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The Business of Clothing the Army
BY EDWARD HUNGERFORD
HE biggest business in Consider for a moment, if you will
, the land as well as our fighting part in the war not as the the most versatile—has greatest of our national adventures, but, its headquarters in the as measured by the standards of big rather unbusiness-like business, as the very biggest of big busicity of Washington. ness. Add to it the indirect activities of
We Americans are ac Federal departments not ordinarily supcused by some of our neighbors of the posed to be identified with the success of habit of exaggeration, and perhaps they our arms, yet nevertheless contributing are right. Yet to-day it is hard to find tremendously to it. Then consider the sufficient superlatives to characterize our great forces of private business, lendUncle Sam as a business man, at least if ing not only their men and their money one considers the spry old gentleman in to the Government, but their keenest dimensions of size. În recent years he endeavors as well. These together form has become rather an adept in big busi a tremendous potential force, the strong ness, despite a supposed and traditional right arm of America. And if that arm antipathy to it. But since he plunged has not as yet felt its full power, rememinto the Great War his big business has ber that its actual strength is gain ngbecome biggest business, in all proba- each day and each hour. bility the biggest single business that the To-day Washington is the busiest city world has ever known. His unofficial in the land. Its Southern inertia is disbudget for the first year of his part in appearing:
appearing. Offices are open and busy the international conflict provided for an until late into the evening, whole departexpenditure of $20,000,000,000, or about ments alight long after dark. Even as much as the British Empire has ex- through the hottest months of last sumpended during the first three years of mer there was bustle in the town. The the war. And England has not stinted old-time official Washington has ceased herself, in men or in money. For the explaining that things could not be done second year Uncle Sam may not spend and has watched the “dollar-a-year as much-perhaps not two-thirds of his
ahead and do them. There initial annual expenditure, which has has, of course, been a great deal of bought many things that should have waste effort; it hardly could have been been purchased years before had we only avoided in all the confusion and the been properly prepared, such as training. haste, to say nothing of the rapid gathercamps, fighting-ships, merchant-vessels, ing together into government service of dry-docks and navy-yards and coast officers and clerks from every corner of defenses.
the land. But there has been a far But it is almost certain that the sec greater amount of accomplishment, both ond year will require more and more relatively and directly, than there has men and more materials for the mere been waste of effort. And more is being upkeep of the national establishment, as done each day that we continue upon well as for the success of the high, ideal our national adventure. istic purpose to which the United States In the past decade or two our manuis now pledged. And, if the war shall facturing efficiency, speaking broadly, last that long, it is probable that the has been greatly multiplied. The practhird year will require more men and tical sermons of the efficiency experts more materials than the second. And so have been heeded. And some of the on. War is a hungry god and exacting homelier industries, yet industries trein his demands.
mendously important in the fitting out
of an army, have been enabled to meet business from modest beginnings to such their supreme test in these trying days. overwhelming proportions that he has To-day when one hears that the spin more than 5,000 customers right in the dles and the looms of the United States city of New York, was intrusted with will be called upon to weave 5,000,000 the problem of bringing the cloth and blankets for the soldiers for a coming clothing industry of the nation up to the winter he knows that modern efficiency requirements of its new problem. And will render them not only able to meet he has given good account of himself on the test, but will insure that they abso the job. The nucleus of the organization lutely do meet it. As a matter of fact, he built up has now been absorbed and up to February 9th of the present year become a part of the Quartermaster more than 7,900,000 blankets and over Corps. 800,000 comforts had been delivered to The actual work of purchase and inthe Army as a result of its war-time spection and storage, and even the transcontracts. Uncle Sam in his purchases portation of these materials, is a funchas been a huge merchant. He has tion of the Quartermaster-General's ofbought coats and breeches and overcoats fice of the War Department, which has and shoes for his boys in an almost prodi- been expanded enormously to meet the gal profusion. He has bought, in my problem.
problem. Its existing arsenals and deopinion, both shrewdly and, for the pots have been greatly enlarged, and most part, economically.
multiplied in number. It has reached Consider at this time the entire ques out for available buildings and terminal tion of the clothing of the Army. Such sites in every large city of the land. consideration hardly can fail to give you And at one of the chief eastern points of a definite idea of the immensity of the embarkation for the expeditionary forces project of equipping within few overseas it has not only increased the months, not only the greatest army that size of an ancient post headquarters by the United States has ever known, but building eighty, new warehouses, but the greatest army that the United States upon the broad parade-ground it has has ever dreamed of knowing.
laid eighteen or twenty miles of railroad
track to serve these and the adjacent Clothing is a simple as well as a neces piers. And all day long and far into sary thing. It is intimate, and in the the night half a dozen switching locomocase of the soldier it is official, too. Yet tives are busy upon these sidings, bringsimple as the uniform may be for the ing in the Army's supplies, there to be single unit soldier, it becomes an ex stored, as in a vast reservoir, until they tremely complex problem when there are needed in the actual service of the are more than 1,500,000 private soldiers soldiers. Nor is this all. Miles of dockto be uniformed, and in the shortest pos age and whole blocks of tall fireproof sible space of time. An army of such warehouses in an adjoining port have figures was never beyond the calcula been seized for further storage as well as tions of the War Department, but the for the actual loading of transport-ships physical problem of bringing plans and bound to France. And in the city of figures into realities was extremely diffi- New York a man riding down-town upon cult for an organization used to taking the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad care of the necessities of an army of may notice that the long-deserted de100,000 men, or thereabouts. So, at the
partment stores below Twenty-third very beginning of the war, the newly Street are again busy with industry. formed Council of National Defense took They are part of the working out of the as one of its chief functions the correlat- clothing problem of the United States ing and educating of the manufacturers Army. who would be called to furnish supplies That, as we have said already, is a for the Government, and in such quanti- huge problem, yet only one arm of a very ties as were beyond the existing facili- much larger one. We shall approach the ties of even the largest of them. A arm and try to contemplate its size. We Chicago merchant, Julius Rosenwald, shall bring it down to the unit, the solwho has built up a mail-order retail dier-boy. He may be our soldier-boy,
the man of flesh and blood that we have the wastage at the cutting-table. These watched and known and loved all the bundles go to the women applicants. In days of his life. To say that we are anx a week they come back, each ten comious that he shall be well fed and well plete shirts, are sterilized and inspected housed and well clothed is to put the and bundled off to the warehouses for matter lightly. These things are vital issuance. to us as life itself. And so we imagine Our Uncle Samuel takes few chances, ourselves crossing the threshold of an for not only does he sterilize the garoffice-building in Washington and stand ments, but, in connection with the local ing before a man of authority in the boards of health, he makes a minute Quartermaster's office of the War De- sanitary inspection of the premises and partment.
working conditions of each shirt appli“The clothing of the Army?" we be cant. If these be satisfactory and the gin, with modest display of credentials. arsenal authorities convinced that she
“Very well,” he replies, politely. “So needs the money, she is given materials shall it be. Where will you start?” he for one shirt and a sample by which she inquires.
may be guided. If the workmanship Our mind searches for the alpha of upon this first shirt be good, she is then the clothing problem and our eyes light given a bundle of ten and loaned still upon the cuff over our right wrist. another sample. After which, if she
“How about shirts?" we inquire. continues at her shirt-making, she has
"It has been a pet charity of the no more guides. She is assumed to be Army for many years, our informant proficient, and generally she is. She replies, and explains:
takes each week from one to four bun“There are two arsenals of the United dles of ten shirts each, and by bringing States which have been and still are them back promptly and well executed the large shirt-producing sources for the finds herself in the possession of from Army. In ordinary times this has not $12 to $18 extra revenue. been a difficult problem, and the cut To the gateways of the two shirt. shirts have been farmed out to the wives making arsenals come many women or widows of soldiers who took them with their bundles each working-day, in home and stitched them upon
the case of one by trolley-car, and in the ing-machines and reaped a compara
other both by trolley-car and by autotively slight yet agreeable revenue mobile-for at this second arsenal the thereby. Even in times of war these Government has not been so much contwo arsenals have continued to measure cerned with charity as with getting its fairly well to the task, even though the shirts made and getting them made Government has not hesitated to order well. When the fuel famine threatened from outside manufacturers when the the land in the winter and the shirt outpressure was too great upon its own put began to fall, the Federal authorities factories. In fact, 18,000 shirts is the arranged with the city officers of a great present daily output of the manufactur- community near its mid-Western arseers of New York alone. Yet without nal to heat temporarily and open the changing their methods to any great ex city armories and install upon their great tent the two arsenals have greatly in floors the many thousand sewing-macreased their output, until to-day their chines for the women workers. And procapacity is 30,000 shirts a day.
duction went forward once again. The shirts are cut in six sizes -from As I already have said, the Govern0. D. wool, combined with a small per ment has not placed its chief reliance centage of cotton, and by the use of in upon these outside workers, who, as far genious machinery, as we shall see in as I can find, are the only ones in army a few minutes, 110 are cut at a single service taking the work into their homes. time. These cut pieces are quickly as It not only has given shirt contracts to sorted and from them the “makings” outside manufacturers, but it has inof ten shirts, together with the neces stalled whole brigades of sewing-masary findings, are gathered into a single chines and their workers in its two bundle and tied with tape made from arsenals devoted largely to this work.
But in this last it has been hampered by With the exception of the overcoats this the tremendous war pressure upon the is entirely pure or virgin wool. In the other facilities of the arsenals.
case of the overcoats—the blankets as The underclothing of the Army is as well—he permits the introduction of good as its shirts. It is all woolen under thirty-five per cent. reworked wool. No, wear, knit goods, and yet we are not a not shoddy. Shoddy is a child of rather nation generally accustomed to wearing uncertain parentage,
His father may woolen underwear. A good many thou have been a horse-blanket.
But resand boys this winter have been more worked wool comes entirely from the warmly clad next to their skins than many tons of clippings that are thrown ever before in their lives. And to ac out from the cuttings of hundreds of complish this our Uncle Samuel up to thousands of uniforms. It is wool that the present time has been compelled to has never been worn as clothing. And its buy over 25,000,000 suits of winter use to give body to heavy-weight cloth underwear.
is not only legitimate, but most efficient.
The uniform cloth as it comes from To the average mind, particularly the the loom at the factory is given most feminine one, the uniform's the thing. minute inspection by the Army's agents. And the United States Army has always Under a powerful glass it is counted as to been a well-uniformed one. It has not
the lines of thread of warp and of weft tolerated the slouchy standards of some and is constantly matched and reof the European nations, and this despite matched with the color standards. These our army hat, which still remains a bone last have been harder to enforce than of contention between uniform experts. those of the fiber. Our dyemaking is a The dress uniform of the regular private lost art being revived, and our American soldier was an impressive affair. I say dyemakers to-day are trying to follow "was” advisedly, for in the present war
the efficient methods of the Germans in to all intents and purposes it has ceased using the synthetic colorings rather than
In an ancient arsenal of an the vegetable ones—with rapidly imEastern city rest one hundred thousand proving success, but not as yet complete. pairs of blue trousers, each pair neatly But the colorings are far better than folded and with a broad white stripe they were even three months ago. And down the outside of each trousers leg. khaki has become a more definite standThey may never be worn again. Khaki's ard. the thing. "O. D.,” which, translated When the cloth, properly passed and from the Army parlance, means
olive inspected, comes from the woolen-mills it drab," or khaki, is the correct color for goes to one of the numerous quartereverything save the most extremely master depots which have sprung up in formal occasions like a President's re the country, particularly in its northception, for instance—when an officer eastern section, which in turn rapidly would have definite instructions to ap allot and deliver it to the manufacturers pear in gold lace and blue, and would who have received the contracts for makthen have the opportunity of spending a ing uniforms for the United States. And little more of his hard-earned pay for if one would appreciate once again the high-priced fancy "fixings.'
volume of all this, understand that the The private gets his uniform thrown Quartermaster-General's department at in with his food and some other things; Washington made a contract last August otherwise we might have an army of with a single woolen-mill concern for the bankruptcies. But Uncle Sam gives no delivery of $57,000,000 worth of woolen high prices to private tailors for the cloth between that date and the end of clothing for his boys. He pays about the present year, and incidentally at far $13 to $15 for the ordinary uniform of better prices than it could make such a coat and breeches and about $12 to $14 contract to-day. This cloth is now going for an overcoat—and they are good coats to one hundred and thirty factories for and good breeches and good overcoats. manufacture into coats and breeches and
In the first place, he buys his own overcoats. And up to February 9th cloth-melton or serge
for the most part.
these factories had delivered 3,175,000
overcoats, 5,054,000 breeches, and 2, the industrial section of a large Eastern 774,000 undercoats, all of wool; in addi- city. The barriers drop for us and with tion to 3,812,000 pairs of cotton breeches little formality we enter the factory. It and 2,090,000 cotton coats—these last is a busy place, a clean, well-lighted, designed, of course, for summer wear. well-heated, well-ventilated place that And early in February New York City's is the delight of the Federal inspectors daily output was 20,000 wool coats, whose business it is to see that Uncle 36,000 wool breeches, 80,000 winter un Sam's supplies are made under clean dershirts, and 80,000 pairs of winter and decent labor conditions. You have drawers.
heard of sweat-shops. This is far re
moved from that sort of thing. Even America does not as yet appreciate though it is peopled with the folk who the enormous rise of her ready-made formerly were compelled to work in the clothing industry. She can hardly appre foul air and the miserable lighting condiciate either the way it has risen to the tions of the sweat-shop--now, happily, uniform emergency of her war crisis, the beginning to pass out of existence. The way that great clothing manufacturing room, the entire environment of the faccities like New York or Rochester or tory, is typically American; the folk Baltimore or Chicago have turned out who work within are just beginning to suits and coats for the boys who are be. Six languages are spoken in this either “over there” or going. In New shop-English, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, York alone, in the first twenty-five days Slavic, and Italian. Joe, the foreman, of January of the present year, more was reared in the last of these, although than 250,000 completed khaki-colored now he speaks them all. He is repreovercoats came out from her workshops sentative of the better grade of Italian -or more than enough for all the men that one now begins to find throughout of a city like St. Louis or Boston. And the United States. this in addition to the city's vast output Joe's floor on the morning that we visit of breeches and coats and shoes for the it is busy making uniform coats of serge. men of our Army, and without any ap On a great long table the melton is slowly preciable amount of overtime work:
being unwound from a traveling rollMillions of skilled and patient fingers carrier and laid flat, sixty thicknesses on hundreds of thousands of rapid hands, deep. For practical computation, howwhole armies of brisk machines, a bri ever, the cloth is but thirty thicknesses gade of 8,600 inspectors and clerks and or "thirty ply" deep. For it is alterpackers in the local depots of the Quar- nately faced and reversed, in order that termaster Department, have made such both sides of the coat may be cut an almost incredibly vast clothing out simultaneously and in a single operation. put possible. It is hard for the mind to In other words, the material for thirty comprehend clothing expressed in mill- complete tiers of garments is laid upon ions. One thinks of a huge building, like the table before the “lay” is complete the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and is ready for the marking. or Marshall Field's store in Chicago This last is a fairly exact science and silent floor upon silent floor filled with upon its success almost the entire sucmountainous
ranges of cases or bundles, cess of the shops depends. The marker and in each case or bundle, ten or must make the most efficient use of his twenty or forty or seventy or a hundred materials, remembering always that the overcoats or breeches or shirts, and then warp of the cloth must go up and down thinks that each of these is to acquire a each piece of the completed garment and personality, to clothe a human being not across. The fact that his pattern is and to become, in no small sense, part at least thirty yards long and fifty-four of him. And then it is that one begins to inches wide does not lessen his task. picture the vastness of an army. In fact, it only increases his responsi
bility. For while our Uncle Samuel is If we wish to see these uniforms fairly canny in figuring out the number manufactured we go to the upper floors coats or breeches or overcoats each of a huge and modern loft building in bolt of cloth ought to make, a smart