Two letters from America

Writing to his father from the United States, Harry shows an impatience which verges on arrogance.

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A warning from Cincinnatti



27 January, 1889

My dear father

I have looked further into your letters today. I see you seem to think there is no money to be made in America by pale cream roughs. This is a mistake as there is far more money to be made in them than elastics. No doubt you will have to go pretty slowly and cautiously about getting into the American trade, but it will never do for you to lose big orders for want of a couple of men in the Lapping Room.

As for the value of a few samples, other houses make 1,000 sample books for your one. I go into no house without seeing dozens of Kirks, etc…I know of nothing in this country which would suit (?our) linen.

The temptations for young men (here) are far greater than at home.

From all accounts, the medical is paid about the same here as at home; a man’s only chance would be to commence in some of the big cities and I believe it takes a good time to establish a practice. I would strongly recommend [my  brother] John to have a run out here. The voyage would do him worlds of good and he would get a lot of valuable information.

It has been snowing all day, it looks like more. I don’t expect to do much here as I expect the buyers will all be in the East.

You need not be calculating on my going into the business again when I return as I have no idea of it.

Your aff. son


A second visit - to Boston

Vieths Hotel, 245 Tremond St.,

Sunday 4th August 1889.

Dear Father,

I wrote you two letters yesterday enclosing three orders for about 1,300 pieces of Canvas with full instructions. I have already sold all the 24 ¼” 7x8 which I bought from Berwick for America. I wish to show you the necessity of immediately placing further order with R. Bell & Co., for these and say 100 webs 24 ½” 6x7. Possibly you will buy the latter cheaper from Richardson Bros. You know if you do not place the order immediately, you will require to buy them from stock and pay at least ½ d extra per yard. This will entail a loss as my prices are based on the prices for the goods that I bought.

If my health keeps good and the heat does not increase, doubtless I will sell quantities of these goods and the finer numbers.

Messrs. Barker, Ash and Waters want immediately quotation for 32/33” Buckrams 5x5, 5x6, 6x6, 6x7. They are selling them by thousands for the Youngs, and if we could do them as cheaply, they will put the orders all our way. Note they are natural shade, heavy clean yarns.

Please give this matter early attention. Doubtless B.A & W. will do a big and very profitable trade.

I have been to Trinity Church this morning, it is the finest in New England.

It is awfully hot here today, quite impossible to walk about.

You say in your letter that our total turnover last year was not £40,000, and that a few years ago you were doing over £45,000. It certainly is disheartening to see that trade is going down, and you say you hope I will get it up to a turnover of £50,000. Now I will guarantee to exceed that figure and I believe it could even be doubled in U.S.A. alone if you will get up these extra numbers of canvas to meet the great demand.

I would also very strongly recommend our putting in a stenter frame instead of paying Lisnafillan big sums for finishing. Of course it would be useless putting in a frame unless you act on the advice I have so often given re putting in a small steam engine to drive the Green when there is no water. Although you and Alexander laughed at my suggestion to do so, I am confident in time you will both realise the importance of having a steam engine to keep the Works going in dry weather. You say in your letter that owing to scarcity of water you can only run the Green and engines four or five days a week now. This is absolutely absurd while £150 would buy a small steam engine and I predict the day will come when you will have a steam or gas engine at the Road, Lower House and Mill as well.

I would also urge you to erect some engines on the splendid Fall below the Lower House where you can use all the water now going to waste. It is only a question of giving old Johnston £18 for the race through his field. Alexander, John Smith and I offered him £12 a week before I sailed, he wanted £18. But for the sake of £6 why in the name of Providence should we not get this valuable fall where 24 engines could be erected. There is only £6 between us, which you could make in a week.

If you could beetle the goods I could sell Lesher Whitman huge quantities of natural and pale Hollands.

You also spoke in your letter of the difficulty of getting goods lapped. I do not wonder when all the lappers have to leave their work and walk downstairs several times daily to carry up on their shoulders all the Hollands and Buckrams from Paddy McShane’s cart. You know I have often recommended a simple hoist which one man could bring up all the goods and let the lapper go on with their work. Of course the canvas I am selling will not be lapped, they are all wanted rolled. I have urged you for a long time to adopt the combined rolling and measuring machine which I made with my own hands and is lying idle in the Lapping Room. It is a hundred years behind the times - [the system of] first [getting] James McShane to measure these goods on a hand reel and then [having] Johnnie Cuskeran rolling them on another hand machine. The machine I made could be driven by a little oil engine and would both measure and roll at the same time, but you know the objections that were raised to it.

You also say there is no room in the Lapping Room for the American canvas now coming in. Now, why not change the Brown Room and Lapping room to the Green and give all the space now occupied by brown goods for canvas. It is a mad policy bringing the brown goods first to the Lapping Room and then recarting them to the Green. Why not let John Tohill draw them direct to the Green?

Now, out here when one is not mixed up with Upperlands worries, it is possible to review all these matters clearly, and I urge you to have these reforms carried out. We never will do a big business under the present conditions.

I am leaving for Montreal on Wednesday next, and from there will go to Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis etc and I assure you I will do my best to work up the business.

Your affec Son,