National Geographic : 1899 Aug
THE PROPOSED AMERICAN INTEROCEANIC CANAL 301 duction which has been made in the cost of transportation by rail. The average rail rate in the United States is now only about one-third the average of the rates which prevailed thirty years ago. A report, prepared in 1898, under the direction of the Statistician of the Department of Agriculture, on Changes in the Rates of Charge for Railway and other Transportation Services, shows (p. 49) that rail rates per 100 pounds on carload lots from Pacific Coast terminals to the port of New York were in the years 1870 and 1897 as follows: Rate on canned goods, $3.66 in 1870 and 75 cents in 1897; on dried fruit, $3.66 in 1870 and $1.00 in 1897; on raisins, $3.66 in 1870 and $1.00 in 1897; on wine in wood, $4.79 in 1870 and 75 cents in 1897, and on hops, $3.66 in 1870 and $1.50 in 1897. A corresponding table on page 50 of the report just mentioned shows that rates per 100 pounds from New York to Pacific Coast terminals in carloads were reduced as follows: On stoves, from $3.66 in 1870 to $1.10 in 1897; on glassware, from $5.66 in 1870 to 85 cents in 1897, and on agricultural implements, from $3.48 in 1870 to $1.15 in 1897. The foregoing characteristic data indicate that the present rail rates between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States are only about one-fourth the rates which prevailed during the year 1870. There is a pressing need that these important com mercial facts shall be brought to the attention of Congress and of the country by a competent and impartial commission charged with that duty. The assumption that large quantities of cotton would be shipped from New Orleans and other Gulf ports to Asia via the Nicaragua or Panama Canal is negatived by the fact that at cur rent rates cotton can be shipped more quickly and at less ex pense from points of production in our southern states to San Francisco by rail and thence by ship to Asia. There is a differ ence of more than 2,000 miles in favor of the overland route. The assumption that coal can be profitably transported from the mines of Virginia and West Virginia to San Francisco is also absolutely negatived by current prices of coal at Atlantic and at Pacific ports, the cost of transportation and the canal toll, assuming it to be $1.80, the present Suez Canal rate. Neverthe less, through false representations, the assumptions as to cotton and coal have to some extent taken possession of the public mind, and therefore should become the subject of careful investigation by a properly organized governmental commission.