On my arrival at Vancouver
I spent fifteen days looking over the mill which was not giving entire
satisfaction, but we got it better organized. I also visited our logging
camps. Arrived home on the 8th of August after an absence of four
In October I made a trip
to New York to attend the an dual meeting of the Foreign Trade Council,
and also visited Washington on shipping affairs. Had many important
conferences both in Washington and in New York. From New York I went to
Ottawa and in a personal interview with the Canadian Cabinet made
satisfactory terms about carrying government freight to Vladivostok.
Was real glad to get home
again although in looking over my diary I find I had presided at from
two to four public meetings a day, besides trying to look after our own
affairs, and raising $360,000 for the Y M. C. A. war fund. This was a
big and successful undertaking. Before the end of the year I made two
more trips to Vancouver looking after our interests there. I find
recorded in my diary for 1917, that we had our annual dinner of
employees at which twenty-four were present. (At a similar meeting in
1921 there were fifty-six present; this shows the expansion of the
Robert Dollar Company during four years.) I copy the following from my
1917 diary, December 31st:
"Had a very busy day,
every minute was fully occupied"; then the following:
"As the years go by I
find each succeeding year brings me more cause for great thanksgiving to
God for all his abundant mercies and blessings which are past finding
out. No man can possibly have more reason to thank God than I have. The
question comes up always, what shall I do for all this goodness to me
In January 1918, I
addressed a meeting- in Stockton, Gallon the importance of foreign trade
and shipping to our nation:
ADDRESS TO MEETING AT
To talk of foreign trade
in this city seemed to me at first to be out of place. But you are to
develop a deep waterway here.
You do not need deep
water for your local commerce, and the present depth is amply sufficient
for your local needs. In making a deep waterway, you go into foreign
trade. This country did not look very favorably on foreign trade until
recent years. Then came the war. Now we must have foreign trade—we
cannot do without it.
Secretary of Commerce
Redfield said the factories of this country can supply the requirements
of the people in six months. If that statement is correct, either the
production for the remaining six months of the year must be sold abroad,
or the factories must shut down and the workingman be idle for that
length of time. The factories must be kept busy and we must go after
foreign trade in a way we never went after it before. Secretary of State
Bryan once told me to stay at home with my ships or I'd get into
trouble. I said, I won't.
Who is interested in
foreign trade? The farmer is, for he must sell what he produces; the
merchant is, for he must handle the goods; the banker is. Until recently
there was a law on our statute books prohibiting branch banks in foreign
countries. All other countries compel their banks to establish branches.
Now things are beginning to change with us. 'The light is beginning to
dawn in Washington.
What difference does it
make if Great Britain or any other country has a branch bank in every
port? When I sold a bill of exchange, the documents were attached and
sold to a foreign bank. The foreign banker saw what we were doing and
knew our plans. Blood is thicker than water, yon know, and these foreign
bankers gave their countrymen the tip as to what we were doing. I know,
as I have received a tip myself.
When we get American
banks in foreign ports, no one else gets the benefit. We want American
citizens in foreign countries to attend to our business; otherwise we
"get it in the neck." Now we are busy establishing banks. It is true
that American inventive genius is all right, but we need an equal chance
with the rest or we will have a hard time of it.
You are urging deep water
here. The Yangtse River and its tributaries in China provide commerce
for one-sixth of the human race. The commerce of that river is
If you get a deep-water
channel to this city. 10,000-ton ships will come here from Hankow before
I die. I am 75 years old and I expect to keep actively in business for
twenty-five years more. You get busy, for I want the privilege of
bringing the first 10,000-ton ship to Stockton. I sent the first
9000-ton ship into Los Angeles harbor and I want to go a thousand tons
better for Stockton.
The world is changing.
You may say there is not so much commerce. Thirty-six years ago only one
company had four ships on this coast, and those ships aggregated 10,000
ton. Today the ships engaged in commerce have a capacity of 700,000 tons
here on the Pacific. Thirty-five years hence what will it be?
We are just getting
started. Imagine the tremendous amount of commerce coming! You all know
the commerce of the world started in the upper end of the Mediterranean;
during our own time it moved to the Atlantic. I propose to Iive to see
the center of commerce on the Pacific.
Why should you pay out
your money for a deep-water channel if there were not such a future? The
commerce coming to the Pacific, in which Stockton will share, passes the
bounds of imagination.
The Seamen's Bill has
turned over the commerce of the Pacific to the Island Kingdom. To
protect myself from this law I had to move my ships to Vancouver. We had
to prohibit the export of gold to prevent our stock from becoming
depleted, because Japan had the tonnage and rates on us; that is what
can be accomplished with plenty of ships.
Japan has 461 postoffices
in Korea and 124 in Manchuria, which are supposed to be under the
influence of China where the open-door policy is supposed to exist.
Japan has a club
THE COMPANY LUMBER YARD AND OFFICE BUILDING AT TIENTSIN
there with which to knock
us out if we attempt to enter. There are 12 postoffices of Japan in
China. America has a postoffice in China. That's how one country helps
Sixty years ago
concessions were secured in Shanghai by the United States, Great Britain
and France. The others beautified and developed their concessions, but
the United States let its concession go. Now our consulate there is
located across the street from a warehouse, and Washington had paid
$350,000 to buy a part of the land it once let go, in order to secure a
location for the consulate.
But America is getting
there just the same. The American population in China has increased 33%
during the past two years, and they are the right sort of Americans.
President Wilson said
that if American citizens hadn't enough get-up-and-go to them to operate
ships, the Government would do it. I replied to him then, that American
citizens had two and a quarter million tons of shipping under foreign
flags because they could not financially operate them under our flag
with success, because of the conditions imposed by the Government. In
other countries American ships had to pay all assessments, and that was
30% more than I had to pay in operating ships under the British flag.
Some officials say the
raise in wages required for American ships does not count, as American
energy offsets all costs. If that is so, why do they compel us to carry
30% more men to operate our ships than any other ships afloat?
Up to this time our
country had practiced the destruction of big business. Then the war
came, and they almost begged on their knees for big business to come
back and help them, because the politicians had failed.
I have here the manifests
of two of my ships. They left for China carrying 298 different
commodities. I don't care what your business is, you are interested in
some of those commodities on those vessels. Coming back they brought 127
different commodities. All here will get the benefit of some of these.
Our Government took all
of our ships to operate during the war. It gave me $40,000 for one
ship's voyage, and I had to pay back S170,000; and now the Government
proposes to keep the ships and operate them. The wise college professor
at Washington tells us what the rates will be to the ports of the world.
He has a rate of $20 a ton from New York to Shanghai. The rate for steel
from Pittsburg to this coast is $17, so that leaves the munificent sum
of $3 a ton for the rest of the distance.
It is an utter
impossibility for the Government to engage in foreign trade. Look at the
Government's management of the railroad business. The railroad
presidents, hat in hand, had asked for an increase in rates of 10% and
they were refused. Then Secretary of the Treasury McAdcx> took charge of
the railroads and increased the rates 35%. We don't know what the
Government will do, for the Government is the people, and how are the
people to tell us when they don't know themselves.
Our ships are laid up in
large numbers in various harbors, for they can not venture out to
compete in foreign trade. We do not need any advantage, as we can care
for ourselves, if we have an even break. A shipowner who must have "pap"
from the Government does not deserve to combine in the business.
Through exposure in
Vancouver I had a very serious attack of erysipelas, which confined me
to my bed for twelve days, during which time I was totally blind for six
days, and delirious for three. This is the first real sickness I have
had in forty years, and for a month I was unable to attend to business,
but I got over it and am as well as ever.
I find a note in my diary
stating that I had sent a check for $50,000 to the New York Y. M. C. A.
to be used in erecting a building at Wuchang, Rupeh Province, China. I
also sent direct to Wuchang almost $15,000 to purchase additional land
to allow for expansion. I consider there is a great opening for this
work as there are many hundreds of young men going to commercial and
other schools near the site of the building, which will be completed and
occupied by 1921.
I find a note in my diary
that I had been working several days on a history of steam navigation;
whether I will ever get the time to finish it remains to be seen. I also
note that most of my time is taken up with public and charitable matters
and what time I could spare went to the business, every minute of my
time from early morning till late at night is fully occupied, and I hope
it will always continue. I neither want idleness nor an easy time.
I spent half of August
either in New York or Washington. It was really hot but I got through
with a great deal of business, principally in connection .with the
consummation of the contract for the Chinese Government to build
steamers for the American Government. On closing the contract the
Chinese Government through their Ambassador, Wellington Koo, conferred a
very high honor on me by telling Mr. Hurley, President of the Shipping
Board, that his Government requested the American Government to hand
over to me all the money in payment for the ships, which would amount to
many millions of dollars and not to ask me to give either bond or
agreement for the money. I cannot help but prize this confidence as one
of the highest honors I have ever received.
For our part in this
business the President of the Chinese Republic honored me with the Chia
Ho, a description of which is herewith given in the following excerpt
from the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Order of the Chia Ho,
China's most prized decoration, has been conferred upon Captain Robert
Dollar. San Francisco capitalist, in recognition of his service during
the war in securing from the United States Government for the Chinese
Government a $14,000,000 contract for the construction of eight ships.
Captain Dollar received the decoration—four stars, two gold and two
silver overlapping, with a raised shock of wheat in the center—from the
President of the Chinese Republic, Wednesday.
conferred upon Captain Dollar is one that rarely goes to foreigners.
General John J. Pershing also is a member of the order.
"Captain Dollar has
extensive interests in China and his reputation for honesty and
integrity is so well established that no bond or other security was
required of him by the Chinese Government in handling the $14,000,000
shipbuilding contract. The money, secured from the United States
Government, was turned over to the Chinese Government by Captain Dollar.
"The Chia Ho in English
takes the meaning of Bountiful Harvest. The decoration was brought to
this country by officers of one of the ships of the Dollar Steamship
During the month of
August I attended many meetings of which the following is an example of
one day: Meeting of Seamen's Church Institute; Foreign Trade Committee
of the Chamber of Commerce; presided at meeting of China Commercial
Club; directors meeting of San Francisco Savings & Loan Bank. In
addition I had to attend to all my own business. Is it any wonder I make
a notation that I went home tired?
At the urgent request of
the Harbor Board I went to Los Angeles to attend its annual meeting,
where it was to take under consideration various methods to make Pacific
Coast ports more attractive to shipowners.
In November I went to New
York and presided at the annual meeting of the Foreign Trade Council.
From New York I proceeded to Washington where I had the pleasure of
meeting many of our big men of affairs; this was particularly beneficial
to me as it put me in close touch with the broad-gauge men of finance,
commerce and shipping.
I also attended the
Fourth Annual Banquet of the India House which was presided over by Mr.
James A. Farrell, who persuaded me to deliver the address of the
evening. It was an opportunity to speak to the biggest men of finance
and commerce of our country. The room, a large one, was crowded to its
utmost capacity and many had to stand.
It has been a pleasure to
me to have been a charter member and vice president of this great and
prosperous club. We had the pleasure of being the guests of Mr. and Mrs.
Alber B. Johnson at their beautiful home at Rosemont. near Philadelphia.
At Washington we also had the pleasure of meeting a great many friends
which made our visit a very pleasant one, although it was taken solely
ROBERT DOLLAR BUILDING 311 California Street, San Francisco
We bargained to buy what
was called the Insurance Block, 311 California Street, which has turned
out to be a bargain. We have made it into a ten story building and
remodeled it so that it is one of the best office buildings in the city.
It has always been one of the most attractive office buildings on
California Street, which is now the bankers' and foreign merchants'
street of San Francisco. Two banks are on the ground floor and The
Robert Dollar Company occupies the entire upper floor, which does not
appear to be any too large for our company. The boys have re-named the
building, -"The Robert Dollar Building," in my honor.
EXCERPTS FROM THE
"Workmen are busy putting
the finishing touches on the Robert Dollar building at California and
Battery streets, which has just been completed at a cost of $1,000,000.
The structure is of imposing dimensions, occupying a half block on
California street and nearly the same space on Battery street. As the
accompanying photograph shows, it is ten stories in height, of Class A
construction and forms a handsome unit in San Francisco's financial
"When Robert Dollar
purchased the property a little over a year ago it was improved by a
building of five stories only. Recognizing the advantage of the
location, Mr. Dollar determined to increase the structure to take care
of what he deemed the needs of the future. Under the direction of
architect Charles W. McCall of Oakland, the task of adding five stories
was undertaken. Besides this the entire front and general exterior was
altered, additional high-speed elevators installed and changes made to
bring the structure to the highest point of efficiency. During the
entire period of eight months in which the changes were made not a
tenant was disturbed, business being carried on as usual by all the
"Long before the building
changes were completed, space on all the five additional floors was
sought by business firms who realized the advantage of the building and
its surroundings. The tenth floor, however, was reserved by Robert
Dollar for the firm's own offices and when the fittings, especially
designed for the purpose are installed, the Dollar Company will have as
fine quarters as it is possible to provide.
"As the photographs of
the new building show, the architect was given full rein with the detail
with the result that, the decorations on the structure's exterior are
not only novel but appropriate as well. The pillar decorations include
capstans, anchors, tridents and dolphins. Surmounting the first story is
a border of cordage set out at intervals with starfish. Reproductions of
the Dollar house flag are additional nautical suggestions as to the
origin and character of the structure."