National Geographic : 1905 Sep
COMMERCIAL PRIZE OF THE ORIENT work of developing its commerce by constructing canals, roads, and rail roads. In 1869 the Suez Canal was opened, shortening by several thousand miles the water route between the Occi dent and the Orient. But there are other great changes during the century just ended which had an equally important effect upon the commerce of the whole world and upon the exchanges between the Orient and the still expanding Occident. Prior to 1800 most of the manufacturing of the world was still performed by hand, and largely in the household. Now machinery, driven by steam or the power of the waterfall, performs, under the guidance of a single individual, tasks which would have required hun dreds of persons to perform a century ago. Then the products of the interior could only be carried to the seaboard by man or animal power, or at the best by floating them in oar-propelled boats upon the streams which made their way to the ocean. Now railways penetrate all parts of the great interior and carry the natural products to the water's edge for exchange with other countries and continents. At the beginning of the century all exchanges between the con tinents were carried by slow sailing ves sels, whose carrying capacity was small and danger of loss great. Today the bulk of the international commerce is carried by great vessels propelled by steam, and the cost of transportation is reduced to a small fraction of that of a century ago. In 1800 there were no methods of communication on land save by the post-rider, and none on the ocean other than that furnished by the slow sailing vessel, whose speed was subject to the caprices of nature as expressed in winds or storms or calms. THE POSSIBILITIES OF COMMERCE HAVE BEEN MULTIPLIED BY INVENTIONS Today the producer at the most in- terior point of the Occident may speak with the consumer in the distant Orient, the message flashing across the land and under the ocean in less time than is required to describe the process. The merchant of New York who a century ago sent his order to China by sailing vessel might consider himself fortunate if he received the merchandise within a full year, while now the dealer in the most distant city of our great interior may wire his order in the morning with the knowledge that the goods may be fore night be placed on board a fast steamer and reach him within less than a month. In 1805 the world had not a single steamer upon the ocean, a single mile of railway on land, a single span of tele graph upon the continents, or a foot of cable beneath the ocean. In 1905 it has over 18,000 steam vessels, 500,000 miles of railway, and more than i,ooo,ooo miles of land telegraph, while the very continents are bound together and given instantaneous communication by more than 200,000 miles of ocean cables, and the number of telephone messages sent aggregates 6,ooo millions annually, and one-half of them in the United States alone. The effect of this enormous increase in the power of production, transporta tion, and communication has been to multiply commerce in all parts of the world. The world's international com merce, which a single century ago was less than two billions of dollars, is now 22 billions, and the commerce of the Orient, which was less than 200 million dollars, is now nearly 3,000 millions. THE COMMERCE OF THE ORIENT IS INSIGNIFICANT WHEN COMPARED WITH THAT OF THE REST OF THE WORLD But this commerce of the Orient, amounting to nearly 3,000 millions of dollars annually, is yet small when com pared with its area and population, and 4''