The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Steamboat Combination
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), 6 Aug 1846, p. 2

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Steamboat Combination

There is nothing so much to be abhorred in a country like this as moneyed combinations for purposes of monopoly. The Steamboat Combination upon these Lakes is one of this kind. It has been in operation most of the time for seven years, and has become a burthen to itself as well as an enormous tax to community. Travelers have to pay one-third more than it is worth to be carried from Buffalo to Chicago or to any of the intermediate points, because, under the combination system, they have to pay enough to defray the expenses of the boat on which they take passage together with a profit to its stock-holders, and also the estimated expenses and profits of some dozen or fifteen boats laid up for want of business. Yes, the traveling public are taxed for boats on which they do not ride and which in fact cannot run, as, for instance, the "old Chicago," whose rotten hulk now lays in the old river-bed across the Cuyahoga. This boat (and there are many others like it) draws just as much from the combination as though she was in their service, and the people have to foot the bill. There are at times laid up in Buffalo harbor, six, eight, and ten steamboats, some of which are of the first class, and all of which have crews, or rather officers, who draw their regular salaries from the combination the same when doing nothing as when in commission. Captains draw from $100 to $150 per month, clerks and stewards from $40 to $60, and so on down to the chief cook. Who pays these unemployed officials? The Combination. And who pays the Combination? The people, the traveling public. A Cleveland merchant wishes to go to Buffalo. He steps on board the Empire after tea and fins himself in Buffalo the next morning before breakfast. He pays five dollars, three for his lodgins, and two to support the combination. Is this not so? Who will say that passengers cannot be carried from this city to Buffalo in a first class steamboat for three dollars cabin and a dollar and a half deck?

Now what good is to grow out of this combination by supporting it longer. so far it has been justified on the plea of necessity -- that there were more boats than business, and if they were all allowed to run that none of them could make a profit, so great would be the competition. For the benefit of stock-holders, then, the public have submitted to combination prices. But when is this necessity to end? Have we always got to pay combination prices? It would seem so, for steamboats are still increasing, far beyond a proportionate increase of business. This season and last has added an amount of boat tonnage on these Lakes unequalled by any two former seasons. The people, under the present system, pay enough not only to defray the expenses of the boats, both in and out of commission, but to allow stockholders to build new boats upon surplus profits. Some idea of the enormous tax they pay may be inferred from these facts.

Now we say, it is time for the people to be looking to this matter. This monopoly bubble must burst, and let us prick it now. The time is a favorable one, when low wages and low prices are the order of the day on land. It will be better for all concerned. Let capitalists understand that these combination prices will be no longer submitted to, and they will find some other use for their capital than building surplus steamboats and depend upon so unrighteous a monopoly for their profits. Factories will spring up in our Lake cities and towns, giving employment to laborers, and business and wealth to our citizens. What say our cotempraries of Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, and other Lake ports along "nature's great thoroughfare"? Will they speak out? Nous verrons.

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6 Aug 1846
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Steamboat Combination