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Rep. Carter Glass

Address of the Honorable Carter Glass to the Graduating Class, June 16th, 1909.

The Inviting Fields Of Labor

Mr. President and Young Men of the Graduating Class:

So acute and abiding has been my interest in the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, from which you have just received your diploma of graduation, that, as little qualified as I feel to instruct or entertain a class of young men about to enter seriously upon life's work, I could not put aside the invitation to come here to-day and speak. The concern with which I have for a long while regarded this institution was considerably accentuated when the managing board selected and installed as its President my friend, Dr. Barringer, with whom I was for eight years associated at the University of Virginia, he as Chairman of the Faculty and I as a member of the Board of Visitors. I wanted to come here to see if he was not putting into the work of his new and more responsible position the same tireless energy, patient effort and skill that so characterized his administration at Charlottesville; and I am told that such is the case.

I shall speak to you, my young friends, briefly, but very earnestly, as a man who had not the advantages of a collegiate education, but whose practical observations and experiences of life have deeply impressed him with the large opportunities and engaging possibilities of those who have been so blessed. And at the very outset I desire to express to this audience the hope that the newspaper reports which have recently appeared representing a deplorable lack of interest in the agricultural school of this institution are greatly exaggerated, if not altogether unwarranted by the facts. If ever there was a time when Virginia needed the awakening and the inestimable boon which rational methods in agricultural pursuits insure, it is right now, when the tendency is from the country to the cities and towns. In this connection, I shall quote a striking passage from a memorable deliverance by ex-President Roosevelt on the "Life of the Farmer." I wish it could be posted over the front door of every farm house in the South, that it might fire the ambition of parent and child alike and mightily aid in the uplift of country life and the multiplication of the comforts and blessings which God has put within the reach of those who are willing to enjoy them in the sweat of their faces. Said President Roosevelt:

"I warn my countrymen that the great recent progress made in city life is not a full measure of our civilization; for our civilization rests at bottom on the wholesomeness, the attractiveness, and the completeness, as well as the prosperity, of life in the country. The men and women on the farms stand for what is fundamentally best and most needed in our American life. Upon the development of country life rests ultimately our ability, by methods of farming requiring the highest intelligence, to continue to feed and clothe the hungry nations; to supply the city with fresh blood, clean bodies, and clear brains that can endure the terrific strain of modern life; we need the development of men in the open country who will be in the future, as in the past, the stay and strength of the nation in time of war, and its guiding and controlling spirit in time of peace."

Entering now upon the active pursuit of your chosen vocations, it is proper that you should take a comprehensive view of the broad field of labor that lies before you. By far the greater number of the students of this institution claim Virginia as their native State; nearly all are representatives of the South. What more natural than that your eyes should be directed to the incalculable possibilities which the South offers to your talents?

After struggling through troubles and fighting against obstacles of every description, the South is rapidly emerging from the shadows and coming to its own again. Its development is the marvel of our people. No other section of the country has more abundant resources; none offers richer reward to steadfast, painstaking, intelligent labor. Fertile its acres; rich the yield of its mines; unlimited the opportunities for the mechanic, the manufacturer, the merchant and the farmer. From the Potomac to the Rio Grande there stretches out before your vision a land so full of promise to the properly directed energies of man, especially of young men, that no spot can be chosen for the exercise of those energies that will not more than justify all expectations.

While much has been done in the direction of development, vastly more remains to be accomplished. The researches which you have pursued in this institution will qualify you for efforts directed to make farms more fertile, to cause the yield of the mine to become yet richer, to turn the magnificent water courses of the South to new and profitable enterprises. In a hundred different ways you will be able to earn good names, to achieve reputation, and acquire wealth by bringing your faculties to bear upon the materials right at hand. No higher ambition can move the spirit of any young son of the South than that of doing his share towards raising his state and section to the topmost pinnacle of prosperity.

The ways in which this may be done are many. I shall first mention one of which I have had a limited personal observation, and shall use our own State as an illustration in part. The dairy business constitutes one of the most prolific and most profitable sources of revenue in this country. The Secretary of Agriculture stated in his annual report for 1907 that in that year the value of farm dairy products reached the enormous total of $800,000,000. Of this vast sum a comparatively small proportion went to the South; an almost negligible portion fell to Virginia's share. I shall not weary you with an array of statistics, but I wish to draw your attention to the facts which show how inexcusably this fortune-yielding industry has been neglected in the South and especially in our own State.

According to a census bulletin, the six states of New York, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, produced in 1905, butter, cheese, condensed milk and the by-products of these articles to the value of about $114,000,000, which was more than 67 per cent. of the total value of product for the United States. In that same year $166,251 represented the total output in these articles in the entire South, only five states being represented—Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas, and the smallest share—$20,209—fell to Virginia. It is important to note that this amount was the result of the operations of but four factories, and that five years previous there had been six with a total output of $51,942. As compared with the conditions in 1900, Texas suffered a loss of 22.8 per cent.; Virginia 61.1 and Tennessee 83.5.

About two years ago specialists of the national Department of Agriculture made an investigation of the dairy business of the South, taking as a basis of their work the situation as it was presented in fifty of the largest cities of thirteen Southern States, Kentucky and West Virginia being included in the list. From the reports made by these gentlemen, it is not difficult to determine the causes that have led to a decline of the dairy industry in Virginia, or, to state the case differently, that have retarded or restrained the growth of it. It should also be borne in mind that these investigations were made with a view to pointing out how present deficiencies may be remedied.

One of these reports states that "the creamery butter production of the South is entirely inadequate to meet the demand, there being only a few regular creameries in the Southern States." The quantity made is less than one-twentieth of that brought in. Plenty of butter is made on the farms, but that is mostly for home use; it does not enter the general market. A statement is made that in 1899 about 250,000,000 pounds of butter was made on the farms and 1,140,000 pounds in creameries, and that "the relative proportion has not materially changed since." The farm-made butter of the South is not regarded very flatteringly. It is brought to the country merchant, so the story goes, in various shapes and shades of color. He retails what he can and ships the balance in tin cans or barrels to the commission merchants in the large cities. By the time it reaches them it is apt to be very rancid, not having been properly washed when churned. It is said to resemble axle-grease more than butter, and is bought as low as seven cents a pound. Most of it goes to the renovating factories, and then again is put on the market.

It will be readily understood, even from this brief statement, that the creamery butter production is entirely inadequate to the demand. In 1905 the total amount of dairy products in the thirteen Southern States was 2,229,000 pounds; in 1907 the quantity imported into fifty southern cities was over 118,000,000 pounds, and the value of this imported product was nearly $23,000,000. Right here it may as well be stated that these specialists calculate that 184,500 cows would be needed to supply the deficiency and that the estimated profits that could be saved to the South every year would amount to more than $14,600,000.

Now, it may be asked: What has all this to do with the graduates of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute? The answer is: The graduates of this Institute can apply to this particular problem the technical, the scientific instruction they have received in the course of their studies. They can bend their energies toward bettering conditions on the farms of the South; they can devise better stabling accommodations for the cattle, sanitary improvements in these stables, various means whereby the conditions surrounding Southern dairies can be changed so as to improve the product and thus increase its value.

Why is it that so profitable a business as dairying has remained undeveloped in the South? Our Southern farmers have shown themselves to be in a receptive state of mind as to other essentials, such, for instance, as the adoption of diversified farming instead of bestowing their whole care on a single crop, such as tobacco in Virginia and cotton further south. Let us hear what the experts say on this head:

"Dairying is undeveloped in the Southern States largely because the farmers in that section do not know how to make it profitable. They realize the necessity of more fertilizer for their farms, and they are buying large quantities of it at high prices. They realize, too, that barnyard manure is superior to commercial fertilizer, but they do not understand how to keep the cattle to make the manure without sustaining a loss on the cattle. This is due principally to three things: (1) The cattle now kept are, as a rule, inferior and could not be kept profitably under any circumstances; (2) many dairymen buy practically all their feed instead of growing it, especially those who live near the city and can get a good price for their products; and (3), the dairyman who lives some distance from the city and sells butter, as a rule, makes an inferior product. A very large per cent. of the dairies in the Southern States are suffering from at least two of these difficulties, and in many cases from all three."

In conclusion this specialist says: "Southern dairying needs improvement all along the line. The cost of production is unreasonably high, the sanitary conditions are often bad, and the price of first-class products is, in some cases, too low."

"The South will some day be a great dairy country," says another specialist, who has been investigating the situation. Those of you who will turn your attention to the scientific exploitations of the Southern farm can do much to make this prediction come true. In thinking on the sanitary improvement of stabling, barns, silos and other essential features, you can contribute to a very material degree to that progress in the dairy industry which must bring millions into the pockets of Southern farmers.

It is but a short step from the contemplation of the specific subject to which I have just invited your attention to a view of that wider realm of agricultural and industrial activity which spreads over the entire Southern country. The farm values of the South aggregate the stupendous sum of $3,060,497,644, out of a total in the United States of $20,439,901,164, or about 16 per cent. of the whole. In the South, the improved farm land is only about 40 per cent. of the whole, the only exceptions being Virginia and Texas, where it is 50 per cent. In the Middle West and beyond, the proportion ranges from 60 to 90 per cent. Think of the marvelous opportunities offered in this field alone.

Look at what has been accomplished in the South within the past two decades in the line of manufacturing.

I sat in the Senate Chamber a week or two ago and listened to Mr. Aldrich, of Rhode Island, when, in the course of a speech relating to the cotton schedule of the pending tariff bill, the great Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee made as impassioned an appeal for the development of Southern industries as could well be framed. It was thrilling to hear him recite the wonderful increase in the value of the product and in the fineness of the manufacture of Southern cotton mills, and it was inspiring to hear him prophesy that the Southern mills would gradually cover the field of the Northern mills. He stated that in the quarter of a century from 1880 to 1905 the number of Southern cotton mills increased from 161 to 550, whereas the New England mills decreased from 439 to 308. For that period the increase of producing spindles in the United States was about 135 per cent., while the increase in the Southern States was nearly 1,500 per cent. In the five years from 1900 to 1905 the Southern spindles increased by 3,210,561. In 1905 the Southern States absorbed more domestic cotton, exclusive of the small quantity of Sea Island cotton, by more than 250,000 bales than all the mills of New England, and nearly as much as the combined mills of New England and the Middle States. The Southern States, said this Rhode Island Senator, have to-day practically one-half of the cotton manufacturing of the United States. When the next tariff bill is constructed, he declared, they will have more than three-quarters of the entire cotton manufacturing of this country. This, he said, is inevitable, for there is no industry in the South that could take the place of the manufacture of cotton. He admitted that the South has the greatest agricultural people in the world, considering the value of its product, but he admonished us that we had neglected our opportunities in the development of manufactures. No other industry, Senator Aldrich contended, could so use the surplus population of the South as the manufacture of cotton. Though there are sugar and rice and cattle and other agricultural products in Louisiana and Texas, there is not in all the list of manufactured products anyone that so appeals to Southern interests and Southern people as this king of commodities. It is the most important purely manufacturing industry in all the Southern States.

"The intelligence of your people," said Senator Aldrich, "the vigor of your people, can be measured by the extent to which you develop this industry in your midst. What has happened to the South in connection with it ? You are producing $100,000,000 in value of cotton manufactures, or substantially that amount. You have developed truck farming; you have enabled the farmers of the South to have a variety of crops instead of confining themselves. You have brought the farmer and a profitable market together. You are building up gradually a variety of industries in the South dependent upon the manufacture of cotton. The South has sometimes suggested that the wealth of the country, the manufacturing of the country, is located in the northeastern section of the country. Why should the South decline to enter fields which you can cultivate with as much industry and as much intelligence as we can?

An exhibit even more wonderful is this: In 1900, the census reported capital invested in Southern industries as $660,000,000 and the value of products as $913,000,000; in 1905, the figures for the first-named item read $1,136,000,000 and for the other $1,262,000,000. What a change in the brief space of five years! Think what the census figures of 1910 will show! On the thirtieth day of June, 1907, railway mileage in the eleven Southern States amounted to 45,730; on the same date in 1907 it had reached 58,440 miles, an increase of over 27 per cent. in a period of time in which such increase all over the United States measured only 18 per cent. In 1897, the coal production of the South was 15,771,465 tons; in 1906, 37,152,433 tons, an increase of nearly 150 per cent. In 1898, the South produced 1,700,053 tons of pig iron; in 1907, the product had grown to 2,742,322 tons, and of this latter amount, let me say in parenthesis, Virginia furnished about 18 per cent.

And yet, my young friends, great as is the progress which those figures indicate, "the surface has barely been scratched." We still stand on the threshold of the wonderland which the future opens to our gaze. Much we of the South have done, but the greatest achievements must be accomplished by you and those like you who take up the battle of life where your elders have ceased to labor. Yours is the glorious privilege to exploit still further the practically unlimited resources of the South. Yours is the privilege to rear still higher the magnificent structure of Southern prosperity for which only the foundations have been laid. From your ranks are to issue in the years to come the men who will extend the railroads of the South, who will plan and erect her factories; who will build waterworks and the thousand and one conveniences and requirements of modern life in which the genius of the engineer finds its wonderful scope.

Prolific fields to-day invite both the civil and mechanical engineer who has made good use of the opportunities for study and investigation which an Institution like this affords. Technological skill is in demand everywhere. Frequently you have heard it said that the man who makes two blades of grass grow where but one grew before, is a benefactor of his race. By the same token will that civil and mechanical engineer be reckoned among the foremost of men whose genius will devise new ways in which those who seek to labor will find employment; who will invent new means of sanitation in factory and dwelling; who will know so to direct the energies of capital that it will confer the greatest benefit upon the greatest number.

If there is one subject more than another to which the civil engineers of the South should devote their attention for the next generation, it is to the building of good public highways. Thousands of miles of these public roads in every Southern State are little less than disgraceful. It would not be altogether incorrect to describe them as a succession of hills and holes from which in dry weather the dust rises in clouds, and which wet weather renders well-nigh impassable. The loss the farmers of the South suffer from this cause every year in the wear and tear upon their teams and vehicles runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and it is shocking to think how many thousands of good men stand in danger, every time they pass over these roads, of losing their eternal salvation by reason of the profanity they indulge in. For to travel over some roads would try the patience and good temper of an angel.

The National Association of Good Roads has been and is doing excellent pioneer work in agitating the subject. Session after session bills have been introduced in Congress with a view to commensurate national aid in the construction of public highways. The Bureau of Public Roads of the Department of Agriculture is doing what it can with the limited means at its disposal to extend help to those communities that seek to improve their roads; and, besides, this Bureau has collected a great mass of statistics showing how in Europe for years—in France for centuries—the building of highways has been carried on and how they are cared for; and its statistics show, furthermore, how much less it costs the European farmers to market their produce than it costs the agriculturists of the United States. The different states of the Union are expending millions of dollars every year in this work, but much of the money is almost wasted by the unscientific methods employed. This subject is one of many that would prove a fruitful study to those of you who intend to enter the profession of civil engineering. It points to work that would benefit unborn generations.

Within the next twenty-five years this country will see great undertakings in the construction of inland waterways, and the best thought of our civil engineers is sure to be enlisted in this work. The canalization of rivers that may join the Great Lakes to the Father of Rivers and thus to the Gulf, and the piercing of the continent by a series of canals which will permit the transportation of freight from the Lakes to the Atlantic seaboard without breaking bulk; the construction of great canals also on the Pacific coast—all these are projects of the immediate future in which the best engineering talent of the country will be employed.

Then there is the marvelous work going on in some of the Western States—the great irrigation projects, by means of which the desert is literally made to blossom like the rose, and hundreds of thousands of acres are redeemed from utter sterility and made ready for the husbandman's toil. In these undertakings also the civil engineer is the chief factor. Irrigation is a part of his work that need not be confined to deserts, for it can and will be made to serve as an important means to increase the productiveness of great farms everywhere. In fact, there is no end to the many directions in which his work is required nowadays. In our great cities the erection of "skyscrapers" calls for his very best thought. The towering structures of New York, such as the Singer Building, forty stories high; the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's building, with its tower 710 feet in the air—155 feet higher than the Washington Monument; the projected building of the Equitable Life Insurance Company, which is to cover an entire city block and have sixty-four stories—these and hundreds, not quite as gigantic perhaps, but yet of unusual size, owe the possibility of their construction to the genius of civil engineers.

In the upbuilding of city and country alike that genius finds employment. The greater the apparent difficulties to be overcome, the more certain the task is to be accomplished. Railroads will continue to be built at an ever increasing rate; rivers must be spanned by great bridges and must be tunneled so that trains may pass under them; mountain ranges must be pierced in order that distance may be lessened, and again mountains must be leveled and valleys filled that the iron horse may draw its load of human beings or costly wares with least possible hindrance and greatest possible speed. Not only the architect, but the civil engineer—and in a great many cases the latter alone—must be consulted when a great factory or warehouse is to be erected. It can be safely asserted that there is to-day hardly any branch of construction in which the services of first-class civil engineers are not in demand.

In all these avenues of the immediate future he will find no more responsive, no more profitable field than the South. Our cities are just beginning to grow; our farms, our fields, our factories, our commercial opportunities are sought by those who have money to invest, no less than by those who have labor to sell. Therefore, young men, you who have devoted your studies to the mastery of the science of civil engineering need not go beyond the confines of your own State and section to find ample room for your energies and rich rewards for your labors. Just remember that the opportunity for great work is right at your door. All you need to do is to recognize and grasp it, and Fame and Fortune are within your reach!

The purpose of my presence here today and of my remarks would be incomplete indeed were I to fail to advert to one of the greatest professions which the close of the last century has opened up to our young men. It is the profession of the electrical engineer. Not in all the stories of "The Arabian Nights" is there anything half so wonderful as the achievements that electricity has wrought. Compared with the work of the modern electrician Aladdin's lamp was the cheapest sort of a toy, and the genii that came at his bidding were hewers of wood and drawers of water. Yet, it is said, we stand only on the threshold of electrical discoveries.

Think for a moment of what has been done in the line of electrical work in the last twenty or twenty-five years. It is not so long ago that the first telephone line was installed. Then it was regarded as a costly luxury; to-day it is a commercial and social necessity. When men could talk by 'phone from Washington to Baltimore everybody marveled; yet to-day you may converse with your friends or your employers, even though you are in Boston and they in Chicago, or even farther west, and a submarine telephone line to connect the United States with Europe is one of the projects of the near future.

To mention even a small portion of electrical discoveries would take more time than I dare consume and would lead me too far from the immediate consideration of facts I wish to lay before you. But I cannot resist the temptation to mention the electrical marvel of the present day—wireless telegraphy. The fact that ships can be spoken to from land and can communicate with each other at sea, though distant hundreds of miles, is something that is almost beyond the power of the mind to grasp. Hundreds of miles I say! Yes, almost a thousand miles. The national government is about to build a wireless telegraph station at Washington the tower of which will overtop the great white shaft of the Monument by more than a half hundred feet, and from that station vessels at sea can be spoken at distances that are reckoned by hundreds of miles, but the limit of which distances no one has as yet ventured to predict. However enchanting it is to dwell on this subject, I must not indulge myself any longer, nor trespass unduly upon your patience. One of the developments of this era of electricity is electrical engineering. For those who embrace this branch of practical, or applied, science there opens up an avenue of immeasurable, beneficent, and remunerative activity. The work that is ahead for the electrical engineer, large as its scope is even in our day, can hardly be measured by present calculation, for the very reason, already given, that the practical application of the "Promethean spark" is still a problem the solution of which has only just begun. The attempt to figure out in what directions this science will eventually radiate would lead to endless, though vastly interesting, speculation. Yet already we can scan some of the work in which its energies will become active.

In each one of these great things have already been accomplished. Niagara has been made subservient to all of them, and for hundreds of miles the power it generates is distributed. Wherever there is a waterfall its energy can be converted to the uses of the electrical engineer. In the interest of economy, cleanliness and elimination of noise electricity is supplanting steam on many railroads. Without it the great subways of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and other large cities would be impossible, and the ever pressing question of rapid transit remain unsolved. It will not be long before the steam locomotive will have relegated to the "limbo of past and forgotten things," and great ocean greyhounds like the Lusitania and Mauretania will be sent from continent to continent by electrical propulsion. Aerial navigation, the dream of mankind ever since Dædalus and Icarus attempted flight with waxen wings, waits upon electricity as its chief aid and motive power. Scarcely any occupation that calls for dynamic force but will need the services of the electrical engineer. He may indeed survey the whole realm of human activity and see himself the center of the vast forces that direct human effort.

To say this is not mere rhetorical exuberance. To-day it may sound extravagant, but thus also may have appeared the prophecies which some enthusiast uttered after James Watts with his tea kettle had fallen upon the wonders of steam. The possibilities, nay, the probabilities, I have pointed out will become realities just as surely as the progress of the human race is bounded only by the limitations of the human intellect, and who shall say what those limitations may be?

In conclusion, my young friends, let me conjure you to "stick"! In whatever pursuit you may direct your energies, have patience. Be not diverted nor allured from a firm resolve to achieve success in the avocation which most appeals to your judgment and inclination. Stick to the task which you select for life's work; and may God in His infinite mercy help you to brush away the obstacles and make your way a path of peace and prosperity.


From the Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute -- The State Agricultural and Mechanical College Commencement Number, July, 1909, Vol. II, No. 3., pp. 32-42.

Carter Glass was a Representative and a Senator from Virginia, elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-seventh Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Peter J. Otey; reelected to the Fifty-eighth and to the eight succeeding Congresses and served from November 4, 1902, until December 16, 1918, when he resigned to accept a cabinet position. He was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Woodrow Wilson and served from 1918 to 1920 when he resigned, having been appointed a Senator; appointed as a Democrat to the United States Senate on November 18, 1919, and subsequently elected on November 3, 1920, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Thomas S. Martin in the term ending March 3, 1925, but did not qualify until February 2, 1920, preferring to retain his Cabinet portfolio; reelected in 1924, 1930, 1936, and again in 1942, and served from February 2, 1920, until his death on May 28, 1946.