The jobbing trade is an important and steadily growing feature of Wheeling's business life. This trade has expanded with the increase in wealth and population of the surrounding country upon which it draws. It is an interesting fact, and a striking exhibition of the enterprise of Wheeling's merchants, that they not only hold their own in every portion of West Virginia, but have built up and are adding to a large trade in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, Eastern Ohio and in Kentucky along the West Virginia line. Their salesmen in their trips pass competitors from Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cincinnati, and get their goods reasonable in against these sharp rivalries. This they are able to do by reason of favorable freight rates, profits and careful nursing of their business.
In hardware and agricultural implements, boots and shoes, hats, dry goods, notions, confectionery, cigars and manufactured tobacco, drugs, queensware and glassware, and groceries, the volume of business is very large, and no competition from jobbers elsewhere has been strong enough to prevent its increase. In the grocery trade alone the annual sales amount to about $6,000,000. In this line all the heavy manufacturers and dealers are represented in Wheeling through brokers, who do a rushing business by telegraph, receiving fresh quotations all through the day, and sending in at times orders that would do credit to the heavy grocery jobbers of the great cities. The railroads bring in and take away daily tons of the staple articles of the trade, some of them going back 200 miles eastward to dealers in smaller places.
The whole jobbing trade, embracing all branches, is in the hands of men of ample capital and first rate credit, able to buy as low as the lowest. Their credit is strengthened by the fact that failures are unknown among them. When the Wheeling jobber buys he contributes nothing to the seller's margin of probable loss, for loss from this source is the most improbable thing connected with the transaction. This advantage is at least shared with the jobber's customer, if not given away entirely to meet competition.
There are a number of manufacturing interests the absence of which from the list of Wheeling concerns is striking. Iron novelties are made in Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, New York and elsewhere from iron shipped from Wheeling, and the finished goods shipped back here to sell, thus paying freight two ways, which would be saved by a factory located here. Axes, hammers and other tools are manufactured from Wheeling metal at distant points and sold here under the same disadvantages. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are expended abroad for iron pipes to be used here, which could be made here to advantage. Much of the muck iron or skelp iron consumed in pipe making is produced here. Why not save the freight? Pipe has successfully been rolled from Riverside soft steel. This department of manufacture is an exceedingly promising one for this locality.
Iron bridge building and structural iron work are also in the line of Wheeling's special fitness.
There are other departments in which Wheeling could embark favorably with the advantage of natural gas for fuel. Window glass, woolen goods, cotton goods, hollow wooden ware, rubber, horn and bone goods, fire brick - for all these there is room and advantages to be found nowhere else at so little cost.
The manufacture of soap, brushes, baskets, combs, files, and other goods, now carried on here on a small scale for lack of capital, ought to be embarked in more extensively.
There is a promising field for agricultural implements.
The turning of implement handles - axe, hatchet and pick handles - by machinery could be operated with profit here, the abundant raw material and cheap transportation making such a business practicable on a large scale.
Wheeling is without a window glass works, while Bellaire has several thriving ones, Wellsburg one, and others are located at Quaker city, Barnesville and Cadiz, beyond the reach of natural gas.
Another bottle works would have no difficulty in securing a good trade. The North Wheeling factory, the only one here, has offers of business daily which it is obliged to refuse.
A glass factory of modest capacity devoted to lamp chimneys ought to pay. A big trade in lantern globes also goes out of the city.
A large tin-stamping works could be built up here. This is proven by the experience of the Bellaire stamping works.
A wire mill was successfully operated here in the infancy of Wheeling's manufactures. A wire working factory was also a prosperous industry here. Neither branch of manufacture is engaged in now.
There is ample room for more potteries to share the reputation already won for Wheeling in this line. The frequent visits of buyers of glass and queensware make this an exceptionally good market.
In short, in all branches of manufacture, investments here would be wisely placed.
Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Sept. 14, 1886
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.