Ben Blanchard tries to attract foreign investors

Friday, October 10, 1890

Editor's note: This trip is not to be confused with an earlier train trip Blanchard organized with Maj. Corwin and other New Yorkers, which occurred in July, 1889. For more on that trip, see the "Legacy" PDF attached to this story.

AMERICAN SALT INTERESTS.

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How They are Protected By the McKinley Bill.

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Englisth Capitalists, in Order to Control the Salt Market, are Forced to INvest in American Mines - The Party Which Spent Yesterday in This City En Route to Hutchinson, Kan - Agents of a Syndicate of Vast Capital.

From the Kansas City Journal

A distinguished party of English and American capitalists, out from Brooklyn, passed through the city yesterday, on their way to Hutchinson, Kan., to inspect, and probably purchase, the salt mines in South Hutchinson. While the party is traveling leisurely across the country, the members are out on business, and not on a junketing tour. The party consists of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Blanchard, S.A. Byers, Dr. and Mrs. W.R. Griffiths, Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Nexsen, Mr. and Mrs. T.E. Pearsall, Mr. and Mrs. H.P. Ehkham and son, London, England; Major and Mrs. B.R. Corwin, Miss Jennie Corwin, Miss Jennie Williams, Miss A. Nexsen, Mr. and Mrs. H.M. Lome and R. Insley.

The party left Brooklyn last Monday, in charge of Mr. Blanchard, traveling in the splendid Pullman hotel coach, Delmatia. Their car is profusely decorated both inside and out, the national colors in silk and large quantities of roses and smilax being conspicuous throughout. They carry their own cooks and have every convenience and luxury aboard. The trip is a veritable pleasure trip for the ladies, but the gentlemen are on business and let nothing interfere.

The history of the excursion is the best possible evidence of the soundness of the Republican position upon the tariff question. Mr. Blanchard, whose home is in Terre Haute, Ind., became interested in South Hutchinson while traveling across the country as an excursion agent. About three years ago he concluded to bore for oil, but instead of oil struck one of the finest salt veins in the world. It was soon discovered that the salt could be readily prepared for dairy and table use, and at once preparations on a gigantic scale were made to develop the mines. The success of the venture was pronounced excellent. Up to the time of the discovery and development of the mines all table and dairy salts had been imported from England, principally from the mines of Chester, the American salt, then known, being reducible to the required whiteness and purity only by a costly and tedious chemical pricess. As a natural consequence England controlled the American salt trade, the enormity of which cannot be easily estimated. A clause was inserted in the McKinley tariff bill which completely bars English salt from the American market. A duty of 6 and 8 cents per hundred weight is put on the imported article, and the fact that the Hutchinson salt can go on the market in as good quality and for as little money as the English product make's England's position a very precarious one. Blanchard quietly kept on mining and sending out his salt. He is president of the Empire Loan and Trust company of Hutchinson, which is extensively interested in the mines and other property. He has an office in Brooklyn, where he works himself, but the principal offices are in Hutchinson.

Mr. Blanchard says that as soon as the western salt got into the markets the English syndicate became alarmed, and as soon as the McKinley bill came up it commenced to negotiate for the mines. He had made exhaustive efforts to sell to American capitalists, but had failed. His propositions were not accepted by the English syndicate until the bill passed and was a law, when, its agents happening to be in New York, renewed overtures were made. Blanchard made a proposition which was taken under consideration, and the party started west at once. The British capitalists realize that if they wish to retain their hold on the American salt market they mustsecure control of these mines. To do this they must furnish Americans with American salt, mined in this country. The Chester product is effectually barred by the presence of a native article of superior quality that even now costs less money.

The party on the journey reached Terre Haute about thirty minutes ahead in advance of President Harrison's coach. As the car was decorated with the American flag, the people crowded around it, expecting to see the president. The capitalists stopped only a few minutes and came on in to St. Louis, reaching there at 7 p.m. Tuesday. They took carriages and witnessed the parade, and at once resumed their journey. They reached here yesterday morning and remained all day riding around the city. The majority of the party had never been west before and were simply astonished at the progress and development of the city. They lunched at the Midland, dined at the Coates, and at 8:35 o'clock last night left for Topeka, where they will remain until to night, reaching Hutchinson Friday. After transacting their business they will go on a pleasure trip to Colorado.

Messrs. Kirkman and Insley are the representatives of the English syndicate, and are the authorized representatives of something near $20,000,000 of capital. They are quiet, conservative men, but are much pleased with what they have seen so far. They do not express themselves freely, but say the trip is one purely of business that will result in a purchase if the prospectus proves to be correct. They are pleased with the quality of the Hutchinson product and ready to make a deal if satisfied with their inspection.

A recent law passed by the legislature of New York provides that all foreign corporations having offices located in the state shall be subject to the scrutiny of the State Banking Association, in order to prevent irresponsible concerns obtaining a foothold there. As Mr. Blanchard has a Brooklyn office, his company comes within the provisions of the act, and he has a member of the association with him to obviate delay. Mr. Nexsen is a bank examiner in New York, and cashier of the Fulton National bank of Brooklyn. Upon the arrival of the party at Hutchinson, the books of the company will beplaced at his disposal.

Mr. Nexsen is an entertaining and agreeable conversationalist. This is his first trip to the west and he is carried away with the city. He remarked to Maj. Corwin that he supposed Kansas City would be flat. Maj. Corwin said Brooklyn Heights would be nowhere. Mr. Nexsen said in reply that he meant that the city had been boomed and had broken the bubble and was flat in a business sense. He said last night that after going over the city and noting the splendid business houses, he had changed his opinion and concluded that there is a grand city here.

"I have heard much of the development of the west," he said, "but was not prepared for anything like this. I can see only one reason why the eastern capitalist should be afraid to invest here and that is ignorance. I mean ignorance on the part of the men in the east. If they become acquainted with the actual facts there will be no lack of investors. I cannot see how such unpardonable ignorance can exist. A man who makes one trip across this country will spend a few days struggling to regain his breath. His ideas as to the magnitude of the great west will undergo a remarkable change. You people have a city that will never suffer from a shattered boom."