Theodore B. Wilcox Captain of Industry and Magnate of the China Flour Trade, 1884–1918

The situation now awaits the man. Another Governor C.C. Washburn [who] would lead the American millers to a glorious trade conquest, beside which the achievements of the past would be dwarfed into insignificance. “There is the east; there is the Orient,” should be the watch-word of the American miller…. What is wanted today in the milling trade is just one large man….
— The Northwestern Miller, 1897[1]

That “one large man” eager to mount the podium of entrepreneurial greatness was already prepared to accept one of the most singular commercial challenges of the era: cultivation of the tremendous flour markets of China. Theodore Burney Wilcox — an ambitious New England bank teller who had become an aggressive Portland businessman — had systematically built his flour-milling company into one of the most successful enterprises on the Pacific Coast. Like other great “boomers” of the Gilded Age, however, his goal was not one merely of success but also of empire. He envisioned a vast milling conglomerate that would draw upon the boundless wheat supplies of Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the Palouse in eastern Washington to provide flour for the insatiable millions of Asia. Given Wilcox’s business acumen, tenacity, and temperament, few of his contemporaries entertained any doubt that he would ultimately achieve his objective.

The path to such lofty aspirations began in Agawam, Massachusetts, where Wilcox was born on July 8, 1856, to Henry and Sarah Wilcox. “Thede,” as he was known as a child, grew up in a hard-working, middle-class family. At the age of five, he lost the thumb and index finger of his right hand in a hay-cutter accident. Resilient and undaunted, he overcame his impairment by learning to write equally well with either hand. After graduating from public high school, he entered the work force as an office boy in the Hampton National Bank of Westfield, Massachusetts. The position did not suit him well. Ambitious even as a teenager, Wilcox sought challenge and responsibility but was resigned by his youth and handicap to running errands and sweeping floors. An early opportunity to advance arose when the principal teller fell ill and Wilcox volunteered to fill the position. He demonstrated to hesitant bank administrators that despite his injured hand he was able to count bills quickly and accurately, and he proved so competent at the task that he was promoted to clerk, a position he held for the next five years.[2]

In 1877, Asahel Bush II, co-director of the Ladd & Bush banking firm in Salem, Oregon, was traveling on the East Coast in search of a talented, adventurous young man to fill a vacant position in the firm’s Portland bank. When Bush met Wilcox at the Hampton Bank, he was so impressed by the young clerk’s “enterprise and ability” that he immediately offered him the job.[3] Wilcox accepted without hesitation, and at the age of twenty-two set sail for Portland – a small town an entire continent away – that offered precisely the mix of stability, challenge, and prospects that he deemed necessary to fulfill his own potential.[4]

Wilcox settled in rooms above the bank and started working the teller window. His efficiency and sound judgment soon drew the attention of the bank president, William Ladd, who began seeking his advice on business investment opportunities. Like Wilcox in temperament, Ladd had been an adventuresome New England farmer, who in 1851 at the age of twenty-five had set sail for the West Coast to make his fortune — not in the rugged gold fields of California like so many others but in supplying miners heading out from Portland.[5] Selling everything from shaving soap to blasting powder, he quickly expanded his small business into a thriving mercantile enterprise.[6] In 1852, he formed the Messrs. Ladd & Tilton Company with San Francisco merchant and boyhood friend Charles Tilton; the following year, they erected the first brick building in Portland near the corner of Front and Stark. As Portland grew, the company expanded; and in 1859, the partners founded the Ladd & Tilton Bank, capitalized with $50,000 of company profits.[7]

By the time Wilcox arrived in Portland, the bank had become a city landmark, operating from a stately new building on the corner of First and Stark. With deposits and capital totaling nearly two million dollars, it had grown into one of the major financial institutions on the West Coast.[8] Wilcox had been fortunate to find employment with such a prosperous, dynamic firm, and Ladd had been fortunate to find such a capable and energetic assistant, a man he regarded as his close confidant and trusted advisor.[9] That confidence reached full maturity when Ladd entrusted to Wilcox the management of several failed flour mills that had been foreclosed by the bank. This “temporary” business assignment would have historic consequences, initiating a chain of events that would alter the course of the young clerk’s life, the nature of grain milling in the Pacific Northwest, and, arguably, the future of the Pacific Rim trade.[10]

Building a Pacific Northwest Flour Empire

Following the financial Panic of 1873, severe competition among flour mills for a limited regional market had threatened the financial solvency of many small grist mills in the Pacific Northwest. The Ladd & Tilton Bank had extended credit to these failing enterprises, but in 1882 William Ladd foreclosed on four separate mills — two in Oregon City, one in Salem, and one in Dayton, Washington.[11] Unable to dispose of the mills, Ladd suggested that Wilcox assume management of these plants until conditions improved and new investors could be secured. Although he had no direct business experience or special knowledge of the intricacies of the milling industry, Wilcox agreed to the proposal. Drawing upon his competitive drive, his organizational skills, and the bank’s capital, he revamped the commercial operations of the mills and turned them into profitable endeavors.[12]

The successful outcome of this initial challenge sparked in Wilcox a passion for the milling business. Intrigued by the commercial aspects of the grain and flour industries, he focused increasingly more of his time and energy on enhancing the efficiency and profitability of these mills. When his efforts met with continued success, Wilcox determined to develop his small project into a more expansive venture. With Ladd’s endorsement and the bank’s financial support, Ladd & Tilton acquired the Albina mill in Portland; and in 1884, all five mills were incorporated to form the Portland Flouring Mills Company, with Ladd as president and Wilcox as general manager. Fully absorbed by the growing demands of managing the company, Wilcox resigned his position at the bank to devote himself exclusively to the development of his flour-milling enterprise.[13]

The establishment of Portland Flour coincided with a regional surge in wheat production. Over the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the combined wheat harvests for Oregon and Washington rose nearly 300 percent, exceeding 35,000,000 bushels by the turn of the century.[14] Commensurate with the growth in wheat production, the price of American wheat declined from an average of $0.83 per bushel in the 1880s to $0.65 in the 1890s.[15] At the same time, access to the wheat regions also improved with the completion of railroad spurs linking Portland with interior grain centers in eastern Oregon and Washington.[16] The convergence of these factors presented a tremendous opportunity to the region’s flour-milling industry. Quick to recognize this potential, Wilcox invested heavily in the expansion of Portland Flour’s manufacturing capacity. He built new mills in Tacoma and Odessa in Washington state and another at Condon, Oregon, and he acquired failed or competing mills in Prescott, Harrington, Spokane, and Everett, Washington, and another in Albany.[17]

By 1900, Portland Flour boasted a network of fifteen milling sites with a combined daily processing capacity of 5,500 barrels, a production output unparalleled among flour manufacturers of the Pacific Northwest.[18] His milling accomplishments were highlighted in a leading trade journal, which noted that Wilcox had “no peer on the coast” and reported that “besides building up a fortune for the Ladd estate, [he was] himself a rich man.” Based on the successful operation and expansion of his milling network, Wilcox was already being called — though not always deferentially — the flour “magnate” of the Pacific Northwest.[19]

In order to maintain production and profits for his flour-milling enterprise, Wilcox faced two significant hurdles: securing and storing adequate supplies of wheat and ensuring stable, reliable markets to absorb production. The solution to the wheat-supply problem was straightforward: either build or purchase a system of warehouses and silos. This was a relatively simple process for Wilcox, given his financial backing and resources. Following the same procedure that had proven successful in expanding his milling operations, he began purchasing grain silos and warehouses in the Northwest’s wheat-producing regions.[20] As the number of storage facilities under his control increased, Wilcox founded the Pacific Coast Elevator and the Western Warehouse companies to facilitate procurement and coordinate the distribution of grain.

In 1898, his efforts were greatly enhanced by a million-dollar deal with the A.E. Peavey Company of Minneapolis, which transferred ownership of “the largest system of elevators in the North Pacific States” to Western Warehouse. In a single transaction, Wilcox acquired seventy warehouses and elevators in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, with a total storage capacity of five million bushels. By 1904, his wheat “empire” had expanded to include 256 grain houses, with a storage capacity of 12,000,000 bushels — more than enough to keep all of his mills running for an entire year.[21]

As a result of his daring approach to systematic expansion, Wilcox had established the largest milling company in the North Pacific and had secured the region’s largest network of storage facilities to supply his growing enterprise. In the process, he emerged as the central figure who regulated the movement of grain and flour in the Pacific Northwest, thus acquiring enormous influence over wheat prices and supplies for competing mills in the region. This control over vital resources greatly assisted in resolving his second problem: cultivating new markets for his flour. He used his commercial clout to squeeze independent millers, who complained bitterly about his monopolistic ambitions. Blaming Wilcox for low prices and slow sales, one miller acridly accused him of “sacrificing the smaller mills to his greed.”[22] More than likely, Wilcox experienced a sense of satisfaction, not compunction, over this statement. He harbored few concerns for the problems of other millers and had no sympathy for their hardships. He was “an autocrat who knew his own power,” and when it came down to business —his business of forging a great industrial empire — Wilcox was a ruthless competitor determined to overcome any opposition.[23] A reporter investigating Pacific Coast milling precisely captured his merciless and calculating demeanor: “It was all self-aggrandizement with him, and he does not hesitate to say that it is his wish and object to crush his competitors, by whatever means it may be.”[24]

One of the most successful methods Wilcox employed to crush competition was price warfare or, more precisely, market sieges. Patience and capital were his keys to success. Relying on Portland Flour’s broad sales and deep reserves, he was capable of — and not adverse to — sustaining losses through cutthroat pricing far longer than the small competing millers in the area could. His ultimate objective was strict market control, and he wanted “margins only large enough to take care of his competitors and do three-quarters of the business!”[25] In 1901, for example, he was determined to drive rival mills out of the eastern Washington flour markets of Walla Walla and Prescott, and he set the price of his Portland Flour brands in the two cities at $3.60 per barrel for high grade and $3.20 for standard. Local millers in Walla Walla responded by dropping prices to a rock bottom $2.80 for high-grade flour and $2.50 for standard. Wilcox ordered a further cut of ten cents per barrel and, on a different “front,” reduced the price of flour sold by his Prescott mill to $3.00 per barrel. When local millers in both cities found it impossible to match these prices, Portland Flour emerged as the dominant brand.[26]

Such ruthless business practices drew the resentment and ire of independent millers. They denounced Wilcox as an insatiable “boomer” who recklessly gambled his profit margins against their livelihoods. His callousness for fellow millers prompted one distraught competitor to write in understatement: “When the milling magnate of Oregon and Washington, who handles a dead banker’s millions, passes to his final accounting, it is very doubtful if any truthful writer will indite any … kind words of him.”[27] But positive ledgers, not kind words, were the criteria by which Wilcox gauged his personal success. The complaints of disgruntled millers merely steeled his resolve to forge an empire out of their failed endeavors.

Expanding the China Trade

By the turn of the century, Wilcox had earned the title and assumed the role of flour and wheat magnate of the Pacific Northwest. He realized, however, that the continued expansion of his flour empire required the development of even broader markets to absorb his products. Regional wheat yields were rising faster than the population was increasing — a positive situation for milling (in terms of ample supplies of inexpensive wheat) but a negative condition for flour sales (in terms of limited markets).[28] The practical solution was to establish an export trade in surplus wheat or flour.[29] The options, however, were limited. California was already self-sufficient in flour production, high railroad rates inhibited competition for inland markets, and the European trade pitted flour producers on the West Coast against those in the Midwest.[30] The most promising — though possibly least obvious — market was due west, across the Pacific to China.

China was not an unknown or untapped market. Under the leadership of California millers, American flour had been flowing across the Pacific to Asian ports since the mid-nineteenth century.[31] The trade expanded steadily throughout the 1860s and 1870s; and in 1885, San Francisco exporters shipped more than 430,000 barrels (42,000 tons) of flour to the Orient.[32] Some observers of the trade argued that although California millers had opened and, to a certain degree, cultivated the China market, they had failed to sufficiently exploit its vast potential. One American diplomat serving in Asia contended that exporters could expand the trade “three or four times as great as it is now, if they would bend their energies in this direction.”[33] Local newspapers and national trade journals promoted a greater exploitation of Asian markets. “We must trade with the millions in the vast empires that lie toward the setting sun,” urged the Tacoma Daily Ledger in 1892, “who want our flour, wheat, timber, coal, and other manufactured and natural products.”[34]

By the early 1890s, Wilcox was poised to take up the Asian gauntlet. With Portland Flour well on its way to dominating Pacific Northwest markets, he began investigating the prospects of expanding trade with Asia. The outlook, he found, was promising. California flour exports had been rising steadily for decades; and, as brokers had already discovered, American flour sold virtually unopposed in Chinese markets. China’s pre-industrial milling industry was incapable of producing competitively priced, import-quality flour, yet other flour-producing nations were not significantly engaged in the Asian trade.[35] In the late 1880s, shipping access to Asia had improved with the addition of new transpacific steamship lines from Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle. By 1892, competition among the lines reduced shipping rates to only $2.00 per ton ($0.20 per barrel of flour).[36] Most encouraging of all, the Asian markets represented 400 million consumers: a number sufficient to keep Wilcox’s mills producing — and expanding — indefinitely.

Following the systematic approach that had proven effective in the development of his milling and wheat enterprises, Wilcox mapped out a strategy to enter and ultimately dominate the Asian trade. First, he needed an agent in Hong Kong to promote the sale of his flour to Chinese brokers. Due to its duty-free status, low warehouse charges, inexpensive labor, and superb geographical location, Hong Kong had developed into the trans-shipment hub for American flour exports to China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. In the early 1880s, the Sperry Milling Company of San Francisco had opened an office in the port to promote the acceptance of California flour in Hong Kong and also its sale to China and other Asian ports. The Chinese brokers, merchants, and “noodle-men” who became regular purchasers of California flour proved to be exceedingly brand-loyal customers.[37]

To break Sperry’s hold on the market, Wilcox needed an exceptionally skillful Hong Kong representative who could persuade the highly cautious Chinese brokers to switch from California flour to Portland Flour brands. The “salesman” he found was Albert H. Rennie, a Canadian diplomat, who initially knew nothing about the flour industry. After his graduation from the University of Toronto, Rennie had been hired to assist Donald Smith, president of the Bank of Montreal, and J.J. Hill, the great American railroad financier, in negotiations for the Canadian Pacific Railway charter. After much bargaining and intrigue — including political bribery and near bankruptcy — the charter was secured, bringing Smith and Hill (and presumably Rennie) a financial windfall. In 1885, Rennie accepted a political appointment as confidential clerk to John Norquay, the premier and provincial treasurer of Manitoba. In 1890, after concluding a major loan in England, he was assigned a new diplomatic post in the Public Works Department of Hong Kong. En route to the Orient, he stopped briefly in Portland, where he arranged a meeting with Wilcox. Impressed by Rennie’s drive, confidence, and negotiating experience, Wilcox immediately engaged him to act as “part time” representative and commissioned agent of Portland Flour in Hong Kong.[38]

Once again, Wilcox’s business judgment proved remarkably prescient. As soon as Rennie was established in Hong Kong, he began to promote Portland Flour brands. Although Chinese merchants were known for their business conservatism — to the point of refusing unknown brands, even of higher quality at a lower price — Rennie worked tirelessly to gain their trust and their business.[39] He cultivated personal relationships with Chinese brokers and guaranteed their satisfaction with the consistency, quality, and competitive price of Portland Flour products.[40] His efforts were well rewarded, as orders for Wilcox brands steadily increased. From a tentative 5,250 barrels of flour exported to Hong Kong from Columbia River mills in 1884, flour shipments from Portland to China and Japan jumped to 116,935 barrels in 1894 and reached 235,523 barrels the following year.[41] In 1898, poor harvests in most of the wheat-growing regions of the world, particularly California, seriously affected global wheat and flour supplies. The Northwest crop, however, was unusually plentiful. During that year alone, Oregon ports exported 1.88 million barrels of flour, 324,551 barrels of which were shipped directly to Hong Kong and Chinese ports. Rennie was key to the successful promotion of this trade, and he was commended for having “thoroughly mastered the markets of Asia and the methods and characteristics of the Chinese.”[42]

Under Wilcox’s direction and Rennie’s supervision, flour shipments from Portland to Hong Kong expanded tremendously during the 1890s.[43] Portland now took over from California companies the position as chief port for flour exports to Asia on the West Coast, and the majority of all flour shipped from Portland was refined at Wilcox’s mills. Rennie had become the “greatest flour salesman in all the Orient” and was so successful at promoting Portland Flour throughout Asia that in 1895 he resigned his diplomatic post to devote full attention to the trade.[44]

Cornering the China Market

With Wilcox exercising control over the wheat and flour production of the Pacific Northwest and Rennie expanding market share and range in Asia, the transpacific flour empire of the Portland Flouring Mills company was becoming a reality. Yet, California and Washington mills were still active competitors in the China market, which an insatiable “boomer” like Wilcox found thoroughly unacceptable. His brutal business philosophy allowed no room for rivals. As always, he had to be “the controlling factor in any field that he may enter.”[45] Wilcox determined to crush his American competitors in the China market just as he had overwhelmed the independent millers in the Pacific Northwest. This time, however, the flour corporations competing for the Asian trade would not be so easily dispatched, and the outcome of a price war with such powerful rivals was uncertain and could be catastrophic. Rather than risk financial ruin, Wilcox devised an ingenious plan to turn the unique business practices of the China trade against his adversaries.

All major flour exporters to Asia — including Portland Flour, Sperry, and Centennial Mills of Washington — operated branch offices in Hong Kong. The managers of those offices sold their products on order to Chinese flour agents, who brokered the goods to local dealers for sale in Chinese or other Asian ports. Essentially, Chinese merchants handled all marketing of American flour; and, as a result, the trade depended on the financial stability and brand loyalty of the prominent flour agents.[46] Wilcox fully understood the vulnerable position in which this arrangement placed foreign firms. If the agents refused to purchase specific brands, then the company would lose access to the Chinese market, sales would decline, and stocks would rapidly spoil in Hong Kong’s humid “godowns” (warehouses). This was exactly the situation that Horace Davis, California state representative and president of the Golden Gate Flouring Mills company, had encountered in 1880. During the congressional debate on Chinese exclusion, Davis had stridently lobbied to prohibit the immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States. In retaliation, Chinese brokers and merchants initiated a boycott against the purchase of Golden Gate’s “Eldorado” flour, one of the most prominent brands sold in China. As a result, no sales were concluded in Hong Kong and the company was forced to remove “Eldorado” from the Asian market. Davis had to start all over again to build sales for a new, unfamiliar brand.[47]

More than a chilling example of the precariousness of the flour trade, the Davis boycott also suggested a potentially powerful stratagem for eliminating competition. If the leading brokers in Hong Kong could be persuaded to purchase only one brand of flour, then the other American firms would be hard-pressed to make profitable sales. They would be forced to conduct trade with less prominent, financially less secure agents, who could purchase only limited amounts of flour for fewer clients in smaller markets. Because these second-tier brokers would not have the financial capacity or the merchant system necessary to dispose of large flour consignments, their American flour suppliers would ultimately have no choice but to curtail exports.

Although he was not the only miller on the coast in a financial position to organize a coalition of the leading brokers, Wilcox was perhaps the only one who possessed the temperament and the desire to use this stratagem against his competitors.[48] He instructed Rennie to approach the leading Chinese flour brokers in Hong Kong with an offer to form an exclusive syndicate.[49] In return for their guarantee to handle only his flour, Rennie was to promise them special “considerations,” including substantially lower prices.[50] In accord with these instructions, Rennie contacted six of the wealthiest, most influential brokers in Hong Kong, who in large measure controlled the Asian flour trade. Enticed by his proposal, they all agreed to the formation of a syndicate that would purchase and distribute only Portland Flour brands. Moreover, they pledged to protect the integrity of the syndicate by rejecting flour offered by competing companies.[51] To drive out competition, Wilcox was committed to absorbing any temporary — even if it was severe — reduction in profits due to low prices promised to the syndicate. He had no doubt that his company would gain the lion’s share of the Asian market over the long term.

As Wilcox had envisioned, the syndicate crippled competition by its ironclad hold on the China trade. A chorus of complaints soon arose over the depressed conditions. “The millers of the far west are not enjoying unlimited prosperity,” lamented one leading miller, “on the contrary, their days are full of trouble and their nights are full of care.”[52] The millers’ troubles and cares were manifested in Hong Kong godowns, where a million bags of Oregon and Washington flour lay stockpiled. Wilcox’s guarantee of low prices to the syndicate, coupled with the glut of unsold American flour on the market, dropped the prevailing price at this port to $2.25 per barrel, sixty cents less than the actual cost of production. Part of the deficit was erased by mill feed sales of fifty-two cents for each barrel of flour produced, but that still left an eight-cents-per-barrel loss on sales, even before adding shipping costs.[53] The low prices were grinding the millers between their own millstones, and they fixed the blame squarely on Wilcox. “Mills throughout the ‘Inland Empire’ are generally largely stocked up with flour ground for Oriental trade, and notwithstanding ‘McKinley and prosperity,’ are unable to make sales at any price,” complained one miller, who blamed the unprofitable prices over the last year or more on “the desire of Wilcox to crush the competition of the Centennial and interior mills.”[54]

Dismal flour sales finally forced Moritz Thomsen, president of the Centennial Mills of Seattle, to take action to break the stranglehold of the Wilcox syndicate. Thomsen, a former Dutch sea captain, had founded Centennial Mills five years after Wilcox established Portland Flour. He matched Wilcox in drive and business alacrity and had expanded his original mill into an extensive and powerful milling network that competed with Portland Flour for markets in both the Pacific Northwest and Asia. Known in the community as a man who “never thinks of being a quitter,” Thomsen also matched Wilcox in stubbornness and was unwilling to surrender the lucrative China market without a fight.[55] As the syndicate’s grip tightened and reorders for Centennial flour declined, Thomsen dispatched several ships loaded with flour to Hong Kong and instructed his agent to keep careful watch over prevailing prices and the condition of the flour, which spoiled quickly during the humid Hong Kong summer. With the flour on hand, the Centennial agent approached individual syndicate members with below-market prices on the entire lot, which represented inordinately high profits for the broker. None, however, would accept his offer. When the flour began to show signs of deterioration, the agent drastically cut the price and again approached the syndicate members. This time, the temptation proved too great for one of the chief brokers, who bolted from the syndicate and purchased the entire consignment.

Incensed at this treasonous act, Rennie called the syndicate members together to condemn the transgression and reaffirm the alliance. The meeting grew contentious, however, as Rennie heatedly quarreled with a dissenting merchant. Siding with their compatriot against Rennie, the other members withdrew their commitment to Portland Flour and the syndicate collapsed. Rennie quickly scrambled to create a new syndicate among less prominent brokers, but this association proved incapable of exerting sufficient control over the market to seriously impede the sale of other American brands.[56]

Nevertheless, Wilcox’s hold over Asian markets had become firmly established, with his mainstay Dayton and other brands dominating the trade. After years of Rennie’s effective salesmanship and exclusive syndicate marketing, Chinese merchants and noodlemen had developed a loyalty to these “chops” and his flour had become “famous from Vladivostok to the Malabar coast, and far into the interior of China.”[57] As indisputable flour king of the Asian trade, Wilcox now dominated flour markets on both coasts of the Pacific. From this vantage point, the continued growth and prosperity of the Portland Flour empire seemed assured.

Protecting the Empire

By 1900, the United States, led by Portland Flour and other Pacific Northwest mills, was exporting more flour to China than to any other country except England. In a speech before the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress that year, Wilcox reported that “the Oriental flour trade has taken approximately one-third to one-half of the surplus wheat of the Pacific Coast … at prices which have been remunerative to the producer.”[58] Not only had West Coast millers profited by the Asian flour trade, but the industry also had become dependent on the China market to absorb excess production as the increase in wheat and flour capacity in the Pacific Northwest continued to outpace domestic demand.[59]

In order to protect Portland Flour’s hard-earned position in China and other Far Eastern markets and to foster the continued expansion of this trade, Wilcox needed a sympathetic government official with influence in Asia and access to Capitol Hill. He found an ideal candidate in John Barrett, a young newspaper editor with irrepressible political ambitions. Having made a name for himself as a journalist writing “booming” articles about coastal commerce for the Tacoma Daily Ledger, Barrett was hired in 1891 at the age of twenty-five to be the editor of the Portland Evening Telegram. Because the newspaper’s political perspective was Democratic, he switched parties and became an active member in the Young Men’s Democratic Club of Portland. There, he became associated with two of the city’s most prominent businessmen, William Ladd and Theodore Wilcox. Impressed with Barrett’s enthusiasm for regional business and his support of American commercial and political expansion in Asia, Wilcox offered his support of Barrett’s political career. In 1893, an opportunity arose when the Kanagawa consular post in Japan became vacant. In a letter to Oregon Senator Joseph N. Dolph, Wilcox recommended Barrett for the position and forthrightly revealed his intention to begin cultivating the Japanese flour trade: “While Mr. Barrett’s official duties would not permit him to serve us except in a general way, he could be of great service to us in developing this [flour] trade.”[60]

Barrett was not assigned to the Kanagawa post, however, or to another open consular position at Osaka. Determined to place him in Asia, Wilcox sent him to Washington, D.C., to personally lobby for another position. Barrett met and managed to sufficiently impress Assistant Secretary of State Josiah Quincy, who recommended him to President Grover Cleveland. The following year, Barrett successfully secured an appointment as the new minister to Siam.[61] At just twenty-eight years old, he not only was the youngest minister to serve in the diplomatic corps but he also became one of the most enthusiastic expansionists in Indochina and an ardent advocate of American commercial interests in Asia. Through consular reports, public addresses, editorials, and letters to trade journals, periodicals, newspapers, and chambers of commerce, Barrett tirelessly trumpeted his message: “China and other Asiatic countries want all the flour and timber, and a goodly portion of other kinds of food and raw products” that the Pacific Coast states can supply.[62] He identified other promising trade commodities and reproached American companies for shoddy, poorly packaged, or inappropriate exports. He lobbied for the construction of the isthmus canal to facilitate cotton exports to China and the completion of a transpacific telegraph cable to directly link Oriental markets with American suppliers.[63]

Given the political debt Barrett owed to Wilcox, it is not surprising that he reserved his strongest support for the expansion of American flour exports to China, a robust trade that he believed the United States would continue to cultivate and control. In a report titled “To the Orient!” written shortly after taking up his post, Barrett expressed an unqualified optimism for the future prospects of American flour exports: “I am convinced that there is a great undeveloped market, worth millions of dollars when developed, for American flour, so important that, when it is appreciated and properly exploited, it will require twice the number of steamships now crossing the Pacific to carry the increased shipments.”[64]

Barrett was correct on both counts. Wilcox earned millions of dollars exploiting the undeveloped flour markets of Asia and in the process stimulated the growth of steam transit across the Pacific. By 1898 — the end of Barrett’s four-year diplomatic tenure in Asia — China had matured into a reliable, increasingly indispensable market for American surplus flour. Between 1890 and 1900, while the population of the West Coast expanded by almost 30 percent and wheat production rose by roughly 40 percent, Pacific Coast flour exports to Hong Kong increased by nearly 200 percent, reaching an astounding 1.4 million barrels.[65] To maintain this level of trade, West Coast millers required sufficient cargo space and regular shipping schedules. Transcontinental railroad companies, which were seeking return freight for midwestern and eastern markets, were eager to comply. In 1882, the Northern Pacific Railway Company formed an alliance with the British company Northern Pacific Steamship to offer steamer service from the rail terminus at Tacoma. In 1889, the Union Pacific established a transpacific steamer line in Portland, and in 1896 the Great Northern Steamship Company linked the Orient with Seattle.[66] By 1905, carrying capacity of the transpacific steamer fleet exceeded 300,000 tons.[67] With this increase in reliable shipping and with Northwest wheat production continuing to expand, Wilcox’s flour empire appeared to be invincible, destined to dominate and to thrive. But a potential threat was looming, and Barrett was about to provide his greatest service to Wilcox and the China flour trade.

Although his diplomatic tenure as minister to Siam had expired, Barrett continued to promote commercial opportunities in Asia and to serve as an unofficial ombudsman to protect established trades. His assistance was most evident in 1902, when he raised the alarm over the issue of maintaining the duty-free status of flour. By the turn of the century, Wilcox and other American millers were shipping well over a million barrels of flour each year to Hong Kong, where the vast majority was purchased by Chinese merchants and transshipped to the mainland.[68] In 1899, for example, the southeastern ports of Guangzhou (Canton) and Xiamen (Amoy) imported 236,076 barrels of American flour, valued at 1.15 million taels, or $839,500. Maintenance and continued expansion of this robust trade was directly related to the high quality and comparatively low price of imported flour. Profitable sales at low prices were made possible in part by early treaty stipulations, which permitted the free importation of goods — such as flour — used exclusively by the foreign community.[69] Well before 1890, however, flour imports had far exceeded the demand of foreign consumers in China. Nevertheless, the product had maintained its special duty-free import status.[70] Renegotiation of China’s commercial treaties now threatened that status.

In 1901, Barrett warned Wilcox and other millers that European delegates to the commercial treaty negotiations in Beijing were planning to remove flour from the duty-free list. He argued that at this critical stage in the development of the trade (which that year would amount to nearly seven million dollars), a tariff would seriously hamper sales and curtail market expansion of American flour.[71] If the Europeans had their way, Barrett maintained, “the manufacturing and agricultural interests of the northwest, particularly of the Pacific coast [would] suffer severely.” He accused the Europeans of plotting to tax flour imports in order to raise customs revenue, which the Chinese could use to pay reparations (chiefly to European nations) for damages incurred during the Boxer Uprising — a blatant case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. To counter this threat, he implored all those associated with the flour industry to join him in exerting as much pressure as possible on the U.S. Department of State to oppose this proposal.[72]

Barrett’s admonitions spurred industry leaders into action, as trade organizations across the nation petitioned the federal government to preserve the special duty-free status of flour. In the midwestern milling capital of Minneapolis, the Chamber of Commerce urged the State Department to take all necessary steps to prevent “the placing on this great staple of a tariff that would most seriously impede the growth of the trade.” St. Louis flour millers requested that representatives in China be directed “to use the utmost diligence and all proper means to prevent the imposition of any duty whatever” on American flour exports. In response to these appeals and Barrett’s entreaties, Acting Secretary of State Alvey Adee instructed W.W. Rockhill, special commissioner of the United States in China, to “endeavor to secure the retention of flour on the free list.”[73] Adhering to these directions, Rockhill steadfastly opposed the recommendations of Chinese and European delegates to remove flour from the duty-free list and ultimately persevered in protecting flour’s special status. The subsequent Commercial Treaty with China, signed by the United States in 1903, listed “cereals and flour” as one of only three product categories (out of 751 enumerated) designated duty-free.[74] Clearly, unimpeded flour exports to China were considered so essential for maintaining West Coast prosperity (by protecting wheat-farming and milling industries) that even the laissez faire American government was willing to take a stand against European and Chinese interests to protect the trade.

End of an Empire

With Barrett investigating new markets for flour throughout Asia and advocating official protection of the trade in Washington, D.C., Rennie creating syndicates and promoting new sales in Hong Kong, and Portland Flour representatives throughout the Pacific Northwest operating and expanding the company’s network of mills and storage facilities, Wilcox’s transpacific flour empire was securely established and seemingly destined for unbounded prosperity. He had succeeded in his most ardent ambition — to be the controlling factor in the China flour market — an accomplishment frankly conceded by those most seriously engaged in the Asian trade.[75] Moreover, his drive, organizational genius, and ruthless business practices had built Portland Flour into a global enterprise that shipped its products to ports around the world. As one reporter phrased it in 1918, “Oregon flour became known wherever bread [was] baked.” Wilcox’s direction and vision had created new and spectacular prosperity for Oregon and the Pacific Coast.[76]

Almost inconceivably, the empire was not destined to last. Taking a page from Wilcox’s business handbook, Rennie built his own flour mill in Hong Kong in 1907, gambling that his personal relationship with the city’s flour brokers would induce them to switch loyalties from Portland Flour and other imported brands. He underestimated both the conservative nature of the Chinese brokers, who were hesitant to purchase his unknown brands, and his ability to manage the complex operations of a modern flour mill. Rennie’s endeavor failed miserably, and he committed suicide in 1908.[77]

By then, however, more successful Chinese entrepreneurs had already imported the most technologically advanced milling equipment from the United States and Europe and founded their own flour-milling industry in China. These native mills would ultimately prove disastrous for Wilcox and American flour imports. As the number of plants increased, native brands soon began replacing Portland Flour in the China market. By the end of the decade, the production capacity of Chinese mills reached approximately three million barrels annually, while American imports had plummeted to a twenty-year low.[78]

Wilcox had lost not only the American monopoly over quality processed flour in China but also the major export market on which the growth and prosperity of his empire depended. With the reduced Asian demand for imported flour after 1910, the Portland Flouring Mills Company passed its zenith and fell into gradual decline. Wilcox devoted more of his time to improving local commercial opportunities, serving as a member of the Port of Portland Commission, the Oregon Development League, the Portland Water Board, and the Lewis and Clark Exposition. During World War I, he was appointed the milling commissioner for the Eighth Federal Grain District. He remained president of Portland Flour until his death in 1918, when the company was sold to Joseph Ganong, the longtime general manager. The company struggled on for three more years before being purchased by Sperry Flour, which itself was absorbed by General Mills in 1929.[79]

Wilcox and his great flour empire are now all but forgotten. His “booming” exploits as the Northwest’s flour magnate are as unknown today as his many contributions to the foundation of transpacific trade and Oregon’s early commercial development.[80] Nevertheless, Wilcox was one of Portland’s first great industrialists, one of the first to systematically develop a market for American products in China, and a leading factor in the early expansion of transpacific steamship service. As Wilcox himself noted in 1905, the “dead weight base of nearly all of these [Asian-bound] cargoes has been flour, made from wheat grown on the Pacific Coast.” Although flour was perhaps not the most valuable export of the United States, Wilcox was pleased to admit that flour exports to Asia had brought “prosperity and happiness to the thousands of Pacific Coast farmers.”[81]

Upon his death in 1918, the great railroad developer James J. Hill praised Wilcox as having done “more than any other man … to develop the commerce of the Columbia River and gain recognition for the Northwest throughout the world.”[82] Wilcox was a sterling example of the bold character of his era. Like J.J. Hill, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and so many other great entrepreneurs at the turn of the century, Wilcox combined determination, ambition, and opportunity to forge an industrial empire. He was a “boomer” whose exceptional vision enhanced the prosperity of the Pacific Northwest and opened wide the door to Asian commerce. “He could not have been anything else,” wrote Charles Erskine Wood in 1918. “It was inevitable, inescapable, stamped on him in the cradle. That was his genius, to be a captain of industry.”[83]


1.�The Weekly Northwestern Miller [hereafter WNWM], August 13, 1897, 241.
2.� For details of Wilcox’s early life, see Claire Wilcox Squires, Theodore Burney Wilcox, 1856–1918 (Portland, Ore.: n.p., 1940), 13–14. Prior to establishing the bank, Bush had been president of the Salem Flouring Mills and editor of the Oregon Statesman. See Hubert H. Bancroft, “History of Oregon, 1886–88,” vol. 31, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, vol. 30 (San Francisco: The History Company, 1886–1890); “History of Oregon,” 2:730.
3.�Morning Oregonian (Portland), April 1, 1918, 6; National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Being the History of the United States (New York: James T. White & Company, 1948), 34:106. See also Squires, Theodore Burney Wilcox, 14.
4.�Morning Oregonian, April 1, 1918, 6. According to the Statistical Abstracts of the United States (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1927), table 40, p. 46, Portland’s population in 1880 was 17,577 compared to 233,959 for San Francisco.
5.� For more information on Gold Rush-era supplies, prices, and early industry, see Daniel Meissner, “Bridging the Pacific: California and the China Flour Trade,” California History 76:4 (Winter 1997–1998): 82–93.
6.� E. Kimbark MacColl and Harry H. Stein, Merchants, Money and Power: The Portland Establishment, 1843–1913 (Portland, Ore.: Georgian Press, 1988), 1–5.
7.� See Martin E. Fitzgerald, ed., Sixty Milestones of Progress, 1859–1919: Ladd & Tilton Bank, Portland Oregon (Portland, Ore.: James, Kerns & Abbott Co., 1919), 7. The unofficially recorded population of Portland in January 1860 was 2,917. See ibid., 12.
8.� Bank deposits in 1873 totaled nearly $570,000 and reached $1,000,000 in 1880. Also in 1880, bank capital and surplus amounted to another $1,000,000. See ibid., 31, 35.
9.�Morning Oregonian, April 1, 1918, 6;. Fitzgerald, Sixty Milestones of Progress, 40.
10.�Oregonian (Portland), April 1, 1918, 6; National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 34:106.
11.� Fitzgerald, Sixty Milestones of Progress, 39–40.
12.�WNWM, March 9, 1904, 542.
13.�Oregonian, April 1, 1918, 6; Squires, Theodore Burney Wilcox, 15; Herman Steen, Flour Milling in America (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973), 382.
14.� Wheat production for Oregon and Washington in 1879 was 9,401,332 bushels; in 1889, 35,696,163 bushels. Figures found in U.S. Department of the Interior, Census Office, Abstract of the Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1902), table 130; U.S. Department of the Interior, Census Office, Report on the Production of Agriculture as Returned at the Tenth Census, June 1, 1880 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1883), 202, 210.
15.� The average price of wheat in the U.S. during these two decades was calculated from U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of the Census, “Series K 508,” Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, Bicentennial Edition (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1975), 512.
16.� For a detailed account of railroad development in the Pacific Northwest wheat regions, see Peter J. Lewty, Across the Columbia Plain: Railroad Expansion in the Interior Northwest, 1885–1893 (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1995).
17.�WNWM, March 9, 1904, 542; Fitzgerald, Sixty Milestones of Progress, 41.
18.�WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802. Apparently, the position of foremost miller in the Pacific Northwest was not enough for Wilcox. According to the March 5, 1902, New York Times, 2, Wilcox had also proposed the “largest consolidation ever undertaken in the Pacific Northwest” with the union of the three leading flour manufacturing firms on the West Coast: Portland Flour, Sperry Flour of San Francisco, and Centennial Mills of Seattle. The deal was never completed.
19.�WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802; October 25, 1899, 786.
20.� Squires, Theodore Burney Wilcox, 16, notes that the purchase of several mills prompted Wilcox to found the Pacific Coast Elevator Company in 1886. Two years later, he organized the Puget Sound Warehouse Company in Washington state. Combined, the companies controlled more than 350 stations.
21.�Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1898, 4; WNWM, March 9, 1904, 542. Because the capacity of the Wilcox wheat storage facilities exceeded the Portland Flouring Mills’ requirements, Wilcox was also a major exporter of wheat, most of which was sent to European markets. See WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802.
22.�WNWM, October 25, 1899, 786. F.J. Clark, reporting for the April 25, 1900, WNWM (p. 802), notes that “Mr Wilcox has an inherent belief in the theory that his competitors can be most easily ruled and dictated to through his possessing control of the wheat supply.”
23.� Oregon Voter, quoted in Squires, Theodore Burney Wilcox, 22.
24.�WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802.
25.� Ibid.
26.� Ibid., April 24, 1901, 801.
27.� Ibid., October 25, 1899, 786. When William Ladd died in 1893, Wilcox took over as president of Portland Flouring Mills.
28.� According to the Abstract of the Twelfth Census of the United States, table 35, between 1880 and 1900 the population of Oregon and Washington grew by 273 percent (249,884 to 931,639). The Report on the Products of Agriculture as Returned at the Tenth Census, 202, 210, reports the combined wheat production in 1879 as 9,401,332 bushels. Abstract of the Twelfth Census of the United States, table 130, reports the combined wheat production in 1899 as 35,696,163 bushels — a 280 percent increase. However, Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1900, table 93, reports the combined wheat production of Oregon and Washington as 53,659,930 bushels, or a 470 percent increase. Although this represents a rather large discrepancy, both figures indicate that wheat production was increasing faster than population.
29.� In 1868, Joseph Watt shipped a cargo of Willamette wheat to Liverpool, which initiated a significant wheat export trade with England. See James Robertson, “A Pioneer Captain of Industry in Oregon,” The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 4:1 (March 1903): 157–67.
30.� For more on the California wheat and flour industries, see Horace Davis, “California Breadstuffs,” Journal of Political Economy 2:4 (September 1894): 517–35, 600–12; and Rodman Paul, “The Wheat Trade between California and the United Kingdom,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 45:3 (December 1958): 391–412. On railroad rates, see WNWM, May 2, 1900, 849. For details on the expansion of the midwestern flour industry and the development of the European trade, see Charles Kuhlmann, The Development of the Flour-Milling Industry in the United States: With Special Reference to the Industry in Minneapolis (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1929). For insight into the British response to American flour, see Richard Perren, “Structural Change and Market Growth in the Food Industry: Flour Milling in Britain, Europe, and America, 1850–1914,” Economic History Review 43:3 (August 1990): 420–37.
31.� See Meissner, “Bridging the Pacific,” 82–93.
32.� Davis, “California Breadstuffs,” 532. Davis reports the exact figure as 437,471 barrels.
33.�WNWM, August 13, 1897, 244.
34.�Tacoma Daily Ledger, July 24, 1892, 4. The Northwestern Miller, a national trade journal, had promoted flour exports to Asia since the 1870s. On March 22, 1900, the Minneapolis Times published a thirty-page supplement on the history and potential of trade with Asia. Throughout the late 1880s and 1890s, newspapers along the West Coast featured the glowing predictions of Asian trade from such “boomers” as J.J. Hill of the Great Northern Railway.
35.� See Sung Ying-Hsing, Tiangong Kaiwu [The Creations of Nature and Man], trans. E-Tu Zen Sun and Shiou-Chuan Sun (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1966); and Joseph Needham’s multivolume study, Science and Civilization in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954). The August 13, 1897, issue of WNWM (p. 244) notes that 90 percent of imported flour sold in the Far East was exported from the United States. The “remaining 10 per cent is from India and north China.”
36.� In 1889, the Union Pacific established a transpacific steamer line in Portland, and the following year the Northern Pacific opened Asian steamer service from Tacoma. Between 1895 and 1900, five additional shipping lines began operations on the West Coast. WNWM, March 28, 1900, 617. By 1905, the total carrying capacity of the transpacific steamer fleet exceeded 300,000 tons. See Theodore Wilcox, “Oriental Trade,” Journal of the American Asiatic Association [hereafter JAAA] 5:8 (September 1905): 240. Shipping rates are found in WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802.
37.�WNWM, September 23, 1903, 670. The Sperry office in Hong Kong was managed by W.W. Whiley and Chinese businessman Tsui Hong On.
38.�South China Morning Post, April 15, 1908, 1; April 16, 1908, 7; WNWM, June 24, 1908, 785.
39.�WNWM, September 16, 1911, 607.
40.� According to the January 9, 1966, Oakland Tribune (p. 15), Pacific Northwest flour was undercutting Sperry brands by as much as a dollar per barrel in 1892.
41.� According to the December 12, 1900, WNWM (p. 1,159), the earliest recorded shipment of Portland flour to Asia occurred in 1855, when a Portland businessman sold 300 barrels of flour in Hong Kong for $10 per barrel. This high selling price, however, was offset by equally high transportation costs; and apparently the trade was not followed up until 1885, when British consular reports for Oregon again record flour shipments to Asia. Shipping statistics for 1885 are found in “Diplomatic and Consular Reports of the United States: Trade of the Consular District of Portland (Oregon),” 31 (1885–1886), British Parliamentary Papers, Area Studies (Shannon, Ireland: Irish University Press, 1971), 518 [hereafter British Consular Reports]. Flour export amounts for 1894 and 1895 are calculated from figures found in ibid., 38 (1896): 774.
42.�WNWM, August 13, 1897, 244. In 1898, nearly 500,000 barrels of flour were also exported from Seattle and Tacoma, the majority presumably shipped to Asia. See British Consular Reports 40 (1898–1899): 584, 606, 617, 619. According to Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1900, table 93, in 1898 California produced only 12,224,403 bushels of wheat, a decline of over 62 percent from the 1897 harvest and 10 million bushels lower than any other harvest since 1877. The Oregon and Washington harvests for 1898 totaled 48,161,303 bushels, an increase of 25.8 percent over 1897.
43.� According to John Barrett, Portland flour exports to Hong Kong increased 1,600 percent during the 1890s. See The Outlook 63:1 (September 2, 1899): 11.
44.�WNWM, June 24, 1908, 785.
45.�WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802.
46.� Kingsland Smith, “Flour Trade in the Orient,” WNWM, September 23, 1903, 670, reports that “practically all the flour is handled by Chinese merchants and consumed by Chinese.” Chinese merchants also controlled the sale of flour to many other ports in Asia.
47.�WNWM, February 10, 1904, 302. For Wilcox’s position, see JAAA (September 1905), 242.
48.� For an indication of Wilcox’s truculent temperament, see WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802.
49.� As a commissioned agent, Rennie stood to profit enormously under the syndicate proposal. He not only supported the proposal, but also in 1907 attempted to use a version of this system to drive Wilcox himself out of the China trade. For more details, see WNWM, June 24, 1908, 785.
50.�JAAA 7:3 (April 1907): 87; WNWM, August 13, 1897, 244; June 24, 1908, 785–6.
51.�WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802.
52.� Ibid., October 25, 1899, 785.
53.� Production costs per barrel of flour are given as $2.70 for wheat (4.5 bushels at $0.60/bush.) and $0.15 milling cost/bbl. See WNWM, October 25, 1899, 785. These are only rough figures and do not include bran sales on the plus side of the miller or commissions, rail costs, or handling charges on the negative side.
54.�WNWM, October 25, 1899, 786.
55.� B.C. Forbes, Men Who Are Making the West (New York: B.C. Forbes Publishing Co., 1923), 315; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 31, August 3, 1950.
56.�WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802.
57.� Ibid., June 24, 1908, 786, 785.
58.� Wilcox, “Oriental Trade,” 240.
59.� In particular, Washington state’s wheat production exploded, reaching 25 million bushels by 1900, more than triple the 1895 harvest. Only Minnesota and Kansas produced more wheat than Washington did at the turn of the century. See Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1900, table 93, 362–4.
60.� Salvatore Prisco III, John Barrett, Progressive Era Diplomat: A Study of a Commercial Expansionist, 1887–1920 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1973), 7–8, quote on p. 9. Due to his financial standing in Oregon and his prominent role in international trade, Wilcox was acquainted with a number of high government officials in the nation’s capital. Squires, Theodore Burney Wilcox, 8–9, notes that Wilcox knew Theodore Roosevelt well and also Howard Taft and Chief Justice Fuller.
61.� Prisco, John Barrett, 11.
62.� John Barrett, “The Paramount Power of the Pacific,” North American Review 99:1 (July 1899): 169.
63.� John Barrett, “America in the Pacific and Far East,” Harper’s Monthly 99, no. 594 (November 1899): 930ff; “Chino-American Commerce,” The Outlook 63:1 (September 1899): 11.
64.�WNWM, August 13, 1897, 244.
65.�Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1900, table 2, records that the total population of California, Oregon, and Washington during this period increased from 1,871,287 to 2,416,692. Table 93 lists total wheat production for these states as 50,057,000 bushels in 1890 and 69,838,301 bushels in 1900.
66.�Oregonian, January 1, 1896; WNWM, March 28, 1900, 617. By 1900, a total of eight steamship lines were servicing Asia from the West coast: the Canadian Pacific, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, Northern Pacific, Pacific Mail, Occidental & Oriental, California & Oriental, Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co., and Toyo Kisen Kaisha (Oriental Steamship Company).
67.� Theodore B. Wilcox, “Oriental Trade,” JAAA 5:8 (September 1905): 240.
68.�Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1990, table 55. WNWM, July 18, 1900, 114, estimated the amount of American flour exported to China at 1.6 million barrels.
69.� The 1844 Treaty of Wanghia, Stipulation Class 17, listed “rice and other grains” as duty-free. See Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service, Treaties, Conventions, Etc., Between China and Foreign States (Shanghai: Statistical Department of the Inspectorate General of Customs, 1917), 697.
70.� For example, with a foreign population of 4,909 in 1897, Shanghai imported 2,713 tons of flour. According to John Storck and Walter Teague, Flour for Man’s Bread: A History of Milling (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1952), 280, annual flour consumption in the United States at this time averaged 225 pounds per capita. Applying these same figures to Shanghai, the amount of imported flour would produce a surplus of 4.32 million pounds (88,000 sacks) over the needs of the foreign population. Although some of this was transshipped to other treaty ports, the majority was sold to native residents. For population figures, see Arnold Wright, ed., Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and Other Treaty Ports of China: Their History, People, Commerce, Industries, and Resources (London: Lloyd’s Greater Britain Publishing, 1908), 435. For Shanghai flour imports, see “Shanghai,” British Consular Reports (July 1899), 647.
71.�WNWM, August 7, 1901, 280. Barrett noted that over the past decade or so the flour trade with China had rapidly grown from about one million dollars to the present seven million dollars.
72.� Ibid., August 31, 1901, 221–22.
73.� Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Resolution to Secretary of State Rogers, quoted in ibid., August 13, 1901, 325. See also ibid., August 7, 1901, 281; August 14, 1901, 325.
74.� U.S. Department of State, Papers Related to the Foreign Relations of the United States (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1903), 91–119.
75.�WNWM, April 25, 1900, 802.
76.�Oregonian, April 1, 1918, 6.
77.�WNWM, June 24, 1908, 785.
78.� For statistics on Chinese flour milling production, see Shanghaishi Liangshiju, Zhongguo jindai mianfen gongyeshi [The History of the Chinese Flour Industry] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987), table 11, 418–22. For statistics on American flour exports to China and Hong Kong between 1902 and 1909, see JAAA 4:1 (February 1904): 3; 6:1 (February 1906): 3; 8:1 (February 1908): 3; 10:1 (February 1910): 3.
79.� Steen, Flour Milling in America, 173, 382.
80.�Oregonian, April 1, 1918, 1, 6.
81.� Theodore Wilcox, “Theodore Wilcox on Oriental Trade,” JAAA 5:8 (September 1905): 240.
82.�Oregonian, April 1, 1918, 6.
83.� Quoted in Squires, Theodore Burney Wilcox, 18.

By Daniel J. Meissner