whip Company alone, before its absorption of the Independent, showed quick assets, including some Liberty Bonds, of $812,000. Fixed assets are enough to cover the funded indebtedness. Because of conditions as stated, these whip companies cannot show an enormous earning power, under present circumstances, but they do show commendable diligence in trying to keep the conditions adjusted to the trade, and in making the most of the world's whip business, which ought to assure Westfleld a good business for years to come and as trade conditions grow better, an increasing business, tat the farm and country demand is still enormous.
Source: United States Investor - 20th April 1918