The Cotton Cargo Question.
IT is but a fortnight since we had occasion to describe the thrilling incidents of the fire which, breaking out in the cotton in the hold of the steamer City of Richmond, kept the lives of her many passengers in imminent peril for several days and nights, and we suggested that the time would come when some one of the steamship companies would find it profitable to discontinue the shipment of cotton on passenger boats, even if it were not practicable to force them by law to do so.
That the companies have at last been awakened to the necessity of taking some decided steps in the direction of protecting their passengers from this danger is indicated.by the announcement from Liverpool that the directors of the White Star Line are seriously considering the advisability of refusing to receive cotton as cargo on the fast steamers of the line, while it is reported that several of the other companies are also discussing the matter. The question of the practicability of making this radical change in the method of shipping the inflammable staple from this port is, however, not as simple a one as it at first seems. Cotton, as is well known, during a portion of the year forms the greater proportion of the freight shipped from New York to England by steamer, and it is asserted by many that its exclusion from passenger boats would involve so heavy a loss in freights that the expense to the companies on many trips of the fast steamers would be absolutely prohibitory, and such as no increase in the passenger list could cover. As to prohibiting by law the transportation of cotton on passenger vessels, it is urged that such a course would simply drive the cotton trade to other ports. Moreover, it is argued that in so far as increasing the travel on the vessels of lines refusing cotton is concerned, the great mass of the passengers would probably continue as now to think and care nothing about the nature of the cargo.
Upon the other hand, no less an authority than the freight agent of one of the largest steamer lines when interviewed upon the subject, after enumerating some of the dangers to which cotton is exposed, is reported as saying : “ We do not carry much cotton in our fastest ships, anyhow, and I am in favor of excluding it from them altogether,” and if such an official should not be able to judge of the practicability of the scheme, it is hard to imagine who should. At any rate, it is a promising sign that the vessel owners themselves are at last giving serious attention to the subject, and good results of some sort may be expected to follow the agitation. What is possible in the improved equipment of the vessels themselves we have already pointed out many times.
That the dangers attendant upon cotton transportation at sea have not been exaggerated may be realized when one learns that the number of vessels upon which fire broke out in cotton during the shipping season of 1887-1888 was 45 ; in 1889-90 it was 38, and so far this season it has been 29. The list of the ships upon which these fires occurred during last season and this is as follows :
1889-90.—Britannic, W. C. Mitchell, Cherokee, Pocasset, Carlton, Harrogate, Princess, Trinacria, Glendower, Moss Brown, Ramon de Larrinaga, Bulgarian, Queensmore (total loss), Niceto, Merchant, Alaska, Orkla, Ocean King, Harrow, Santiago (total loss), Thatia, Helvetia, Marte Rosa, Gellert, County of Salop, La Champagne, Borin Queen, Olinda, Hampshire, Venice, Enterprise, Godolphin, Newman Hall, Castellano, Amethyst, and the Propitious.
1890-91.—Majestic, General Whitney, Iroquois, Alamo, Wileysike, Amethyst, Leona, Capulet, European (twice). Bona, Moray, Buenaventura, Bishopgate, Brunei Yesso, El Monte, Nevada, Ramon de Larrinaga, Endymion, Elmville, Arroyo, City ot New York, Dora, Nigretia, Eglantine, Alicia, St. Ronans, City of Richmond.
A formidable record of disasters this, and one certainly calling for the adoption without further delay of some more effectual measures for preventing them than those now relied upon.
Since the City of Richmond incident it may be noted that another large steamer, the Montevedian narrowly escaped destruction while bound from Sweden to Montreal. In this case the fire started among bales of jute and burned for several hours before the crew could get it under, the usual difficulty being experienced in locating it. As there were twelve tons of gunpowder on board, the peril in which the ship and all hands were placed may be imagined.
THF. branch office of FIRE AND WATER at No. 161 La Salle street, Chicago, is now in charge of Daniel E. Bushnell, who takes the place of G. A. Watson, who has been temporarily in charge. Mr. Bushnell has represented FIRE AND WATER in the West, outside of Chicago, for the past year, but will hereafter include that city in his territory with headquarters as above. We cordially commend him to the readers and advertising patrons of FIRE AND WATER.
No fireman, however experienced, can attend the meeting of the National Association of Fire Engineers without gaining some Information of value to him in his work. The convention nt Springfield, Mass., on August 11-14, should he attended by every progressive chief engineer who can he spared from his post.
CAPTAIN EYRE M. SHAW, who, since the lamentable death of Mr. Braidwood at a fire in 1861, has been at the head of the London Fire Brigade, is reported by cable to have resigned his position. As the head of the fire service of the British metropolis, a Companion of the Bath and the associate of persons of title and fashion, Captain Shaw has been a familiar personage in London, and the newspapers long since fell into the habit of giving him credit for great ability in his management of the fire service. To outsiders, however, familiar with modern fire fighting methods as we know them, this has not been so plainly apparent. Following out at first the lines laid down by Braidwood, who left the department in good shape, according to the lights of that day, Captain Shaw has in later years seemed unable to realize that “the world do move,” or to appreciate the value of the improvements in fire-fighting appliances and methods which experience has caused to be adopted by others. It is not yet known who will succeed to the position which Captain Shaw leaves vacant, but if he is a man of ordinarily progressive ideas with a reasonable belief that he does not already know all that there is to be learned, we fancy there will be some changes for the better in the London Fire Department before very long.
THE increasing appreciation of the worth of the most improved modern fire extinguishing apparatus is shown by the action just taken in Brooklyn, where it has been decided to build a second fire boat, at a cost of $40,000; at Pittsburgh, where a fire boat and water-tower and more engines will be added to the equipment of the fire department, and at Ashland, Wis., where the lumbermen have taken steps for the purchase of a fire tug for the protection of the lumber and dock property on Chequamegon bay. Everyone who has seen the magnificent work done by the fire boats and water-towers now in service will recognize the importance of the rapidlygrowing movement in favor of their adoption in the cities and towns with, respectively, either extended water fronts or high and large modern buildings.
The firemen of the country will sympathize with the dozen or more of their brethren of the Springfield (Ill.) Department, ho, for several days last week, were pretty well covered with onltices as a result of their labors at afire in Davenport’s beehive workshop. Sixteen hives of valuable honey bees were being rcntovctl to a place of safety, when the firemen began to feel sharp stings on their bands and faces. At lirst they attributed them to the sparks, but soon they were aware that the bees had got loose. The firemen stuck to their posts, but by the time the fire was out they were suffering terrible pain from their swollen bands and faces, ami there was some emphatic language indulged in over the novel experience.
Recent events have shown the need, in towns through which the tracks of a large railroad run, of distributing the lire apparatus upon both sides of the line. At the recent big fire at Seabright, N. J., a line of hose, as we have already noted, was laid across the track of the New Jersey Southern road. Someone ordered it taken up to allow a train to pass, and the flames got full and uncontrollable mastery. At Elizabeth, N. J., the other day, the same point was brought out. The Herald of that city says: “The engines and hose wagons made all the speed that they could and, as it happened, not only the tracks were clear, but the flagman considerately held some trains—one a very long freight—so as to admit of the fire apparatus crossing. But it might just as easily have happened that two of those enormous freight trains were in the act of passing in each direction at the crossing, which would have involved a sacrifice of some minutes of precious time, when every second is of importance and valuable property—perhaps life, itself—is at stake.”
During a severe electrical storm over and about Galveston, Tex., on June 26, the whole city was alarmed and badly shaken up by a tremendous explosion. Lightning had struck and exploded the powder house of the American Powder Company, four miles west of the city, near Eagle Grove, the concussion causing also the explosion of the Hazard & Dupont and Laflin & Rand powder houses, and the fireworks magazine of Victor Cortinas. The structures were simply wiped out of existence, some big holes being merely left in the ground, and every building within a half mile was more or less damaged, while six or seven persons were badiy injured The occurrence simply teaches once more the necessity of absolutely prohibiting the establishment of manufactories or storehouses for such, explosives within dangerous distance of settlements.