Among the more prominent movements of the day for the improvement of the condition of the working men are those which are growing into fashion with large manufacturing incorporations. Their promise lies immediately in the fact that they call for no new convictions of political economy, and hence have nothing disturbing or revolutionary about them. Accepting the usages and economical principles of industrial life, as the progress of business has developed them, an increasing number of large manufacturers have deemed it to their interest not only to furnish shops and machinery for their operatives, but dwellings as well, and in some instances the equipments of village life, such as schools, chapels, libraries, lecture and concert halls, and a regime of morals and sanitation. Probably the most expensive investment of this sort in the United States, if not in the world, by any single company, is that of Pullman, on Lake Calumet, a few miles south of Chicago, an enterprise as yet scarcely five years old. It is by no means a novel undertaking, except in the magnitude, thoroughness, and unity of the scheme. Twenty years ago the managers of the Lonsdale Mills, in Rhode Island, were erecting cottages on a uniform plan and maintaining schools and religious services for their operatives.
More recent but more extensive is the village of the Ponemah Cotton Mill, near Taftville, Conn. These are illustrations merely of similar investments upon a smaller scale elsewhere. But the European examples are older, such as Robert Owen's experiment at New Lanark in Scotland, Saltaire in Yorkshire, Dollfuss' Mulhausen Quarter in Alsace, and M. Godin's community in the French village of Guise, which are among the more familiar instances of investments originally made on business principles, with a view to the improved conditions of workmen. New Lanark failed as a commercial community through the visionary character of its founder; the Godin works at Guise have passed into the co-operative phase within the past five years, but Saltaire and Mulhausen still retain their proprietary business features.
The class of ventures of which these instances are but the more conspicuous examples has peculiar characteristics. They differ from the Peabody and Waterlow buildings of London, described in Bradstreet's last August, from Starr's Philadelphia dwellings, and from the operations of the "Improved Dwellings Association" of New York in these particulars: the latter are financially a pure question of direct investment; are mainly concerned with life among the poor of cities, and, whatever philanthropy may be in their motive, are capable of adaptation to any class of citizens. The former, while investments also, are composite, the business of manufacturing being associated with that of rent collecting and sharing its profits and losses; their field of operations is almost invariably rural, and tenancy is restricted to the employes of the proprietor. On the other hand, they differ from all co-operative and socialistic communities in that they are an adaptation to existing circumstances, propose to demonstrate no new theories of economics, are free from all religious bonds, do not depend on any unity of opinion, and do not touch the question of the proper distribution of wealth.
It is, of course, no new thing for owners of large factories, particularly in country districts, to furnish tenements for their operatives, and oftentimes it is quite indispensable that they should, because there would otherwise be no accommodation for their workmen. What is recent and exceptional is the spread of the belief that it pays to make the accommodations furnished healthful, convenient, and attractive. The sources of profit from this careful provision are these: the proprietors have control of the territory, and are able to prescribe regulations which keep out the saloon and disreputable characters, and at once there is a saving in police and court and poor taxes; for the same reason the workmen are more regular and steady in their labor, for there is no St. Monday holiday, nor confused head and uncertain hand; the tenants are better able to pay their rents, and when their landlord and employer are the same person, he collects his rent out of the wages; the superior accommodations and more settled employment act strongly against labor strikes.
It will be seen that the larger and better product of labor is a great factor in the profitableness of such enterprises, and that it arises from the improved character of the laborer, on the same principle that a farmer's stock pays him best when it is of good breed, is warmly housed, and well fed. Against the operations of the London Peabody and Waterlow funds it has been alleged that they dispossess the poor shiftless tenant and bring in a new class, so that they do not improve the condition of their tenants, but afford opportunity for better ones to cheapen the price of their accommodations. The manufacturing landlord cannot wholly do this, because the first thing he has to consider is whether the applicant for a dwelling is a good workman, not whether he can be trusted for his rent. His labor he must have. His outlook is to make that labor worth more to him, by placing it in the best attainable surroundings. Can this be done? If so, the ends of humanity are answered as well as the purse filled, for both interests correspond.
Mr. Pullman, who founded the enterprise on Calumet Lake, has uttered sentiments like these, and has proved that in this instance it does pay to make his workmen's families comfortable, and secure from sickness and temptation. As a financial operation Pullman is profitable. There are now 1,700 dwellings, either separate or in apartment houses, in this town, where five years ago the prairie stretched on every side unbroken. Every tenement is connected with common sewerage, water, and gas systems, in which the most scientific principles and expert skill have been applied. The price of tenements ranges from $5 per month for two rooms in an apartment house to $16 for a separate dwelling of five rooms; but there is a different class of houses for clerks, superintendents, and overseers. The average price per room is $3.30 a month, or nearly twelve per cent. higher than in Massachusetts manufacturing towns, where it is $2.86. Taking each tenement at an average of three rooms, this rate will pay six per cent. on an investment of $3,140,000, without taking into account taxes and repairs, or say six per cent. on $3,000,000. But one source of profit of great moment must not be overlooked, and it is the appreciation of real estate by the increase of population.
This is a small factor in a great city, at least so far as concerns the humbler grade of dwellings, but in the country it is enormous. A tract of land which has been a farm becomes a village of from 1,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. Its value advances by leaps and bounds.
At Pullman, in addition to the shops and dwellings, there are trees and turf-bordered malls and squares, a church, a theater, a free library with reading rooms, a public hall, a market house, provided at the expense of the company. Liquor can only be sold at the hotel to its guests, and then under restrictions. There is a system of public schools under a board of education, which is about the only civic organization, strictly speaking, in the community. One man suffices for police duty, and he made but fifteen arrests in the last two years. It is reported that the death rate so far, including the mortality from accidents, has been under seven in 1,000 per annum. In Great Britain the rate is a small fraction over 22 in 1,000. The vital statistics of the United States show a smaller mortality than this, but they are rendered abnormal by the heavy immigration which pours into the country. Emigrants are, in the language of insurance men, a selected class. They are usually at the most vigorous time of life and of hardiest and most enterprising spirit.
They leave behind them the very young and the old and those enfeebled by disease or habits. To this cause must be attributed in part the exceptional record of Pullman in death rate, as it is a new town. Yet there can be no question that the sanitary conditions of the place are excellent. It is difficult in mixed enterprises of this nature to tell what the rate of profit upon the tenement part of the business is, since the rental and the factory react upon each other; but in the American instances quoted in this article the investment as a whole is remunerative. In the Godin operations at Guise, which have been co-operative for the last five years, the capital is put at $1,320,000, and the net earnings have averaged during that time $204,640 per annum, or 15½ per cent.
At Pullman a demand has arisen on the part of the tenants for a chance to acquire proprietorship in their homes; and while the company has withheld the privilege from its original purchase of 3,500 acres, it has bought adjoining land, where it offers to advance money for building, and to take pay in monthly installments. This assimilates so much of the enterprise to that at Mulhausen, and shows the drift toward a co-operative phase of capital and labor. Indeed, this tendency will probably prove to be strongly characteristic of all similar schemes as fast as they attain to any magnitude. Tendencies which can be resisted in communities of few hundreds become overpowering when the population rises into thousands. But from the purely commercial point of view, this drift is hardly to be deprecated, so long as the operation of selling houses returns the capital and interest safely.
Projects of this nature go far toward modifying the stress of antagonisms between labor and capital, because if they are successful these are harmonized to an appreciable extent, and this gives public interest to them. The eventual adjustment must come, not from convictions of duty, doctrinaire opinions, or sentiments of sympathy, but on business principles, and it is a sure step in advance to show that self-interest and philanthropy are in accord. How great the field for experiments of this nature is in the United Spates may be gathered from the census of 1880, which shows 2,718,805 persons employed in the industrial establishments of the country, with an annual production of $5,842,000,000, and a capital of nearly half that amount. Of these hands and values nearly two-thirds belong to the north Atlantic States, - Bradstreet's.