Thursday, August 9, 2007
M & M Makes Strides in Home Products Effort
By ROGER M. GRACE
The “Home Products Exposition,” staged by the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Assn. of Los Angeles at Hazard’s Pavilion, ended Feb. 6 of 1897. But the M & M’s determination and vigilance in promoting the purchase of locally produced goods persisted.
At a meeting of the Home Products Committee of the M & M, which took place 110 years ago last Saturday, the city’s Board of Education was faulted for putting a contract out to bid for soap, with an Eastern brand specified. That was understandably irksome to members of the local business community since there were two soap factories right here in L.A.
The bypassing of local products would have to be stopped, the panel vowed.
It instructed M & M Secretary Felix J. Zeehandelaar to send the following missive to three public institutions—the Whittier Reform School, the Soldier’s Home at Sawtelle (just west of what is now Westwood) and the Asylum for the Insane at Highland (in San Bernardino County):
“The Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Assn. has appointed a special committee to take steps toward the introduction of home products in public institutions, as well as, in private homes. You are aware that many articles are manufactured in Southern California that are of equal if not superior quality to many that are imported from the East and Europe. The prosperity and development of Southern California depends to a great extent upon the support manufacturers receive from consumers. The general use of home products means employment to the masses, the use of raw materials raised in Southern California, the circulation of money at home, and vast improvement of commercial, industrial and financial circles. You will no doubt recognize the great importance of such a movement and your hearty coöperation is urgently asked.
“Will you kindly furnish me with a list of supplies used in your institution, together with date when the next bids are asked for, in order that I may inform the manufacturers to prepare samples of their goods for your inspection, and give them an opportunity to bid?”
That information comes from the Aug. 5, 1897 edition of the Los Angeles Times…a charter member of the M & M (and still a member today of the successor entity, the Employers’ Group).
The Times, covering M & M activities closely, relates on Aug. 7 that Zeehandelaar had received a quick response from Andrew J. Smith, governor of the home, saying:
“...I beg to say that I am in hearty sympathy with any movement which will give to the National Home for D.V.S. products of the greatest excellence at the minimum of cost, and I believe that Southern California produces many articles equal if not superior to importations from the East and Europe. Superiority of some is demonstrated.”
A list of supplies used by the home and the dates when bids would be sought would be forthcoming, the governor promised.
On Aug. 12, it was reported that a similar assurance of cooperation had been received from the superintendent of the insane asylum. There was also an expression from U.S. Sen. Stephen M. White, D-Calif., of a willingness to do what he could to get locally produced goods purchased for use at posts in Arizona and in San Diego, while noting that authorities in Washington had minds of their own and set ways.
Information on new legislation was slow in arriving in those days. The M & M understood that a new law was passed relating to preference for local goods in choosing winner bidders on government contracts. To get the particulars, Zeehandelaar had to write to the secretary of state who, according to a report in the Times on Aug. 10, sent a copy of a new Political Code section enacted the previous March.
The statute provided that where “price, fitness and quality” were equal, the state and local entities were to “prefer such supplies, goods, wares, merchandise, manufactures or produce as has been grown, manufactured, or produced in this State....”
Also, brand names were not to be specified in requests for bids when this would “prevent proper competition on the part of dealers in other articles of equal value, utility, or merit.”
Zeehandelaar proceeded to send letters to government officers to inform them of the statute.
Apparently oblivious to the new law, the County of Riverside put a contract out to bid in late August specifying such products as Royal Baking Powder, Arbuckle’s Coffee, and Babbitt’s Soap—none made in Southern California. Zeehandelaar raised a fuss.
On Sept. 15, acting on advice of the county’s district attorney, the Riverside Board of Supervisors voted to reject all bids and start over again, this time in compliance with the Political Code.
And on Dec. 11, Zeehandelaar returned from Whittier with news that trustees of the reform school had agreed to alter their bid specifications, and so advise potential vendors and extend the time for getting in bids.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company