Before finally quitting the subject relating to business matters the following may interest a good many people, more particularly those engaged in the jute trade: When the jute baling industry was first started, and for many years afterwards, it was carried on principally in the very heart of the city, in Canning Street, and various streets and lanes, branching off and in the neighbourhood, such as Sukea’s Lane, Bonfield Lane, Jackson Ghaut Street, and many other back slums, some of which have altogether disappeared to make room for street, and other structural improvements. There were no hydraulic presses in those days for the baling of jute, and the work had to be done by hand screws worked from the upper floor, on the same principle as the capstan of a sailing vessel, by gangs of coolies in old, tumble-down and dilapidated godowns. The jute was compressed into bales weighing 300 lbs. only, and it was not until the advent of the hydraulic presses in the seventies that bales containing first of all 350 and later 400 lbs. were shipped from Calcutta, and the baling was transferred from the town to Chitpore and the other side of the Canal. To illustrate another phase of the vast changes that have taken place, in this instance in the matter of exports, I very well remember F.W. Heilgers & Co., who happened one year to be the largest exporters, advertising the fact by printing a list of the various shippers and their shipments, with their own name at the head in larger type than that of the other firms, with a total of 120,000 or 130,000 bales!!!
In comparison with this, and just to contrast it with what was then considered a large export for one individual firm, I may mention that just before the present war Ralli Bros, exported 1,100,000 bales, Becker Grey & Co., 400,000 bales, Ernsthausen & Co, 330,000 bales, R. Steel & Co. 240,000 bales, and James Duffus & Co. 220,000 bales.
It was not until the year 1878 that ice factories were first established in Calcutta when the Bengal Ice Company was formed under the auspices of Geo. Henderson & Co., followed in 1882 by the Crystal Ice Company, of which for a time I was a director, by Balmer Lawne & Co. It was not long after the starting of the latter concern that the rivalry between the two companies became so keen and ruinous, involving as it did the cutting down of rates, that it was found impossible to continue. Unless something had been done the fight would have ended very much like the proverbial one of the Kilkenny cats. Before, however, this stage was reached, the agents and directors of both companies very wisely entered into negotiations with each other with the view of effecting a compromise, which later eventuated in their amalgamation under the style of the present Calcutta Ice Association, Ltd.
[Illustration: Old premises of Francis, Harrison, Hathaway & Co., Government Place, East.]