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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Ten


In order that the purpose of my proposed trip around the world may he better understood, I will relate briefly my reasons for making it.

Many matters in connection with our business had been developing in the Far East that could only be properly settled at close range, so that I decided to visit all of our offices; and accompanied by Mrs. Dollar, left San Francisco on April 2, 1921, for Seattle.

I had planned to sail on one of the Dollar Company-steamers from Vancouver to Japan; but received so many requests from various quarters to accompany the Commercial Commission from the Pacific Northwest on the Shipping Board steamer Wenatchce, that I finally decided to go with the Commission as far as Shanghai, and from there continue my journey on the Robert Dollar II.

On returning to the United States the Commission made its formal report, a part of which covered that portion of the trip on which I accompanied them and from which the following is an extract:

"Captain Robert Dollar, as a member of the visiting delegation and yet as a leader and pioneer in the development of American business at Shanghai and throughout China, spoke as one at home and at the same time a guest. He reviewed what has been done in a few years, and urged the earnest effort of all to develop the full possibilities of trade between China and America, based on fair dealing and mutual respect.

"Captain Dollar extended an invitation to all those at the luncheon who cared to do so, to join the Pacific Northwest delegation on a trip on one of the Dollar Company boats along the entire Shanghai waterfront, leaving the customs jetty at 2:30. Among those who accompanied the party on this river trip were Captain Dollar and his son, J. Harold Dollar, in charge of the


MRS. ROBERT DOLLAR Helpmate and adviser of Captain Dollar

business in the Orient; Julean Arnold, American commercial attache; Captain W. T. Eisler, representative of the United States Shipping Board; Dr. Frederic Lee, American economist consul; W. A. Chapman, secretary of the American Chamber of Commerce; Paul P. Whitman, and others.

"The river trip was one of the most interesting; experiences at Shanghai, and in China. The boat went up the Whangpoo River skirting the shore, passing innumerable river craft at landings and in the stream, and running close to the Government shipyards at Kiangnan, where four freight vessels for the United States Shipping Board were turned out. Two of them were about completed.

"Vessels of various types, including large river steamers, one of them for the Dollar Company, were under construction along the river front. When the terminal of the Robert Dollar Company, including wharves, godowns and storage yards, was reached, across the river from the main city, the boat landed and the excursionists went ashore. They inspected with keen interest this substantial plant, representing more than three-quarters of a million dollars investment already. It is the only elaborate American-owned shipping terminal in the Far East, outside of the Standard Oil plants and possibly the terminal in Manila, although there is nothing like it developed by private American capital even in the Philippines.

"Here two United States Shipping Board freighters, operated by the Admiral Line, were discharging cargo. One was the Edmore, which had towed the Wenatcliee into Yokohama, and the other was the Abercos from the Columbia River, built at Vancouver, Washington. The visitors watched the Chinese coolies moving, entirely by hand, the cargo from the ship across the wharves to the warehouse and storage yards. They congratulated Captain Dollar and Harold Dollar on the substantial and permanent character of the development. Mr. Singelow, the photographer, took moving pictures of the cargo handling, the plant, and Captain Dollar. Lumber from the Pacific Northwest and steel from America were being discharged from the ships, 700 Chinese laborers being employed at this work.

"At Shanghai Captain and Mrs. Dollar bade farewell to the crowd, as they were to remain in China for some time. Some other members of the delegation arranged for trips to Peking and the interior of China."

Two hundred miles before we reached the mouth of the Yangtse River, some 1600 miles of which I shall attempt to describe, the color of the water of the China or Yellow Sea begins to change to yellow and nearing the mouth it is a dirty brown, appearing to be almost the consistency of gruel. The Saddles, small rock islands, are sentinels located a few miles from its entrance. The river enters the sea in two channels, the southern one being used by large vessels. The distance across the entrance is about 20 miles. Only a few miles up the river is Fairy Flats, where it shoals up so that ocean steamers can cross only at high tide. This is a great obstruction to navigation and must be remedied, and can be remedied effectually by levees confining the water, The enormous amount of silt that the river carries into the ocean every day in the year will require the confining of the channel so that it will scour itself out. Four distinguished engineers from as many nations are soon to meet in Shanghai and decide on the best plan to adopt. Colonel Goethals is the American representative selected. The great commerce of this river will be explained and the importance of this great work show in, which will make it possible for ships of any size to go to Shanghai, which is destined to be one of the great seaports of the world. When I state that fully one-eighth of all the inhabitants of the world live on the banks of this river and its tributaries, it should convey some idea of its importance.

Shanghai is situated on a tributary of the Yangtse, the Whangpoo, which enters the river at Woosung, the center of the city being about twelve miles up. The city is solidly built along the river front for eight miles on each side. On the left side going in is Pootung, which at present is occupied chiefly by warehouses, shipyards and factories. On the right side is Shanghai proper, which is divided into districts; first. Hong Kew, which was to have been the American Concession but was refused by the United States, and is now part of the International Concession, is separated by Soochow Creek from the British Concession; then, what was the Yang King Pang Creek is filled in, and is now Edward the Seventh street and separates the British from the French Concession. Following is the "Old" Chinese city which was formerly walled in. Along the upper waterfront is Nantou, usually crowded with native boats and junks of every description, a very unique sight. The vessels are anchored in rows and perfect order is kept, otherwise river passage would be obstructed by them.

The most important part of the waterfront is called the Bund, fronting the British Concession, a fine street over 100 feet in width. Broad pontoon landing stages occupy the entire front, which are lined with launches and ferry boats, generally three or four tiers deep. This section is rapidly becoming far too crowded for the large population of the city and suburbs, as the original plan did not taken into consideration the probability of its expansion. There is a population of over one and one-half million in this locality, of which about 11,000 are Europeans, 2,200 Americans, 10,000 Japanese, and the remainder Chinese.

The great cotton manufacturing district is on the Shanghai river front, in Hongken and along Soochow Creek for some miles, factories of various kinds occupying the entire distance. The growth of this district almost surpasses the imagination. Ten or twelve years ago it was all cultivated fields while now it is a sight worth seeing, with its varied fleet of boats and launches passing in an endless procession. On two different occasions I counted them passing at the rate of sixty an hour. This continues twenty-four hours a day. The development on the river side is blocked by the Government Arsenal Dock Yard and Shipbuilding plant. They are just completing four 10.000-ton steamers for the American Government, and are fully occupied with both government and commercial work of every description.

A little further down the river and on the opposite side we have just completed a wharf over 1300 feet long, with three large two-story warehouses, houses for employees, and a complete outfit for the rapid handling of our ships. These improvements cost over three quarters of a million dollars, and furnish at times employment to over 700 men.

As to the city, I find it difficult to describe the improvements of the last twenty years. As opposed to present conditions there was very little manufacturing being done two decades ago, and the city has more than doubled its population since that date. Up to the formation of the Republic, ten years ago. Very slight advancement had been made; but since that time the progress has been rapid, the greatest strides having been made in the past two years. I think I am safe in saying that in no city in the world has so much building been done, and the end is not yet, as in every section, especially in the residential part, new buildings are being erected. This is especially true of the French Concession. Along the Band and in the business section many very large, modern buildings have been erected and many are in course of construction, notably, the Jardine Matheson's Office Building, The Glen Steamship Company Building, Hong Kong-Shanghai Bank, The Chartered Bank, Nisshen Kissen Kaisha, and the large, modern office building of the Robert Dollar Company.

It is in manufacturing plants, however, that the greatest strides have been made, as over a dozen very large cotton mills, each employing from two to four thousand men and women, several flour mills, large electric light plants, tobacco factories, oil mills, etc., having been erected.

There is now no question but that Shanghai is by all odds the greatest industrial and commercial city of China, and that it will continue its growth. Its commercial future looks particularly bright, situated as it is at the mouth of this great river where the development of the natural resources have hardly begun, and with over two hundred millions of population backing it up. When developments are finally made, many known commercial minerals will be produced in large quantities; such as, coal, iron ore, manganese, lead, silver and copper. No doubt oil will also be found, as it was discovered in Szechuan many years ago. German experts sent by the emperor some years ago, made an exhaustive examination for coal and reported there was as much coal in China as in all the rest of the world, and a very large proportion of both coal and iron ore was in the Yangtse Valley. I emphasize coal and iron, since the future of any country or place that has plenty of coal and iron ore of good quality is assured. The ore that is now exported from this river runs as high as 60% of metallic iron. Ordinarily 50% is considered good.

As to agriculture, the country produces plenty to feed its population of nearly five hundred million, besides producing some for export. Production is varied, ranging from tropical to products of the temperate zones; the northern provinces having a cold winter produce the best wheat, beans and like foodstuffs. Continuing up the river from Shanghai we find great level plains of alluvial soil formed from the sediment of the river, as, like the Nile, it overflows its banks and deposits a sediment that keeps the land as rich as any in the world. The high water reaches its greatest height in July of each year. At this writing (the middle of June) the water has almost reached the top of the bank, and the farmers are out in great numbers harvesting the crops that are now ripe; that is the first crop. When the water recedes the last of July or August, they will put in another crop. This valley is one of the most productive farming countries in the world. The lower part of the valley is made-land from silt deposited by the river. Probably no river carriers as much silt to the ocean as the Yangtse.

The land during the last two thousand or three thousand years, in the vicinity of Shanghai, has all been made. Shanghai translated, reads, "A place by the Sea." No doubt when the city was first established it was on the ocean shore and the silt has gradually made the land until now the city is sixty miles from the ocean. It is so level that at very high tides when a typhoon 's raging, the whole country is flooded, and many of the streets are covered with water to the depth of from one to two feet until the tide recedes. The difference between low and high water is about eight feet. The effects of ordinary tides are felt as far up the river as Wuliu 330 miles from the ocean.


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