Dollar’s Flag Flies O’er Every Sea
Robert Dollar, who inspired the “Cappy” Ricks stories, began his amazingly adventurous career as a lumber-jack in the Ottawa Valley.
THE falls of the Chaudiere lie across the Ottawa river from the Canadian Houses of Parliament.
On a summer day the dull boom of their waters can be, faintly heard in the House of Commons and forms a deep diapason to the less musical cataract, which, during the session, flows unceasingly within those walls.
Long before Ottawa had dropped its original name of Bytown for the one more fitting its new dignity as the capital of the Canadas, it was the busy centre of perhaps the most extensive timber operations in the north. The Ottawa and its tributaries, draining more than 50,000 square miles of timber land, and wooded to the water’s edge, formed a great highway for moving logs to a convenient centre at Bytown. All winter long the camps were filled with merry lumber jacks, many of them French-Canadians, with the chansons of the old courier-de-bois on their lips and the wild and turbulent blood of those ancestors in their veins.
There was much excitement around these falls on a spring morning in 1866.
An unexpected and unprecedented thing was happening. Hiram Robinson, one of the famous lumbermen of the valley, had a few weeks before sent a crew of forty French-Canadians far up into the Laurentian mountains to bring down a “drive” of logs from his camps there.
He had placed the crew under a mere youngster named Robert Dollar, a Scotch emigrant lad, who five years previously he had hired as chore boy for the cook, in one of his shanties, at a wage of $10 a month. Three years later Dollar had risen to the dignity of clerk for the camp of men who were booming Robinson’s logs at the mouth of the Gatineau. Here Robinson found his cookie boy, after his day’s work was through, practising writing, and “figurin’ ” on pieces of birch bark. Robinson marked him for promotion.
In the year in question, when the ice had broken up, and all the streams were brimming with their swollen flood, he dispatched Dollar and his two score river drivers in a fleet of birch-bark canoes to the upper reaches of the Du Moines river, a tributary of the Ottawa. All had gone well. Dollar had caught the river at the flood and had run the logs successfully to the mouth of the Du Moines. Here they were boomed and piloted by stages for one hundred miles over the various rapids and falls of the Upper Ottawa.
By the time their destination was sighted, the wild
crew in general and Dollar in particular.
“If you will stop talking and let me get to work, I will soon have this cleared,” said Dollar.
The young boss thereupon got the jam broken so promptly as to quickly relieve the situation and draw from Mr. Eddy warm praise for his efficient work. In a short time the booms were safely moored in the pool below. It was thus that Robert Dollar brought his first timber cargo to market.
To-day, fifty years later, he is the world’s greatest woodsman. For, though he controls large steamship lines, these have been acquired primarily to carry his lumber shipments. His ships on every sea; his offices and yards in three continents—these are incidental to his restless search for customers for the cut of his mills. From that spring drive on the Du Moines and the Ottawa sprang the vision and ambition which has to-day carried his name around the world. It led him to the Muskoka woods. There his eyes were opened to the importance of the European trade, and for larger “sticks” he moved on to Michigan. Thence the Urge carried him to the redwood forests of California. And having been forced by high freights into the steamer coasting trade, his instinct for foreign markets was once more aroused. To-day his offices are located in every important Chinese port, and far up the mighty Yangtzekiang. His crews work on both coasts of the Pacific—taking out fir spars on the North Pacific, and oak ties from the forests of the northern island of Japan—Hokaido. He started with oxen and horses on the Ottawa and the Magnetawan; to-day he handles the giants of the western coast with donkey engines, steam winches and cables half a mile long.
And he himself is a citizen of the world. Nominally his home is at San Rafael, California. But that dwelling sees its owner less than ninety days in every year. He travels on an average, many years, 120 miles a day. In his eightieth year, with Mrs. Dollar, he roams the
shore to witness the daring and dangerous experiment.
A large number of the logs had already been sent over the falls when it was decided to divert the remainder to the north side of Hull and take them through the slide. Here trouble developed. In their eagerness to make up for lost time, the crew jammed the logs and before others could be stopped, the slide had become so choked that the water poured through the match factory of E. B. Eddy. The proprietor, furious at the damage being caused his premises, gave, in vigorous terms from a position on the bank, his opinion of the
“Master at two and twenty, and married at twenty-three,
Ten thousand men on the pay roll, and forty freighters at sea.
.................................I took my job an’ I stuck
And I took the chances they wouldn’t, an’ now they’re calling it
“I knew—I knew what was coming when we bid on the BYFDEGE7T
They piddled and piffled with iron ; I’d given my orders for steel.
Steel and the first expansions,—it paid, I tell you it paid,
When we came with our nine knot freighters and collared the long run trade.
They asked me how I did it and I gave them a Scripture text:
‘You keep your light so shining, a little in front of the next.’ ’’
river men were eager for a “crowded hour of glorious life” in the taverns of Hull and Bytown, and their young leader was in the mood to take chances. So, abandoning the regular channels, he did something which had never before been attempted. He headed his drive straight for the falls. And on the morning mentioned the whole community gathered on the
world. To-day he is called to New York to negotiate a deal for thirty acres in the heart of Gotham and the right-of-way for a railway to his wharves on the East River. To-morrow he hastens across the continent to San Francisco, takes the first express north, and in the cold mists of a March morning crosses the Gulf of Georgia. On the other shore he enters his motor and in two hours is in the heart of his lumber camps in the dense forests of Vancouver Island. Here he meets and chats for half an hour with his old French-Canadian cook whom he has not seen for half a century. A rapid survey of his limits, a consultation with his managers and foremen, and he is again on the road, reaching Vancouver in time to catch the outbound Empress for the Orient. Thus this octogenarian makes every unrelenting minute mark sixty seconds worth of distance run.
The Famous $ Sign
'"pHE larger enterprises with which his name is now connected have been the outgrowth of this constant pursuit of new markets and the means of reaching and serving them. His own vessels ply out of New York, out of San Francisco, out of Seattle, \7ancouver, Chungking, and Shanghai. They skirt the west coast of the continent. He spans the Pacific with his wonderful Admiral liners. His craft bearing the big $ signs on their funnels, load at New York, and discharge their cargoes eight hundred miles inland on the Yangtzekiang. And still another of his lines braves the wonderful gorges of the upper stretches of that river and brings for the first time in history the richest of all the provinces of old China, with a population nearly equal to that of the United States, into touch with the outside world.
So while his name has been left on towns and settlements in three Canadian provinces and three or four American states, these now mark but his minor activities.
Cosmopolitan that he is, he is being constantly reminded of the long links that bind him to an earlier life. Thirty-five years after he had left his Scotch birthplace he was astonished, on returning, to find the garden in which he had played, converted into a lumber yard, with timbers piled against his old home. On examination he found every stick bore the $ mark. The logs had been taken out by him on the shores of Georgian Bay and sold in Quebec.
He was to furnish an even more romantic illustration of his world-wide interests. A few years ago, travelling in China, he met His Excellency Sheung Kung Poa. This governor was engaged in rebuilding the temple of Ling Yug, which was erected several centuries before the Magi followed the star to Bethlehem. One of the governor’s difficulties lay in securing adequate pillars for the great central hall which had been in its day the most magnificent of all China’s temples. It is 250 feet long, eighty feet wide, and carries its lofty roof a corresponding height above the chamber. Dollar asked the privilege of supplying the necessary timbers. From his forest on this coast he selected twenty-eight large round “sticks.” These were one hundred and five feet long and carried their size so well that they were fortyeight inches at the butt and perfectly straight. He shipped these as part, deckload on the steamer, M. .S'. Dollar. At Shanghai they were assembled into rafts and towed up the Yangtzekiang two hundred miles to Hangchow to the end of the Grand Canal. Thence each of them was carried five miles over a narrow' paved path by two hundred and fifty men, one hundred and twenty-five on each side. Bamboo poles were tied to the timber at short intervals for its entire length, angling slightly to permit the man on one side to carry the pole on his right shoulder while his mate carried the pole on his left. At a word of command, all lifted steadily together, overseers stimulating their exertions with six-foot bamboo rods sharpened at the end so that they might be used for prodding or whacking as occasion demanded and reminding Mr. Dollar of the “bull punchers” who had guided the ox teams on many a logging road of his youth. These posts were duly installed in the central hall, supporting its great roof. And so it came to pass that this ancient temple, laden for centuries with the heavy odors of incense, acquired a new aroma the fragrance of western pine.
in appearance Captain Dollar strikingly resembles the late Lord Strathcona. There is the same fine phy-
sique, the same simple dignity, the same bushy eyebrows overhanging kindly eyes that nothing escapes. Both spent their youth in mastering the stern conditions of nature in Canada; both carried to a ripe age the same restless, eager outlook which overleaps boundary lines and spans the sea. Of the two, Dollar is perhaps the greater cosmopolitan. The simple surname of Canada’s High Commissioner, that of Smith, was lost in the more famous title which made Strathcona a household word throughout the British Empire. But the name of Dollar is forever perpetuated in his house flag which flies on every ocean.
Both retained the simplicity of a more primitive experience. Capt. Dollar preserves remarkably the homely habits and virtues of his younger life. The drink scourge brought its curse to his boyhood years; it made of him a scrupulous and total abstainer for life.
At a luncheon given him by the Yangtsze Engineering Works at Hanchow a few years since, the manager came to him in great excitement just before the guests took their places, explaining that though he had brought plenty of wine from Hanchow, the caterer had sent no glasses. Mr. Dollar replied:
“Say nothing; leave it to me.”
When the luncheon had well started, the guest of honor drew the attention of the company to the fact that there was no wine on the table; the first occasion when such an oversight had occurred in their trip through China. For a moment the host turned pale, but he beamed with pleasure when Mr. Dollar added that Mr. Wong was the only one who really understood American customs inasmuch as it was not usual to serve wines at luncheons in the United States.
He never touches tobacco. He is the benefactor of the Y.M.C.A. and so potent is his influence with the headquarters of that institution that a cablegram from him to Dr. Mott results in the transfer of a valued officer from one Chinese post to another. He is a believer in missions and a staunch friend and champion of missionaries. He reveres his Bible, and reads it daily. When in the boisterous life of the lumber shanties, it was not possible to do this without interruption, or seeming self-sanctity, he tramped far out into the woods in midwinter and reverently read it in the seclusion and awe of God’s first temples. And when the world’s Sunday School convention met at San Francisco and thousands of children marched in procession, the silver-haired old lumberman trudged at their head, his treasured Bible under his arm.
Like his prototype in Kipling’s verse, Capt. Dollar owes much to the careful and shrewd assistance of Mrs. Dollar—a debt he never tires of acknowledging:
“She egged me to borrow the money, and she helped me to clear the loan,
When we bought half shares in a cheap ’un and hoisted a flag of our own.
Patching and coaling on credit and living the Lord knows how,
We started the Red Ox freighters—we’ve eight and thirty now.”
The “cheap ’un” in his case was the Newsboy. Grim necessity drove Dollar to the sea. His first experience in California in 1887 was as half owner in a redwood mill at Gurneville. Then the Usai Redwood Company got into difficulties, and the Michigan Trust Co., the
bondholders, who had noted Dollar’s work on both the Great Lakes and the Coast, asked him to manage their concern. In short order he had paid the debts and put the mill on a profitable basis. But when success seemed just round the corner, the coastal shipping companies forced the rates up to a point which the traffic could not bear.
No Beauty—But Cheap
DOLLAR didn’t hesitate. There was an old steamer, the Newsboy, plying between San Francisco and Los Angeles. She was neither a beauty nor a clipper. But she could carry 250,000 feet of lumber, and she could be bought cheap. He purchased the control, loaded her with lumber from the redwood mills and dispatched her south. As* the old Newsboy sailed out of the Golden Gate thirty odd years ago, many waterfront habitues wagged their heads knowingly and predicted another candidate for Davy Jones’ locker. Not even the owner, then past middle age, could foresee in that modest beginning the forerunner of the great fleet with the big $ sign on their smoke stacks which have since pushed their keels through the waters of every ocean. Thirteen of them are now engaged in round-theworld service, five in the intercoastal trade, six are sailors, and seven of them are “502’s” operated for the shipping board of the United States. There is also the Admiral Orient line operated for the government in the trans-Pacific trade, and the control of the twenty-two fine vessels of the Pacific Coast Steamship Co. which ply from Mexico to Alaska.
The result of his first marine excursion justified the experiment. The Newsboy paid for itself in one year.
And Dollar, having smelt salt water, was destined never again to leave it. He had found a better way to secure profits than by operating sawmills and he quickly made his decision. He decided to “hoist a flag of his own.” So he gave an order to the Fulton Engineering Works to build him a vessel 150 feet long with 200,000 feet more loading capacity than the Newsboy. This he named the Grace Dollar, the first of a long line of family names under which his ships were to ply into the biggest ports of all the world.
Years afterwards, this penchant for christening his boats with names from his family tree, gave some of his Chinese hosts at a banquet in Pekin a chance for a little quiet fun. One of them, in toasting his health, declared that Captain Dollar was in a quandary; that after having founded and expanded a big shipping trade, he was being forced to discontinue his further activities. The speaker explained that as Capt. Dollar had used the names of every member of his family, he had been forced to abandon the building of any more ships.
Capt. Dollar’s reply was in keeping with the foresight which has marked all his operations.
“It is quite true,” he replied, “that I have temporarily run out of names, having used all those of my present family. But I am not going to stop building ships. You must remember I have three sons, and as they are now all married, I expect to have the difficulty mentioned fully provided for.”
And here, as usual, his confidence was fully justified! His next move was to buy control of the Kimball Steamship Co. which operated five small coastal freighters. These also proved profitable, and again that foreign trade, to supply which he had left Ontario for Michigan, began to beckon very insistently.
Conquest of the Orient
' I 'HEN came the American war with Spain, and a A British ship, the Arab, was chartered by the U.S. to carry horses and mules from San Francisco to the Philippines. One day she was towed back to San Francisco harbor with her flues burned out and her furnaces down. Mr. Dollar inspected the hull and machinery, bought and re-conditioned her, re-named her the M. S. Dollar and chartered her to some millmen on Pugent Sound.
Here he learned a new lesson. He had operated his own ships; he was not yet familiar with the pitfalls of a charter. And he found he had been “done.” The commissions were high, the rate low, and the loading time excessively long. .
Mr. Dollar decided to see the foreign trade for himself.
And on a night late in July, 1900, looking down from the rail of the crack liner, China, he marvelled, as so many others have done, at the hundreds of Japanese fishing craft, which at night give to that part of the Inland Sea the appearance of a lighted eity, and saw in dim outline the shore of an enchanted land. Thenceforward he was captive to the Orient.
But Mr. Dollar was not primarily interested in scenery. He is a natural trader and everywhere his quick mind noted the opportunities for profitable, but undeveloped, business. He marked the absence of American lumber to replace the cumbersome log coffins used by the Cantonese. At Amoy he found tea export houses bringing their cargoes by small, slow steamers from Formosa. He saw the railways and towns which had been built by the Germans at Tsingtien and noted the opportunities for larger trade which an extension of these railways would bring.
New and strange cargoes of which he had formerly been ignorant, began to bulk before his trader’s eye. At Chefoo he discovered a heavy export trade already developed in a bean from which the oil had been pressed, the residue in the form of cake being used for fertilizer.
Here, too, he found the rudimentary manufacture from oak leaves of pongee silk, a fabric which is coarser than that made from mulberry leaves.
It is perhaps natural that his attention should be particularly attracted by evidence of a rude lumber industry. He learned that hewn logs were brought from North China and Korea and whipsawed into lumber. Coming out of the Yalu River at Tientsin, he met a score of junks loaded with Korean logs twelve inches to fourteen inches in diameter.
He marvelled at their deckloads (sometimes fourteen feet high) of timber four tiers wide and hanging eight feet out on each side of the junk, to which they were bound with ropes. These junks, when on an even keel, just enabled the logs to clear the water. Their cargo was discharged at Taku and there assembled into thousand feet long rafts and taken at flood tide to Tientsin where they were sawn by hand. Mr. Dollar promptly acquired two and a half city blocks in Tientsin, fronting the river in the middle of the foreign concession.
At Otaru in Japan, he not only noted heavy coal exports with half a dozen good-sized steamers discharging cargoes, but a large, though indifferently operated, sawmill. At Muroran, too, he found himself once more in familiar surroundings, for here again not only was there a sawmill, but the ground was covered with snow and logs were being hauled on sleds, the same as in Canada and Michigan.
Turning Attention to Japan
TTIS cunning brain noted all these things and at the _ -*• hack of it he was thinking of the bad charter he had given on the steamer, M. S. Dollar, and how he was to correct that mistake. Here again his decision was quickly reached. He opened offices on the Oriental side, making his headquarters at Shanghai, and, returning to America, he took over the steamer himself and began the operation of that huge Oriental trade with which his name is now most intimately connected.
To Dollar the Orient and its trade potentialities came with all the force of a rare discovery. It was, for instance, the steamer Mackinaw lying at Hongkong and discharging a full cargo of peanuts from Chungking, which brought him to the conclusion that a country which could provide internal trade on such a scale was worth fuller investigation. Every succeeding voyage to the Orient still further stimulated his interest and fired his ambition to exploit the rich
and growing opportunities furnished by the opulent East.
In 1909, he paid a visit to the Island of Hokaido, the northern portion of the Japanese Empire. He was looking for return cargoes for his steamers and concluded that the only way to insure this was, as in America, to have his own mills. He found, to his surprise, an excellent oak in Japan. It seemed to be of good quality, so he bought six railway ties and took them back with him to California. He turned some of these over to furniture manufacturers, shipbuilders, and others and found they made excellent interior finish for houses and boats. Meeting some of the officials of
the Southern Pacific Railway, he learned that they were about to build a line from Guaymas, Mexico. He submitted to them the ties which he had brought across the Pacific and they were so pleased with the sample that they gave him a contract for a large consignment. Out of this little shipment developed a marvellous trade. He decided that the only way to ensure cargoes was to purchase the lumber himself, put his own crews into northern Japan, and cut and ship the timber of his yards to Muroran on the coast. At this latter point, he established a depot and to-day a steady supply of oak comes from these Japanese mills just as millions of feet of mahogany come steadily from the Philippines as part of the regular trade of the Dollar Company. Very soon several steamers were required to take care of this large and profitable tie trade from Japan to San Francisco. And as illustrating the vagaries of commerce, it may be mentioned that on one occasion the Hazel Dollar took a cargo of Oregon fir ties from Portland to Tsingtien, China, and as a return cargo on the same trip brought oak ties from Japan,to Mexico.
Into the Heart of China
BUT Dollar had not yet seen China. He had merely seen the fringe—those treaty ports with which the ordinary tourist is familiar. It was only when he had been 1,500 miles up the Yangtzekiang River; had followed the Grand Canal from Hankchow to Pekin, and had himself traversed over 800 miles of the finest
agricultural land in the world, that Robert Dollar was really “sold” on the East. Thenceforward he became the foremost advocate on this continent of the possibilities and attractions of eastern trade.
Early in 1910 he invaded the iron ore carrying trade. He had gone to China in the interests of the Western Steel Corporation which proposed building a plant at Irondale on Puget Sound. Up the Yangtzekiang River, he found in operation a huge iron mine at Tah Yei, near Hankow. Here sixty per cent, pure iron ore was being mined out of a solid mountain with an ore body in sight good for over a hundred years. Side by side with the iron deposit stood a mountain of limestone so pure that much of it was marble, while seemingly inexhaustible supplies of coal were in the immediate vicinity. He found engineering works employing 1,500 men and great steel works, coke ovens, transport railways, tugs, barges, junks, steamers, etc., with 25,000 employees on the payroll. There are evidences that steel was produced here and tools, doubtless, manufactured from it for the building of the Grand Canal and dating back 1,000 years B.C. He found this coal, limestone and iron located in the centre of one of the most populous countries in the world and on one of its greatest rivers—a combination of enormous potential significance.
But for the moment he was concerned only with cargoes. And he had some difficulty in convincing the government officials that the rate he was offering them for iron ore was adequate. They failed finally to come to an understanding, but the Chinamen banqueted him, and before they went into the dining hall the captain decided to shoot his final shaft. So he said to them:
“Remember, I have done many millions of dollars’ worth of business with China. I have not yet taken the first dollar of money away from you. I have bought more than I sold you.”
The Chinese officials fell into earnest and animated consultation in a tongue which he did not understand, but as they passed into the hall, the spokesman came to him and said:
“Captain Dollar, we have been trying to find an answer to your last remark and have concluded there is none, so we have decided to give you the commodities at the price you name, because we cannot afford to do without the commodities you are giving us.’
This contract, it might be mentioned, involved an expenditure of $2,000,000 and was for fifteen years.
German experts say that there is more coal in this valley than in the rest of the world, and Capt. Dollar thinks the same estimate is safe with respect to iron. When these two commodities are found lying side by side in a country with such vast population and cheap labor, near a river like the Yangtzekiang, it justifies the conclusion that the steel production of this territory will some day exceed that of the rest of the world.
He found other resources in the valley: sessium seed, the best known substitute for olive oil; cotton; soya beans. He concluded that the development of this export trade from China would result in the growth of an equally lucrative reciprocal commerce with that great empire.
In 1911, he found a new interest in the Far East.
He had been sent to China as special ambassador to create interest in the Panama-Pacific Exposition. On reaching the Chinese coast, he found business cut off by the revolution, and his son suggested that he go over to the Philippines and inquire into the possibilities of business there. Governor Forbes, an astute business man, had been “laying” for Capt. Dollar and directed the commissioner of the Bureau of Navigation to place a steamer at his visitor’s disposal and to conduct Capt. Dollar to any of the islands he wished Cont’d on page 66
Dollar’s Flag Flies O’er Every Sea
Continued from page 15
to visit. He told the captain that the longer he kept the steamer, the better he would be pleased, for he knew the journey would mean an increase of trade with America.
Give ’Em What They Want —At First
HE WAS not mistaken. Capt. Dollar kept the steamer sixteen days. He found hemp, copra and sugar export, with a coastal-mosquito fleet collecting the same. He discovered the Philippines could give him all these, and mahogany as ' well. Already in Japan he had oak and sulphur, and in China coal and coke. So he cabled home for a big steamer to load with copra and mahogany, to the great delight, needless to say, of the governor. By the time he had got to Shanghai, he was ready to cable for another ship, and these have been followed by a regular line of trading steamers to the great advantage of the Philippines and to the extension of world trade.
“You can drive me out of the United
States,” said Capt. Dollar on one occasion to a labor leader, when arguing with him on immigration and navigation laws, “but you cannot drive me out of business.”
The reader, ere this, has probably come to the same conclusion.
He has two healthy principles of trade.
First, send the market what it orders. If the market is to be changed, first reassure it by delivering to it what it wants and then trust to education to bring it to accept the better article.
“When I began in the China trade, there was a demand there for long American lumber,” says the captain. “It was inconvenient stuff to handle, and short timber would have served the purpose just as well. So I started a campaign of education to prove this, and at length succeeded. But until I had done this, I gave my Chinese customers long timber, shifting to the short only when they themselves, as a result of what they had learned, asked me for it.”
In addressing Chambers of Commerce in this country Capt. Dollar has reminded his hearers that confidence is the mainstay of business and has made an interesting reference to China, where commercial paper is not much in use.
“When a Chinaman says: ‘Can do,’ that settles it,” he says, “and don’t you forget it.”
He warns ambitious export dealers that getting trade is an expensive proposition. He says:
“It costs a good deal to get started. You are going to be out of pocket at the start. For example, I introduced a certain commodity into China. The first year I lost $1,500; the second year, $1,000; the third year I got even and have made money ever since. It requires grit to get into the foreign trade and the main thing this nation should do is to get our merchants to go to foreign countries and develop trade. I want to tell this country that when our manufactures increase as they have been doing, we will need ships. The nation that has ships is pretty nearly boss of the job.”
Not only does Capt. Dollar regard China as the future great market and manufactory of the world; he says that it is one of the safest in which to trade.
“Never try to cheat a Chinaman,” is his advice to all who would permanently deal with a people whom Confucius taught that honesty was the best policy— a maxim which they rigidly respect. “In all our years of trading with Chinese, involving millions of dollars, we have never lost a single cent, never had one bad debt. I wish we could say the same of other countries, including our own.”
He has had some close shaves.
A Narrow Financial Squeak
CHORTLY before the abdication of the V old government, Capt. Dollar, on visiting his Oriental offices, found the Tientsin branch much perturbed over a claim against the government, then manifestly in extremis, of $70,000. Looking over the correspondence one morning, he found a peremptory note from his manager to the government officials concerned insisting on immediate payment. He quietly took the letter from the mail, and told the manager not to follow up the account further; that if the bill was not paid, it was because it was impossible to do so; but that it would be contrary to his experience if the company lost a dollar of the account. Some time afterward, on visiting the Tientsin office, the manager brought him a cheque from the morning’s mail for the full amount.
Capt. Dollar smiled.
“Did you see the paper this morning?” he asked. And on receiving a reply in the negative, he showed the manager the daily paper with the account that the government had abdicated. Capt. Dollar added that the manager had better go over to thé bank and get the cheque marked without delay. Which he did. One of the last acts of the falling government, it proved, was to provide that its just accounts should be paid.
His confidence in the Chinese was fully reciprocated.
Whén Mr. Hurley, during the war, contracted for $30,000,000 of shipping rpm the Chinese authorities, he preferred the Chinese envoy a cheque on account for one and a quarter million dollars. The envoy replied:
“No; give it to Robert Dollar.” Mr. Hurley thereupon asked for authority for such an unusual action, and the Chinese
official handed him a telegram which in effect said:
“Give this telegram to Mr. Hurley which will be his authority to pay all monies on this account over to Robert Dollar, and take neither receipt nor bond.”
Afterward the U. S. shipping chief laughingly remarked:
“Dollar, you must be getting a fine commission out of this.”
Capt. Dollar’s reply was: “Not a cent, and if you like you can write it in the contract.”
But on the mantle of the home which Mr. and Mrs. Dollar see so seldom in San Rafael, there stands a rare and beautiful vase, the gift of the Chinese government to Mr. Dollar in commemoration of the whole episode.
Mr. Dollar’s interest has gradually extended from the treaty ports of the coast, far up the Yangtze—the Mississippi of the Orient—to its coal and iron mines, and its great areas of agricultural land.
His clear sight penetrates beyond the accessible lands; it sees Opportunity spelt in large characters in that section of China which is only now being discovered—West China, and the marvelous province of Schezuan.
Schezuan has until recently been almost as forbidden a land as Korea. It has been shut off from the coast by the marvelous gorges of the Yangtzekiang. _ This mighty river for three hundred miles is compressed between cliffs in some places two thousand feet in height, and a stream which broadens out to a mile and half on its lower reaches pours through a passage not more than 600 feet wide. At the lower end of the canyon is Ichang: at the upper Chunking. This latter, a city of 800,000 inhabitants, perches on a mountain three hundred feet above the river
These gorges have for ageg constituted the unsolved engineering problem of old Cathay. Back of them reside 90,000,000 of people, almost as many human beings as inhabit the United States. Yet for thousands of years all the merchandise going into this province has been hauled through the rapids by sheer man power at the end of a thousand foot rope. Native trackers or boat men, sometimes 400 in number, haul the junks through these defiles by means of great bamboo ropes, climbing along the face of the cliffs on paths worn by millions of feet through many ages. The piloting of salt laden craft down these rapids is as expert a task as that of shooting the better known rapids of the St. Lawrence River in a canoe.
All this Robert Dollar has changed.
The Pirates and the Sign
HE KNEW that back of these gorges lay the real China—the China of the mandarin, of temple and josshouse, of ancient peoples and curious customs, the China, oldest of all lands, but newest of all countries, of contradictions and contrasts, unexplored, unknown, unexploited. He decided to open it up.
So into this land of mystery, of seclusion and of superstition, he burst one day with two specially built steamers—the Alice Dollar and the Robert Dollar. They are powerful vessels over 200 feet in length, with electric and refrigerating systems, modern staterooms, and spacious decks. The first trip was a perilous one— negotiating a succession of uncharted cataracts, and making progress only by zig-zagging up stream with a wall of water often coming over the vessel’s bows. The skipper had little opportunity on that trip to marvel at monastery, pagoda, josshouse, temple, and all the moving and myriad life of the river. On the return trip sixteen miles had to be maintained to keep control of the vessel, so rapid is the stream. There is a rise of water in the gorges of 135 feet. *
There were other perils as well—perils which strongly remind the traveller that he is far from the protection of western law. The river is infested with pirates, and for his own protection, Mr. Dollar was compelled to armor plate his bridge, and carry a few marines and m’achine guns. This latter precaution followed a visit from one of the robber bands which had taken possession of the steamer and were commencing to loot her, when a gunboat hove in sight and the robbers hurriedly departed. The next visit was not quite so harmless, as the brigands again got on board, but the machine guns swept the deck, and a dozen or more
of them floated downstream as a result. The rest departed. Now the captain declares that the robbers sometimes swarm down toward the boat, but as soon as they see the $ sign they recall the experience of their fellows and rapidly disappear.
One of the Dollar offices (at Ichang) was destroyed twice during one year, owing to a revolution. The captain wrote to Dr. Sen, who was then in power, and who was a personal friend, and asked him if he did not think twice a year was a little often to permit his premises to be destroyed. Dr. Yen replied:
“I quite agree with you that twice a year is too often for our people to destroy your offices. I will see that hereafter it does not happen more than once a year.” Incidentally his relations with the authorities in China are as friendly as with those of his own country. More than one president of the United States has taken his counsel; and in the Dominion of Canada his advice is frequently sought on shipping matters. In China he inspires the same confidence.
“Premier Li Yuen Hung,” he says, “was a fine Christian gentleman, and four out of his seven ministers were Christians.”
With all of them he was on friendly terms. When Li Yuen Hung was chosen president of the Chinese Republic, it was to the old Scot that he sent greetings. He was decorated by Yuan Shi Kai.
On one occasion he was in Wuchang when a war was on between two rival armies. The city was rather badly shot up in consequence, as the opposing forces were on both sides of the city. However, the captain gave a dinner to his Chinese friends, and rather than play favorites he invited the generals of the two contending armies. They sat on his right and on his left hand throughout the dinner without any casualties resulting.
Always Keen For New Inventions
LIKE all successful captains of indus' try, Capt. Dollar is very receptive to new ideas, and quick to adopt improvements. He complains that the loading facilities at New York are antiquated and compares them unfavorably with some on the Asiatic side. In his new terminals in Gotham he will have the most-up-to-date equipment. He was logging on the Musquash river in Muskoka when he read that Edison had perfected the electric light and would demonstrate it at Buffalo. He at once thought of its usefulness for reading the markings on logs at night and journeyed to Buffalo to see the demonstration. He was for the moment disappointed, believing that the powerful reflectors used had much to do with the brilliance of the light as it then was.
One of his ships was the first to use fuel oil in crossing the Pacific. The veteran head of the line was himself on board and has a vivid recollection of the experience. The spray failed to work in cold weather, so they had to bore a hole in the steel division in the oil tank allowing the congealed oil to run into the tank under the boilers. This heated it sufficiently to permit its being pumped into the furnace.
“Have you ever travelled with a volcano under you, ready to explode at any moment?” he asks. “That was the feeling of all the officers on the trip in question.” His predilection for Scotch boilers and reciprocating engines led him to come slowly to the invention of Diesel, and caused an amusing incident when he was in Scotland looking over a couple of ships which he had laid down in one of the Clyde yards. The Governor of Lloyd’s gave him a dinner at which Mr. Diesel, whose invention was then a great wonder, was also present. During the evening, Mr. Diesel leaned across the table and remarked:
“Mr. Dollar, I hear you are building two ships on the Clyde. Are you installing Diesel engines?”
Capt. Dollar made no answer, but went on with his meal. Finally the chairman said :
“Mr. Dollar, we have all stopped eating to hear whether or not you are using Diesel engines.”
The captain replied: “No, I am not.” “Well, will you tell us why?” persisted Mr. Diesel.
“Principally because I was born north of the Tweed,” replied Mr. Dollar, amid great laughter.
When this was subsiding, Mr. Diesel protested, “I want to reply to that remark.”
But the chairman, himself a Scot, exclaimed: “Mr. Diesel, to that argument, and in this company, there is no reply.”
During both the Russo-Japanese war and the Great War, Capt. Dollar had some interesting experiences with hia ships. A few weeks before the battle of the Falkland Islands, the Robert Dollar left the Atlantic Coast with a full cargo of steam coal destined either for Manila or Batavia. But the charter which had been signed by one of the captain’s sons provided that the vessel should call at Pernambuco, South America, for orders. The old veteran ship owner, when he saw the charter, immediately scented trouble; but the ship was then far at sea and it was too late to recall her. Fortunately she was under command of a stout Britisher, Captain Morton, who decided to take no chances. So on entering Pernambuco, he lay in the roadstead. He was promptly visited by a small craft which came off with three Germans on board. They bore what purported to be orders from the ship’s owners instructing the skipper to proceed to Java and to take one of the Germans as supercargo. The latter had come prepared for the journey, having all his baggage with him and this was soon on deck.
The captain noticed, however, that the supposed order, while in the usual code used between his owners and himself, was not in the special code which, as a last precaution, the Dollar officials had given him just before he sailed. He remembered also that his whole crew, with the exception of one or two of his officers, were German and he visualized what German gold and loyalty to the Fatherland might make possible when the ship was once more at sea.
So employing his new code, he cabled New York that he had called at Pernambuco, had received no orders and was proceeding on his voyage. To the German he said:
“I am going to sea. If you come with me, you’ll only last to the three mile limit, for once there I’ll throw you and your dunnage overboard.” They then offered him $5,000 if he would discharge his cargo into the bunkers of the German fleet then off Montevideo. Morton thereupon tumbled three badly ruffled envoys overboard and steered for the China Sea. The German fleet thereby lost a fine cargo of Welsh coal.
Running the Blockade
THE steamer M.S. Dollar, in the earlier war, had a less fortunate experience. In 1904 she was chartered to take a cargo for the Russian government from San Francisco to Vladivostock. There was a big bonus for her captain should he arrive at the latter port. La Perouse Straits was blocked with ice and the M.S. Dollar attempted the only alternative, the Straits of Tsugaru. The lookouts on Hokaido had noted her vain efforts to get through La Perouse and warned the gunboats which were stationed at each end of the Straights of Tsugaru.
Even with these precautions, the M. S. Dollar almost succeeded. She lay far out, and on a dark and stormy night made a dash for the straits which are three miles wide. She had covered the entire length of twelve miles, and was just emerging from the outer end when a searchlight caught her. It was from a Japanese man-of-war on her way up the Sea of Japan. The M. S. Dollar was boarded by the captains and marines and was taken into Hakodate where Japanese officials examined all the officers. None knew the destination of the vessel excepting the captain, and he would not tell. The ship’s papers showed her bound for Moji, but the officials declared her contraband and ordered her to Yoksuka to be tried by a prize court. Stanley Dollar, the captain’s son, who arrived at Kobe the same night and knew nothing of the seizure, was placed under arrest and taken before a judge. The latter said to him:
“You got a letter at Kobe. Let us see it.”
As he read it, he laughed and said: “This letter is from your father and says your vessel is going to the Orient. The Orient is a very big place. Your father must be a very astute old gentleman. I would like to meet him.”
The captain steadily refused to disclose his destination and was about to be imprisoned until the end of the war, when Stanley Dollar advised him to make a
clean breast of it. He did so and was released, although the ship and the cargo were condemned. She carried war insurance for $180,000 which the insurance, companies paid. She was used for a time as a troop ship by Japan and was later bought back from that country by Capt. Dollar for $55,000.
He made a number of shrewd shipping deals during the Great War, which were similarly profitable. In 1916, he bought several steamers and resold them to Japan for three times their original value. Even where he bought at seemingly abnormal values, circumstances permitted him to make a profit. He had such an experience with one 7,000 cargo steamer which he purchased for half a million dollars, which was two and one-half times her normal value. But so abnormal were the freights then offering that she cleared half her purchase price on her first trip, and before the end of the year had paid for herself.
Later Capt. Dollar was as anxious to get out of Vladivostock as the skipper of the M. S. Dollar was to get in. In 1918 he became apprehensive of conditions in Russia and finally, after a great deal of trouble, got permission from the Russian, British and Canadian governments to discontinue the sailings of his vessels to that Port. He just got the Bessie Dollar out of Vladivostock in time, for a day or two after she cleared, the port was closed.
Robert Dollar and "Cappy” Ricks
/"'APT. DOLLAR is often identified ^ with the “Cappy ’’Ricks of the popular magazine stories, by Peter B. Kyne. That _ identification is only partially justified. A quarter of a century ago he was one of a trio of S. F. steam schooner men whose trade rivalries, shrewd and constant efforts to score off on one another, made their doings and sayings the talk of the whole coast. The three were outstanding on all counts. Two of them, A. M. Simpson and William Carson, were veteran coast traders. Mr. Dollar was the third.
The three men were in the habit of meeting in waterfront restaurants and over their soup and joints swapping yarns, as ship owners have done ever since keels sailed the sea. In Carson’s office was a oung fellow named Peter B. Kyne, who ad a knack of story telling. Kyne attracted Dollar’s attention and was engaged to go in the latter’s interest to the Orient. But he fell sick and was for long confined in hospital. While there, to wi!e_ away the time, he wrote a number of stories based on the observations he had made and yarns he had heard from the three men in question. Out of these observations ánd experiences, he carved the now_ famous composite figure of Cappy Ricks. Some visitors, attracted by the merit of the sketches, submitted them to a publisher with results so satisfactory to Kyne that he abandoned his intentions of going to the Orient and has ever since followed what is perhaps a more congenial trade.
But there is little about Captain Dollar to identify him with Cappy Ricks. His characteristics are not those of the trader eager to take advantage of a rival. They are much more reminiscent of Sir Anthony Gloster of Kipling’s verse quoted at the beginning of this article. He has the same long sight, the same cour-
age in innovation, and the same keenness to anticipate trade possibilities; the same daring in adopting new methods and new devices.
Capt. Dollar has prepared for every eventuality. He is an evangel seeking to awaken his fellow countrymen to the same preparation. He not only has his mills in Oregon and B.C., but also in Japan. He has wonderful timber limits on the Island of Vancouver, but he also has oak forests on the Island of Hokaido. He has offices and wharves at San Francisco. He has a quarter of a mile of waterfront and fine offices and wharves at Vancouver. He has a thousand feet of waterfront at Shanghai on a channel with twenty-seven feet of water at low tide and ten acres of yardage. He owns five acres in the heart of Wuchang. And in all these cities he finds his offices surrounded by lusty growing communities.
Honored by Ottawa and Falkirk
HE HAS waged an unceasing fight to have the merchant marine laws amended to permit U.S. tonnage an equal chance with that of other nations, and has changed the home port of some of his lines to Canadian harbors in order to put himself in a position to fight foreign competition. He has seen Japanese shipping on the Pacific rise from 33 per cent, in 1914 to 76 per cent, in 1916. He has also seen European tonnage fall from 39 per cent, to 20 per cent, and U. S. trade shrink from 28 per cent to 4 per cent, in the same period. To-day he is the greatest living trade ambassador from America to Asia with the prescience to see not only what the future holds in the Far East, but the enterprise to prepare for it. He has as well the moral instinct to appreciate that a large and permanent trade between the peoples of the East and West will be built only on the sound foundation of mutual understanding, and a fair and square deal. That is the gospel he preachesunceasingly.
“Go to China, young men,” he repeats again and again to his audiences. “That is the country of the future, the land of opportunity. I may not live to see the Pacific the greatest trading ocean of the world, for I do not expect to live much more than another twenty-five years,” he smiles, “but yonder across it is the new land of the world.”
That land, as has been mentioned in the foregoing, has given him fully of its confidence, and has honored him in many ways. But the old Trader-Statesman has not lacked recognition among those who speak his own tongue. At Washington he is the confidante of the president and senators. When he left Ottawa as a youth, he was earning $25.00 a month. When he returned, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, his ministers, and the most eminent men of the Dominion, banqueted him.
Falkirk, the Scotch town in which he was born and in the quiet churchyard of which his mother sleeps, made him’a freeman of the burgh—a signal honor that has been extended to only two other men in a century, and one of them, Lord Roberts. This last is perhaps the most significant and most fitting honor of them all. For it was the homely virtues that the emigrant boy carried from his humble home in Scotland which neither success nor seeming failure could undermine, that have given to the world the unique and commanding figure of Robert Dollar.