The substitution of iron and steel for wood in the construction of ships, and the enormous increase in the tonnage of the world, in spite of the economy arising from the employment of steamers in place of sailing ships, is perhaps the element of increased consumption next in importance to that of railways. I do not think that the materials are available for estimating with any accuracy the amount of this increase, but I believe I am rather understating it if I take the consumption of iron and steel used last year throughout the world in shipbuilding as having required considerably more than 1,000,000 tons of pig iron for its production, and that this is not far short of four times the quantity used for the same purpose before 1870. And so all the other great works in which iron and steel are employed have increased throughout the world. It would be tedious to indicate them all.
Among those which rank next in importance to the preceding, I will only name the works for the distribution of water and gas, which in this country and in the United States have been extended in a ratio far greater than that of the increase of the population, and which, since the conclusion of the Franco-German war, and the consolidation of the German and Italian States, are now to be found in almost every European town of even secondary importance; and bridges and piers, in the construction of which iron has almost entirely superseded every other material.
It is difficult to imagine what would have been the state of the iron industry in this country if we had been called upon to supply our full proportion of the enormously increased demand for iron. To meet that proportion, the British production of pig iron should have been close on 11,000,000 tons in 1882, a drain on our mineral resources which cannot be replaced, and which, especially if continued in the same ratio, would have been anything but desirable. Fortunately, as I am disposed to think, other countries have contributed more than a proportionate amount to the increase in the world’s demand; and, paradoxical as it may appear, it is possible that, to this country at least, the encouragement given by protective duties to the production of iron abroad may have been a blessing in disguise.
To speak of the enormous increase in the production of steel by the introduction of the Bessemer process has become a commonplace on occasions like the present, and yet I doubt whether its real dimensions are generally known or remembered. In 1869 the manufacture of Bessemer steel had already acquired what was then looked upon as a considerable development in all the principal centers of metallurgical industry, except the United States, but including our own country, Germany, France, and Austria, and the world’s production in that year was 400,000 tons. Last year it was over 5,000,000 tons, and it has doubled