South American Trade To the Editor of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN : A great deal has been said and written about capturing the South American trade from the Europeans, but how much has actually been done, will be seen . in a very short time after the war is oyer. We have had 18 months with a clear field, but later we will be up against every kind of obstacle both as regards trading and shipping. The Germans, British, French and Italians know the South American trade from A to Z, and having established the strongest banks all over the republics, and having the assistance of subsidized ships, they will be in a position to return with fresh vigor and fight to the last ditch in the way of undercutting prices of goods and steamer rates. The most important link in the chain is undoubtedly the strong banks already established there. London, Berlin, Paris and Rome have old established branches which cover practically the whole of Brazil, Argentina and Chile. and after many years of trading they know almost to a dollar how much credit to allow every customer. Is it likely that onr newly formed banks can find out a firm's credit from the foreign banking houses? Not much. This knowledge can very often only be gained by dear experience and lessons. Also, these banks have become accustomed to give their customers very long credits which is a thing we have in the past flatly refused to do. With us it has been a case of, Here are the goods, where is the money? It must also be remembered that the largest South American republics have been very heavy borrowers from England, Germany and France for many years and their governments have many loans still to pay off; also most of these countries have a fluctuating exchange which make it very necessary for an importer and exporter to study every detail of the countries' politics, crops and financial ups and downs in order to carry on his business without severe losses. Nearly all the big European banks and trading houses have their clerks in specially healthy localities and have excellent quarters for them and in this way the clerks are all together and can assist one another both in the office and in their recreations. The majority of the European firms are old established or new firms that have bought out old ones. These companies know all the little fancies of different customers; their native and home clerks have in many cases been with them for years and it is one of the surprises of South American business firms to see how long they keep their employees. One of the principal reasons for this is that the foreign firms pay good wages and look after the welfare of all their clerks. These employees know the language and customs of their customers, many of whom are large coffee Tazendeiros in Brazil, cattlemen and grain men in the Argentine, and nitrate of soda mine men in Chile. These customers are very large employers of cheap labot and they buy immense quantities of every conceivable kind of supplies and their credits are good for long time notes. Again all these importing houses have most of their head clerks out from the home office and they are all taught Spanish and Portuguese thoroughly before they arrive in the country. Extreme tact is needed to deal with the South Americans. They are the most polite people I have ever met. Politeness comes next to religion with them and it takes hours and sometimes days of patient attention and waiting on some of them to gain their goodwill, confidence and trade. One of the first words for anyone trading there is to thoroughly understand the Portuguese word Amanha, which means to-morrow, and is generally used and means don't hurry me, I want time to make up my mind. It must not be forgotten that although the people of the cities are very lavish spenders, the bulk of the laboring classes are very poorly paid, as almost all the outside laborers of the interior are given small wages and a piece of land and sometimes a small share of profits, so it comes to be a case that about 75 per cent of the imported articles must be cheap and attractive. This is the reason that Germany has made such inroads into British trade. Britain made a good solid article built to last and Germany made an attractive cheap article which appealed to the low paid workers of the country. It has long been one of the principal drawbacks to American trade that onr manufacturers and travelers did not thoroughly understand the language of the country; also in many cases the different' business and credit methods of each. It is no use for a man to take a few lessons. in Spanish and Portuguese and go down there and try ' to sell them goods for cash when they know they can go to their own traders and buy exactly the same American goods from the German and British on long credits through the banks who have' trusted them for years. The South American business man is extremely sensitive and honest and it takes many months of patient labor to find out each customer's whims. If we are going after this trade it is high time we taught Spanish and Portuguese in all our high schools. Not many of our thousands of high school graduates know a single word of the above languages and once the boy leaves school he has missed his finest chance of learning a language. The future market of the world is South America, and it is absolutely necessary to learn both Portuguese and Spanish, as Spanish is useless in Brazil and Portuguese is of as little use in the other Spanish speaking countries. When the South American has a little money to spend he takes his family to Paris, London, Berlin and Rome where he has his exclusive clubs and hotels and they spend thousands of dollars, and are very often well entertained by the European side of the firms they trade with. It is all very well for our Government to make protective alliances with these republics, but that will not help trade. Trade has to be gone after, and worked up, and then held against the strongest competition. I see that a company has been formed in New York and Boston with a capital of $10,000,000. Now if the Government would only pay a bonus for every ton of exports and a small bonus for every ton of imports to and from South America carried in American bottoms, it would give our steamer men some encouragement ; without some help it seems almost hopeless. At present things look pretty good, but one of the principal difficulties is to obtain a full cargo both ways. Can we do that? At present we can, but after the war when the steamship lines once more become thoroughly organized (and do not let us imagine it will be any half measures), they will be more thorough than ever before. All the European countries have their large fast passenger steamers, that are floating palaces. They are smaller than the liners coming to New York, but in many cases have far superior accommodations. Then these lines have another fleet consisting of slower large capacity cargo boats, some of which carry a few passengers at lower rates. Then the British and Germans Lave small shallow steamers that go up the large rivers and dodge along the coasts and pick up cargoes for the larger steamers. These steamship companies had a pretty good understanding between themselves before the war and even though there is war between them now it is highly probable those rings will be renewed to a certain extent.- In many cases cargo tramp steamers are chartered for a load of coal or goods from Europe to South American ports, then load up with a full cargo of coffee, hides, or nitrate of soda, for a United States port, then load with grain for Europe. I notice that nearly every American steamer has gone into the European trade and sailing vessels into the South American trade. Would it not have been more profitable ultimately to have paid more attention to South America and have had American steamers carrying cargoes from South American ports, instead of having almost daily arrivals at our ports of British tramp steamers with full cargoes from Chile, Argentina and Brazil, in spite of the fact that England is at war? It looks as if England for one intended to hold on to her trade in the South. Let us make our start at once or we may hang up the sign, " Too Late." E. ANDERSON. Sebago Lake, Maine. Durable Lead Coating of Iron and Steel To the Editor of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN : A letter received by me from the United States Consul at Bolivia and Peru, Mr. Donaldson, says that the Great Northern Railroad Company and the fruit, etc., shipping companies there, complain of the speedy destruction of galvanized roofing sheets on their buildings. In your supplement issue of January 1st, No. 2087, Mr. H, B. C. Allison gives among other processes of covering iron and steel goods, sheets, etc., the Lohmann process, it being a supposed good lead sheet for roofing purposes. . Lead covering (pure lead) would be the ideal sheet for that market in South America. Mr. Allison describes the Lohmann process fully, and it says, that after cleaning the sheets, the sheets are put in a bath containing hydrochloric-mercurial and ammonia. The metal bath consists of alloy metals; now it has been found in tropical countries, near the sea coasts particularly, that any roofing sheets, having a mixture of metals covering, or spelter zinc itself, that any metals but pure lead, is soon oxidized. Having spent most of my life, as a coater of iron and steel, I know from reports from different sources that this is correct. Anyone interested in the pure lead coating, may please correspond with D. R. JENKINS. Youngstown, O. A Billion Dollars ! To the Editor of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN : A billion is a thousand millions, but this deflnition does not give a satisfactory conception of its magnitude, and it is necessary to find some way to make it clearer, for if, before this world's war, a million dollars was spoken of only with awe, a billion dollars has, today, at a jump, become an everyday expression in modern financial topics. They say: the earth is 93 million miles from the sun; but we understand much better when we are told that the earth is distant 11,500 earth diameters from the sun, this unit of 8,000 miles (the earth diameter) being nearer to us. Hence, let us try a l,ind of qualitative and quantitative analysis of a billion dollars by measuring it in time, weight and labor. A s to time: In. the year of our Lord 1901, on the 29th of April, at 5 h. 20 m. A.M., we would have completed a billion dollar, if, at each and every minute, a dollar had been struck and added to the pile until that date. The length of the astronomical or solar year being taken as 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 48 seconds, it gives a year of 525,948.8 minutes : Minutes. 525,948.8 min. X 1901 years= 999,302,720 1 year (calendar year of 365 days) =525,600 1,440 min. (24 X 60) X 119 days = 171,360 60 min. X 5 hours=300 and20 1,000,000,000 As to iveight in gold: A .gold dollar weighs 25.8 grains, hence: 25.8 X 1,000,000,000 = 3,685,714 pounds avoirdupois or 7,000 1,645 long tons, a gold train of some 100 freight cars. As to icork: It represents 200 millions working-days at $5.00 per day. EDMUND BECKER. Washington, D. C. Experiments in Use of Niter Cake IN the search for a substitute for sulfuric acid several of the mills in Yorkshire, England, have carried out a number of experiments in the use of niter cake. The purpose is to employ it in various operations in which sulfuric acid is ordinarily used. The Yorkshire Post, of Leeds, says that from the results of these experiments, which have all been made on a working scale, it is' evident that niter cake can be used in place of ordinary sulfuric acid for the extraction of grease from either wool suds or piece-scouring suds, for the refining of grease, for the stripping of rags, except perhaps where light dyes are subsequently to be used, and for dyeing rags in the shoddy trade, more especially where dark colors are being used. The Post states that certain difficulties in the use of the cake are presented, but that these can be surmounted. They are, chiefly, difficulty in handling because in larger quantities, as the cake contains only 30 per cent of its weight of pure sulfuric acid ; draining of the acid liquid in storage and handling, and difficulty in transportation. It states that the best method of using the cake is to dissolve it in hot water by the aid of steam, and to use this solution while still hot. New Apparatus for Controlling a Ship from the Bridge DR. K. ITO, manager of the engine works of the Mitsu Bishi Dockyard and Engine Works at Nagasaki, Japan, has invented an apparatus for con, trolling the movements of a ship directly from the bridge, so states the Commerce Reports. This invention is likely to have the most far-reaching results and will undoubtedly be adopted by shipping companies in all parts of the world. The device does away with the necessity of telegraphing instructions to the engine- room. The new. apparatus, which enables the officer on the bridge to regulate the valves or reverse the engines directly, can move the ship at will in the time it usually 'akes the engineer to receive the message by means of ene telegraph indicator. The new apparatus prevents the possibility of misunderstanding and error. In case of accident, disputes frequently occur between the bridge and engine-room as to the indication of the engine telegraph. The device may be used with great advantage in foggy weather or in going in and out of a harbor or in anchoring. The greater mobility which a ship thus attains will often enable it to avoid a collision. The racing of propellers - in stormy weather frequently causes great damage to the engines. This, however, is said to be prevented by the new apparatus. The navigator can adjust the engines instantly before the big waves are encountered. Unfortunately, details of the new device are not available at the present writing. It is known, however, that the device is worked by electricity' and that in case of defect it can readily be detached and the engines worked in the ordinary way. This change does not require more than three or four seconds, according to reports.