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street railways. Many who did realize it thought of it lightly and as just retribution being visited upon you for the iniquities of your fathers.
The public attitude was due in large measure to what happened thirty or forty years ago. In those days securing a franchise for a street railway for a long term of years, at a five-cent fare, was a common pastime of promoters and middlemen. They were not interested in rendering service. Frequently such franchises were of great value and the public realized that regardless of growth of population and increase of business and profits the people would continue under the contract to pay a five-cent fare for many years. This resulted frequently in public antagonism amounting to hatred. When the war came on and costs of operation increased, in many cases as much as 100 per cent, it is not surprising that many patrons of the street railways felt that the companies should carry out the bargain contained in their franchises, even at a great loss. It was not uncommon to hear it said that if costs had largely increased, the companies could pay the deficit out of the enormous profits they had made in earlier years. This state of mind and the antagonism accumulated over a long period of years made it difficult for the street railways to secure a fair hearing when they wished to present their real troubles. Where public utilities commissions were in existence it prevented action in granting increased fares as promptly as the situation and the public interest required.
The troubles of the street railways during the war period can be attributed in a measure to the ill will of the public, sometimes justified and sometimes without adequate foundation. In time everyone came to realize that a fixed rate of fare, no matter if the people had a legal right to insist upon it, was not always and under all conditions a guarantee of the indispensable transportation service or of profit to the operators of a street railway. The public finally saw that no matter how unjustly they had been treated in past years, the problem confronting them was one of their own present need for adequate street car service and to meet that need required a rate of fare sufficient to enable the companies to operate. As a result, during the war and since, fares generally have been increased, in some cases to a maximum rate of ten cents and to an average rate of about seven cents.
The public has recognized that they have a real interest in first class street car service; that such a service can not be rendered without paying what it costs; and that cost includes adequate compensation to employes and a fair return on the value of the property. Under public regulation the old protest against paying a dividend on watered stock is dying out. The problem is the problem of the street car patrons. They are the ones to whom we must look for the help to which the industry is justly entitled.
Electric railways have been, and they will remain, our chief means of local transportation. I do not expect to see your industry supplanted by buses. The latter are efficient for light traffic but they cannot serve mass transportation. I believe the experience in England has proved this. Buses give way to tramways wherever traffic increases to a point to warrant it. I doubt if any large American city could handle its traffic with buses exclusively, certainly not at a reasonable fare.
CULTIVATE THE SMALL INVESTOR. Electric railways must have new money to make extensions and betterments. How to get this money, amounting to about $250,000,000 a year, is not a question easily answered. I suggest to you the experience of the plain citizen, the man of small means, who bought Liberty Bonds and financed our part in the Great War. This citizen, in large numbers, went into the investment business during the war, and now is ready to invest money gotten out of Government securities, or additional savings, in something else. This man is the man for the electric railways or any other vital industry that needs new money and friends. He first learned to save when he bought a Government Bond on the installment plan.
But this plain citizen wants something more than a promise to pay if all goes well. He has taken a course in Government finance and is through buying stocks of no value. He wants the best. He wants first of all to know all about your business, just as he did about the Liberty Bond when he invested in it. He wants you to render service with his money and to show some personal interest in customers of your lines, just as he would be interested in his customers if he were running a store. He wants to know from you how the other hired men - public officials, editors, and others who share in his earnings — are treating his investment, because he wants a sure return on his money just as he received interest on his bonds. He will stand with you and fight with you instead of against you so long as he is convinced that 'your methods are honest.
TALK FINANCE IN PLAIN WORDS. If you want to sell this plain citizen, it is best to be prepared to talk his language.
The average financial statement goes over his head and some one who talks plainly will get his support and his money. This plain citizen does not demand that business men be undignified, but he wants them to be understandable and regular. Too many of them, in an effort to make their financial statements dignified, succeed only in making them complex. Your plain citizen needs a plain statement, even if it be one not approved by the best accounting practices, provided it is honest. He understood what the Government was saying to him when it sold him bonds, because it talked his language plainly. Furthermore, he liked the treatment he received from the Government. Thus has the government broken ground with the plain citizen and his wife for investment in great industries like yours. They are waiting to buy if you can meet the requirements I have set forth.
Of course, the money that all of these plain citizens of the country have available at once will not meet all of your financial requirements, but if you get them behind you, there will not be so much trouble in interesting the big investors. Wealthy persons and institutions know that the safest investment today is the one in which the largest number of plain, everyday men and women are interested. The destiny of your business and of the public utility business generally lies with the average citizen, and the closer you get to him in a financial way the better off you will be.
MAKE PARTNERS OF CUSTOMERS. It has been the experience of many lines of business that real prosperity came when it was found possible to make partners or real friends of customers. When it can be said that a large number of the common people, — those who regularly patronize street cars,- are interested to some extent in the management of the company and its financial success, it will be certain that the good will of these citizens will be reflected in the better treatment the utility will receive from its community.
Your industry in these days has nothing to conceal. A frank statement of condition, coupled with judicious publicity, will reach the small investor who likes the bond of a local corporation furnishing an essential and growing service. But the management must not be of the absentee landlord class. Local men of reputation and high standing are essential. They must participate in all movements for the good of the community and thus be known as men of broad vision and helpful public spirit, and not as men who prey upon the people.
Character in men counts more than it ever did. When the economical and efficient management of your property is known to the citizens of your city, when the substantial business men believe that your bonds are a reliable security, I think it safe to say you will find your money locally. It will come from your customers. That is your field and it must be cultivated.
I knew of a street railway system in a city of this country which, thirty years ago, had all of its stock owned locally. Its management was by local men in whose integrity the people had complete confidence. That common stock, when it paid a 5 per cent dividend, sold on the market at a large premium. As an investment it paid but a little ove: 4 per cent. and was rated as to safety with bonds of the Government which then paid about 4 per cent.
High STANDARDS OF CONDUCT Almost every difficulty we are experiencing in this country is blamed upon the war. The standards of business dealing have suffered as a result of the apparent overthrow of all the laws of God and man when we entered upon and continued the savage task of fighting and destruction. We must return to the high ideals of business which made our nation great. No real prosperity can come until the leaders — the men of education and of business responsibility — have set the example of the strictest honesty and fair dealing in all relations of life. The so-called common people — the workers of all classes, are not behind in this. The street railway industry, in the distant past, had no monopoly of questionable methods. They were all too common in the development of this country. If the war has unsettled us, we should now return to the old fashioned honesty that made us great and powerful.
THE GREAT Service OF THE ELECTRIC CAR Your industry has its best days before it. To its credit is a large part in the building of the American home. It made it possible for men of moderate means to go outside the business sections of cities and there bring up their families in the fresh air and sunshine. Its contribution to the welfare of the nation has been a substantial one; its future contributions will be greater. As it serves its country more than it serves the king of profits, it will go on to brighter and better days. In the near future it will share with all the people in the abundant prosperity that will be visited upon our land. We must deserve the blessings of prosperity. Righteousness exalteth a nation.
PRESIDENT TODD:- I am sure that we are all indebted to Mr. Warwick for this most interesting address.
PAST PRESIDENTS' DAY PRESIDENT TODD:- We will now take up the last item on the program, which is Past Presidents' Day.
In calling to order this meeting of Past Presidents, and being the last to enter the ranks, having just laid down the burdens, and I may also add the pleasures, of the Presidency of the American Electric Railway Association, I feel very much like the old Roman Gladiator who, realizing that his course was run, exclaimed: “ He, who is about to die, salutes you.” And yet this may be too serious an application because no one who has ever served as President of the American Electric Railway Association feels that his career of usefulness is at an end when he steps into the ranks. On the contrary, his interest and zeal for the greater welfare of our Association is intensely increased. In proof of this fact I have only to point out to you the Past Presidents who today grace this meeting. Not a few of them have witnessed the struggles through which our industry has passed. Some of them were favored with more fortunate times, but whether in weal or in woe they have heroically performed their part from year to year, often against great odds, hostile public sentiment and almost financial disaster. They never lost faith in the ultimate success of the electric railway industry of this country and today, perhaps more than ever before, we have reason to believe that their hopes have been justified.
It is my pleasure to call to the Chair of this meeting of Past Presidents, one who has played an active and important part in the development of the electric railway in the great city of Chicago. Like so many other men who have made a marked success of their chosen profession, this gentleman began at the lowest round of the ladder, rising by ability and force of character through all the various intermediate steps up to the office of President of the Chicago Union Traction Company, which later became the Chicago Railways Company. He resigned as the active head of that Company in 1913 shortly before the consolidation of all the street railways under the title of Chicago Surface Lines. However, he never dropped out of active service with these Companies. He is still a member of the Board of Operation of the Chicago Surface Lines and Vice-President of the Chicago Railways Company.
He came to Chicago as a strong and wiry product of the Western plains. When he first donned the uniform of a conductor in October, 1872, the horse car lines of Chicago were less than a dozen years old. He was active during the introduction of the cable system in 1882 and the trolley system beginning 1890, and he saw the complete electrification of the street railway lines in 1906.
When this gentleman came to Chicago, it was a 300,000 population, with an area of 36 square miles, and with only 40 miles of car tracks. It is now a city of 2,701,000 persons, with an area of 200 square miles and has over 1,000 miles of surface track. Another instance of the growth of Chicago since the days when he came here is that a single fare at that time would purchase a ride of only two miles, whereas now, it is possible to ride 35 miles on one fare and unlimited use of transfers.