From the Archives: The Bourgeoning Power of US Manufacturers Overseas

UPDATED: July 7, 2023
PUBLISHED: July 7, 2023
a man and woman look out over a view of Paris during the exposition featuring US manufacturers

Paris, the city beautiful, is almost ready to welcome the world to its superb exposition of 1900. That it will be ready to meet its guests at the appointed time now seems entirely possible, and that its lavish efforts to please will be internationally appreciated is a foregone conclusion.

American representation abroad

It is really of vital importance to this country at large that it be represented in every branch of industry and manufacture at an international exposition, that other nations may see our output and be encouraged to purchase from us those things of which they are in need, or in which we surpass them, or which we can make cheaper than they can. The greatness of a nation is built upon its foreign trade. It is a steadying power in times of home depression. If the home market will not buy, the foreign market will. It is because of the paramount importance attached to a worldwide trade that this government has taken such unprecedented interest in the Paris Exposition.

After frequent trips abroad and much harassing diplomacy, I have succeeded in securing for the United States over 300,000 square feet of floor space, but that is not enough. Still, the United States will be represented five times more than it was at the last exposition and two and a half times more than any other nation, except France, which will have 55% of the space: for the exposition, primarily, is for Paris and then France. Outside of France, Germany is our rival, with 3,000 exhibitors to our 7,000.

Prosperity at home

The great prevailing prosperity at home is really detrimental to a proper showing abroad. Every manufacturer has his hands full to supply the home market, and many are not looking for foreign trade. In one case, we were promised five locomotives but have been able to secure only three, as the manufacturer said he could not afford to disappoint a needy and constant customer. Many lines of business will not be represented for virtually the same reason, [with others concerned they cannot] spare a valuable man or give their attention to a proper exhibit. Although 25% of the industrial exhibitors have withdrawn, we are crowded for space.

There are exhibits which benefit the community at large which the United States government is compelled to arrange for, or to collect; for instance, the vegetable, grain, mineral—coal—and forestry products of this country. It is a task of great magnitude, and its thorough fulfillment is a matter of congratulation.

US manufacturers are represented throughout the world

U.S. manufacturers have entered every market of the world. We undersell the European manufacturer of steel rails. The Grand Central Railroad of England is almost entirely American, having American rails and American cars. The Siberian railroad will be virtually American in construction and equipment. Nowhere abroad is there a rival to our machine tools. Although never before in the history of our country has our export trade been so great, yet it is as a child to what it will be. Naturally, the exhibitors will endeavor to gain foreign trade. The exhibits will not be in the nature of enlightenment or to show how we do things over here but will be adaptable to conditions abroad. We shall show not only the automatic air brake used on American cars but also the automatic air brake which may be used on European coaches.

An interesting exhibit on the part of our government will be the government models of all of our warships, and one dear to the American people will be the models of our victorious yachts.

The exhibits from the states are rapidly arriving and will be among the earliest displayed. 

This excerpt has been edited for length, clarity and modern audiences.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo courtesy of SUCCESS magazine.