Dominating Trade

The Great White Fleet, 1907

The Great White Fleet, 1907

In a show of strength, President Theodore Roosevelt sent 16 battleships and support vessels to circumnavigate the world on a “good-will” tour.

Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

The United States used military and political power to dominate world trade and increase the nation’s wealth. Working together, government and big business controlled sources of raw materials, secured markets for selling finished goods, protected American manufacturers through tariffs, and controlled intellectual property through patents and regulations.

Imports

From sugar and iron ore to rubber and bananas, the industrializing United States became increasingly interested in raw materials from around the world. By the late 1800s, the U.S. government was involved in politics abroad, especially in the Caribbean, South America, and the Pacific, often propping up undemocratic governments in an effort to support American business interests.

Banana distributor advertisement, 1911

Banana distributor advertisement, 1911

American companies bought Central American land, developed ports, and built railways to expand the banana trade. The U.S. invested in governments as trading partners rather than building democracies.

Joseph Wilhelm, Hibueras, 1992

By 1910, bananas were one of the most widely eaten fruits in the United States. Ships brought them to the U.S. from the Caribbean.

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American tariffs influenced Hawaiian sugar competitiveness, and the sugar industry dominated Hawaiian politics. Seeking annexation, American business leaders, with the visible support of U.S. soldiers, deposed Hawai‘i’s queen in 1893. In 1898 Hawai‘i was annexed as a territory.

Sugarcane machete, about 1930

O‘ahu, Hawaii, sugar plantation, about 1900

O‘ahu, Hawaii, sugar plantation, about 1900

Made in the USA

Americans have always debated the buying, selling, and manufacture of their goods: from promoting the use of homespun cloth during the Revolutionary War to protesting the loss of manufacturing jobs in 1890. The passionate disputes revealed much about the variety of American perspectives and the balance between the values of opportunity, competition, and common good.

Henry Clay campaign medallion, 1844

Henry Clay ran for president in 1844 as the “Champion of the Protective Tariff.” He argued that tariffs would protect American manufacturing and finance infrastructure.

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Presidential china, 1889

Presidential china, 1889

President Benjamin Harrison promoted “America First” and helped pass a protective tariff. His White House china, featuring icons of North America, was made in France.

Campaign poster, 1896

Campaign poster, 1896

William McKinley ran for president on a protectionist plank. Pledging support for American workers, he sought high tariffs to make foreign manufactured goods unattractive.

Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society, WHi-57004

Exports

In the late 1800s, investing in large factories and specialized machinery, businesses increased efficiency and the quantities produced. Seeking to increase sales and create an outlet for their mass produced goods, they expanded to national and then international markets.

McCormick reaper trade card, about 1890

McCormick reaper trade card, about 1890

By 1899 McCormick had 21,000 employees worldwide, with one third of its self-raking reaper sales in 1902 made in Russia.

Leander McCormick grain binder patent model, 1879

Leander McCormick grain binder patent model, 1879

Continual innovation and an eye towards domestic and international marketing contributed to making McCormick a large corporation.

Chinese Coca-Cola ad, about 1936

In the early 1900s Coca-Cola expanded to international markets. It created a Foreign Department in 1926.

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Singer advertising card, 1914

Singer advertising card, 1914

One of the first multinationals, Singer had a global market share of about 90 percent in 1912. Placement of factories around the world eased tariff problems.

Singer industrial sewing machine, 1910

Singer made industrial and home sewing machines. International sales by door-to-door sales representatives made the home user market the key to the company’s success.

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Intellectual Property

International politics and relationships sometimes effected how intellectual property rights were enforced.

Aspirin advertisement, about 1915

Aspirin advertisement, about 1915

To build brand recognition and customer loyalty, Bayer created a cross-shaped logo, even imprinting it on the tablets themselves.

Salicylic acid tablets, about 1895

In the mid-1800s pharmaceuticals were sold under generic names and not patented or trademarked. Salicylic acid tablets, made from willow bark, relieved fever and pain.

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Antifebrin, about 1907

Seeking a competition edge, chemical companies switched from generic to trade names for drugs. Antifebrin, a pain reliever, is actually a chemical used in dyes.

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Bayer aspirin powder, about 1906

After developing acetylsalicylic acid in 1897, the German chemical company Bayer patented and trademarked the product, Aspirin, around the world to protect its intellectual property.

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Bayer Aspirin, 1916

As the patent on acetylsalicylic acid was about to expire, Bayer began to emphasize the company name and the trademarked name Aspirin.

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Bayer aspirin, 1930s

During World War I, the U.S. seized German patents and trademarks. Sterling Drug bought Bayer’s American rights and continued to emphasize the Bayer company logo.

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The aspirin patent expired in 1917, and the trademark was lost in a 1921 court decision. Competitors could now market generic acetylsalicylic acid as aspirin.