New York Times

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E. P. Calderhead Say Factories There Are Crippled Because They Lack Materials
Berlin Streets, Cafes, and Hotels Deserted---Factory Workers in France Are Men Over 70
A report of commercial conditions in the countries at war, which from the standpoint of the merchant who handles imported goods is said by some who heard it to be far more illuminative than stacks of consular reports from those regions, was delivered yesterday in the shape of an informal talk by Edward P. Calderhead of Gimbel Brothers, who returned recently from a buying and investigating trip that embraced the markets of Germany, France, and England. Mr. Calderhead, who has been connected with Gimbel Brothers for eighteen years, gave the talk to the buyers and executive staff of his firm in Isaac Gimbel's office.

“At the frontier I was asked to give up what German gold I had, and paper money was returned me for it. There was no demand, but I learned later that every German soldier at the front gets a day's holiday from the trenches for every twenty marks in gold that his relatives or friends turn over to the Government.

"At Leipsic, my first objective point, I found the great fair only half Its usual size, and instead of there being between 200 and 300 American buyers, I was one of twelve. Many manufacturers, I learned, had given up exhibiting on account of the lack of labor and materials. The toy trade is in bad condition. Many manufacturers have gone to the front, and sent no representation. Some manufacturers of wooden ware were not taking foreign orders at all. There are few things in Germany that have not advanced in price. Usually six or seven of the big doll manufacturers compete for an order of 2,000 dolls of a special kind we give, amounting to about 56,000 marks. I had hard work inducing one of them to take the order. I had to place it conditionally, as the British Orders in Council had been announced just before I reached Rotterdam.

Women Do the Work

"The manufacturer wanted the money when the goods were finished, and we had to take up the matter later in Berlin. As a matter of fact, much of the work on these is done in the little houses by women and children, and only assembled in the factory, so that what he really did was to find out whether I he could get enough help to furnish the order.

"Berlin I found far different from the city I had known. The streets were deserted, Unter den Linden looked like a Sunday afternoon all the time. All the cafés, theatres, hotels, and restaurants were empty. The Germans told me they were not spending any money. In the big department stores there was business only in spots. Those departments that turned out things that could be used by soldiers at the front were busy; the others were doing nothing. The only small shops busy were the cigar stores. I got there the second week they were using the bread cards. The waiter tore off two coupons from the ticket that was given me when I registered at the hotel, and gave me a couple of slices of black bread. I noticed that, according to the ticket, I had the alternative of getting "white" bread, and asked for it. The waiter took away my black bread and brought rolls that were not white, but were more palatable.

"In a gymnastic and sporting goods store that employs sixteen clerks in peace time, I found one, and he had to deliver parcels after shutting the shop. In a rubber factory I could not buy rubber balls or rubber goods of any kind. But I did find a gelatine ball which had been developed since the war. A celluloid manufacturer wanted 40 per cent. advance in prices. He cannot get sheet celluloid.

Prices of Toys High

"At Nuremburg you cannot buy aluminum goods at all, nor bronze, brass or tin---except black tin. Woolen toys I could not get. All the wool, I was told, was being used for clothes for soldiers. Skin toys have advanced 80 per cent. At Sonneburg and elsewhere I found that glass and chinaware generally have not advanced. One firm has 9,200 cases of toys scattered about the country. They were made to sell to England, France, and Australia. Their owner would not sell them to me except at a 25 per cent. advance. He said he wanted them for his regular customers after the war.

"Black tin goods are up only 10 per cent. One big factory is working twenty-four hours a day turning out canteens, tin plates, and such things for the army. The few skilled laborers who hare not been called to the war, instead of getting 20, 30 and 40 marks a week, are receiving 80 to 150 marks, working for the Government, the entire district of Lichtenfeld, the centre of wicker work manufacture, being engaged in turning out baskets for holding shells. There is great fear that after the war it will be impossible to get skilled workmen to go back to the old wages, and things will be higher in consequence.

Getting into France led me into Switzerland. I changed cars eighteen times getting to the frontier, and five times more before I reached Lausanne. In Paris conditions I found similar to those in Berlin, except there was little dearth of raw materials. The factory making the highest grade of toys is opened only by request, to show samples. When an order is given all the work is done by men over 70. Yet the milliners have had their most successful Winter in years, and the dressmakers and shoemakers are all busy. The metal trades are suffering from lack of materials as well as labor. As for London it is absolutely normal in appearance, except that the town is full of soldiers. Prices are up. The manufacturers insist upon selling you lead toy soldiers by the pound, and not by the designs you wish. Woodenware is high. Labor conditions are bad, but the new law enables the Government to take over any factory and apply military supervision, and if the men won't work it's treason.

"As for general conditions, I do not believe it will be possible to get any German goods over here unless the war stops quickly---except goods purchased and paid for before March 1. In France it is possible to get almost anything wanted, and the same thing is true of England, except so far as leather and metal goods are concerned."

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) BUYER FINDS TRADE IN GERMANY STIFLED (New York Times, Friday 23rd April 1915, ref: #3277, published 27 July 2004, generated 3rd August 2021 07:20:28 AM); URL :