Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Nine

Arrived in Liverpool the sixth of July, and left immediately for Glasgow where I interviewed many of the big shipowners and shipbuilders; thence to Newcastle, and saw as many as my time would permit. In London I got in close touch with the Shipping Board, especially Sir Joseph McLay, who was at the head of Government shipping. Was pleased to have the opportunity of visiting Falkirk, my native town, and actually gave up business for three days. But I was not exactly idle as I carefully looked over twelve acres of land in the town, called the Estate of Arnotdale. There were four houses on it, all rented, one of them a fine big mansion. I did not make it known, but I gave the Mayor enough money to buy it. Some time after this I got a telegram that they had closed the transaction. It will make a fine park right in the town. There is a swimming bath on the place, and the rents they receive will make it self-supporting. All this was the result of taking three days off from work.


"Arnotdale. a large residential property in Falkirk, with adjacent grounds extending to fully eleven acres, has been purchased for the benefit of the town through the generosity of Mr. Robert Dollar, San Francisco, a native of the town. The price paid for the property was £5600. The donor, who left Falkirk when a young man, is the founder of the Robert Dollar Line of steamships, plying chiefly between America and China. Mr. Dollar's previous benefactions to Falkirk include the Dollar Public Library, which formed the nucleus of the present Free Public Library; a gift of £3000 towards the erection of public baths m the town, and a handsome granite fountain which stands in the Victoria Public Park, as a memorial to Sir John De Graeme, who fell at the first Battle of Falkirk in 1298.

While at lunch with Sir Joseph McLay, he strongly advised me to go to Bristol and look over the steamer Parisien that had just arrived from America with a cargo of wheat, as he wanted to sell her. She was a German prize ship and I found her to he in excellent condition, and made an offer which was accepted. We changed her name to Esther Dollar. She is 11,500 tons deadweight and has proven quite satisfactory. I had no idea of buying a ship when I left home, but the unexpected often happens.

Was ten days in New York, where I had to make a change in the management of our shipping department, and succeeded in securing a very good man for the job. Office room was so scarce, that our offices were in different locations; the merchandise office being 17 Battery Place and the Dollar Steamship Company's office at 44 Whitehall Street. This is a bad arrangement, but could not be helped. Offices are not so much in demand now, and no doubt we will soon get them all in one building.

In an endeavor to increase our business I stayed one day in Chicago. At a luncheon I met many prominent men, with whom I discussed the ways and means of increasing their foreign trade. I arranged to increase our force of freight solicitors, so that they could cover more territory and obtain freight for our New York end as well as for Vancouver. We were preparing to meet the effect of the Jones Bill, which if enforced, would prevent our Vancouver vessels from getting any overland freight; therefore, we would be forced to divert all the freight possible by the shorter rail haul to New York, hence our line would be able to get freight that way and not be cut off altogether on account of our trans-Pacific steamers being British. But the Government seems to be afraid to enforce this law on account of the belief that other nations would retaliate, which they would certainly do.

On the 16th of September I had a very pleasant duty to perform at the "San Francisco Theological Seminary'' at San Anselmo. As president of the Board of Trustees, I assisted in the ceremony of inducting the Rev. L. T. White into the Margaret S. Dollar chair of Christian Sociology, which became


possible by our endowing the chair with $50,000, which I paid last Christmas. There was a great crowd present at the ceremony. Afterwards at the reception and tea we had a real pleasant time and everyone seemed to enjoy the proceedings. Mr. White will also take charge of the library which is very much in need of reconstruction. This work is well under way and will prove a great boon, not only to all connected with the Seminary, but as a lending library to all ministers west of the Rocky Mountains, so the benefit will be far-reaching. This is a big job, but is being well done.

Mrs. Dollar and I had the pleasure of giving a reception at the Commercial Club to over two hundred Chinese, mostly young men, but some young women, who had come to America to finish their education. They were very fine looking intelligent people, who will do a great deal when they return to their native country toward increasing and perpetuating the happy and friendly relations that now exist between America and China. It is impossible to estimate the great benefit these returned students are to the trade between the two countries, as they come from and return to every province of China. Other countries are making a strong effort to get them, notably Great Britain and France. Japan has tried to get them, but the Japanese policy in China has caused the withdrawal of many students from Tokyo. A short time later, we received another lot of eighty, also at the Commercial Club. I addressed a meeting at the Seminary dinner; the subject given me was a most remarkable one: "What I Would Do If I Were a Minister." At first I thought I could not do it, but I made the attempt and was told that I bad succeeded fairly well; they certainly were a very appreciative audience.

October 16th we had a great reception at our home, at which over one hundred were present, sixty of them were Chinese students, who were attending the university and schools in the vicinity. The remainder were our friends, professors, ministers, and those interested in the Chinese.

When I returned from England, I found that the Water Company had sold twelve acres adjoining the park and this cut off our water supply, leaving the San Rafael park valueless if we had no water; so I started proceedings to have the sale cancelled and succeeded in getting the land for the city by my paying $12,000. All this caused a good deal of stir in our small community, but the result is quite satisfactory, as the park is now assured of an abundant supply of water, and besides, the twelve acres of land make a valuable addition to the public, which, later on, will be improved and made a lasting benefit to future generations.

Addressed a big meeting of the Transportation Club, on "The Merchant Marine and Shipping Matters Generally." All present were in the transportation business and seemed to enjoy what I said. They gave me a real good reception.

In November I visited various branches of the Y. M. C. A. in San Francisco, and was surprised and pleased to see the progress that had been made in the Filipino, Japanese and Chinese. I was the guest of honor of the Chinese Six Companies. All were in favor of having a building erected on the land owned by the Chinese branch of the Y. M. C. A. Mr. Mott was interested and we hope that funds will be provided to have this building erected in the near future.

At San Rafael I addressed a meeting of the Masons on Pacific Ocean Commerce, especially with China and Japan.

I bought and presented to the San Francisco Y. M. C. A. a lot adjoining the main building, to enable them to expand and to provide for the ever-increasing boys' work. It is a valuable acquisition for the future of the association. Last year I purchased and presented to the Orphanage at San Anselmo, forty-two acres of land adjoining its present holdings. This includes a piece of bottom land that will pasture enough cows to supply them witli all the milk they require, saving the institution $1500 a year. Those two purchases amounted to about $20,000.

In December, at the very urgent request of various clubs of Oakland, I accepted an invitation to address an audience at the Hotel Oakland, at which there was not even standing room for all who wanted to get in. My subject was "Foreign Trade and Advice to Young Men."


"'The Pacific Coast is the most favored part of the world and is destined to supersede the Atlantic as the center of world commerce. Captain Robert Dollar told more than five hundred business men at the Lions' Club luncheon in Hotel Oakland. Members of the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Progressive Business Men's Club, and the Lions' Club of Berkeley and San Francisco, were among those who were present to hear the veteran shipping man speak on foreign trade.

"'Captain Dollar told of the opportunities in opening the field of foreign trade, of the hard work and assured success, and threw in for good measure some typical "Cappy Ricks" observations on the League of Nations and the Japanese situation. With humorous stories he brought many a laugh and with emphatic utterances drew rounds of applause.

"In part he said:

"'The trend of foreign trade, which has always been from East to West, is now on the Pacific. To those pessimists who are wondering what will happen here, I would call attention to the fact that the first steamer to cross the Pacific sailed only fifty years ago. The end is not yet, and will not be until the commerce of the Pacific supersedes that of the Atlantic.

"'We have awakened to the fact that we must have foreign trade. The manufacturers of the United States produce in six months enough for our needs for a year. No nation and no treaty will bring this foreign trade to us. We have got to go out after it. and I want to tell you it is some job.

"'We on the Pacific are in the most favored position of any nation on earth. We are facing the world commerce. Our Government once passed the law prohibiting our national banks from having branches in other countries. Can you beat it?'

"Captain Dollar outlined the principal factors of foreign trade as the manufacturer, the retailer, the shipowner and the banker and added:

"'Congress has retarded and held us back until recently. The Japanese during the world war had control of the Pacific. That has been changed and now America has control. The Standard Oil company, the Steel company and the Tobacco companies did more to develop our commerce than any others and Congress laid awake nights trying to put them out of business. A few years ago Americans were discouraged.

"'If we wish to go for foreign trade we must go for keeps. Hopping in and out will not do any good. Look the ground over and be prepared for hard work and for obstacles and I want to tell you success is assured. There are not enough men anywhere to till the positions on the top.

"'The young men are the ones who will conduct this business. We must have American citizens to do our business in foreign countries. If you do business with foreign houses you will get the business provided it doesn't suit them better to do it with their own countrymen.

"'The great effort in this country to stir up international strife is to be deplored. We don't want Japanese workmen here, and should tell them in the proper manner find I don't believe that, in that event, they would be offended. We are on the eve of seeing trouble if we do not look out.'

"Of the League of Nations Captain Dollar said: 'A union of the English speaking peoples of the world is a league that will accomplish something. What nation or combination of nations would dare oppose us? That is away ahead of a league of nations, for it would be workable.' "

The day before Christmas I gave a luncheon at the Commercial Club to our sixty five office employees, all having an enjoyable time. This number shows the great increase of our business in recent years. As a mark of appreciation of their services everyone received an extra month's salary as a Christmas present together with a half holiday, so they went home happy. Their appreciation was sufficient satisfaction to me and fully repaid me. The great success that we are having is produced by the loyalty of our men, without which it would be utterly impossible to successfully carry on the great work we are doing, and I hope we will be able to keep alive this interest in all our employees throughout the world.

We decided to start a line of big steamers around the world. Four have already made the trip with very satisfactory results, and we are in great hopes of being able to maintain this record permanently. I find a note in my diary December 29th, "That I spent the day working hard, planning the future development of our rapidly expanding business." I often think that it is expanding too fast; but the curtailment of it presents quite a problem as the business appears to demand the expansion." Looking backward only a very few years, we are convinced that it has exceeded the ordinary growth, as we have offices in Japan, China, the Philippines, Straits Settlements, India, Russia and Greece, seven offices in the United State and Canada, besides twelve m the countries stated above, making nineteen offices in all. It is only by enumerating these various offices that one realizes the increased scope.

On the 31st of December I find this note: "Every minute of this day was taken up until bedtime and still I could have used some more if human strength could have held out." But I feel thankful to be able to work as hard and accomplish as much as I have. I cannot do better than copy the note I made at the end of my diary in 1920: "Above all the years in my life this one certainly takes first place in my earnest and sincere thanks to God for all the blessings he has heaped on me and mine during 1920. We have had abundant pleasure and happiness and have all enjoyed the best of health; and as to prosperity and success in all our undertakings, we must thank the Giver of all good for success beyond our most sanguine expectations and desires. All of our steamers have run without accident, in fact it is remarkable how free all have run for so many years, so we can all say from the heart, 'Thank God, from whom all blessings come. Therefore, we start the year with supreme confidence in the future, knowing that God is with us and hoping prosperity will enable us to aid humanity with our money, and that we will be permitted to leave the world a little better than we found it.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus