UNTIL the mints of earth stop turning there will be money to measure merit. When a lawyer can make two million dollars in a single fee; when a doctor can demand fifty thousand dollars for a twist of his wrist; when a violinist can get a thousand dollars for playing three tunes in a private parlor, and a cook can command twelve thousand dollars a year, it must be taken as an incontestable fact that man’s earning power will reach no bounds.
Never before was the world so exacting in its demands, or so willing to pay for what it wants. Some of the fees that are paid for consummations so devoutly wished are large enough to send a blush to the cheek of the man who invented money. It is all for the “knowing how.” “Pay me five dollars for amputating your leg,” said Dr. George F. Shrady, explaining large fees in the medical profession, “and $995 for knowing how.” Another celebrated physician, a practitioner in Paris whose fee of $1,000 was questioned, was not so willing to explain. “I haven’t time to discuss my fees,” he said— “PAY.” Another surgeon in San Francisco, who had just successfully operated for appendicitis, was pleased to hear his patient say, on recovering from the effects of ether, “Doctor, accept my check for $30,000, with my congratulations upon your knowing how to do the job.” The late Senator C. L. Magee said to Dr. Walter C. Browning, of Philadelphia, “I have made one million dollars while you kept the breath in my body, and I’m going to give you $150,000 as your fee.” J. Pierpont Morgan once said, with characteristic emphasis, “Give me a man who will do this work, and there’ll be no dispute about pay”; and it was the late Charles Broadway Rouss who stood ready, to the day he died, to pay one million dollars to the man who would cure him of blindness.
There is a dragnet out in all the varied walks of life for “the man who knows how.” The world stands ready to enrich a person for doing one thing, if he does that one thing well. A young man once entered the office of Joseph Pulitzer, and asked for employment on his newspaper’s staff. “Have you got one idea?” asked Mr. Pulitzer, with that directness and frankness which have distinguished him among the vigorous makers of modern journalism. “I hope I have many ideas,” replied the young man. “Then I don’t want you. Do you see that crowd out there in the street, and do you observe anything peculiar about it?” The young man said he saw nothing different from the ordinary crowd in the streets. “Well, there’s one man much taller than the rest. His head rises away over the others. Now, a man with one idea is just as conspicuous among men, to-day, in his field of labor, as the tall man is in that passing crowd. The fellow with one idea rarely fails to make his mark.”
How strikingly this illustrates the wisdom of the one-thing-at-a-time rule when one considers that it is fast becoming a day of the specialist! The highest-salaried men of the world, today, are those who are known for their continuity of purpose along some certain line of work. The largest lump-sum fee ever paid in America was the $5,000,000 left in the will of the late Jay Gould to his son, George J. Gould, “for services rendered in five years,” and the courts upheld it as a fee, not a gift, because George Gould had concentrated his energies in railroad work and knew how to take things up where his father left them when health failed him. In all its varied branches the railroad business, from construction to the intricate problems of interstate traffic, is a well-learned lesson to George Gould, and it was for the knowing how that he received the most stupendous salary of modern times, even if it should have to be admitted that none but a father would have placed the figures so high. Gratification over the very fact that his son did know how is doubtless the explanation of the enormity of the sum.
When the United States and France started about the bargain which resulted in the transfer of the Panama Canal outfit, a few years ago, it was William Nelson Cromwell, a New York lawyer, who undertook the delicate, though not very difficult work of drawing up the papers closing negotiations. The task was delicate in that it was a transaction in which three republics were interested directly—France, Colombia, and the United States—and in which all the powers of earth concerned about commerce were indirectly interested. Furthermore, as subsequent events proved, there were seeds of rebellion being sown all along the canal zone, and the outbreak against Colombia by the seceders had to be dealt with in the dickering for the canal. But what cares a New York lawyer about such trifling things as a rebellion and the making of a republic, when he hopes to get five per cent, of the $40,000,000, the price of the canal, which would net him $2,000,000 as a fee? Two million dollars for a single transfer of property! The world had never heard of such a fee, and the nations of earth stood back in open-mouthed wonder as the versatile lawyer went on with his work, and wound everything up satisfactorily, at least to the seller and the buyer, pocketing his $2,000,000 and going about his office work as if nothing had happened. Two million dollars would terrify every wolf of hunger in the pack. It would pay the salary of the President of the United States for forty years. It would pay the salaries of the 386 Representatives in Congress for one year, with $70,000 left over for the sinking fund. At fifteen thousand dollars a mile, it would build a railway one hundred miles long and leave half a million dollars with which to equip it. It would found a college and send a flotilla to the north pole. But what’s the use of figuring? It would take an astronomer, familiar with the fabulous distances of the Dog Star, Sirius, from other remote specks on the firmament, to calculate the countless things two million dollars could do. It is enough to know that Mr. Cromwell fixed his price and the fee was paid without remonstrance.
The next largest fee ever paid to a lawyer for one case, perhaps, was that of $1,000,000 which James B. Dill, another New York attorney, received for settling the disputes of Andrew Carnegie and Henry C. Frick, arising out of the transfer of the properties which were merged in the great Steel Trust. There were many entanglements to be straightened out, it is true, but they were taken singly, and it is quite probable that the work was simple—the ordinary routine of law practice. Splitting fine hairs of difference and bringing factions to an agreement is the high art of commerce, nowadays, and Mr. Dill knew how. The litigants were willing to pay him a million, and—why not?
Still another New York lawyer, who is distinguished by his large range of vision in making out a bill, as well as for his success in carrying his point, is William D. Guthrie, who received the substantial fee of $800,000 for upsetting the will of the late Henry B. Plant, who owned the Plant System of railways, steamships, and hotels. The estate was valued at $24,000,000, and Mr. Plant directed that the property should remain in trust until the tiny son of Mortimer Plant should grow up and his oldest child should become twenty-one years of age. The widow engaged Mr. Guthrie to attack the will, on the ground that Mr. Plant had been a resident of New York, the laws of which would forbid the tieing up of an estate in trust, which Mr. Plant had done by claiming residence in Connecticut, where such things are allowed. Mrs. Plant’s share of the estate was $8,000,000, and Mr. Guthrie is said to have charged ten per cent, of this, or $800,000. He won.
Among other lawyers who have been conspicuous for earning extraordinary fees are Chauncey M. Depew, who received $100,000 a year from the New York Central Railroad Company, and who, until recently, was paid $20,000 a year by the Equitable Life Assurance Society as a retainer, though his duties were simply to act as a special adviser at certain times to the officers of the company; David B. Hill, who, likewise, received $5,000 a year from the Equitable as an adviser, and who once charged $10,000 for making a single argument for the prosecution in the Molineux Case, and Samuel Untermeyer, who figured as counsel in the Shipyard litigation, earning large fees, and, when the Equitable tangle came to be unraveled, is said to have been paid many thousands of dollars.
To the list of extraordinary fees that lawyers have earned may be added the $200,000 which Joseph H. Choate, until recently Ambassador to England, received for arguing a few hours before the Supreme Court, at Washington, the effect being that the income tax law was declared unconstitutional. John E. Parsons, another lawyer noted for earning large fees, has been paid $100,000 for drawing a single deed. At one time W. Bourke Cockran had an income of more than $200,000 from consultation practice solely, and many of the well-known law firms of the financial district are known to get $50,000 apiece in annual retainers from several corporations. These large fees, however, are like dreams of things that are far off and faint to the average lawyer of the principal cities of America. In New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Buffalo, and other cities, there are scores of young men who have spent three or four years pounding Blackstone into their brains, and have entered the profession with no pay except the privilege of being in the offices of celebrated firms. For several years they have to work for nothing until they are finally “tried out” with the smaller cases which the heads of the firms, accustomed to the snug fees already described, never touch and know nothing of in the daily round of their office work. The young lawyer who does not enter an office, but who has the courage to start out for himself, unless he has some strong and friendly connection, will find it hard to earn a living in a city, for a year or two. After about ten years he may count ten thousand dollars a year as income, if he has managed to get a hold with the clerks and policemen and prison keepers, who have much to do with the hiring of lawyers by persons in trouble through a system that is known about the courts as “steering.” There are professional “steerers, ” too, around the civil and criminal courts, who turn clients over to lawyers, provided they will pay them half of the fees. It is safe to say that the average lawyer in New York does not earn more than $2,000, excepting the eminent ones whose fees come as the result of years of successful practice and political advancement.
The paying of extraordinary fees to doctors dates back much further than the generous treatment of lawyers by the public. When Professor Adolph Lorenz came to New York, from Vienna, to cure Lolita Armour of congenital dislocation of the hip by a process which won his fame, he was paid $30,000 and the expenses of himself and his assistant, Dr. Frederick Mueller, throughout their trip to America ; but this fee was not nearly so great as doctors have received for cases not nearly so serious. As far back as 1762, when Empress Catherine II. wanted to be vaccinated, Dimsdale, a prominent practitioner of London, was sent for, and for simply making the little scratch on the skin which takes in the virus he was paid the equivalent of $50,000, and $10,000 besides as travelling!expenses. More than this, he was made a baron and was allowed a life pension of $2,500 a year. Professor Lorenz’s fee does not compare with several that have been paid by royalty, and it should not be forgotten that, while he was in America, he treated many poor children free of charge. King Edward, as Prince of Wales, paid a doctor $50,000 for four weeks’ treatment, and the Nawab of Rampur, India, once paid a comparatively unknown surgeon of the British army fifty thousand pounds for three months’ occasional visits, in an ordinary case of rheumatism.
There is little doubt that the largest fee ever charged by a doctor in America was $190,000, for which Dr. Walter C. Browning, of Philadelphia, sent a bill to the estate of the late Senator C. L. Magee. When asked how he came to charge so much he said that he had refused to take the case of a New York man of great wealth who would have paid him much more than $190,000, and explained, further, that he had allowed his fees to accumulate in the hands of Senator Magee for investment, which would allow him to claim $600,000 if he wanted to. “I charge $20 an hour in my office and $40 an hour outside the office,” said Dr. Browning, “and Senator Magee voluntarily doubled this fee.” One of the charges was for $17,000 for treating the patient one summer at Atlantic City. The fee was a matter of dispute in settling the affairs of the deceased patient, for a long time after his death, it being stoutly maintained by the heirs that $190,000 was an exorbitant charge for twenty-one months’ attendance.
In Baltimore, where there are many skilled and learned doctors, some extraordinarily large fees have been paid. Professor Howard A. Kelly, of Johns Hopkins Hospital, operated on a mine owner’s wife at Cumberland, Maryland, and received $1,000 a day for twenty-one days. Professor A. McLane Tiffany, of the same city, received $10,000 for operating on a patient from New York at Warm Springs, and Professor J. W. Chambers was paid $5,000 for operating on Deputy Warden Diffenbaugh, who was stabbed by a prisoner. The largest fee ever paid to a doctor in Chicago was $10,000, which the late Dr. C. T. Parks received for a delicate operation. The patient lived longer than the doctor.
In New York City the largest fees were paid by the Whitney family in the cases of illness which resulted in the deaths of the late William C. Whitney and his wife. Dr. W. T. Bull has received some very handsome payments for operations, from wealthy families, but has always managed to keep them secret between himself and the families. There is not a better authority on medical fees in New York City than Dr. George F. Shrady, who is not only editor of the leading medical journal in the country, but is also the father-in-law of Edwin Gould and familiar with the relations of all the leading physicians and surgeons with the wealthiest families, says that the average city doctor only makes $2,000 a year. Dr. Shrady figures it out this way: there are two or three doctors in New York who make over $100,000 from their practice, which is chiefly with the wealthy; there are five or six doctors who make from $50,000 to $60,000; there are fifty who make from $25,000 to $30,000; there are one hundred and fifty who have an income ranging from $10,000 to $12,000, and about three hundred who manage to earn from $5,000 to $6,000 by hard work. The average doctor in most of the large cities gets two dollars a visit out of his office, and charges something under that sum for prescriptions written in his office after a diagnosis.
In London there are slot machines from each of which one can get a prescription for a penny. The patient must know fairly well how to diagnose his own case; for instance, if he has been getting the worst of a fist fight and is badly bruised about the head, he finds the slot which takes care of such cases and drops in his penny. Out will come a prescription made out in regulation form, prescribing such lotions as will allay swelling and ease the pain. In Australia there are certain societies or charitable organizations which guarantee medical treatment on payment of dues amounting to three pence a week. It is surprising, too, how many men of comparative wealth take advantage of these. Some who are rated as having $100,000 only pay thirteen shillings per annum through the societies to get medical treatment for themselves and their entire families.
In the business world, the highest salaries are paid to the officers of insurance companies. James W. Alexander, while president of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, was paid $100,000 a year; but he was not the only insurance president who received that amount, John A. McCall, president of the New York Life, and Richard A. McCurdy, president of the Mutual Life, getting the same from their respective companies, besides a great deal of revenue from other corporations of which they are officers, or in which they have large holdings. Paul Morton, former Secretary of the Navy, who is the new head of the Equitable, volunteered to cut his own salary from $100,000 to $75,000, but there is a vast difference between this and the $8,000 he received as a Cabinet officer. The next highest salaries in the insurance business below those of the executive heads are paid to the managers of the companies with jurisdiction over the various States, or sets of States. These get from $10,000 to $25,000 a year, and then come the most successful canvassers, or solicitors of insurance, who are paid on the commission basis, getting nearly all of the first year’s premiums on new policies and a certain per cent, on renewals in after years, borne insurance solicitors have earned more than $50,000 a year. Others, however, have been lucky to get $2,000 a year out of their premiums, and there have been many who could not afford to buy the fine clothes necessary to make themselves presentable, which is required by the company, and have been forced to give up the business because there wasn’t a living to be made in it. Lawyers get some of their greatest fees from the insurance companies, and many of them reaped a harvest in the litigation which recently followed the wrangle in the Equitable, Elihu Root, now Secretary of State, having been paid at the rate of $1,000 a day for his part in the disturbance.
Presidents of railroad companies and heads of the so-called trusts are all well paid. The highest salary ever paid in America to a railroad president was $100,000, which L. F. Loree, of the Rock Island, received.
Samuel Spencer, who is J. Pierpont Morgan’s railroad representative and supervisor, receives $50,000 a year as president of the Southern Railway, and derives considerable profit from offices held with smaller lines controlled by Mr. Morgan. Presidents of other great systems make about the same, and of smaller lines from $10,000 to $25,000. Milton H. Smith, while president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, was credited with the remark that a railroad president can not earn more than $25,000, and he is said to have refused an offer of a salary greater than that.
The president of the Steel Trust gets $60,000; Henry O. Havemeyer, head of the American Sugar Refining Company, is paid $75,000 a year, and Frederick H. Eaton, president of the American Car and Foundry Com-worked for $1.10 a day. In all such great business corporations the salaries of the men under the executive heads run about the same—such, for instance, as general managers of railroad lines who earn from $4,000 to $8,000 a year; general freight and general passenger agents who earn from $3,000 to $7,000; district passenger agents and freight agents who make from $150 to $200 a month, and on down to engineers, conductors, and trainmen, whose wages vary according to their runs, and according to the scales agreed upon between the management of the railroad companies and the brotherhoods of labor organizations of which they are members.
There are few high salaries in the banking business, except those paid to presidents of the largest banks in the principal cities. In this line of work one would suppose that better things were in store for a young man, for he must not only possess all the qualifications that go to make an accurate, clear-headed business man, but must likewise be above temptation. Starting as a checking clerk, the embryonic banker gets not more than $25 a month; as a messenger he gets from $375 to $450 a year, although his errands are of vital importance in the business world; as a bookkeeper he gets only about $1,200 a year, and as a paying teller about $2,000 a year. Then he may hope to become a cashier at an average salary of $5,000 a year. The salary of a bank president is governed by so many influences that it is difficult to give any idea of the fixing of it. If the man be some prominent financier, his salary will be between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. In small towns the president of a bank gets nothing like these sums, often receiving from $2,000 to $5,000.
In the commercial field, the man who makes the highest salary is the “drummer” on commission, provided he is of pleasing address, has a wide acquaintance throughout the territory assigned to him, and understands the business of his own house and that of his rivals as well. Tourists who have travelled much about the United States have often wondered at the system of trade which fills the railroad trains and the hotels everywhere with these ubiquitous salesmen. One sees them wherever he goes—in all the city hotels and about the humbler hostelries of the most remote country villages. In the South and the West they gather in groups, and always form a party of jolly, good-humored, sociable fellows. They seem to know everybody under the sun, and are on speaking terms with even the children of the villages. One wonders, as he sees them, what they must get to be living the lives of veritable nomads —what must be their pay? Some of them get $15 a week and their expenses. Others get $20 or $30 a week, and some there are on commission who make as much as $6,000 to $10,000 a year out of their trade, though a great part of this time they are away from their wives and children, and their home life is reduced to occasional visits. Friend-making is the art that wins for a travelling salesman, and the man who can make friends and keep them is paid accordingly. Money is advanced to him liberally for entertaining, and he is directed to spend it like a lord. Representatives of two or three of the large wholesale houses of New York City earn as much as $20,000 a year, and their duties are nothing more than keeping customers in friendly ties with the houses they represent in certain territories. These men take trips through the South or the West, or New England—whichever happens to be the territory allotted to them—once or twice a year, but are always at the home offices during the few weeks of the spring and the early autumn which are the periods when the buyers and country storekeepers come to the metropolis to make their purchases. At such times the affable “star drummer” has nothing to do but “be nice” to his friends from out of town. The intimate acquaintances that have been built up by these clever men of commerce in all parts of the country are numerous, and the cordiality with which they greet each other suggests kinship. The “drummer” who gets the best pay is one who sells wine, or whisky, and he is allowed more for expenses, too, than the man who sells the necessaries of life. A recent lawsuit in the courts brought out the fact that a certain agent for a wine company was paid $40,000 a year, “just to open wine," and received, in addition to this princely sum, $10,000 for expenses.
C. T. Schoen, as president of the Pressed-steel Car Company, is another man who has commanded a very large salary in the industrial world, and John Hays Hammond rises above all other mining experts in having earned in a single year more than $400,000. It should be said, however, that Mr. Hammond’s labors as an expert since and prior to that year have, perhaps, been not so large, although he is employed by crowned heads and by the wealthiest of miners.
In the field of industrial arts and sciences it is the inventor, and not the professional man, who grasps the great profits, and even the inventor gets cheated out of his just dues very often by the courts. I happened to be chatting with Thomas A. Edison, in his laboratory at Orange, New Jersey, one night while he was working on his most recent creation—the intensified dynamo—and heard him discuss thoroughly the injustice that is done inventors in the United States. “This very day,” he said, “several of my well-known patents expire, and become the property of posterity, which means Tom, Dick, and Harry. The Government professes to protect the inventor for seventeen years, and after that time his creation is no longer his own. But, as a matter of fact, the Government does no such thing. It lets any poacher run in and bring suit, or apply for an injunction, disputing the inventor’s patent already granted by the patent office, and in all the courts, pending the long-drawn-out litigation which follows, the other fellow is permitted to go on manufacturing and selling the thing he claims to have invented before the real inventor made it.
“Do you see that little lamp there?” asked Mr. Edison, as he arose, full-length, in his ragged old linen duster of the workshop, and he pointed with his pencil to an ordinary incandescent electric light beaming brightly over a draftsman’s table. “It was my invention, known as a primary invention, because I took two things, a piece of metal and electricity, and made a third thing out of them—light. Now, I fought fourteen years in the courts for that little lamp, because a Frenchman bobbed up and claimed it after I had secured the patent. During all this litigation I had no protection whatever; and when I won my rights, after fourteen years, there were but three years of the allotted seventeen left for my patent to live. It has now become the property of anybody and everybody. There is no protection given an inventor by the courts or the patent department.” With all that he has done, one would think the “wizard” would be the wealthiest of all wealthy Americans. Not so, for he is far from being as wealthy as the American people would like to see him. It would make little difference to him if he were as rich as Croesus. He would keep on working until midnight, in his laboratory, just the same. But there are some great profits on record from patents. A farmer in the West was enriched by inventing the brass cap for the toes of children’s shoes. His boys and girls were "hard on shoes," and kept him poor buying footgear. One day he took the semicircular rim of a blacking box and fastened it over the toe of a shoe. It caused the shoe to last twice as long as the mate did, and then he put the same device on all his children’s shoes, patented it, and reaped a fortune.
While visiting this country, recently, Sir William Ramsay, professor of chemistry at the University College of London, took Americans to task for paying experts in the sciences so little. He said that too many wealthy Americans die leaving great sums of money to erect buildings for the sciences at colleges, when they ought to leave the money to increase the emoluments of existing chairs rather than add to the number of chairs already established. Taking issue with the noted chemist, Professor H. W. Wiley, chief of the bureau of chemistry at Washington, said: “In England the equivalent of my place pays $7,500 a year, while I only get $3,500 a year, and for eighteen years, until recently, the pay of my office was only $2,500 a year. But men of lower grades, here in America, earn as chemists, on an average, from $1,800 to $2,500 a year, while in England they only get from $40 to $50 per month. I believe that this is better than to pay the topmost men of the department large sums and the men of lower grades such pittances.”
Men who plod along with the tedious task of teaching, and men who devote their lives to religious work, rarely derive more than a comfortable living. There are pastors of the largest churches in the principal cities who get $8,000 a year, and there are college presidents and professors who earn $10,000 a year, but they are few. Professors in the leading educational institutions get from $2,000 to $5,000 a year.
Politics is an excellent road to bankruptcy for the man that is honest. The highest salary paid by the Federal Government is $50,000 to the President, and the lowest is one dollar a year, which goes to Charles Henry Gibbs, who keeps the “bug lighthouse” at Nantucket. Once a year Mr. Gibbs gets his check for one dollar from Washington, and cashes it with fully as much pride as President Roosevelt can feel when he rolls away his fifty-thousand-dollar voucher at Christmas time. The lighthouse keeper, however, is allowed to raise chickens and ducks on the Government land, and lives tranquily and with perfect peace of mind.
As compared with the salary of the President of the United States, England pays her Lord Chief Justice $40,000, her Viceroy for Ireland more than $100,000, her Viceroy for India $72,000, the Archbishop of Canterbury $75,000, the Archbishop of York $50,000, and the Lord Chancellor $50,000.
Some of the most spectacular fees ever gathered in by the celebrities of the world of music, drama, and amusement generally, are notable in such a discussion as this, not to show that. these fields are fields of profit, for there are many wrecked hopes along the road that leads to fame here, but to illustrate how willing the world is to pay for what it wants, even for entertainment. Jean de Reszke, the best paid singer of the world, earned $100,000 in one brief season in America, singing only once or twice a week. Paderewski never plays the piano for less than $2,000 a night—not even in the private parlor entertainments to which he is frequently called by society folks, but he has very often appeared at charity entertainments and played for nothing. A wealthy New York man who could not get admission to the first performance of Kubelik, the violinist, paid him $1,500 to play one hour in his private house.
Fuller, the noted American jockey, once, demanded a fee of $1,000 before he would mount a horse for a single race, and it was promptly paid. He won the race in one minute, fifty-two and one-fifth seconds, which meant that he was paid at the rate of $8.93 per second, or $32,134 an hour. From a standpoint of time this is, perhaps, the largest fee ever paid to any person on earth. Jockeys, as a rule, get $15 a mount, and they usually ride in from three to five races a day, during the racing season. George Odom was paid $50,000 a year by the late William C. Whitney for riding for his stable, and Arthur Redfern once earned $35,000 during a single racing season. Circus riders get from $300 to $500 month for their fancy tricks on the backs of horses in the ring, and tight-rope walkers earn $500 a month.
Chefs get from $3,000 to $12,000, depending upon the reputation of the hotels they are employed by, and their second cooks get from $1,500 to $3,000. There is a chef in New York who heads the list with $12,000, which means that he gets more than $35 a day, or $11.86 for cooking a single meal.
In the last few years women have come to the front as good moneymakers. Miss K. I. Harrison, a woman cerberus, gets $10,000 a year from H. H. Rogers, of the Standard Oil Company, because, as Mr. Rogers says, “she knows how to keep her mouth shut.” There are many women in Chicago who earn more than $2,000 a year, and some in the professions of law and medicine who have run their incomes up to the $10,000 notch. Miss Ada C. Sweet of that city, took up her father’s pension-claim practice, and now earns more than $8,000 a year.