At the dawn of the First World War they were, in order of importance: those of machinery and specialized metal products, those of food products, and those of watches, chemistry and pharmaceuticals. In view of the lack of coal and its scarce iron deposits, wisely no attempt was made to develop a primary steel industry (the small charcoal-based iron and steel industry that existed in the Jura mountains disappeared in the middle of the century); but by importing raw materials, it was possible to establish a solid metal transformation industry. It began in the 1820s with the manufacture of machinery for spinning cotton and, taking advantage of the importance of hydraulic power for the economy, it was
rapidly expanded to include the production of water wheels, turbines, gears, water pumps, valves, and a host of highly specialized and high-value products. When the electricity era arrived, this industry quickly adapted to new trends and began to manufacture electrical machinery. In fact, Swiss engineers made very valuable contributions to the new industry, especially in the field of hydroelectricity. The decline in per capita coal consumption since 1900, mainly as a consequence of the electrification of rail lines (see figure 10.1) is clear evidence. The dairy industry, famous for its cheeses, modernized its traditional artisan processes with machinery, thus increasing both production and exports. He also developed the production of condensed milk (based on an American patent) and generated that of two sister products: chocolate and prepared baby foods. The other traditional industry, that of watches, continued to be characterized by the manual work of specialized artisans, often hired part-time, and by a meticulous division of labor. Although some specialized machines began to be used in the construction of the most common and interchangeable parts, the final assembly continued to be a manual process. Finally, the chemical industry developed in response to the process of industrialization itself. Deprived of natural resources, Switzerland lacked a noteworthy chemical industry. Between 1859 and 1860, following the discovery of artificial dyes, two small firms were established in Basel to meet the demand of local tape factories. They were joined by two more firms, but significantly, they soon discovered that they could not compete with the German companies producing basic dyes, so they specialized in exotic and high-value products, of which they soon had a global monopoly. At the end of the century, 90% of its production was sold outside its borders.