Poor men are buying butterine at rich men’s butter prices

Posted by | December 17, 2012

Oleomargarine hearings before the Committee on Agriculture

House of Representatives

on bills proposing to amend the oleomargarine laws

February 28 to April 2, 1912

Statement of LP Bailey

Mr BAILEY: Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I come before you today as a farmer—practical dairyman and general farmer. I represent the grange interests of Ohio. We have a membership there of something over 40,000. We have one or more active organizations in every county. I also represent the Ohio Cattle Club which is perhaps the strongest state club of organizations in the United States.

Now as I said I live on my farm, I have three boys on that with me and they are satisfied to remain on that farm if they feel that they have as good a show to make an honest living on the farm as they would to engage in other lines of business; and I assured them that the Congress of the United States will not enact any laws that are going to injure the farm interests of the country, and especially the dairy interests.

employee of Joseph Schaner Dairy in Yorkville, OHOla Belle “Shorts” Schaub, an employee of Joseph Schaner Dairy in Yorkville, OH. Dairy farmers nationwide were outraged that butterine was undercutting their ability to compete fairly, and demanded protectionist laws from Congress.

I am interested—am in favor of oleo. I believe there is a need for oleo—a place for it, a demand for it—but I want it to stand on its own merits like everything else stands on its own merits. I want to give you an instance. It never has been sold under any legislation we have ever had. We have never yet had any legislation under which all of it, or a large per cent of it, was sold for what it was.

I happened to be for awhile connected with the dairy and food department of Ohio. At a little town on the hills along the Ohio River at Yorkville, a coal mining town, I went into a company store there. I learned that they were selling oleo in there for butter, and at the price of butter.

[Representative] HAWLEY: Oleo for butter?

Mr BAILEY: Yes; they called it butterine; and I went there to the store. They did not know me. I called for butter. They handed me out 2 pounds and I paid for it. I paid 50 cents for the 2 pounds and it was butterine or oleomargarine. At the same time the best brand of Elgin butter—the best creamery butter there was made then—was selling in Wheeling, WV, only a few miles below, and at Bridgeport and Martins Ferry on the Ohio side, at the same price 25 cents a pound.

Mr LEVER: Was this butterine wrapped in cartons?

Mr BAILEY: No, it was just wrapped in 2 pound papers. And they had a strict law in that state requiring the oleomargarine sign to be put up—I could not find any in that store. The merchant said it had been torn down.

receipt for butterine delivery, from The Capital City Dairy Co$25.00 receipt for butterine delivery, from The Capital City Dairy Co., Columbus, Ohio, July 5, 1909.

I took that sample to Cleveland and had it analyzed by Prof. Hobbs. It contained a little over 3 per cent, not 4 per cent, of dairy butter—creamery butter. It was the very lowest grade of oleomargarine or butterine that the Capital City Dairy Co of Columbus, OH manufactured.

It cost this firm 11 cents a pound—10 cents for the butterine or oleomargarine a pound—and they protected the dealer there by him paying 1 cent extra. It cost him 11 cents—the dealer. He was selling that out as a poor man’s butter to the poor man at the rich man’s butter price, 25 cents a pound. That made it possible for that dealer to make 14 cents net profit on that butterine that he was selling there to those poor miners, and you will find that will be the case, and that was the case, and is the case today all over the country, that poor men are buying that oleomargarine and they are buying it largely at the rich man’s butter prices.

Congressional hearing papers online at http://bit.ly/78boyr

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