“The number of fires that have occured upon vessels loaded with cotton going from the United States to England,” says The Poston Herald, “has caused a great deal of apprehension on the part of the owners of ships and steamers engaged in this business, and has recently led to an official investigation.
“This latter examination has developed the fact that, while numerous tires occur in vessels laden with American cotton, it rarely, if ever, happens that vessels laden with Egyptian or Indian cotton take fire. As the fiber itself, whether grown in America, Africa or Asia, is equally inflammable, it is obvious that this difference must be due to defects which can be remedied, and, in the opinion of English experts who have had to do with cotton coming from a variety of places, the cause of the frequent burning of American cotton is the improper manner in which it is packed for shipment.
“ It was asserted at this official inquiry that the coverings around American cotton bales were not sufficiently strong to protect the fiber, and that the straps or hoops should be nearly twice as numerous as they are. More than this, the Egyptain and Indian cotton is so thoroughly compressed that a hundred pounds weight occupies but about half the space required fora hundred pounds of baled American cotton. When compressed in this manner the burning o( cotton is almost impossible. It is said that a baie of Egyptain or Indian cotton can be thrown into a fire, and that, after a little of the surface has been burnt over, the cotton underneath will remain in good condition, protected by the charred outer covering. With the American cotton such an experiment would quickly reduce the entire bale to ashes, and sparks falling upon the bales which are packed in a relatively loose manner penetrate into them and frequently allow a fire to break out some days later, when the cotton may be stored in the ship’s hold. While a bale of Egytian cotton presents a smooth hard surface, a bale of American cotton, with its insufficient bindings and coverings, is apt to have more or less loose fluff exposed, particularly in those parts of the bale from which samples have been taken.
“ The advice of the English experts is that the Americans should copy the Indian and Egyptian methods, and, so far as compressing is concerned, we should suppose that the advice might be readily heeded. The trouble hitherto experienced in the matter of better and thicker bagging and a larger number of ties to keep the bale together has been the heavy tax which the protective tariff has placed upon these articles, so that it has been a matter of economy with the cotton growers and shippers to use the lightest possible bagging and the fewest possible number of wire ties or bands. The consequence of this oppression is that our methods of shipment are receiving a bad name—which, unfortunately, they seem to deserve—and the rates of marine insurance upon American cotton have been advanced to a point that makes their payment an undesirable tax upon the business.”