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The French bill provides that American manufacturers of cloth shall label their products just as foods are labeled to-day, with the names of the materials which they contain. The seemingly sound argument is that if a Federal law so fixes things that a man can tell by a look at a label what kind of food he is eating, it might also fix things so a man can tell what kind of clothing he is buying.
Seemingly there can be no honest objection on the part of any manufacturer or retailer to legislation which simply enables a customer to know what he is buying. It took a great many years of argument to induce Congress to pass the pure food bill. Pure-fabric legislation under this or another name has been discussed in a desultory way for a long time. It seems possible now that this measure safeguarding the public interest has something more than a fair chance to get a place on the statute books.
(Springfield (III.) Journal, Monday, June 25, 1923]
TRUTH IN FABRIC
Sentiment in favor of the proposed truth in fabric law seems to grow, even among business men who decry legislative interference. Something of this character seems to be required in the interest of honest merchandising. Men who conduct their business with the public along ethical and honest lines are placed at a disadvantage in competition with unscrupulous men who falsify and cheat the public. To protect investors from blue-sky worthless projects, nearly all States have had to enact "blue sky” laws. They have been of inestimable benefit to the public. To curb the crooks and dishonest in commercial fields some such act as the truth in fabric law with a liberal set of teeth seems to be necessary.
(Great Falls (Mont.) Leader, May 16, 1922)
HONEST WOOL LABELS
The United States Supreme Court, in a case brought up by the Federal Trade Commission, has upheld that body's order directing a New England manufacturing company to stop using on knitted goods labels and brands which imply pure wool when the goods actually contain an admixture of other fibers, unless the names of the other fibers are mentioned specifically or unless the label makes it clear that there are such admixtures.
It was found that the company in question had been using the words “merino,” “wool,” or “worsted” on goods which were not all wool. The manufacturer maintained that his product had been on the market so long that everyone knew the trade names and knew they did not stand for all wool. To which the court replied:
“The fact that misrepresentation and misdescription have become so common in the knit-underwear trade that most dealers no longer accept labels at their face value does not prevent their use being an unfair method of competition."
This is a striking gain in the truth-in-fabric movement. The National Consumer's League, many woolgrowers, and many manufacturers are working for the same application of honesty to wool goods as the pure food law requires for foods. Either adulterants must be omitted or their presence must be plainly indicated.
(Lewiston (Mont.) News, May 4, 1922]
HOPE FOR WOOLGROWERS
Helena Independent: “After years and years battling for a truth in fabric bill and always failing to get it, owing to the influence of manufacturers on Congress, woolgrowers over the country are considerably heartened by a decision of the United States Supreme Court that the underlying principle of the bill is legal,"
It has ruled in the case of the Federal Trade Commission against a manufacturing company that the latter's labels, brands, and trade names must not be such as to convey to the public the idea that goods are wholly of wool if they are not.
Just what Montana woolgrowers have been trying to get Congress to say for years.
In the case referred to the company set up the plea that it was not guilty of misbranding goods, inasmuch as “the trade”-jobbers, retailers, and distributers of products—were not deceived as to the wool or lack of wool content. The company, it was emphasized, did not sell directly to the consumers.
But the Supreme Court took the view that the court's duty was not to "the trade," but to the public in general. Such practices, it declared, are an imposition on the buying public. Furthermore, labels that give the impression that products are all wool when they are not constitute unfair competition for manufacturers who do put out 100 per cent woolen products.
Both the dictums laid down by the court are sound reasoning. It explained in its opinion, Justice McReynolds dissenting, that there would be no objection to labels like "merino," "wool,' and worsted” if the company had added words: to indicate to consumers the percentage of cotton or other material not wool which had been used in the manufacture of the articles.
Congress should now blow the dust off the truth in fabric bill and put it through. The bill would do for clothing what the pure food law has done for foods and medicines. It would require the labels on the goods to show the percentages of cotton, of shoddy, of wool in fabrics, so that a buyer would know exactly the quality of the material he was buying, thus not being talked into paying allwool prices when what he is getting is largely rags.
Woolgrowers, of course, are interested especially because the bill would work to prevent the dilution of wool, thus forcing the factories to use more of it. Less use of shoddy, by stimulating consumption of wool, would do for wool products. what the tariff never will.
(Albany Knickerbocker Press, Saturday, June 9, 1923)
Fraud in business, quite aside from any question of bankruptcy or matters of credit, is becoming a live issue. In textiles, in particular, the growing demand for “truth in fabric” makes the matter one of importance.
The “truth in fabric" argument is simply that every piece of goods shall be marked honestly for what it is, either whole new wool, whole reworked wool, wool and cotton mixed, and so on.
It is recognized that reworked wool, made from clean new scraps of whole wool, might be superior to a new wool product fabricated from cheap and dirty yarn. Plenty of fabrics made up from shoddy could be better and would wear longer than whole wool stuff put together from the leavings.
Shoddy, by that name, should frighten no one. There are plenty of new wools that are less durable than a decent shoddy. All that is sought is that buyers should know what they are getting. But when attention is turned to silk there are other reasons for excitement. Some so-called silk is merely artificial silk; it is cellulose, to be frank about it, and yet if it were sold as such there could be no protest.
This is where an issue of fraud arises.' Resentment grows against the representation of such commodities as other than what they are. A merchant may offer for sale whatever he has in stock, and if he does not misdescribe or misrepresent it, he has done no wrong in case it fails to fulfil the expectations of his. customers. "If, however, he has regard for his trade he will see to it that nothing goes over his counters the nature of which is not understood by the purchaser..
Within a few years there will be several restrictions upon retail trade in regard to the quality of goods and the assurances given in regard to them. The honeste business man, in the meantime, will protect himself and his own best interest by seeing to it that only such material as he knows can stand any test is sold with his guaranty, and that other goods are sold upon the distinct understanding that their permanency of wear or color is at the buyer's risk.
Imitations are useful and in many cases better for some purposes. But they should be sold for what they are. The bad thing is to offer second-rate articles as if they were prime. Intelligent merchants understand that in protecting the interest of the consumer they are adding to the general stability of trade and social life.
(Omaha (Nebr.) Bee, Wednesday, April 26, 1922)
DECEPTION IN TRADE-MARKS
The Supreme Court of the United States has laid down a rule for the guidance of manufacturers and merchants, the close observance of which will be of great benefit to the public. It simply amounts to requiring that the articles sold under a specific trade-mark must approach the quality and texture the purchaser is led to expect by the trade-mark or other advertisement. That is, if it is sold as all wool, it must be so near all wool that no objection can lie against it on the ground that it is not what it is represented to be.
For many years complaint has been made that deception in varying degree has been practiced by manufacturers, whose wares have not measured up to the standard or met the claims made by the announcement. It is not enough to set up in this regard that the purchaser is given a substantial bargain, that the article he has received will prove as serviceable as if it were exactly as it is represented. The underlying element of deception is fatal to the claim of honesty. The principle enunciated by the court is that contained in the Capper pure fabric bill, which requires that manufacturers label their wares according to their contents.
Long ago pure food laws were enacted to protect against substitution in food products; contents of container laws were found necessary to protect against short weight packages or other containers, and there is no better reason for allowing fraud in the matter of fabrics than there was in regard to food. It is not a pleasant thought that the public must be protected by law against dishonesty on part of great concerns, but if the fact exists, the protection ought to be had without delay..
[Tulare (Calif.) Register, June 6, 1923)
The Federal Trade Commission has recently developed facts which illustrate the basis for the demand for a “truth in fabric" law. A firm of wholesale hosiery dealers in New York City has been ordered to cease advertising “ladies' art silk hose” in which there is no true silk. :Such a practice is not merely an “unfair competition,” which the Federal Trade Commission was created to suppress, but is a bare-faced fraud upon the public. The Federal Trade Commission, of course, has no power to impose fines or imprisonment. It can merely tell the crooks to cease, whereupon they can change the name of their firm and go ahead until told to cease again. In the meantime the public is bilked. A "truth in fabric” law, with teeth in it, would provide a jail sentence for men who deliberately attempt to defraud, and there would soon be an end to the attempts.
(Post Express, Rochester, N. Y., March 19, 1923)
THE TWO FABRIC BILLS The Capper-French truth in fabrics bill deals with wool alone, whereas the Lodge-Rogers bill is advocated as superior because it covers all textiles in general use. It is desirable that a law should be of general application; and as far as possible prevent and penalize frauds in fabrics of every sort. But the weakness of the broader measure appears to be that it does not provide for the compulsory branding of fabrics. Where manufacturers stood to make more by putting out unmarked fabrics they would do so. They could not be prosecuted for misbranding; and the buyer of unmarked fabrics would take them at his own risk.
It is pointed out also that under the Lodge-Rogers measure fabrics of the kind that are classified as shoddy could be truthfully marked as "all, pure wool." This would certainly deceive many buyers into believing that they were getting virgin wool which had never before been woven into cloth, whereas they would be getting a fabric made of old clothes and odds and ends of woolen rags. Very much so-called shoddy is made and sold, and it has its value. But it is never sold for what it is, but always passed off on the unwary for something else; and there is nothing but the lesser price sometimes-though not always asked for it to put the buyer on his guard. All the shoddy manufacturers are fighting desperately against the compulsory identification of their goods. But it would appear that manufacturers of the best possible woolen fabrics would make commón cause with wool growers for a law under which no buyer can be deceived.
It is evident on a moment's thought that scraps of old clothes torn to pieces, fluffed into a wooly mass, 're-twisted into threads and re-woven would give a fabric composed of shorter, broken fibres which would not have the tensile strength and the wearing qualities of & eloth made of long-fibre virgin wool which had never been woven into cloth before. The inferior fabric has its uses. It would be a hardship on the people to prohibit its manufacture; and the better grades of cloth might be forced up so high in price as to put them almost out of reach. But it stands to reason that a law under which unbranded fabrics can be sold for what they are not, would not protect buyers like a law decreeing the compulsory branding of fabrics for what they are. There are several reasons why people who can afford them prefer imported woolen fabrics. Many of these are of exceeding beauty, but more important still is the fact that they are made on honor, are what they pretend to be, are sold for what they are, and buyers paying for the best have assurance that they are getting what they want. .
[St. Paul (Minn.) Herald, April 18, 1922]
Truth in fabric is just as logical and necessary as truth in butter, truth in business dealings, or truth in court. In other words there can be no valid reason why the uninformed public should be duped into buying “woolen” goods that are largely cotton or shoddy (shoddy is merely old, second-hand wool that has been torn up and rewoven into cloth). If it was proper to force manufacturers to label a mixture of cow tallow and butter as “oleomargarine” and not let them sell it as butter, it is also proper to force manufacturers to label cloth so as to show clearly whether it is made of virgin woo), second-hand wool, or part wool and cotton. The truth in fabric bill, now in Congress aims to force this honest practice upon the clothing manufacturers who are reluctant to surrender their fat chance of duping the public and who refuse to label their inferior goods for just what they are. There was a time when a terrific storm of protest went all over the country because the Federal Government forced food manufacturers to state whether they were using benzoate of soda and coal-tar dye to make their food products look attractive. Bleached flour, which looked wholesome and white to the housewife, but lacked the element of gluten, one of its chief baking and food elements, was also palmed off on the public until the bleached flour laws made this no longer possible. There should be no let-up until the exact constituents of food, clothing, and other products are clearly indicated. Wool will bring more to the producer when it, instead of old woolen or wool-and-cotton rags, must be put into cloth labeled “wool.” The public will be better clothed and business will be rid of just one more barnacle whose only function is to yield undue profits under a false name.
Our opponents have laid considerable stress upon the fact that this country is a worsted-wearing nation and that the larger part of the suiting fabrics produced are worsteds, and that worsteds are made entirely, of virgin wool.
In this connection we desire to call the committee's attention to the fact that there is a fabric known as wool and worsted, being a worsted warp with a wool filling, and in this fabric shoddy may be and often is used. This wool and worsted fabric has the appearance of a pure worsted fabric and when sold to the consumer is usually sold not as a wool and worsted fabric but as a worsted.
We wish briefly to state our objection to the Rogers bill as a substitute for the French truth in fabric bill.
The Rogers bill is a mere misbranding measure; it does not provide for the compulsory identification of substitutes in wool cloth, and if enacted it will cause the people to believe that they are protected against unidentified substitutes, when as a matter of fact they are not, and the people will unsuspectingly and confidently purchase the substitute as the genuine. It is our opinion that the passage of the Rogers bill as a substitute for the French truth in fabric bill would be a deception and a menace that would do the people of the United States a great deal of harm.
So far as wool woven fabrics are concerned, any protection that might be given by the passage of the Rogers bill we already have. The Rogers bill would in no way change the present practice of selling unidentified shoddy as “wool," "pure wool," "all wool," etc.
If the Rogers bill were amended as the Lodge bill was amended in the Sente, it would be even more objectionable, because it would legalize and aprrove the use of the terms “wool," "pure wool," "all wool," etc., even though this description would apply to cloth or garmants made entirely of shoddy.
We wish to strongly urge that a favorable report be made upon the French truth in fabric bill. The bill is thoroughly sound in every way and will be of great benefit to the consumers of the Nation. Respectfully submitted.
J. B. WILSON, Secretary.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, April 14, 1924. Mr. GRAY SILVER,
American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D. C.: Have asked Wilson, of Wyoming, to represent National Wool Growers at House hearings on fabric bills. In event he should not attend, authorize you to say for this association we oppose present form of Lodge bill and favor French-Capper. Advise placing emphasis on consumers' interest in this matter, and suggest if necessary some modification in section 9 to avoid necessity of tests for accurate determination of exact amount of shoddy content.
F. R. MARSHALL, National Wool Growers' Association.
WYOMING WOOL GROWERS' ASSOCIATION,
McKinley, Wyo., April 11, 1924. Mr. GRAY SILVER,
American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D. C.: DEAR MR. SILVER: I am inclosing herewith a statement on the French-Capper truth in fabric bill, which you may file in our behalf with the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee.
I received a telegram from Mr. Marshall yesterday advising the hearing would be held on the 15th instant, so this statement is very hastily prepared and probably contains a great deal of repetition and is more voluminous than may be necessary, but it is the best I can do in the short time that I have. If there is anything in this statement that should be eliminated or added, please feel free to make any changes that you think best.
I am inclosing a partial list of the organizations that have indorsed the truth in fabric bill. This is more complete than the list read in the records of the Senate hearings, and it is possible that you or Mr. French may desire to read it into the records. Of course, this only represents a small proportion of the resolutions, as practically every county farm and grange association has passed similar resolutions, and undoubtedly a great many other organizations have passed resolutions of which we have no record.
Am also inclosing two copies of Editorial Light, which contains editorials from various papers. This was read into the Senate hearings, 1921, in the testimony of Mr. Alex Walker.
Also inclosing objections answered, Series AA. These have not been read into the records. There may be some portion of this which you might want to use. This was put out by the National Sheep and Wool Bureau when I was acting as vice president and secretary, and the views therein expressed are my views to-day.
I regret that it is impossible for me to attend these hearings, but know that you will do far better than I could do if I were there and know that some progress will be made.
As I wrote you a day or so ago, if the hearings are unduly delayed and if I can be of any assistance by being in Washington, after the 20th, I will be there, although I am very busy and it is very difficult to get away at this time.
Thanking you for your continued help and cooperation in this matter and with kindest regards, I am, Very truly yours,
J. B. Wilson, Secretary.