Citation
A report on flax, hemp, ramie, and jute

Material Information

Title:
A report on flax, hemp, ramie, and jute with considerations upon flax and hemp culture in Europe, a report on the ramie machine trials of 1889 in Paris, and present status of fiber industries in the United States
Series Title:
Fiber Investigations / Dept. of Agriculture ;
Uniform Title:
Report (United States. Office of Fiber Investigations) ; no. 1.
Creator:
Dodge, Charles Richards, 1847-1918
United States -- Office of Fiber Investigations
Place of Publication:
Washington, D.C.
Publisher:
U.S. G.P.O.
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Edition:
2d ed.
Physical Description:
104 p. : illustrations. ; 23 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Plant fiber industry -- United States -- 19th century ( lcsh )
Plant fiber industry ( fast )
United States ( fast )
1800-1899 ( fast )

Notes

General Note:
Includes index.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
This item is a work of the U.S. federal government and not subject to copyright pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §105.
Resource Identifier:
029357171 ( ALEPH )
08106562 ( OCLC )

Aggregation Information

IUF:
University of Florida
IUFGOV:
Centers of Excellence at UF
USDA_COE:
U.S. Department of Agriculture Agencies

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:

00006.txt

00555.txt

00867.txt

00265.txt

00199.txt

01000.txt

00649.txt

00579.txt

00399.txt

00409.txt

00206.txt

00824.txt

00613.txt

00872.txt

00026.txt

00509.txt

00047.txt

01040.txt

00630.txt

00080.txt

00410.txt

00620.txt

00415.txt

00479.txt

01050.txt

00645.txt

00288.txt

00058.txt

00339.txt

00372.txt

00493.txt

00816.txt

01014.txt

00646.txt

00759.txt

00770.txt

00934.txt

00810.txt

00523.txt

00696.txt

00514.txt

00604.txt

00105.txt

00060.txt

00054.txt

00092.txt

00560.txt

00834.txt

00704.txt

00282.txt

00602.txt

00896.txt

00969.txt

00678.txt

00233.txt

00890.txt

00485.txt

00605.txt

00829.txt

00430.txt

00909.txt

00280.txt

00051.txt

00769.txt

00681.txt

00599.txt

00269.txt

00881.txt

00650.txt

00587.txt

00748.txt

00889.txt

00840.txt

01069.txt

00920.txt

00177.txt

00965.txt

00380.txt

00524.txt

00783.txt

00661.txt

00231.txt

00263.txt

00416.txt

00733.txt

00798.txt

00252.txt

00055.txt

00521.txt

00061.txt

00320.txt

00153.txt

01006.txt

00162.txt

00137.txt

00803.txt

00205.txt

00533.txt

00253.txt

00612.txt

00392.txt

00296.txt

00183.txt

01074.txt

00067.txt

00142.txt

00532.txt

00181.txt

01004.txt

00237.txt

00037.txt

00898.txt

00515.txt

00860.txt

00326.txt

00852.txt

00508.txt

00993.txt

00290.txt

00381.txt

01058.txt

00262.txt

00033.txt

00627.txt

00571.txt

00440.txt

00215.txt

00100.txt

00786.txt

00487.txt

00358.txt

00224.txt

00746.txt

00291.txt

00096.txt

00853.txt

01029.txt

00145.txt

00335.txt

00800.txt

00388.txt

00308.txt

00911.txt

00750.txt

00562.txt

01042.txt

00893.txt

00922.txt

00538.txt

00588.txt

00448.txt

00622.txt

00684.txt

00600.txt

00108.txt

00596.txt

00719.txt

00767.txt

00926.txt

00466.txt

00316.txt

00338.txt

00682.txt

01053.txt

00333.txt

00511.txt

00968.txt

00174.txt

01047.txt

00274a.txt

00806.txt

00498.txt

01061.txt

01003.txt

00975.txt

00317.txt

00062.txt

00002.txt

00534.txt

00336.txt

01041.txt

00631.txt

00549.txt

00112.txt

01039.txt

00146.txt

01052.txt

00606.txt

00243.txt

00076.txt

00057.txt

00378.txt

00293.txt

00433.txt

00641.txt

00359.txt

00148.txt

00949.txt

00574.txt

00373.txt

00182.txt

00455.txt

00544.txt

00833.txt

00771.txt

00753.txt

00525.txt

00158.txt

00899.txt

00087.txt

00914.txt

00484.txt

00503.txt

00861.txt

00371.txt

00066.txt

00787.txt

00186.txt

00402.txt

00419.txt

01072.txt

00073.txt

00075.txt

00780.txt

00977.txt

00267.txt

00279.txt

00474.txt

00516.txt

00343.txt

01063.txt

00442.txt

00740.txt

00367.txt

00567.txt

00609.txt

00194.txt

01065.txt

00817.txt

00913.txt

00839.txt

00385.txt

00007.txt

00127.txt

00398.txt

01018.txt

00936.txt

00904.txt

00235.txt

00027.txt

00404.txt

00063.txt

00698.txt

00387.txt

01046.txt

00712.txt

01021.txt

00615.txt

00315.txt

00897.txt

00270.txt

00352.txt

01027.txt

00937.txt

00114.txt

00992.txt

00221.txt

00091.txt

00071.txt

00120.txt

00738.txt

01015.txt

00059.txt

00820.txt

00223.txt

00714.txt

00687.txt

00903.txt

01078.txt

00136.txt

00976.txt

00633.txt

00439.txt

00259.txt

00791.txt

00284.txt

00766.txt

00717.txt

00568.txt

00546.txt

00616.txt

00744.txt

00150.txt

00303.txt

00830.txt

00906.txt

00518.txt

01073.txt

01037.txt

00726.txt

00386.txt

00578.txt

00956.txt

00341.txt

00444.txt

00794.txt

00559.txt

00874.txt

00330.txt

00664.txt

00952.txt

00042.txt

00582.txt

00012.txt

00875.txt

00201.txt

00360.txt

00595.txt

00445.txt

00156.txt

00125.txt

00644.txt

01032.txt

00023.txt

00980.txt

00350.txt

00167.txt

00039.txt

00449.txt

00218.txt

00683.txt

00480.txt

00685.txt

00755.txt

00122.txt

00643.txt

00462.txt

00666.txt

00473.txt

00658.txt

00665.txt

00577.txt

00258.txt

00735.txt

00368.txt

00408.txt

00870.txt

00887.txt

00163.txt

00255.txt

00925.txt

00407.txt

00256.txt

01051.txt

00960.txt

00807.txt

00133.txt

00210.txt

00957.txt

00072.txt

00426.txt

01056.txt

00953.txt

00081.txt

00382.txt

00697.txt

01016.txt

00020.txt

00888.txt

00814.txt

00318.txt

00775.txt

00818.txt

00624.txt

00871.txt

00536.txt

00603.txt

00891.txt

00730.txt

00789.txt

00274.txt

00038.txt

00322.txt

01066.txt

00958.txt

00760.txt

00707.txt

00542.txt

00268.txt

00309.txt

00213.txt

00653.txt

00971.txt

00250.txt

00356.txt

00188.txt

00637.txt

00179.txt

00844.txt

00403.txt

00974.txt

00379.txt

00565.txt

00425.txt

00593.txt

00193.txt

00772.txt

00828.txt

00809.txt

00677.txt

00383.txt

01009.txt

00642.txt

00610.txt

00804.txt

00390.txt

00151.txt

00591.txt

00695.txt

00835.txt

00429.txt

00327.txt

00447.txt

00688.txt

00865.txt

00101.txt

00011.txt

00238.txt

00277.txt

00190.txt

00550.txt

00552.txt

00285.txt

00856.txt

01012.txt

00160.txt

00491.txt

00673.txt

00838.txt

00597.txt

00034.txt

00535.txt

00010.txt

00762.txt

00083.txt

00377.txt

00311.txt

00157.txt

00422.txt

00564.txt

00570.txt

00505.txt

00143.txt

00024.txt

00405.txt

00628.txt

00756.txt

00110.txt

00836.txt

00561.txt

00812.txt

00093.txt

00951.txt

00354.txt

00423.txt

00117.txt

00465.txt

01057.txt

00985.txt

00247.txt

00234.txt

00779.txt

00152.txt

00629.txt

00310.txt

00184.txt

00022.txt

00204.txt

00119.txt

00189.txt

00168.txt

00328.txt

00111.txt

00468.txt

00154.txt

00475.txt

01001.txt

00248.txt

00935.txt

00207.txt

00709.txt

00708.txt

00019.txt

00289.txt

00632.txt

00203.txt

01079.txt

00638.txt

00966.txt

00251.txt

00126.txt

00539.txt

01059.txt

00831.txt

00135.txt

00912.txt

00283.txt

00507.txt

00917.txt

01054.txt

00172.txt

00421.txt

00363.txt

00191.txt

00396.txt

00625.txt

00639.txt

00170.txt

00981.txt

00220.txt

00784.txt

00246.txt

00782.txt

01036.txt

00476.txt

00169.txt

00299.txt

00070.txt

00032.txt

00693.txt

00472.txt

00876.txt

00374.txt

00488.txt

00724.txt

00950.txt

00337.txt

00411.txt

00138.txt

00068.txt

00827.txt

01034.txt

00939.txt

00342.txt

00529.txt

00674.txt

00513.txt

00241.txt

00611.txt

00323.txt

00526.txt

00500.txt

00294.txt

00916.txt

00970.txt

00437.txt

00107.txt

01081.txt

00944.txt

01007.txt

00882.txt

00217.txt

00795.txt

00793.txt

00720.txt

00346.txt

00428.txt

00729.txt

00128.txt

00669.txt

00140.txt

00636.txt

00463.txt

00212.txt

00558.txt

00619.txt

00355.txt

00938.txt

00064.txt

00454.txt

00008.txt

00722.txt

00586.txt

00997.txt

00035.txt

00530.txt

00777.txt

00510.txt

00739.txt

00607.txt

00095.txt

00490.txt

00572.txt

01070.txt

00732.txt

00200.txt

01013.txt

00886.txt

00823.txt

01062.txt

00264.txt

00959.txt

00271.txt

01067.txt

00427.txt

00703.txt

00090.txt

00659.txt

00961.txt

00915.txt

00196.txt

00312.txt

00884.txt

00757.txt

00016.txt

00569.txt

00222.txt

00575.txt

00528.txt

00768.txt

00116.txt

01033.txt

00725.txt

00947.txt

00982.txt

00118.txt

00005.txt

00892.txt

00711.txt

00943.txt

00103.txt

01038.txt

00842.txt

00304.txt

00208.txt

00647.txt

00989.txt

00790.txt

00743.txt

00166.txt

00394.txt

00301.txt

00197.txt

00706.txt

00017.txt

00139.txt

00178.txt

00877.txt

00686.txt

00737.txt

00097.txt

00554.txt

00655.txt

00672.txt

00963.txt

00321.txt

00851.txt

00451.txt

00557.txt

00927.txt

00843.txt

00527.txt

01071.txt

00050.txt

00878.txt

00397.txt

00121.txt

00085.txt

00486.txt

00736.txt

00195.txt

00788.txt

01043.txt

00018.txt

01023.txt

00227.txt

00307.txt

00710.txt

00098.txt

01024.txt

00614.txt

00464.txt

00859.txt

00873.txt

00608.txt

00747.txt

00209.txt

00414.txt

00512.txt

00471.txt

00483.txt

00113.txt

00671.txt

00052.txt

01075.txt

00375.txt

00543.txt

00573.txt

01035.txt

01049.txt

00144.txt

00501.txt

01011.txt

01060.txt

00434.txt

00084.txt

00923.txt

00347.txt

00452.txt

01055.txt

00848.txt

00785.txt

00069.txt

00245.txt

00134.txt

00497.txt

00908.txt

00239.txt

00626.txt

00701.txt

00590.txt

00004.txt

00945.txt

00459.txt

00979.txt

00676.txt

00967.txt

01048.txt

00954.txt

00978.txt

00984.txt

00417.txt

01017.txt

00088.txt

00991.txt

00894.txt

00187.txt

00857.txt

00623.txt

00932.txt

00362.txt

00240.txt

00349.txt

00292.txt

00357.txt

00928.txt

00519.txt

00918.txt

00393.txt

00648.txt

00370.txt

00286.txt

00731.txt

00621.txt

00690.txt

00815.txt

00353.txt

00287.txt

00029.txt

00257.txt

01028.txt

00481.txt

00391.txt

00585.txt

00520.txt

00461.txt

00862.txt

00907.txt

00541.txt

00175.txt

00754.txt

00226.txt

00584.txt

00879.txt

00272.txt

00692.txt

00764.txt

00074.txt

00662.txt

00742.txt

00986.txt

00254.txt

00640.txt

00805.txt

00432.txt

00910.txt

00837.txt

00438.txt

00249.txt

00132.txt

00933.txt

00774.txt

00443.txt

00813.txt

00745.txt

00668.txt

00077.txt

00300.txt

00689.txt

00652.txt

00869.txt

00219.txt

00041.txt

00436.txt

00864.txt

00556.txt

00752.txt

00236.txt

00053.txt

00340.txt

00504.txt

00999.txt

00164.txt

01068.txt

00198.txt

00457.txt

00229.txt

00929.txt

00332.txt

00401.txt

00104.txt

00758.txt

00996.txt

00453.txt

00185.txt

00900.txt

00115.txt

00078.txt

00517.txt

00149.txt

00141.txt

00781.txt

00654.txt

00694.txt

00324.txt

00467.txt

00962.txt

00131.txt

00592.txt

00021.txt

01010.txt

00424.txt

00880.txt

ED4NIYG66_DBCFAV_xml.txt

00994.txt

00028.txt

00845.txt

00348.txt

00841.txt

00496.txt

01030.txt

00216.txt

00495.txt

00275.txt

01044.txt

00331.txt

00617.txt

00955.txt

00031.txt

00553.txt

00009.txt

00230.txt

00973.txt

00276.txt

00295.txt

00281.txt

00046.txt

00987.txt

00566.txt

00329.txt

00298.txt

00727.txt

00344.txt

00278.txt

00868.txt

00266.txt

00366.txt

00924.txt

01022.txt

00763.txt

00902.txt

00364.txt

00384.txt

00147.txt

00297.txt

00482.txt

00413.txt

01002.txt

00376.txt

00044.txt

00699.txt

00013.txt

00228.txt

00319.txt

00660.txt

00412.txt

00675.txt

00718.txt

00469.txt

00972.txt

00389.txt

00001.txt

00109.txt

00801.txt

00225.txt

00948.txt

00099.txt

00635.txt

00345.txt

00716.txt

00102.txt

00940.txt

00580.txt

00849.txt

00705.txt

00180.txt

00492.txt

00470.txt

00040.txt

00361.txt

00129.txt

00749.txt

00313.txt

00667.txt

00846.txt

01031.txt

00094.txt

00883.txt

00598.txt

00159.txt

00751.txt

00420.txt

00302.txt

00797.txt

00014.txt

00850.txt

00086.txt

01025.txt

00808.txt

00594.txt

00242.txt

00563.txt

01076.txt

00802.txt

00547.txt

00679.txt

00232.txt

00531.txt

00494.txt

01064.txt

01026.txt

00305.txt

00691.txt

01008.txt

00130.txt

00741.txt

00049.txt

00499.txt

00796.txt

00821.txt

00506.txt

00079.txt

00792.txt

00581.txt

00048.txt

00165.txt

00306.txt

00728.txt

00921.txt

00431.txt

00663.txt

00734.txt

00446.txt

00489.txt

00537.txt

00211.txt

00713.txt

00123.txt

00946.txt

00885.txt

00634.txt

00540.txt

00895.txt

00998.txt

00776.txt

00478.txt

00931.txt

00334.txt

00065.txt

00261.txt

00106.txt

00576.txt

00799.txt

00858.txt

00964.txt

00618.txt

00214.txt

00435.txt

00715.txt

00365.txt

01045.txt

00369.txt

00015.txt

00988.txt

00778.txt

00314.txt

00056.txt

00670.txt

00192.txt

00651.txt

00045.txt

00583.txt

01005.txt

00854.txt

00545.txt

00161.txt

00171.txt

00548.txt

00441.txt

00456.txt

00765.txt

00176.txt

00773.txt

00901.txt

00847.txt

00173.txt

00202.txt

00761.txt

00863.txt

00418.txt

00351.txt

00030.txt

00522.txt

00811.txt

01080.txt

00502.txt

00450.txt

00721.txt

00325.txt

00826.txt

00477.txt

00905.txt

00702.txt

00601.txt

00406.txt

00244.txt

00458.txt

00680.txt

00855.txt

00995.txt

00941.txt

00089.txt

00589.txt

00822.txt

01019.txt

00082.txt

00700.txt

00551.txt

00657.txt

00919.txt

00832.txt

00866.txt

00155.txt

00460.txt

00273.txt

00036.txt

00942.txt

00124.txt

00990.txt

00260.txt

00400.txt

00043.txt

00395.txt

00930.txt

00656.txt

00025.txt

00819.txt

01077.txt

00983.txt

00825.txt

00003.txt

00723.txt

01020.txt

AA00053724_00001.pdf

AA00053724_00001.txt

AA00053724_00001_pdf.txt


Full Text
DEPARIMENT OF AGRICULIURS

FIBER INVESTIGATIONS.

Report No. 1.



A PORT

ON

FLAX, HEMP, RAMIE, AND JUTE,

WITH

CONSIDERATIONS UPON FLAX AND HEMP CULTURE IN EUROPH,
A REPORT ON THE RAMIE MACHINE TRIALS OF 1889
IN PARIS, AND PRESENT STATUS OF FIBER
INDUSTRIES IN THE UNITED STATES.

BY

CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,
SPECIAL AGENT.

AINW OF EL
PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY OF THE/SECRELARY OM AG RS

i
| US DEPOSsTORY >
SECOND EDITION: . 2a erent mn Goce






any
j

Se

—

WASHINGTON:
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
1892,



eae ts ea





PEELE OF TRANSMURAL 7.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
OFFICE OF ASSISTANT SECRETARY, _
Washington, D. O., March 10, 1890.
Sin: [have the honorto transmit herewith for your approval the spe-
cial report on fiber investigations made in pursuance of your instruc-
tions, by Mr. Charles Richards Dodge, under my direction.
The interest in this subject is widespread, and the inquiries which
have reached me in regard to it are numerous. eS
I take pleasure in recommending its early publication.
I have the honor to remain, sir, yours respectfully,
EDWIN WILLITS,
Assistant Secretary.
Hon. J. M. Rusk, :
Secretary of Agriculture.







LETTER OF SUBMITTAL.

U. 8. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
| March 1, 1890.
Sir: In accordance with instructions in my commission from the
Secretary of Agriculture, under date of July 11, 1889, I have the honor
to submit herewith a report embodying the account of my investiga-
tions and studies in Europe last season, in relation to flax and hemp
culture, and flax and ramie machinery and processes, together with
special chapters on the present status of the flax, hemp, ramie, and jute
industries in the United States. In the preparation of this document
many interesting and useful facts have been omitted necessarily, for
reasons given in my introductory remarks, but I trust enough has been
presented to fully answer the questions of the many correspondents of
*the Department, and others, who are seeking information relating to
these fibers, at the present time.
I am, sir, respectfully yours, ?
| CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,
Special Agent, In charge of Fiber Investigations.

Hon. EDWIN WILLITS,
Assistant Secretary.







INTRODUCTION.

During the season of 1889 I spent some six months in Europe, where,
among other things, | was commissioned to study the foreign practices
or methods of fiber culture, chiefly of flax and hemp, and to investigate
the new machinery for the cleaning of these fibrous plants, as well as
the important machines or processes for the decortication of ramie.
Through my official connection with the American Commission to the
Paris Exposition, many facilities for the pursuit of this undertaking
were afforded which otherwise might not have been available, and
through which I was able to secure much valuable information. At the
close of my labors in behalf of the American Commission, the inquiries
were continued as a special agent of the Department of Agriculture,
and on my return to the United States in November last, a similiar line
of investigation was entered upon for this country, with a view to bring-
ing the knowledge of the progress and present status of the fiber in-
dustry, on both sides of the ocean, up toe date. It was intended to em-
body this information in a special report, to be published at an early
date, and which should cover the ground as completely as possible. As
the work proceeded, however, and was pushed in different directions,
it soon appeared that only a small part of the valuable material which
would be available could be published in a bulletin of forty or fifty pages,
as originally intended, and to wait for the completion of the full report
would delay too long the printing of the special information obtained
abroad, which it was desired to publish at once. The present report is
issued, therefore, as preliminary to the final report, in which not only
flax, hemp, ramie, and jute will be treated as fully as possible, but many
other fibers of commercial interest, or that might from their cultivation
add to the resources of our country.

The present report is arranged in two parts, the first relating to Abar
matters and machines in Europe, while in the second is presented some
interesting facts regarding the present status of flax and hemp culti-
vation in the United States, together with some important statements
bearing upon ramie. Much interesting material upon the subject of
indigenous fiber plants, or others which might be successfully cultivated
here, has been collected, but this must necessarily await the publication

of the later report. |
a.



8

Before closing, I wish to make my acknowledgments to the follow-
ing persons to whom I am especially indebted for favors or assistance °
in the prosecution of my investigations abread. To General William
B. Franklin, commissioner-general of the United States to the Paris
Exposition of 1889, for his kind co-operation in and hearty appreciation
of the work in hand. In France, to M. Leopold Faye, minister of agri-
culture, M. Eugene Tisserand, director of agriculture, and M. Henri
Grosjean, inspector of agricultural instruction, for official papers and
special information. ToM. P.A. Favier, of Paris, for statements regard-
ing ramie culture and manufacture, together with a complete series of
specimens. To Alfred Renouard, jr., of Lille, for references and in-
formation. In Belgium to M. J. Cartuyvels, director of the administra-
tion of agriculture, for sets of official documents, and to M. Paul De
Vuyst, state agronomist, and to Prof. Adolphe Damseau, director of
the state agricultural experiment station, who visited with me some
of the flax fields of the Brabant, and furnished me with valuable facts
regarding the special practice in this district and in other portions of
Belgium as well. To M. Frederick D’Hont, director of the communal
laboratory of chemistry and agriculture at Courtrai, through whose untir-
ing endeavors I was enabled to learn much regarding the culture and
management of flax in Flanders, and especially of the treatment of flax
along the River Lys.

For valuable aid and kind offices in England I am indebted to Dr.
D. Morris, assistant director of the Royal Gardens, Kew, and to Edmund
J. Moffat, United States deputy consul-general, London, for assistance
and favors. In Ireland I was placed under obligations to Mr. John Orr
Wallace, Mr. William Morton, secretary of the Flax Supply Association,
to Mr. F. W. Smith, editor of the Irish Textile Journal, and to Mr. J.
Carmichael Allen, for useful information, statistics, and documents.
And I gratefully recall the memory of another Belfast gentleman
whose acquaintance was made in Paris, and to whom I was indebted
for much that made my brief stay in Ireland pleasant and instructive,
and through whose influence doors were opened to me that might other-
wise have remained closed, the late William K. Brown, J. P., of the firm
of John 8S. Brown & Sons.

To the flax and hemp manufacturers and growers in the United
States, the ramie experimenters, and all others in this country, who
have taken an interest in the present investigation, or have in any
way aided in the work, I beg to make acknowledgment, and to thank
them for their kind efforts in behalf of American agriculture.



PART I.

FIBER INDUSTRIES IN EUROPE.







FLAX CULTURE IN EUROPE.

PRACTICE IN BELGIUM.

The finest flax grown in Europe is unquestionably produced in west-
ern Belgium, and largely in a region of country through which flows the
River Lys, the town of Courtrai being the center of the industry. This
is thecreamy Flemish flax, from which the finest linen fabrics are made,
and which owes its peculiar color to the waters of this famed stream,
‘‘the golden Lys,” in which the Courtrai flax is always retted. Flax is
grown, however, in other sections of Belgium, a fine flax, but darker in
color, coming from the country of Waes, and retted in stagnant water
in specially constructed ‘‘pools.” In the Brabant, too, considerable
quantities of flax are grown, both dew and pool-retted, and known as
‘(blue flax” from its very dark color.

Desiring to know by personal experience something of the peculiar
methods of handling flax in the Belgium flax-growing districts I visited
several of the most important centers of the industry about the Ist of
September, 1889, at which time the river retting, as practiced in Courtrai,
is in full operation. Through the courtesy of Belgian officials and
others I was able not only to see the various operations after harvest-
ing that it was desirable to study, but to learn much that was interest-
ing regarding cultivation and the industry in general.

While the superior quality of Courtrai flax is claimed to be due chiefly
to the action of the soft, slowly running, almost sluggish waters of the
River Lys, without doubt there are three other important factors which
aid in the result: First, a soil preparation, with systematic rotation of
crops and extent of fertilizing that few, if any, flax farmers in America
have ever practiced; second, the use of only the best seed; and lastly,
most careful handling and skillful manipulation from the time the crop
is ready to pull until the straw goes to the scutch mill. Nor is the care
and vigilance relaxed even here.

I was informed that flax succeeded best in a deep and well-cultivated
soil that is not too heavy, experience proving that in a dry calcareous
soil the stalk remains short, while in heavy clayey soil it grows very
long, although its fiber is not so fine. The ground is plowed either in
the fall or spring—plowed or spaded, for a great deal of the flax land

11



12

is turned with the spade. The work may begin in November, some-
times a little earlier, or it may be put off until February or the first
days of March. I was told that both methods had their advocates and
opponents, and that either season may be advantageous or disadvanta-
geous, according to the kind of winter which follows or precedes.

In the matter of enriching the soil there is no half-way work or turn-
ing “short corners.” Where stable manure is used it is generally put
on before winter sets in. Then in spring before sowing time the ground
is heavily treated with fertilizers, or night-soilin solution is poured over
it. A great deal of the material is brought from the towns and kept in
closed receptacles or reservoirs until the time for using it on the ground.
Stable manures are used in connection with chemical fertilizers. Of
the latter it is common to employ from 600 to 800 kilograms per hec-
tare, or roughly, from 500 to 750 pounds per acre, and to go over the
ground with the liquid night-soil in addition.

But the Belgian flax farmer does not depend upon careful fertilizing
or cultivation alone to put the soil in the proper condition for growing
flax, a careful system of crop rotation playing a very important part. —
Regarding the precise order of rotation and even the length of time be-
tween two growths of flax on the same land, there is the greatest differ-
ence of practice in the several districts and even in different towns of
the same district, so no one absolute course of cropping can be laid
down. In the Courtrai region the occupancy of the land with flax varies
from five to ten years, the average being about eight. In eastern
Flanders it is five to nine, and in the Brabant five to eight. In some
other sections a much longer time elapses between two crops of flax,
and one or two generations back fifteen and even eighteen years were-
sometimes allowed to intervene. 3

One informant stated to me that flax was most generally sown after
leafy plants, such as potatoes or turnips, wheat and especially oat
stubble being highly approved. A common rotation is clover, oats, rye,
wheat, and in some cases hemp. Crops of rape, tobacco, beans, and
vegetables (these latter crops on farms contiguous to towns) or even
onions and salsify, are grown, as in middle Belgium. Clover is consid-—
ered one of the best crops to precede acrop of flax, as its numerous roots -
go deep into the soil and from their decomposition not only furnish nu-
triment to the growing flax roots, but enable them more easily to push —
down into the soil. In the pamphlet of instructions published by the —
Irish Flax Supply Association, the Belgian rotation is given as flax fol-
lowing corn (grain not maize) after potatoes, mangold, or beet, iow ;
not being mentioned at all. <

After spading or plowing, the ground is well broken with the harrow,
oftentimes being brought almost to the condition of garden soil. It is |
then rolled and the seed planted, this being done anytime from the last 3
week in February until the latter part of March, dependent upon os :
weather.



13

It is considered of prime importance that a good quality of seed be
used, and in Belgium the greatest care is taken—I might almost say
utmost vigilance is exercised, because so many frauds are perpetrated—
to secure only such a quality of seed as will give the best results. The
appearance of the grain, its richness in oil, the absence of all foreign —
odors indicating mustiness or bad condition, purity, and its germinating
power, are all considered, and no test neglected that will enable the:
cultivator to assure himself as to what he is buying. Limited space
necessitates dismissing this subject of the selection of seed thus briefly,
though the editor of the Irish Textile Journal dismisses it more briefly,
as follows:

Select your seedman, for it is an open secret in this age of commercial shams, an old
or inferior article can be made to look almost equal to new. :

The most common and the best course is to import the seed annually,
though I found that in some localities a different custom prevailed, as
in the Brabant. Imported seed is planted the first year, Dutch or
kussian, and the seed product of this crop planted the second year, giv-
ing, it is claimed, a better quality of flax than the first year; but for the
next year’s sowing new seed is again secured. This is due to the dete-
rioration of the home-grown seed, from the flax being pulled before it
is fully mature. And as seed grown in parts of Russia, notably around
Riga, attains the most perfect state of maturity, 1t 1s considered the
best practice to renew annually with the fully matured seed. The sow-
ing must be done with great regularity, the best results being attained
only with long experience. I understand that a great deal of this work
is done in Flanders by special workmen, who, in the flax-sowing sea-
son, make it a business, receiving their pay, not by the day, as is usual
in this country, but by the number of hectares! sown.

The seed is most usually sown in the morning and harrowed with a
harrow set with very close teeth. This is considered necessary for
giving a uniformity to the stand of flax in the field, insuring the same
standard of fineness in the ultimate product for every part of the field.

The amount of seed sown varies ordinarily from 24 to 3 bushels per
acre, though in one district (Hainault) it is claimed that the quantity
sown is sometimes double this amount. Probably 3 bushels per acre
comes nearer the general practice. Some growers hold that more should
be used when the sowing is late than when early; at any rate, when
planted too thickly, as is sometimes the case, it is afterwards thinned,
though such a pee of course a just so much more to the cost of
production. —

After the seed has germinated and the plant is about ready to appear
above ground, or sometimes even after it has sprouted, the land is
rolled, partly for the purpose of laying the soil firmly and partly to
make the surface even to facilitate the next operation that demands the



1A hectare is 2.471 or almost 24 acres. All calculations in this report are made on
the basis of 24 acres.



14

cultivator’s attention, the weeding; this is done by women chiefly at a
time when the flax plants are from 3 to 6 centimeters high (approxi-
mately 1 to 24 inches), or at the end of eight to ten days from time of
sowing. The women (sometimes men or boys) work upon their knees
in this operation, proceeding against the wind in order that the plants
may soon be blown or returned to their normal position again. Some
attention is also paid to the time of weeding, as neither a too wet nor
too dry condition of the soil is desirable. On good soil, from which
weeds have been pretty well eradicated by thorough culture, one weed-
ing suffices, though occasionally two and even three weedings are nec-
essary.

Of the diseases that flax is heir to in Belgium nothing can be said

here, owing to limited space. As to accidents due to meteorological —
causes, as high winds straining and toughening the stems, or heavy —
rain-Storms, which sometimes cause the flax in a whole field to lodge or
break down, or hail, which play worse havoe, there is little that can —
be done in such cases. Professor Damseau, of the State agricultural —
experiment station at Gembloux, informed me that hail does great —
injury to the growing flax, even when the stalks are not broken, owing —
to the fact that where the straw is struck by the hailstone a knot or ©
knob forms which “ breaks the length” in the final operations of clean- —
ing and dressing. In case of total destruction, when the flax is not .

more than a foot high, a crop has sometimes been secured by imme-

diately cutting it down to a couple of inches all over the field and _ let-

ting it grow up again.

In Flanders, and throughout Belgium as well, the seed is of secondary —
importance, and therefore to obtain as fine and strong a fiber as pos-
sible the flax is pulled before it is fully ripe, or when it is just begin-—
ning to turn yellow, coarse flax ripening earlier than fine. The work —

a beng Basta

is done (or begins usually) the last week of June, sometimes a little
earlier, for, as the old proverb runs, “ C'est Juin qui fait le lin” (“ June

makes the flax”).

The flax is pulled with great care, the ends being kept very even, and —

the straw laid in handfuls upon the ground, a line of straw first being
laid down, which serves to bind these handfuls when a sufficient quan-

tity has been pulled to tie. When put into stooks to dry, the seed

ends being tied together, the bottom ends are opened out, giving to the

stook the appearance of an A-tent. After drying in the stook the

handfuls of straw are then tied into small bunches or “beets” and piled, |

something as cord-wood is piled in this country, two poles being first
laid upon the ground to prevent injury to the bottom layer by damp-
ness, and two poles driven at each end of the pile to keep the “ hedge Mo
in form. :
In piling it is the custom to reverse the beets in alternate layers ; be
fore the top layer is put on a row of beets is laid lengthwise near tho
edge of the pile, so that the top layer will be given the proper slant to

]
q



15

shed the rain. The flax is left in this position for several weeks, and
then either retted very soon or put into immense stacks, or sometimes
into sheds, to remain till spring. I found a great diversity of practice
in different sections in the method of handling the flax after pulling and
before the retting.

The practice detailed above pertains to Flanders more especially,
while in the Brabant and elsewhere a very different practice prevails.

M. DeVuyst, of the State agricultural inspection, with whom I visited
a flax-growing locality in the Brabant, informed me that the seed is
usually removed soon after the flax is pulled. A common method of
accomplishing this is to draw the heads through a hetchel or comb of
square iron pickets some fifteen inches high. ‘These pickets are about
half an inch wide at base, and, as they are pointed at the top, the spaces
between them grow narrower as the bottom board into which they are
driven is approached by the head of the bundle of flax straw, and the
seed capsules are detached. When the seed vessels are dry, they are
threshed with an instrument made from a square block of wood, either
flat on the bottom or fluted to form coarse teeth, a curved handle being
mortised into the top. In ascutch-mill near Gembloux I witnessed two
other methods of getting out the seed, this being accomplished in the
first instance by means of a machine with large crushing-rolls, the ends
of which were free at one side of the piece of mechanism, in such man-
ner that only the heads of the flax could be passed through, the bundle
of straw remaining uninjured in the operator’s hands. Two or three
times passing through sufficed to crush the capsules and clear the seed
perfectly. The other method was to go over the straw with a heavy
roller upon a slatted floor, through which the seed and chaff fell. In
Courtrai the seed is usually mauled out with the contrivance described
above. This is done in sheds for the most part or on floors, though
IT have seen the work going on out of doors at the side of the highway,
or on the stone paving in front of the peasants’ cots.

There are three systems of retting practiced in Belgium, the dew ret-
ting most commonly followed in the neighborhood of Brussels, and in
the flax district I visited near Gembloux; the retting in crates anchored
in running water (rouissage au ballon), as practiced in the River Lys, in
Flanders, and tbe system of plunging the flax straw into pools or cis-
terns as soon as pulled, which pertains in the Waes country and some
other sections. The dew retting need not be described here, as it is the
usual practice In our own country, giving an uneven and least valuable
product of all methods of retting. In the pool retting the pits or reser-
voirs are dug some months in advance, so that the loose earth will have
been washed from the walls and they will be clean. They are of vary-
ing dimensions, and are sometimes divided into several compartments
by partitions these are formed either of boards or walls of sod, or of
earth, the bottom being very clean. Sometimes alder fagots are placed
with the flax to influence its color, slight differences in color depending



16

upon many things, all of which are taken into consideration by the
operator. The first process is to secure the seed, as has been described,
after which the flax is again bound into small bundles, which must
be neither too light nor too loose, so that the water will penetrate
them freely after they have been placed in the pits. To keep the bun-
dles under water they are covered with a layer of straw, on which sods,
or in some localities stones or boards, are placed. Precisely how long
the flax should be allowed to remain in the water must be determined
by the operator; five to ten days is the range, the quality of the growth
itself, the weather, and other circumstances all being considered. A
farmer learns by experience when the flax is sufficiently retted-to raise,
though tests by breaking a few stalks from time to time must be
made. After being ‘‘ washed out” or “ taken out of the rot,” and while
still wet, the straw is spread upon the neighboring fields to dry, or in
order that the process of retting may be completed ; the precise duration
of time necessary for this operation is also determined by various cir-
cumstances. By breaking a few flax stalks or rubbing them between
the palms of the hands, however, thefarmer can judge pretty nearly when
the crop should be housed.

The Courtrai method of retting is the most interesting, though not
as important to us, for (presumably), there is no River Lys in America,
and if there were one, it would not be desirable to use it for retting flax.
There is but one Lys in Belgium, a dark and murky stream, with sullen
flow, its waters an indescribable greenish hue, and its odor as pro-
nounced as its color, yet to its banks comes the flax of this entire region,
by the wagon-load, by the car-load, and even by railway trains of twenty
to thirty cars, loaded like hay, though in the regulation bundles, and —
covered with large oil-cloths or tarpaulins. I shall never forget my —
first walk up the Lys on a bright September afternoon in company with
M. Frederick D’ Hont, director of the Communal Laboratory of Agri- —
cultural Chemistry, Courtrai.

But 3 miles of the right bank of the river was traversed, though the
flax industry occupies its banks for 20 miles. On both sides of the nar-
row stream, reminding one of a canal more than a river, though there
was no tow-path, back for 50 rods or more, and as far into the distance ©
as the eye could reach, one saw only flax. There were the immense
stacks containing tons and thatched as carefully as the roofs of the
peasant cottages. There were acres of “ hedges,” as the ‘cord wood”
piles are called, and long lines of the big bundles made up ready for —
immersion, while farther back in the fields were the opened bundles or —
beets, tied at the top and spread apart at the bottom in circular form,
like bell-tents, the plan always adopted for drying the flax that has been
immersed. This is the manner of packing the bundles for immersion: —
Crates or frames of wood are used, having solid floors of boards, the —
sides being open. These measure about 12 feet Square and perhaps a
meter in height, or a little overa yard. Tirst a strip of jute burlap is —



17

carried around the four sides, on the inside, coming well to the top rail
of the crate. This is to strain the water, or to keep out floating par-
ticles or dirt which would injure the flax by contact with it. The bun-
dles, which measure 8 to 10 inches through, are composed of beets laid
alternately end for end, so that the bundle is of uniform size through-
out. They are stood on end and packed so tightly into place that
they can not move, each crate holding about 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of
straw. When a crate is filled the entire top is covered with clean rye
straw and launched and floated into position in the stream. It is then
weighted with large paving blocks or other stones until it has sunk to
the top rail, when it is left for the forces of nature to do the remainder.
The time of immersion is from four to fifteen days, dependent upon tem-
perature of the water and of the air, quality of flax, and other influences. '
There are several delicate tests which indicate when the flax should
come out, although the near approach of the time is made known by the
self-raising of the crate out of the water (often a foot or more), caused
by the gases of decomposition.
When ready to remove, the crate is floated opposite a windlass, and
- there are many along the shore, the chain attached, and the affair pulled
half way up the bank, when the bundles are at once removed. The
big bundles are taken back to the field and are now broken up and again
put into the form of the little bell-tents described above. This work is
done by boys, who show great dexterity not only in spreading and stand-
ing up the little bundle when it is first opened for drying, but in the sub-
sequent operation of turning the tent completely inside out, so that the
straw that was shaded in the interior may be subjected to the air and
sunshine and the drying be accomplished evenly. :
After this drying process is completed, the flax again goes into th
big bundles for a second immersion, and I was told sometimes a third,
though rarely. This work begins in September and continues until too
cool to ret the flax advantageously. Thenit begins againin March and ~
continues until all the flax has been retted. Much of the unretted flax
is carried over to the next year in this manner. Not only is it thought
to improve the flax in quality, but is better for the producers, enabling
them to hold their product for good prices when the fall prices are low.
Formerly the farmers did the principal part of the retting, selling
their crop to the merchants in the form of fiber. I was told that this
custom no longer prevails, the work now being carried on wholly by
the flax merchant, who either buys the pulled straw of the farmer or
purchases the standing flax, in the field, his own employés doing the
pulling. When the farmer does the pulling he hauls the crop to the
Lys, unless he wishes to hold it over, securing the market price that
prevails at the time. Many flax merchants are also owners of scutch
mills, and have charge of the entire manipulation from the time the
crop is ripe until the cleaned fiber is sold. |
L visited one of these scutch mills in the little hamlet of Waverlyhem,
20789—No,. las=2



18

and witnessed with pleasure the entire process of converting the clear,
glistening, almost white straw, into the beautiful semi-golden line fiber
which distinguishes the flax of western Flanders. The rude machinery
was run by steam, the brake being a primitive affair, with simple fluted
rollers, but which did their work perfectly, however, largely due to the —
splendidly-prepared fiber which the operator had to work upou.
There is little hand scutching in Belgium at the present day, although
the scutching machines in general use aré of the simplest form. Through —
the center of the mill is arranged a line of seutching berths before ©
which, or rather in which, each operator stands. A single shaft runs —
through the structure from end to end, and at each berth is arranged a —
breaker-wheel, or simple iron frame (called a “ wiper-ring”), to which is —
affixed the beating-blades, made of wood. These are about 3 feet long |
and 4 or 5 inches wide, there being ten blades to each wheel. |
These arms or blades revolve at the rate of 300 to 400 revolutions
per minute, dependent upon the quality of flax being cleaned, and —
move parallel with an upright partition of iron or wood, in which there |
is a wedged-shaped opening, the lower edge being horizontal and a
little above the center of the shaft. The ‘‘boon,” or broken woody por- :
tion of the straw, and the dust are carried back by the whipping action ‘
of the beaters or blades, as the broken flax is projected through the
wedge-shaped opening, and falls into the deep space beneath. As a
handful of flax is beaten or “buffed,” first one end and then the other,
a certain amount of fiber is whipped off, known as scutching tow, or in_
Irish scutch-mills as “codilla.” This should not be confounded with —
the tow proper, which results from dressing or hackling the cleaned
fiber, nor with the product of the western tow-mills in our own
country. i
When the handful of flax Hak been properly buffed, itis snapped or
shaken and passed to a second man, who finishes the operation of
cleaning on another wheel. Then it is ready for the hackler. But as
these operations pertain rather to- the manufacturer than the farmer,
they need not be considered at greater length here. The agricultural
operations of the flax industry, as conducted in Belgium, have been de-
scribed thus minutely because they illustrate, or rather ‘omphasizg to
the fullest degree, the necessity of high cultivation and skill and care-
ful management in the production of this fiber. And while itis hardly
possible that our farmers will ever take such pains with, or put so much
- hard labor into, the growth of this crop, the Belgian pracbieg affords,
many hints which may gradually lead us into a practice essentially
American, which will in time produce good results, with an economy of
time, fron the employment of labor-saving appliances. i
Through such practice, and from the fact that our laborers aré
quicker than the laborers of foreign countries, and more ingenious in
inventing “short cuts” in the attainment of an object, we need not be
so much at the mercy of the under-paid labor of Burope, after all,

ae

Ms ak
4 a 5
can



Lg

Here are some of the prices paid for labor in the flax fields of the
Brabant, gleaned from an interview with a large grower and scutcher
near Gembloux: workmen in field, 2.50 franes per day, not boarded
(equal to 50 cents American money); women, 1.50 frances (30 cents) ;
weeders, boys 80 centimes, and women 1.25 frances per day (16 to 25
cents); spreaders, when flax is dew-retted, boys at various wages, from
75 centimes upward, and women 1.50 franes. Seed was quoted by the
100 kilograms, at 24 francs (approximately $4.75 for 220 pounds). Bel-
sian “ blue flax,” dew-retted, 30 frances per 100 kilograms (8 cents per
pound), though it is éGtinated that these prices are too low to pay.
Russian flax retted under the snow is sometimes sold in Belgium at75
frances per 100 kilograms, or a half-cent less per pound than the above.
Naturally, the production of the cheaper grades of flax is declining
under this competition.

EFRENCH CULTURE.

The flax culture of France is confined for the most part to the de-
partments of Nord, Pas-de-Calais, and others contiguous in the North,
Lille being the center of the industry. I visited Lille, but found nothing
especially different in methods of culture and after-treatment from the
practices pursued in Belgium, though I was surprised to learn that
most of the flax grown in this section is transported to the River Lys,
or its tributaries, for retting. Flax culture in France has suffered a
considerable decline in late years, having ceased entirely in some de-
partments, while the quantity has diminished in nearly all, save perhaps
in Nord, in which the city of Lille is located. It may be stated on the
authority of M. Alfred Renouard, jr., of Lille, that the preservation of
the industry in Nord is owing to the proximity of the Lys, and to the
great sacrifices which the agricultural people-of the section impose
upon themselves in transporting the product to this stream. —Were this _
form of retting (the river-retting as practiced in Courtrat) abandoned, ~
the culture of flax would decline at Lille as in other districts, because.
the sales from other systems of retting, such as _the pool or dew-retting,
making dark fiber, would bring such return as would only cause a loss
to the producer. In other provinces the culturé-has fallen off two-
thirds in the last thirty years, the most rapid decline being noticed since
1875.

The French flax that finds its way to the Lys is retted at Bousbecques
and all along the stream at Flives, les Rauches, Hasnon, etc. It is the
‘most expensive form of retting practiced, known as “ rowissage au
_ ballon”; but, on the other hand, it gives that value to the flax which

makes its culture profitable. The product goes to Hngland chiefly, a
little of it being used in France for the manufacture of sewing thread.



20

I append prices of the different forms of flax fiber produced in
France, from M. Renouard:

Dew-retted, 75 to 100 francs per 100 kilograms (about 74 to 10 cents per pound).

Tank-retted, 100 to 150 frances per 100 kilograms (about 10 to 15 cents per pound).

River-retted, 150 to 300 francs per 100 kiloyrams (about 15 to 30 cents per pound).

The cultivator receives from 300 to 1,000 franes per hectare for the
raw product; that is to say, approximately, $24 to $80 per acre. Butthe
net cost of cultivation per hectare is said to be 600 frances, or in American
money about $48 per acre rental included, so that the farmer grows
flax at a loss if his sales fall below this figure, and at a profit if the price
realized gives him more than this sum per acre. Unfortunately, there
has been loss in many districts in late years, which accounts for the
decline of the industry in France. |

METHODS IN IRELAND.

My visit to Belfast, in the latter part of October, was mainly for the
purpose of examining special flax machinery; so, little time was spent
in studying the Irish methods of culture, and of handling the product
after the crop is pulled. :

In Ireland, as in other flax-growing countries, clean land, in good
state of fertility, and with proper drainage, is required for the crop.
A. systematic rotation is followed, with a most thorough preparation of
the land by deep ploughing, harrowing, and pulverizing (the latter es-
pecially in heavy soils), and subsequent rollings. The best of seed that
can be got is sown at the rate of two bushels to the acre! On heavy
soils the Dutch seed is considered the most suitable, while the Riga seed
is thought to answer better for the light or medium soils. The ground
is kept free from weeds, the weeding being done when the flax is 4 to
7 inches high. The crop is pulled when ripe and immediately rippled,
if it is desired to secure the seed, many of the Irish peasants of late
years, I am informed, paying little aeearion tosaving the seed. ‘+ Dams”
or pools are Saplovel. in the retting, these being dug out in the winter,
though some of the peasantry are content to use bog-holes, soft water
being requisite. While the Irish peasant farmer is perhaps less careful
than his Belgian confrére in pursuing this industry, it will be observed
in studying the system in vogue in Ireland that success is only attained
by skill and close attention to details.

Mr. John Orr Wallace gives me the following general instructions in
regard to Irish flax culture:

Any good soil that will produce a good crop of wheat, oats, or barley |
will suffice for flax. The soil should be in good condition, but must not |



‘Says Michael Andrews, honorary secretary of the flax supply association: “ Riga
seed should be cleaned with a flax-sieve previous to sowing to get rid of the weed |
seeds; this will save expense and labor when weeding time comes round, Dutol :
seed being much better cleaned, will seldom require this operation.” : 4



21

have had manure recently applied before sowing the seed; plowing
should not exceed four inches indepth. The best rotation is to sow flax
after oats from lea ground; that is, grass land which has been prepared
for and has produced a crop of oats, the stubble plowed in autumn,
again in February or March, harrowed and rolled until the soil is
thoroughly pulverized; destroy all weeds before sowing flax seed.
This seed should be sown about the second week in April. When the
plants are about four inches high all weeds must be pulled, the boys
and girls who do the work to proceed against the wind, that the flax
plants may be blown erect when the weeders have passed on.

When the straw begins to turn yellow and the foliage within six
inches of the ground is drooping, pull at once. At this stage the seed
in the bolls is changing to a dark green or brownish tinge. Tie the straw
in small bundles and stand on end to winnow. When quite hard and
dry put in stack. There is a largér and better yield of fiber when the
straw is kept until the year following its growth. If fiber is required at
once the seed can be rippled and the straw steeped in soft water, that
is, rain-water, or, if this is not attainable, in pits of water in which veg-
etable matter grows, and which has been exposed to the sun’s rays for
a period of five or six weeks. The straw should be protected from the
earth at the sides of the retting pits; place the straw in layers until
the pit is quite full; stones, or planks of wood with stones on top to
keep the straw entirely under the water, are laid upon the top layer of
flax straw. If the temperature of the water is 80° Fahrenheit or up-
wards, about six days will be sufficient toret the straw. From the fifth _
day examine a few straws, at different parts of the pit, several times
daily, and when the fiber pulls readily and entirely off the woody core
it is time to remove from the pits. Stand the sheaves on end to dry;
pull the band or tying on each sheaf close to the top and spread out
the root ends, so as to expose to sun and wind. When perfectly dry
stack for afew weeks. This improves and mellows, or brings “ nature,”
or a soft silky feeling to the fiber. It is now ready for the machine.

There are many interesting details regarding the Irish practice, but
owing to limited space the complete account, should it be thought nec-
essary to give it, must await the publication of the final report.

FOREIGN FLAX-CLEANING MACHINERY.

There was little of novel interest that could be classified under this
head at the Paris Exposition; nor could I learn of anything of recent
invention that was to be seen in successful operation in Belgium. In
_ England and Ireland, however, there are several machines that should
_ be mentioned in this communication, and one, the mechanical device in-
: vented by John Orr Wallace, of Belfast, that I wish especially to report
_ upon, having spent several days in this center of the Irish linen industry,
_ where I saw it in operation.

.



22,

THERE WALLACHK MACHINE.

This is a flax-scutching machine. It occupies a comparatively small -
floor space, being 4 feet wide and but 5 long; its height is 6 feet
6 inches. It consists of an upper feed-table,on which the straw is fed
to three pairs of fluted rollers, which deliver the fax downwards between
five pairs of pinning tools alternating with six pairs of guide rollers.
The pinning tools somewhat resemble hand-hackles, and are attached —
to two vertical frames, to which a horizontal to and-fro motion is im-—
parted, and the pins interlace as the two sides approach. The fibrous—
material is drawn downwards by the rollers, which have an intermit-
tent motion, and at each momentary pause the pricking pins enter the
material and are rapidly withdrawn from it. By degrees this fibrous
descending curtain is delivered on to an endless apron at the bottom of.
the machine, the woody substance falling in a crushed and semi- pulver-
ized condition and free from fiber beneath. After the fiber has been
taken from the machine it is shaken once or twice and immediately sub-
jected to a buiier, a few revolutions of the blades, comparatively, brush- |
ing or beating out the 10088 bits of woody matter or ‘‘shive” that mayy
be adhering. -
Referring to the canoe Fig. 1 is the breaker. A is the feed
table, B is the endless apron, C is the buffer, and D the hand of the
operator who presents the broken and semi-cleaned fiber to the action

of the wooden buffing blades. A platform should be erected in conven






ad

aes ab ea Cee te eR enh Come RE SORT Sache
t * Tee TR ET oak
1 : n



LORS NE aren NEA eeoe





































































Fig. 1.—The Wallace Flax Maalune:





jent position for the attendant who feeds the machine; or, when a set
of three machines are employed, the platform is ed. as in Fig. 2,



23

one feeder being able to attend the three machines. Mr. Wallace in-
formed me that three assistants are necessary; on the breaker or ma-
chine proper one person, a boy or a girl, to prepare the straw in bundles
and one boy to feed. To attend the “buffer” one man, who takes the
flat mass of disintegrated fiber as it comes from the machine and sub-
jects it to beating blades to remove the shive. It was also explained
that in the old system, as pursued atthe Irish scutch mills, one attendant
carries the straw to the breaker, one opens the sheaves or * beets” and
hands to the man who feeds the straw into the fluted rollers, one ties
the sheaves, one or two prepare the rolled straw into “strikes” or bun-
dles for the men at scutching stocks, which are in sets of two and
sometimes three men; that is, one man who puts the straw on the first
stock where the blades are broader on edge and act as a further “ break”
on the straw; he passes the bundle to the second man, who finishes
dressing, or, aS is Sometimes the case, passes it to a third man, and fre- ©
quently these sets of men have an attendant who keeps them we
with the ‘‘strikes” or bundles; a total of eight or ten men.

Where large quantities of flax are to be worked there will be a con-
siderable gain by the use of two or three machines, as the two attend-
ants who prepare the bundles for and feed the single machine can
attend two or three as well. One buffer will be required for each ma-
chine, however. With a set of three machines and buffers the work
can be done by—one or two to prepare bundles, according to speed
of machines, one to feed, and three to buff—a total of three boys or
girls and three men, or six persons. One machine will work from 10 ewt.
to 20 ewt. of retted straw per day. If the straw is properly retted and
of fair length the yield of clean fiber will amount to 25 per cent. Mr.

Te ~
WTA ai AL MiTT ULNA Aviat
———————
viii DTN Midian vit
fits ub

wT

Fia. 2.—Three Wallace Machines in position.

7?



Wallace says that good Irish has given 30 per cent. and Belgian 33 per
cent., and he has obtained 24 pounds to the cwt. from straw which was
so tender that no fiber could be yielded by the common system of
cleaning in vogue in Ireland. He explains that the average yield under
this system is but 124 per cent. For comparison of the cost of cleaning
fiber by mill-scutching and by the Wallace machine the statement was



24

made that the farmer pays the owner of the scutch-mill one shilling!
per stone (14 pounds) of fiber cleaned. At this amount one-half, or a
sixpence, is retained by the owner as the mill earnings, the other six-
pence going to the “‘foreman finisher,” who divides it pro rata among
the entire staff of workmen. | :

From these figures and the statement regarding the capacity of one
machine, the advantage in favor of the machine may readily be com-
puted. When the cost of attendants is distributed over two or three
machines the net earnings will be greater. i

In a recent communication from Mr. Wallace he says:

The proved capacity of the breaker is now such that it will keep fully occupied two
buffing machines, and on good straw will enable the machines to earn from 20 to
40 shillings per day when properly fed and attended.

T'wo-horse power per machine is required todrivethem. Thepriceof
the machine in Belfast is £250 net, payable when the machine has been
tested in the foundery and found in good working order.

I witnessed the working of this machine in Belfast, various kinds of

flax straw being run through it, as green or unretted, good retted, —
grassed and over-retted, tangled or thrashed similar to the flax straw |
of the Western States after the seed has been extracted, besides some —
other fibers. The machine worked smoothly and well, there being no —
waste of fiber whatever, and the cleaning was apparently accomplished

evenly and thoroughly.

The unretted flax straw naturally showed the poorest results, the —
sample having been put through to show the adaptability of the |
machine for preparing a substitute for oakum, from green flax straw. —
The sample from over-retted straw has the appearance of a fair fiber |
as to length and evenness, though in color it was spotted or mottled —
and in places semi-bleached. A few stalks of Egyptian hemp which —

were run through gave a fairly good fiber.

The machine was not timed by me, and I made no attempt to demon- )

Strate its capacity for any given length of time. The samples were all
retained by me and will be preserved in the fiber collection of the De-
partment as specimens and for future reference, though as yet I have
made no microscopic or other tests in detail to learn if the flax fila-
ments have in any way been injured by the system of pins which enters
into the mechanical construction of this device. This, I have been in-

formed, was one of the weak points of another machine, invented by

Jules Cardon, and which at one time gave great promise, but which
has now been abandoned.- Mr. Wallace claims, however, to have
obviated all danger of injury from the pins piercing the fibers them-
Selves, and the testimony of others whose opinions were asked have
been favorable to this view.

While the inventor ealls it a flax-seutching machine, it is claimed to
be adapted to clean hemp, flax, ramie, jute, and other fibers. I had no
a ee ee a ee Oe eee

Practically 25 cents. The legal value of a shilling as established by the United
States Treasury is 24.33. cents,

PRR TTT ae ET TIT ren

SEPANG eT RTC SA MISISE RTS AT Torbee oeRra ee ny eee oy apa Py pe Pree aatee cninp os ga esate

E



25

opportunity of witnessing its work on ramie staiks, but find in the
Bulletin of the Royal Gardens, Kew, for November, 1888, the following
reference to it, which may be introduced here:

The machine was not constructed for the special treatment of ramie. In spite of
this, however, it has cleaned ramie in a fairly satisfactory manner, and the inventor
claims that, with a few necessary alterations in detail, he will be able to treat the
stems, either green or dry, at the rate of 1 cwt. per hour.

THE JOHNSON MACHINE.

This is another Belfast machine, but regarding which I can give little
information other than gleaned from the patent specification and draw-
ings, and from various extracts from the Irish Textile Journal and other
publications, manuscript copies of which were given me. The machine
was not in operation when I was in Belfast, and there was no oppor-
tunity to make a personal inspection of its workings. It is the inven-
tion of Mr. Sibbald Johnson, of Newtonards (Belfast), Ireland, who is
the patentee. It may be briefly described as a rectangular horizontal
frame, carrying two revolving beaters, very much like the drum of a
thrashing machine. These are about 7 feet long by 2 feet in diameter,
and are parallel to each other and at such a distance that their longi-
tudinal lower blades interlock to a depth of 3 inches, like the teeth of
wheels. This relative position is maintained by means of a pair of spur
wheels fitted to the ends of each axle. Over the line of interlock, at an
equal distance vertically and horizontally from both axles, there is what
may be termed an inclined railway. Along this slides the holders in
which the flax is screwed. The holder, with its beet of flax, which has
been previously bréken on another machine, is placed on the high end
of the railway. ‘The ends of flax are instantly caught by the beaters
as they revolve downwards, and this action strips the shives and at the
same time draws the holder along the incline to the other end, where it
is removed. The holder is then unscrewed and the flax turned end for
end, as only one-half of the beet has been cleaned, screwed up again,
and a second time passed through the machine. There are several draw-
backs to this feature of the machine: the danger of injury to the flax
fiber from twice screwing it into the metal holders; the loss of time
and the increase in number of attendants (boys) to perform the extra
work; and, lastly, which is perhaps the smallest objection, the increased.
area of floor space required. In a trial reported the yield averaged from
20 to 25 per cent. of fiber, which dressed 62 to 70 per cent. of line.

THE DEATH FIBER COMPANY'S MACHINE.

This machine, for general fiber decortication, has attracted more or
less attention for some years past, and a notice of it will not be out of
place. It is the invention of W. E. Death, of Brixton, England, popu-
larly known as the ‘“‘ Death and Ellwood” machine, patent bearing date
July 13, 1885, improvements having been added. It claims to work well
on all foncas plants, from flax straw and hemp and ramie stalks to
fleshy-leaved plants, like the Agaves.



26 :

It is a single-drum machine, involving the beater principle, the break-
ers operating upon the fiber in conjunction with a stream of water,
which washes out the refuse.

The feed motion is worked as follows:

The upright handle C is for the self-acting motion to carry the leaves
to or from the machine. By simply moving it backward or forwards it
puts friction wheels into gear, which take the table to or from the ma-
chine. In working the holder F the levers are lifted by means of a knob
at the end, and as many leaves or stems (as the case may be) as the ma-
chine will take are put across the V part in the holder and placed so
that the grip on the holder may be taken near the ends of them. With
ramie the point ends are cleaned first and the butt end last. After se-
curing the stems or leaves to be cleaned the clip is put on and the lever
pressed down by the knobs and the material fed into the machine by



ACH.DEATHS: PATENT 2=

ee





















Fic. 3.—The ‘‘ Death and Ellwood” Machine.

pushing the upright handle. When the holder has traveled as far as
possible into the mouth-piece the handle is reversed for drawing the
cleaned fiber out. The stems are then reversed in the holder and the
fiber gripped in it and the ends sent forward for cleaning, as before.
The wheel 1 is for working by hand, if desired.

The machine requires a three-horse-power engine to drive it, the
velocity being 400 revolutions perminute. [rom 300 to 400 gallons of
water per machine per hour are necessary, and this it is reckoned is
attainable by a 7-foot fall through a three-fourths service pipe. The
capacity of the machine is placed at 2 ewt. of dry fiber per day of ten
hours. hegarding the drying of the fiber after cleaning, it is hung out
on frames of bamboo poles, and when about half dry large handfuls of
the fiber are whipped against a post six inches in diameter, a drawing
action as the blow is given producing the same effect “as brushing and
combing it and will leave it thoroughly separated when whipped a second
time just before it is dry for baling.” It may be noted that in field
work, in the decortication of ramie, this machine has made a good
record, though it has the serious fault of all ramie-cleaning machines, |
failure as to quantity.



THE HEMP INDUSTRY IN FRANCE.

In the latter part of September I spent a week in the hemp district.
of France, with a view to learn something of French methods of retting,
and of the special treatment of the hemp crop in this country by means
of which so white and lustrous a fiber is produced. It was my inten-
tion to go to Angers, which is the center of the industry and the head-
quarters of both the cordage and hemp fabric manufacture, but being
able to secure all desired information in the departments of Sarthe and
Ille-et-Vilaine, [ did not visit Maine-et-Loire. These are the principal
departments of France engaged in the industry, although Cotes-du-
Nord, Morbihan, and Isére should also be mentioned.

HEMP CULTURE.

Climate has much to do with the successful cultivation of this plant,
as it makes the best length of stalk, and therefore gives a greater yield
of fiber, in those situations where the climate is mild and the atmos-
phere humid. Limestone soils or the alluvial soils, as found in the river
bottoms, are most congenial to its growth, and as this portion of France
is well watered by rivers or smaller streams, the cultivation is quite
general along their banks. Imay say that such soils in our own country
have given the best results. A rotation of crops is practiced, hemp
alternating with grain crops, although MM. Girardin and Du Breuil
- state thatit is also allowed to grow continually upon the same land. Re-
garding this mode of cultivation, they consider that it is not contrary
to the law of rotation, as by deep plowing and the annual use of an
abundance of fertilizers the ground is kept sufficiently enriched for the
demands which are made upon it. If the soil is not sufficiently rich in
phosphates or the salts of potassium, these must be supplied by the
use of lime, marl, ground bone, animal charcoal, or ashes mixed with
prepared animal compost. Even hemp-cake, the leaves of the plant and
the ‘‘shive” or “ boon,” may be returned to the land with benefit. This
high fertilizing is necessary, as “the hemp absorbs the equivalent of
1,500 kilos of fertilizers per every hundred kilos of fiber obtained.” ‘The
deep plowing is absolutely essential, as the hemp roots require a mellow

Od



28

soil. The final plowing is done in the autumn, the land being thrown
into ridges, and a couple of weeks later carefully leveled with the roller.

Some farmers take this time to apply their fertilizer, or a portion of it
at least, and also sow beans to form a green compost. When the beans
areup the land is plowed a second time between the rows, and after
making furrows to carry off the excess of water it is left until spring,

- The best seed comes from Piedmont, and, as it deteriorates rapidly,
it is frequently renewed. The closer the plants can be grown the bet-
ter the fiber; and to this end a large quantity of seed is used. A
farmer in Sarthe informed me that the usual custom was to sow 60 liters
of seed to 44 ares, 40 ares being equal to an acre. This would give as
the proper rate to sow about one and a half bushels to the acre, though
four bushels are sometimes put in where fine fiber is desired. The sow-
ing is done about the last of April. As in flax culture, the crop must be
kept free from weeds, all injured plants must be removed, and it is the
custom even to thin out the plants when growing too thickly, as is fre-
quently the case from irregular sowing. I learned that two hundred
and fifty plants to a square meter! of ground is considered the right
average when the fiber is grown for cordage; but when produced for
fabrics at least four hundred plants are allowed to grow in this area.
I did not obtain full details of the manner of harvesting the crop at the
farms visited, and have therefore condensed the following account of
methods of harvesting from a French work? put into my hands by M.
Grosjean, of the ministry of agriculture. 7

In order to obtain the best possible results in the quality of fiber, the
plants should be gathered when the male stalks have shed their flow-
ers and the stems begin to be yellow. Regarding the sex of the plant
the authors state in a foot-note that—

In many localities they give the name of male hemp to those plants which bear the
fruit, and that of female hemp to those which have no fruit, a less development, and
in which the vegetation is sooner arrested. This nomenclature is incorrect, as pre-
cisely the contrary (terms) should be employed.

This season of shedding the flowers comes in the west of France
about the middle of July. There are two modes of gathering, depend-
ent upon the use to which the fiber will be put. If for cordage the
Stalks are cut with a sharp instrument resembling a short scythe, and
laid upon the ground in sheaves, where they are left to dry from one to
three days. The leaves are then stripped and the stalks removed to
the sheds to be assorted, placed in piles horizontally, the lower ends of
the stalks being pressed firmly against a wall, so that the inequalities
of their length may plainly appear. Upon each pile there is placed
close to the wall a weight, to prevent deranging the stems while draw-
ing them out in assorting. This is done just by handfuls, first the
longest stems, then the medium, and then the short ones. They are



‘ A meter is about three and three eighths inches over a yard.
7A Treatise on Agriculture, by Messieurs Girardin and Du Breuil.



29

bound into sheaves, several of which are put together, forming bundles,
each containing stalks of equal length. The tops of the sheaves are
then cut off, and only the portion preserved that will make good fiber.

When the hemp is grown for use in spinning, that is, for fabrics, the
stalks are not cut, but are pulled like flax. The operator first removes
the leaves by passing his hand from top to bottom of the stalk, it being
important to return the leaves to the soil where they were grown. Six
to fifteen stalks are pulled at one operation, according to the ease with
which they can be drawn out of the ground, and the earth shaken off.
These handfuls are made into bundles about six inches in diameter ;
after bundling the roots and tops are cut off by means of an ax and
chopping-block. The clipped stalks are then made up into larger
bundles a foot or more in diameter, and are sent to be retted at once,
as it is claimed that the hemp is not so white if it is dried before retting.
When the seed is saved the method of procedure is as follows:

In some localities the gathering of the hemp is somanaged as tosecure the greatest
quantity of seed possible of good quality. To this purpose the male stalks are first
collected, which ripen six weeks earlier than the female stalks, the latter being given
plenty of time to mature and not being gathered until their leaves and stems begin
to turn yellow and the seeds to grow dark. They are tied in bunches, and of these
there are made large bundles, which are placed upright, that the seed may complete
its opening. The seeds are extracted by beating the stalks. This manner of operat-
ing produces less fiber, and these female plants yield fiber of inferior quality from
those collected at the time of maturing of the male plants; but the harvest of
seed compensates for the difference. If you take into account the expense occasioned
by the double harvesting and double retting, we find that there is greater advantage
in having but one harvest without reference to the seed. Dried in the air the male
hemp contains an average of 26 per cent. of stripped hemp, and the female plants ©
from 16 to 22 per cent. The stripped hemp dried in the air does not yield more than
60 to 75 per cent. of textile fiber, the remainder being foreign matter soluble in leached
alkali, so that 100 parts of green hemp do not produce more than 5 to 8 parts of textile
fiber. .

There are two systems of retting practiced in western France, the
retting in the open field, where the stalks are allowed to lie about a
month, and similar to the plan followed in Kentucky, in our own country,
and the water retting, which produces the best fiber. The water ret-
ting (rouissage) is accomplished both in pools and in running streams.
The river retting seems to accomplish the best results, although taking
a little longer time than the pool retting, the duration of immersion
varying from five to eight days. If the weather is cold it retards the
operation two or three days longer than if warm. ‘This accounts, too,
for the shorter time occupied when the immersion takes place in pools.
This work is usually done in the latter part of August. The bundles
of hemp are floated in the water, secured if in a running stream, and
are covered with boards kept in place by stones or any weight that will
keep them under. From all I could learn there is little pool retting in
the Sarthe district, although public opinion is generally against river
retting, on the score of its rendering the waters of the streams foul and
detrimental to health as well as destroying all animal life with which



— 30

they should abound. I understand there are very stringent police re;,
ulations against the use of streams for this purpose, and as long ago as
1886, in a brochure published by M. Bary, a hemp-spinner of Le Mans,
attention is called to the desirability of introducing an improved method
of retting, which would accomplish all the beneficial results of retting
in running water artificially, and therefore render unnecessary the pol-
luting of streams. From M. Janvier (of the hemp-spinning establish-
ment of Janvier, Pere et Fils et Cie, at Le Mans, successors to M.
Bary) I learn that while many attempts have been made to bring about
a better system, none have been successful, and, police regulations to
the contrary notwithstanding, the best hemp fiber produced in the
Sarthe district is still retted in the running streams. Where pool ret-
ting is followed the pools are specially constructed, dug out of the
earth to the depth of a yard or more, walled up or the sides made solid,
and lined and floored with cement usually, in order that the water shall
remain clean and the hemp retain its color. The stalks are watched
very closely after the third or fourth days, the farmer breaking and ex-
amining a few at intervals to guard against over retting, which weakens

the fiber.
When sufficiently retted, whether the work is done in streams or

pools, the hemp bundles are removed from the water, but first agitated
to remove all waste matter that may be adhering to the stalks. They
are then drained, and the bundles, opened at the bottom, are set up in
conical sheaves to dry, this operation being accomplished in two-or
three days. Considerable of the hemp grown in the Sarthe district (I
can not speak for other sections) is further dried in brick-kilns. One
of these examined on a large hemp farm visited near Le Mans, and at
that time in operation, may be described as a circular brick structure
some 10 or 12 feet in height, resembling a smoke-house in our country.
It was built on a side hill, the door opening into the chamber where
the hemp was drying being on one level, the higher, while the floor to
the fire-pit, at the back of the building, was on the lower level. As
no evidence of a fire was observed, I infer that the fire is drawn when
the right temperature has been reached, and the hemp introduced upon
the grated floor to dry slowly by moderate heat. I witnessed the process
of breaking hemp in the Sarthe district and brought away samples of |
both stalks and cleaned fiber as sent to market, as well as samples of
scutched, softened, and dressed fiber prepared both for cordage manu-
facture and for weaving into “linen.” The stalks are of creamy white-
ness, as brittle as pipe-stems, and the filasse, particularly next the wood,
so bright incolor that no tinge of yellow is observable. A farm operatey
questioned told me he was able to break out 30 to 35 kilograms of fiber
per day (say 60 to 75 pounds). A brake similar in principle to the old
fashioned Kentucky hemp-brake is used, though lighter and smaller in
the first place, produced with seven instead of five breaking-slats (ar-
ranged three opposite to four), both wood and metal being used in its
construction, Double this quantity of hemp is cleaned in a day by the —



31

a

negro operators in Kentucky, butit should be explained that the French
operator is nicer in his manipulation of the fiber, running through a
smaller quantity at one time, skillfully twisting the product into a very
loose rope or ‘* streak” of fiber, these as produced being laid most care-
fully side by side so that when thelarger bundle of fiber is made up each
has its place and can be detached from its fellows by the scutcher with
hardly the disarrangement of a filament.

At a scutch-mill, where, by the way, only hand- Guelune was prac-
ticed, I was shown some bales of softened fiber, and afterwards visited
the pullin ot a hemp-softener (Batteur de Chanvre), near Le
Mans, to observe the process. The mill was run by water-power, the
fiber being manipulated on a circular platform a couple of feet in height
and perhaps eight in diameter, made of solid oak timber, the end-wood
formiug the surface. To a heavy spindle in the center was attached a
short conical cylinder of iron weighing some 2,400 pounds. The
‘‘ streaks” or ropes of fiber as received from the farmer are made up
into bundles weighing perhaps 64 pounds each, and these to the amount
of 130 pounds are arranged over the surface of the circular bed or plat-
form. The heavy iron cone is then made to revolve or travel around in
a circle at a rate of speed equal to thirty-five times a minute, the soft-
ening process requiring from half an hour to one hour and a half, de-
pendent upon the condition of the hemp under treatment. Only the
finest fiber is softened, the product going to the spinning mills for the
manufacture of coarse sheeting, shirting, canvas, and similar fabrics,
the peasantry of Brittany, for the most part, employing hemp instead of
flax in the domestic economy.

Although these details relate to the manufacturing side of the indus-
try, rather than the agricultural, they are interesting as showing by
what careful means a fiber is produced in this country (France) that
will take the place of linen. While on this subject I would add that
the softened hemp is not used in its whole length, but is broken (pulled
apart) into three pieces on a mechanical device for the purpose found
in all hemp-mills (and even in our own country). The bottom third is
the best, and is kept separate for use in the finest numbers of yarn.

How much of the French methods of hemp culture and manipulation
might be adopted in America, with advantage, remains to be deter-_
mined. Two points however may be noted: That a more careful
practice with more thorough methods of handling throughout will be
necessary to improve the fiber to that point that will make it available
for the higher grades of manufacture, and also that a better system of
retting must be followed, though the contamination of streams in the
rural districts of the United States will hardly be allowed by the resi-
dents of any section of the country. American ingenuity must devise
a plan which will be distinctly American, and both practical and
economical, and one that will not at the same time tend to make the
cultivation of this crop exhaustive to the soil.



THE RAMIE MACHINE TRIALS.

Probably no one fiber interest represented in the Paris Exposition of

1889 attracted more attention than ramie, nearly every country of any
prominence which took part in the exposition either sending specimens
of fiber to show the result of experiments or progress of its own culture,
or commissioning representatives to ascertain the latest facts regarding
it. The United States Department of Agriculture made a small dis-
play of ramie illustrating the simple fact that the plant can be grown
successfully in the United States, and produce a filasse of good quality.

During my residence in Paris, and while connected with the Ameri-
can Commission to the Exposition of 1889, I studied as far as possible
the recent progress that has been made towards establishing the ramie
industry, and especially in relation to machines or processes for the
decortication or cleaning of the fiber. I can only place on record here,
however, the result of the official tests of the ramie machines, which
took place September 23, 24, and 25, on the grounds of the exposition,

with brief descriptions of these machines and such other general infor- —

mation aS may be deemed important.

Six machines and one chemical process were entered, as follows:

The Armand-Barbier machine (HE. Armand, 46 Boulevard Richard-
Lenoir, Paris); two forms of the Favier machine, one for green and
one for dry stalks, exhibited by the “Société la Ramie Franeaise,”
(P. A. Favier, 14 Rue St. Fiacre, Paris); two forms, a large and small,
of the De Landtsheer machine (Norbert de Landtsheer, 2 Place des
Batignolles, Paris), and the machine exhibited by Felicien Michotte (of
43 Rue de Saintonge, Paris). The process was that of Ch. Crozat de
Fleury et A. Moriceau (7 Rue de Londres and 4 Faubourg Poissonni-
ere, Paris), and was for treatment of the stems in green condition.

- THE FAVIER MACHINE.

The first trial was that of the smaller of the machines exhibited by
the French Ramie Association, adapted for work upon green stalks.

Ten kilograms of stripped stalks (equal to about 22 pounds) were put

through the machine in four minutes and thirty seconds, which in-—

cluded one or two brief stoppages. The net product of well cleaned
wet ribbons weighed 2.82 kilograms, equal to almost 64 pounds.

In the second test 60 kilograms of stalks with leaves were used ;

(about 123 pounds), divided into lots of 10and 50 kilograms respectively.
32 :



33

The first lot ran through in two and a half minutes, the second in fif-
teen minutes and a half, the difference in time being due to some of the
ribbons fouling the last pair of roiles, necessitating a stoppage. The
product of the decortication was 18.1 kilograms, equal to about 40
pounds of wet ribbons nicely cleaned. :

On the afternoon of the 24th of September a test was made with the
Favier machine ondry ramie with the following results: Thirty kilograms
of stalks ran through the machine in thirty-three minutes, there being
several stops. (The actual time, that is, deducting time lost in stop-
pages, was twenty-seven minutes forty seconds.) The yield of dry rib-
bons was 7.70 kilograms, or very nearly 17 pounds. A later trial of this
machine on five kilograms of ramie stalks dried in a furnace at 30 centi-
grade (which makes softer fiber) ran through in three minutes and sixteen
seconds actual time. The product was 21 per cent. of fiber, as claimed
by M. Favier, though the record of actual weight can not be given. At
these tests two men were employed, although a feeder and an assistant
and a receiver and an assistant make up the usual complement of at-
tendants or operators required.

Some days before the official trials Thad an opportunity of examining
the larger machine privately, and seeing its work for dry ramie stalks
crown in several countries, including some secured by myself from two
localities in Texas and sent to Paris with the United States agricult-
ural exhibits. Without considering the capacity of the machine, that
is, the amount of fiber it will turn out in a given time, it must be ad-
mitted that on ary ramie it does its work more perfectly than any decor-
ticating machine I have ever seen. Some of the filasse from Spanish-
grown stalks was almost nice enough to work up into twine or cordage
or Similar coarse manufactures without further manipulation. It may
be remarked, however, that ramie is too valuable a fiber to be employed
in cordage or the coarser manufactures. There is little or no waste by
this machine; the chief objection that may be urged against it is its
very complicated mechanism, adapting it more for use in a central fac-
tory, where it would be attended by experienced operators, than for em-
ployment on the farm to be run by ordinary farm hands. Its cost, too,
makes it at once a machine for the central factory and not for the farm.
Thesmaller machine, adapted for work on green stalks, costs 2,500 francs,
and the dry stalk-machine, making acomplete decortication, 5,000 franess
practically $500 and $1,000 respectively. Hither machine requires a
force of three fourths horse-power, the refuse of decortication supplying
more fuel than the boiler requires. In fact the refuse of one machine
‘is sufficient to furnish power for four. As has been stated, while two
operators can run the machine, it is adapted for four persons ; but as the
work is light, it is claimed that it can be performed by two women and
two children. It should be remarked that women are frequently em-
ployed in such occupation in Europe where only men would be ae

20789—No, 1——3



oA.

in this country. In a personal communication to the writer M. Favier
claims the following as the capacity of this machine:

With two workmen, employed ten hours, according to the degree of
decortication required, the machine will produce from 120 to 180 kilo-
grams of decorticated fiber; with four workmen, 240 to360. The quan-
tity of dry stalks passed through the machine “ with one workman at
the point of introduction is 600 kilograms;” and with “ two workmen,
of course double that quantity, or 2,640 pounds.” Owing to the pecul-
jar construction of this machine the stalks are fed one at a time, the
feed entrance being reached between a 1umber of metal pins one-fourth
inch thick, 4 inches long, and placed at proper intervals apart to admit
easily a large stalk of ramie. These were evidently guides. When the
stalks with leaves were fed, [ supposed many of these would bestripped
off by this attachment, but such was not the case. The machine may
be deseribed as follows:

The machine (as illustrated by Fig. 4) consists of two parts, which are
shown combined, but which may be used separately if desired. The



Pp 2SORSR’

eas so 2 Boe te BE Frets Bi : cad x =
B £a¥: oe SF Par 4 : SSS Siw Sey A if 3,
(eee peste arm pra MBAR A alc flac
A Ee iter Pel foe 7 Yea

Sa

ria. 4.—The Favier Ramie Machine.

first slits the stem or stalk either entirely through or nearly through, —

flattening it into two bands. As the stem is fed by hand two vertical
feed-rollers receive it and pass it through a tube provided with the slit-
ting-knife, and so shaped that the slit is opened out. These parts are
hidden from view in the illustration. Flattening-rollers next receive

the stems, crushing them, the wood and bark however maintaining their
layer-like positions. Here the stems pass into the second machine.

Rollers with wide grooves seize these ribbons or layers of wood and
park, breaking the wood into short pieces a quarter of an inch in length,
which drop away, leaving the bark intact. This is then subjected to a

series of rubbing and beating rollers, which manipulate the ribbon on
both sides, removing the pellicle and disintegrating the fiber, which —





3D

is produced entire, cleaned and straight, within perhaps two seconds
from the time the stem leaves the attendant’s hands.

Since the trials the following letter has been received from M. Favier,
which explains itself:

Paris, October 27, 1889.

DEAR Sir: I have received your favor of 16th instant, andI had delivered already
to Mr. Amory Austin some samples of ramie for you. To-day I deliver samples of
fiber proceeding from my machine working the stalks in the dry state, and from my
new machine working green stalks. Since the trials we have made new experiments,
and here is the result :

In twelve minutes we passed through the machine 100 kilograms of green stalks,
which correspond to 500 kilograms an hour, and 5,000 for ten hours, with but two
workmen. With four workmen, it. is not exaggerating to say that we can operate
upon 7,500 kilograms.

This result will be probably interesting to your Government.

Entirely at your service.

I remain, dear sir, yours truly,
(Signed. ) A. FAVIER,
Le Directeur de la Ramie Francaise.

Mr. CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,

Special Agent, fiber Investigations.

THE ARMAND-BARBIER MACHINE.

In the first trial with this machine 10 kilograms of stripped stalks
were decorticated in six minutes, giving 1.30 kilograms of wet ribbons,
or about 23 pounds of ribbons from 22 pounds of stalks. In the sec-
ond trial 24 kilograms of stems with leaves were decorticated in ten
minutes and thirty seconds, giving 1.20 kilograms of wet ribbons, or
about 22 pounds of fiber from about 624 pounds of stalks and leaves.
In the trial of dry stalks, 12 kilograms of stalks were passed through
the machine in thirty minutes, yielding 2.20 kilograms, approximately
47 pounds of ribbons from 26.75 pounds of dry stalks.

The ribbons produced were not of the best quality, and the reverse
action of the machine, that is running the fiber part way through, then
withdrawing it and presenting the other end, makes it very slow in
operation. The machine is quite simple, however, though to all intents
and purposes is the same in principle of construction as the Landtsheer
machine, considered a little further on. Thedry ribbons produced are
broad and flat, and none of the outer pellicle is removed. The refuse
woody material comes away in large pieces, and a considerable percent-
age of the fiber itself is whipped or torn off, and falls with the refuse
of decortication. This machine occupies but a small floor space and
weighs about 1,375 pounds. Its cost is 1,200 frances. No other infor-
mation was obtained concerning it.

THE MICHOTTE MACHINE.

The trials of this machine were the most unsatisfactory of any in the
contest, the quality of decorticated fiber being very poor, as it was filled
with unseparated fragments of wood and the ribbons much broken and



36

&

injured. In the trial with stalks retaining their leaves, the machine
clogged frequently, the cylinders becoming badly fouled. There were no
tests with dry ramie. The record of the first trialis as follows: Green
stalks 7 kilograms, equal to 152 pounds; time of the decortication, one
minute and thirty seconds; product 1 kilogram, equal to 24 pounds of
semi-cleaned ribbons. In the second trial 17.4 kilograms (38.28 pounds)
of green stems with leaves were decorticated in two and one-half minutes,
the result giving 6 kilograms (13.2 pounds) of ribbons. There were no
trials on dry stalks at this time.

This machine is composed of four crushing rollers of large size, hav-
ing a special form of fluting. These rollers are followed by a steel
breaker with elastic beaters working in connection with another breaker
of similar form. The largerollers first crushed the stems and then



Ramie Machine.

passed them to the beaters which were intended to free them from wood
and fiber. Ihave specimens of the work of the machine on stalks of
dry ramie, obtained from a private trial, and while better than the
specimens of the green decortication, they are nevertheless poor. The
price of the machine, made in two types, has been placed at 3,800 and
4,000 francs.

THE LANDTSHEER MACHINES.

In the first trials of the large machine 36 kilograms of stripped green
stems were decorticated in two minutes and thirty-five seconds, the yield
being 10 kilograins of wet ribbons (or about 22 pounds). This was in two
lots of 10 kilograms without leaves and 26 kilograms with the leaves.
At another trial, 46 kilograms of green stalks with leaves (two hundred



3

stems) were cleaned in eleven and one-half minutes, giving 15 kilograms
of wet ribbons, filled with fragments of woody matter, chips, and even
short sections of stems. ‘This was then passed through the small ma-
chine in six and a half minutes, the 15 kilograms of partially cleaned
ribbons giving 10.5 kilograms, showing a shrinkage of almost five kilo-
grams weight by the second operation, or 30 per cent. Another trial
of the small machine with 24.4 kilograms of green stalks with leaves,
gave in ten minutes 6.50 kilograms of ribbons. This was at the rate of
14.32 pounds of wet ribbons from 53.79 pounds green stalks.

It was noticed that the larger machine did not decorticate well the
last few inches of the stalk when fed in tops first, pieces of almost
unbroken wood an inch or more in length loosely adhering to the rib-
bons. When fed butts first better results were obtained, though the
ribbons invariably showed a percentage of semi-loose chips and litter.
These machines have also the reverse action described in the Barbier
machine, though in the trials with the large machine the action was con-
tinuous. |

In the trial with dry stalks, without changing or cleaning the large
machine, 30 kilograms were decorticated in twenty-one minutes, giving















































Wea)
a











Fic. 6.—The Landtsheer Ramie Machine.

10 kilograms of flat ribbons, the outer pellicle not being removed. ‘lwo
men were required to run each machine.

The Landtsheer machine may be described as composed of three
cylinders tangent to another central cylinder. The feeding cylinder is



38

arranged with spiral grooves to regulate the feeding of the ramie stalks.
The crushing cylinders are alternately smooth and grooved longitudi-
nally in such manner that when working together the grooved part of
one bearing upon the smooth parts of the other crushes the stalks.
These cylinders are held in place by springs. After leaving the crush-
ing cylinders the broken stalk passes between a pair of beaters, each
supplied with sixteen winglets geared in such manner that they lightly
interlock, this action brushing off or removing the woody matter and
the bark. drive the machine.

THE FLEURY-MORICEAU PROCESS.

This seemed to be simply immersion of a quantity of ramie stalks,

either dry or green, in a rectangular galvanized iron tank of boiling

water set upon masonry to admit of fire beneath to continue the boiling

for a certain time, varying from five to fifteen minutes. The stripping ©

of the ribbons was performed by hand by two men with occasional out-
side assistance. Highteen kilograms of green stalks were used in the
trial, the boiling occupying ten minutes and the decorticating thirty-six
minutes, the result being 5 kilograms of good ribbons. ‘The process is
too laborious to be used in any country where living wages are paid,
though the inventors claim that the ribbons can be produced, baled for
shipment, for 8 to 10 centimes per kilogram, or about $21 per ton.

Here is the summary of the ramie machine trials of 1889, reduced to
tabular form :
TABLE I.—Summary of the trials.







Machine. es Condition of the stalks. Time. et
Kilos. fee ee IAO Ss
jelstayier -siial lees = 10 Green, without leaves......-. 4 30 2. 82
Dial eae dos BOS Amare 60 Green, with leaves ..........- 18 18.1
Be SR AVIOl Lato C ss eee ies: 30 DD RvestalicS =. so-so oars 33 7. 70
4 | Armand-Barbier ~....<-.-- 10 Green, without leaves........ 6 lees 0
Helmer COs eee etter ee 24 Green, with leaves ..........- 10 30 1. 26
Glee Ons eres ees 12 Dnwastalks 7. eben coe 30 2. 20
TeeNIChotte ss. scoe eee. = see 7 Green, without leaves .....-.. 1230 1
8 CO eee ee ee 17.4 | Green, with leaves ...-....... D230) 6
9 Landtsheer, lavgewsss =. 36 Green, without leaves ..-..--. 2.35 10
1s ates dO eee ek Se 46 Green, with leaves ........... fe230 15
11 Landtsheer, Snialese see Ge ES ecu tk ete ae eae eg eee 6 30 10,5
De pe 02ers 24.4 | Green, with leaves ..........- 10 6.5
13 | Landtsheer, large .-.-...---., 30 DR VEStALS ee er ee sie os 21 10
_14 | Fleury- -Moriceat process . | 18 Green, without leaves .......- 46 5. 6







|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|



* The 15 Silos can of ribbons from preceding.





As a showing of the capacity of these machines for a day’s work of

ten hours, I subjoin a table prepared by Dr. Morris and published in

the Kew Bulletin for November, 1839. The trials are numbered to

correspond with the arrangement in my own table. The column relat-

ing to condition of the stalks 1s omitted.

,
Snr Wor efit tee mur

pe ate SSS eS 09 Sin) ENS SE ns a BS ee ot,

ape cetemndinennrtnersitemedciuacin tne te tee at a a EL

as renee ctlzt ts 2
SACRE eeee as Var Pee i
PPI TE ee ET IE LT EE TE IT Ie FT EY PTT EE PEI Ee BTL BE IE Ley





39

TABLE II.



|

Veto Weight Esti- |

Machine.. cay Time of fiber |mate per!
Pine (wet). day.*

Be | Secon pean crests | Ut a eee sauce | Oe |

|

Kilos et Kilos. Pounds. |

Tale Mawaeresmiall lz sate shen ocacera:a ominie 10 40 30 2. 82 276 |

De laenes (Oe ee eer eee 60. 35 18 18.1 443 |
Sees BE ee ein Sa we aco cc rara le varatacete seca ca us ac tear een | tev mee ee re [een ares
AAT Man d= bat Diels ei a eer 10 6 lee 96
De |iteec Os eee ee ee 26 10 30 2 50
i ee ar orca ear re ats oe eet | ema remn leat asa wie mim [oe eee ee | meee eevee
(le MACGHOUbpKa ettct ee es ere 7 1 30 Eee eee ae
Sanaa (OSes eee oie ore ae 17.4 2 30 Giz 3 Pee
Oz| Sand tsneer, large ose) e ee ee 36 2 30 10 T1, 763
10sp O22 eae ae ee 4S Ji 30 15 575
ULE | eR a ere es ac canoe | ewer create era Lerten ree (ee reir
122|- Landtsheer, small 22s se 24, Ao 10 6.5 287
a eee iene ies URE aa As On eran gee aramrrcrd Sere mee beam mc an oleae Rae Pye oS
14 | Fleury-Moriceau | 18 46 5. 6 161

*Estimated quantity in pounds of dry ribbons producible in a day of ten hours.



In preparing this

estimate the wet ribbons are calculated to yield one-third of their weight of dry ribbons, and the kilo-
gram is taken as equivalent to 2.204 pounds avoirdupois.
+This large yield of ribbons must be reduced about 20 per cent. on account of the pith and wood

ightly adhering to them.

YT also append another table, from the same source,

of the trials of 1889 with those of 1888.

Machine.

De Landtsheer:

Darce machine =.=. 2-25.25

MavienaNo.d.. 2:

TABLE IIT.

Ponce ity of dry rib-

bons producible in
a day often hours,
(pounds avoirdu-
pois), working on
green stems.

1888. | 1889.

Fleury-Moricean .....-.-.-.--



=Sce second note in table above.

comparing results

Comparing the results of the French ramie-machine trials of 1889
with those of the previous year, it is evident that some progress has
been made, and the prospect of putting the ramie industry upon its
feet seems brighter than at any previous time in the history of the ex-

periments with this fiber.

The record of progress of the industry in

general, with interesting statements relating to our own country, will
be found in its appropriate place in the second part of this report.



Pee

oy

:
ie





PARE Ei.

———

FIBER PRODUCTION IN AMERICA.

4l



ea se
meek Beas
Sos reper ory
eines
e

eo =
oe





FIBER PRODUCTION IN AMERICA.

FLAX CULTURE IN THE UNITED STATES.

Regarding this industry, were we to accept as final the statements of
a few of the American flax-spinners who use fine line flax in their manu-
factures, we would be obliged to say that, from the agricultural stand-
point, a flax industry not only does not exist in the United States, but,
following the arguments presented in favor of admitting raw flax free
of duty, never could be established. Even cleverly selected official
figures from, and statements of experts in, more recent Government
publications on the subject, have been repraduced and presented as
arguments to support this view.

It is proper, at the very outset, to look the fact.squarely in the face,

that we produce at present very little if any flax that would compete
with the fine line flax! imported for manufacture into the higher numbers
of yarns. It is equally true that our farmers do not now, nor have they
‘in many years, if ever, followed the careful methods of culture and
after-treatment in harvesting and retting of the straw that are practiced
in the prominent flax growing countries of Hurope; nor could they, at
once, acquire the skill of these foreign flax growers (and grandchildren
of flax growers), were they to adopt their methods, with ample re-
muneration, in this the present year of our Lord.

And this is the full text of the arguments put forth by inece who —
have no wish to see a flax fiber industry established in the United
States, and all that can be found in any publication of the Department
of Agriculture to support the arguments they present. As there are
degrees in skill in the growing of flax fiber, so are there grades in
manufacture, and to assume that because we can not, at once, produce
a quality of fiber fit for table damask or linen thread, we can not pro-
duce a quality of fiber fit for any form of manufacture from flax, is to
create an impression thatis false and misleading. But I will go a step
farther, bearing in mind the vast extent of our country, its great diver-
sity of soil and climate, and the fact that it is inhabited by a people

1 As this report is going through re press a fine sample of a car-load lot of Wis-
consin flax has been received from an Eastern manufacturer, who says, in concluding
the letter accompanying, ‘‘ and this flax is good enough for even fine linens.”

43













Ae.

noted for intelligence, energy, and inventive genius, having in its citizen.
ship those who have successfully grown flax, not only in the United)
States, but in the old world, to assert that, with proper encouragement,
we can not in time produce fine flax, is to compromise American agua
culture and the millions who are following it as an occupation.
In part I of this report I have endeavored to present detailed state:
ments showing the careful culture and skillful manipulation necessary
to produce fine fiber. These are recorded, not so much with the idea
that our farmers will adopt them wholly, as to supply hints for a prae-_
tice adapted to American agriculture which will result in improved
methods over the practices at present followed, to the end of producing”
@ fiber that, if not fit for fine linen manufacture, will at least be fit for
some form of manufacture sufficient to create a demand for the product, |
Reference has been made to Government publications, i. e., the reports
of the Department of Agriculture. A perusal of these documents fora
period of forty years, and in connection with the census volumes, gives _
abundant evidence that flax cultivation for fiber has been a recognized
American industry. In a flax and hemp inquiry,! made by the Depart-
ment of Agriculture ten years ago or more, many interesting statements.
were received regarding the cultivation of flax in this country during
the first half century of the Republic, which were not recorded, being
chiefly historical rather than personal experiences, showing how well
established was the industry. Not only were references made to that
early period in the nation’s history, when the flax-wheel was as common _
in the household as is the sewing-machiue in our generation, but ib was
shown that at a later period good flax fiber was produced in many por-
tions of the United States, and at various times quite extensively. Lef-—
erence was made to the New York and New Kingland flax of sixty to.
Seventy years ago, which is described as strong and flexible, though
not always as clean as it should have been, and sometimes uneven in
quality. The history of the flax culture from that time down to within
a score of years of the present time is a history of flax fiber production —
in varying quantities, the most of it being good staple flax.
As late as ten years ago a Massachusetts manufacturer of crash and |
similar grades of linen goods, who used flax from Russia, from Canada,
and from New York State at his mills, stated in a communication to.
the writer that he made a difference of one-half cent in favor of Ameri-
ean flax when properly dressed. Another manufacturer, in considering |
the quality of American flax, said that it was about equal to third crown |
Archangel, and also stated at when American flax was abundant and _
the fiber was satisfactory there was less call for the grade of Russian, .
with which it competed. [
And since the Ist of January of the present year a number of prom: I
inent manufacturers in various parts of the country have expressed the
opinion that with a better system of cultivation and handling of the)

:
i
E
I

|
E
t
f
E
a



ere eters ———

1 See Annual Report for the Department of Agriculture for for 1879, 1 pages | 565-611,







45

flax crop of the United States, as now grown for seed, the fiber could
be utilized in coarser manufactures, though a higher rate of duty on
‘these manufactures is desired. And in several instances their state-
ments were accompanied by samples of the flax fiber.

The flax producer who is asked to improve his product, as he scans
these pages, may well demand why he too may not be encouraged in the
adoption of a better practice by a higher rate of duty on the raw
material. Itisareasonable request, despite the objection urged by some
manufacturers that an immediate supply of the home-grown raw
product to meet the existing demand could not be assured, and that it
would still be necessary to rely upon the foreign market. The answer
to this argument is that without making a beginning there can never be
an agricultural flax industry in the United States. There are many ex-
perienced flax growers in the United States who are now ready to make
a beginning, but who hesitate to embark in flax production on the pres-
ent narrow margin of profit. The manufacturers ask an increase from
35 per cent. ad valorem to 50 per cent. The present duty on the raw
material is about 7 per cent. In view of the wide difference in the tariff
already existing between the manufactured article and the raw material,
it would seem a very modest demand on the part of the flax and hemp
growers to ask for one-half the rate of advance demanded by the manu-
facturers. This would be equivalent to doubling the present tariff on
the raw material; and even then the grower’s protection would not
amount to more than 15 per cent.

To go back a quarter of a century or more to the period of the war,
it is not so long ago that the labors of the flax and hemp commission,
in the interest of flax culture in the United States at that time, are
entirely forgotten. But allow me to give the reference in the words of
a little work on ‘“* Flax Culture,”! recently published, because it states
the matter so truthfully :

In 1863 Congress appropriated $20,000 for an investigation to test the practicability
of cultivating and preparing flax or hemp as a substitute for cotton. A commission
- was appointed which examined the whole subject thoroughly, and made a most elab-
orate report to Congress. These efforts of the General Government, combined with

the high price of flax, stimulated the growth of flax, and the amount of flax fiber
produced was large.

Here is the next chapter: In 1866 the area under cultivation in flax
was something over 50,000 acres. In the short period between 1866
and 1869 it was almost doubled. In 1866 about three-sixteenths of the
cottvn crop was covered with flax bagging, and in 1869 three-fourths
of the entire crop was baled with flax fiber, the remaining one-fourth
being covered with bagging made from other fibers. This meant an
increase in four years from 12,000,000 pounds of fiber to 80,000,000
pounds. The cotton crop of 1870 was 4,347,000 bales, this enormous
production taxing the capacity 0. of every bagging-mill in the country to









-—-

ee: A. Whitman, A. M., and J. R. Leeson, Boston, 1883.



46

its utmost. Kven with the opening of the new factories large orders
tor jute bagging were placed abroad to make good the short supply
which seemed inevitable. Then followed the year 1871, a year of the
bitterest antagonism between manufacturers and the holders of raw
material. It was necessary to effect sales, and prices of both fiber and
bagging were forced down. Then followed the tariff legislation of
1872, which removed the duty on jute butts, and mill after mill through-
out the West was forced to suspend operations, and they never re-
sumed.! Here was a very good beginning of a flax fiber industry in
the United States, that with a very little encouragement at the time
would have been developed into something better than bagging-tow
production. The people interested in the industry were not only en-
thusiastic but sanguine. So sure were they that the flax culture was
an established thing that in some instances machinery was procured
for the manufacture of crash and the coarser goods and located in the
eenters of flax fiber production. :
I have betore me a communication, only recently received, wherein is.
detailed the history of one of these invent enterprises, the manu-
facturer having lost $18,000 through the collapse. His machinery had
just been imported from Belfast, and a Belfast spinner was employed )
to direct the operations. JI am aware that there was a duty of $20 per
ton upon raw flax fiber at this time, but as the men who were seeking |
to extend their business in this manner derived their income from bag:
ging manufacture chiefly, itis to be seen that the new industry could -
but fail when the old one collapsed. The act of 1870 placed a duty of
$20 on a product worth at that time from $250 to $300 per ton. This,
when hemp had, up to a year or two, been protected at the rate of $40_
per ton. I can only touch thus briefly upon these interesting points in.
the limited space of the present report; but more detailed statements
accompanied with tables of explanatory figures can be made ata tuto |
time if desired. Enough to show that even with the slight encourage |
ment this industry has had in the past, the growing of flax for fiber in |
the United States has been a source of revenue to the American farmer.
But it may be urged that growing flax for bagging is a pretty low or |
der of fiber cultivation. As I have said, there must always be a begin- |
ning. When our farmers have learned hon to produce fiber from flax
straw that is good enough and cheap enough for bagging or binder
twine, they are on the sure road towards the production of a better
quality of the raw material for employment in a higher grade of manu:

facture. From the experience gained by a very few years of practice
with better methods of culture and treatment, and with the assurance of 4
market for their product at fairly pominente prices, it would be buta_
step to the proscoe! of a quality of fiber fit for the coarse linens, and





1 A former cami faction of flax bagging informs me that the industry also suffered |
injury through the careless use by a few bagging producers of a bad quality ot
fiber produced from green or unretted flax. Ep





AT

to that promising extent the flax industry would be established. Good
samples of fiber from old flax-growers in several of the Western States,
and even from Texas and California, have been received by the Depart-
ment recently, one especially noteworthy coming from a former Belgian
flax-grower, now a resident of Wisconsin, who is sending flax in quan-
tity to the Eastern market. An Illinois farmer, within a few weeks, has
sent to the Department-a sample of flax fiber that is strong, though
coarse, asking if it is not good enough for binder twine. He quotes
prices paid for binder twine in the past two seasons, and makes the
statement that the farmers in his section are ready to put up a flax
binder-twine mill if the flax produced on their farms and grown for seed
can be utilized in the manufacture. He says:

This flax was cut short so as to save only the seed, but if it was known that we
could use it for binder twine we could cut it within 2 inches from the ground so as to

give longer fiber; it could be bound and only the heads of the bundle thrashed and
the straw kept whole. j

As a relief from high prices it is proposed by the manufacturers of
binder twine from sisal, manila, and jute, to place these fibers on the
free list, because they are not produced by the American farmer, yet
binder twine can be manufactured from both hemp and flax, and every
pound of it grown in our own country.

“Yes, but at the expense of the grain-grower,” suggests the advocate
of free sisal and manila.

Well, who are the grain-growers? In foreign countries the grain-
growers are the flax-producers, for in the regions where the best flax is
cultivated, as already shown, rotation of crops is positively essential to
success. In a nine years’ rotation in Belgium there are often five crops
of grain to one of flax on the same piece of land, which means, as flax
is grown every year on some one Section of the farm, five other sections
must be devoted to wheat, oats, barley, or rye, or perhaps all four.

But even the argument that our farmers can not compete with foreign
fiber-producers in an open market is not a conclusive one, for, hav-
ing made a beginning, the effect of competition at home would be to
gradually reduce the cost of production through the acquirement of
knowledge and skill and the American tendency to turn “ short corners.”
The statement made in another part of this report that a French hemp-
breaker produces or cleans but 75 pounds of fiber in a day against the
Kentucky negro’s 150 pounds is an illustration of the point I would
make. The difference in the two products is something, it is true, but,
after all, the advantage is largely on the side of the American workman.
And right here the suggestion is in place that the future of the fiber-
producing industries of America depends largely (after reaching a certain
point) upon theinvention of labor-saving machinery, as well as the adapta-
tion of present machinery to new uses, to take the place, in a measure,
of the costly practice and tedious methods followed abroad.

Given the advantage of labor-saving and time-saving appliances, with



48

the increase of man-power, as represented by the greater development

of energy and nervous force in the American laborer, the difference in

the cost of labor here and abroad would be more nearly equalized. In

the production of wheat to feed Europeans we employ the best labor-

saving machinery that the world can produce, and it is of American in--
vention and manufacture. What we can do for wheat-growing we can

do for flax culture when there is an incentive for the effort.

It has been stated that when we had the beginning of a flax indus-
try, and the fiber was produced in New England and the Middie States,
that there were no standards; that American flax was rarely prepared
twice alike, and as there was no unity either between growers or
among dealers, a manufacturer seldom knew what he was buying with-
out testing samples of the product offered ; yet this is a matter that in:
a very short time would regulate itself, or as soon as there was a steady
production, as an official inspection and grading would be established
by the buyers and sellers, just as the flax-seed product is now inspected
by the Board of Trade of Chicago. The farmers would soon learn the
requirements of the trade, and with experience would be able to pro-
duce a certain quantity of fiber, just as a certain quality of butter is
regularly produced on dairy farms where systematic methods are pur-
sued. ;

PRESENT STATUS OF THE INDUSTRY.

What of the flax culture of the present? In general terms the situa-
tion may be briefly stated thus: Grown almost wholly for seed, the
straw, of inferior quality, when used at all, going to the tow-mills or the
paper-mills, and worth from $1 to $8 a ton, the average in different
sections being not more than $2.50 to $4. In the older States, the area
under present cultivation is very small and steadily decreasing ; in thé |
newer States, or States where agriculture is being pushed steadily west-
ward from year to year, the area under calbatice either just holds its |
own one season with another, or 1s increasing.

In all the newer States it is the common practice to grow on “first ”
breaking,” or land plowed from the prairie sod, no manures being used, or |
rarely used. On cultivated land it is the custom to grow after corn,
grain, or clover, and it is almost the rule to follow with a grain crop of |
some sort, wheat and oats being most commonly cultivated. Corn is |
also grown, and sometimes grasses and clover or potatoes. In such cases ;
the ground is prepared as fora wheat crop, barn-yard manures being
applied ; in some rare instances, bone or other fertilizer is spread after
seeding, and the soil is brought to a fine state of tilth by harrowing.|
It seems to be generally understood that a tine mellow soil is necessary |
for the success of the crop ; one or more, sometimes three plowings are!
given, and the earth pulverized as thoroughly as possible. The seed is :
obtained at the oil mills, at the local stores, and impcrted, some Rus |
sian seed (“Large Russian”) being sown in the new States. It is eithel :
drilled or sown broadcast, the latter being the almost universal custom. |













AY

There is no cultivation given the crop while growing, and when the
seed is ripe the straw is cut with the reaper, the knives set high, and
the ‘‘self-raker” employed. The straw is run through an ordinary
thrashing-machine, which breaks it up worse than hay. When not sold
for fiber it is fed to sheep and cattle, used to thatch sheds and for bed-
ding for stock or for packing ice; it is rotted for manure, wasted, or
even burned to get rid of it. Regarding its use in feeding stock, when
in Belfast, my attention was called by Secretary Morton, of the Flax
Supply Association, to a statement in one of the Department reports to
the effect that flax straw could be fed to cattle. Mr. Morton took ex-
- ception to the statement, and criticised its having been made in an
official publication, urging that the fiber in the straw was more than
likely to cause the death of any animal eating it in quantity. I would
like to inform our foreign friends that the practice of feeding flax straw
to sheep and cattle is common in the West; that were the question
asked of a thousand flax-growing farmers, fully four hundred would an-
swer ‘ yes.” While this is a fact, the practice can not be condemned
too strongly.

As to growing for fiber, there are small areas which produce a fair
quality for coarse uses, though the product is extremely small. And
what may appear as a novel statement isthe fact that in the year 1889,
in Virginia, good home-spun linen was made for family use, the straw
being carefully grown on thoroughly prepared soil, well cultivated, and
the product well handled and retted, and the seed was beaten out by
hand and sold at $1 a bushel.

Ina very few localities flax straw brings somewhat higher prices
than those I have quoted. The little sold in New York ranges from $7
to $25 per ton, the latter price being quoted in Schenectady County.
In Ohio the range is $2 to $°5 per ton, the latter figure having been
paid recently in Shelby County, and in other counties from that price
down. Ohio formerly manufactured large quantities of flax bagging,
and on the authority of the Department State agent for Ohio, the state-
mentis made that alittle flax bagging is still manufactured there. The
following figures ot acreage for three years are from the Flax-Seed In-
spection Report of 1889, published by the Chicago Board of Trade:





1887.
State Acres Bushels. Value.
MOM ae cg ee ere oe ae 14, 872 107,208 | $107, 208
BEM Onsen oe es Pa eh eee ee ee ee 10. 184 81, 472 81, 472
IMS SOUT se oa ae a ee eee 45, 000 395, 000 875, 250
RSA IS AS cee ee ee See ee 142,577 | 1,400,741 | 1, 190, 630
IOUS Iss ee es ee ee eee 150,922 | 1,220,006 | 1, 098, 005
CN SUN Ses se es Oe ee ee 265,000 | 2,186,250 | 2,055,075

DALOlA ie ae ee ea ek eer ee 488,993 | 3,910,944 | 3, 519, 849
Minnesota: fee ee ee ie ee 167,264 | 1,318,121 | 1,252, 214

Dotal: 2 2 ce ae ee “1, 284, 812 | 10, 619, 742 | 9, 679, 703

&

20789-—No, 14















1888.

Widian a: 2 ee ee, 13, 949 101, 693 101, 698
SPE TAVOUG Ro Soe eee ate eet ree eco nist eile bee oral cate ae kine Meee ow utes 6, 181 49, 448 54, 394
MAS SOUTIeSen ccm ie ee eee oo eee cot emt Steseaciine Seatac 43, 000 387, 000 387, 000 —
ERAT S AIS eee Re ee SNe ig Ge DnIeE Seles tatnie ue Me ae eS 162,655 | 1, 340, 222 1, 206, 200
ENG DRES ISA ew sears = wo simeiemre cacree mus ciemec nis Sree mis woes opens Siete Sone 67, 626 710, 871 639, 334
OWA eee Se os tee Se re nao SORE Sone le Lae Ieee EO eet 201, 1005)" 42,200,700 2, 514, 982
WD aKOta ste os se eee ees SOR RG G aea a aaa es are ac secre 370,406 | 2, 963, 247 2, 666, 922
EITM OSO Hei Ses eo eee ha SE he Been ny, Rens wee ee an coeeeaeas 166, 184 J, 661, 840 1, 661, 840

DWOtales ce oo eee Soe ee eee oe ee oe eer oc en obese 1, 081, 751 | 9, 479, 571 9, 232, 365

1889.

Heya ee cee eee ee a Sa ee en eee 12, 860 102, 860 113, 146
MM OTS ee ee ce ea ran epee: Suen aoeion Gees came 5, 556 44, 448 48, 893
IVETSS OURS Ae ones occ cure eteere Sees bo tiie oaloe came eee ubre sec Sees 40, 000 360, 000 396, 000 —
GANS Magee oie Shree as ree Sea eS nies Se cise Sieg Syeuis ame 113, 829 | 1,019, 961 1,019, 961
INOUUAS dts ete seen ss ae carte ee Cea net ee Rca ste eect Toes 81,151 887, 964 976, 760
NG) Wit tet eee ee cre se Se Ve ce seas was oars bine y Srera S 246, 588 | 2, 465, 350 2, 761, 192 |
NO AOGAE eee ne eae oe ones eos pence os occ oN ee eae 403,314 | 3, 288,115 1, 452, 520
IVERIT CSO Ui ree es access ea cle omicic Se pire Sone a Ss ocica vale e Srciccces 157, 540 | 1, 647, 622 1, 812, 384

PROG Sos ceascdas Sines a cee penis wo sees Sina soute's Dem eyomimven 1, 060, 285 | 9, 816,320 | 10, 580, 855 855° |

Ohio, which is omitted, had an area of 16,154 acres under cultivation
Jast season.

A. great deal is said by the farmers in this country about flax being
an exhaustive crop. That it is not an exhaustive crop is abundantly
proved by repeated chemical tests in this country and Europe, showing |
that flax takes less inorganic matter from the soil, per acre, than wheat,
oats, barley, or tobacco. It must naturally prove a very exhausting -
crop as the majority of our farmers grow it—for seed ‘production, with-/
out rotation, and with little or no manuring, selling the seed to the oil
manufacturers, burning or wasting the straw, and returning nothing to
the ground. It is not found an exhaustive crop in Europe, because its
cultivation is conducted on common-sense principles. As the fiber ig
composed of elements taken almost wholly from the atmosphere, while
the mineral elements of the soil are found in the waste material of the
plant, the only rational course to pursue suggests itself,

|
|
I
f
E
i



CULTIVATION.

For the guidance of those who may wish to try the experiment a
growing flax for fiber the present season a few brief hints are given
Much depends upon the selection of the soil, a moist, deep, strong loam
upon upland giving the best results. Barley lands in the Middle States,
and new prairie lands or old turf in the Western States are frequently
chosen. On the contrary, a soil full of the seeds of weeds is not to be
thought of under any consideration. Some New York flax-growers in
cline to a heavy clay loam for the production of fiber and seed, though
the choice of a wet soil will be fatal to success. |

Flax culture in Russia is carried on upon the vast plains in the inte.
rior subject to annual overflow from the rivers. As we have seen, rote q
tion of crops is an element of success in all foreign countries oe fas 4








51

is produced. By studying the practices abroad the American flax-
grower can determine what will be best in his own practice. Fall
plowing is desirable in our own country, with a second plowing in the
spring as early as possible. Then harrow, reduce to fine tilth, and roll
the ground well before putting in the seed. Mr. 8S. Edwards Todd, in
a prize essay on flax culture published six years ago, lays great stress
on the matter of reducing the soil to fine tilth and rolling well, the ob-
ject being to have the surface of the ground as smooth and uniform as
it can be made, so that the flax may get an even start, grow more uni-
formly, and the surface of the ground be better to work over when the
flax is pulled. Of course all stones should be removed or pressed into
the earth, and lumps are to be equally avoided. Phosphates, plaster,
ashes, and salt are considered the best manures. Dr. Ure recommends
a mixture of 30 pounds of potash, 28 of common salt, 34 of burnt gyp-
sum, 04 of bone dust, and 56 of magnesia, which he claims will replace
the constituents of an average acre of flax. Belgian farmers use liquid
night soil or other liquid manure collected from the cow-house and sta- |
bles. itis fermented in cisterns and is sometimes mixed with oil cake.
One trouble with stable manure is its liability to contain ungerminated
seeds of weeds, which is as fatal as a weedy soil. And weeds may also
be sown with flaxseed that has not been carefully selected. As a final
preparation for sowing the seed it has been advocated to run over the
ground with a harrow the day the seed is to be sown to destroy all the
little weeds that may be just appearing, then put in the seed while
the soil is fresh.

Only the best quality of seed should be used. Mr. J, BR. Proctor, of
Kentucky, advocates the white blossom Dutch as the best seed for
American flax-growers. In all cases the heaviest, brightest, and plump-
est seed should be preferred. Finer fiber is obtained from early
sown flax than from later sown, and two bushels per aere is the smallest
quantity that should be sown when the best results are desired. When
sowing for the production of seed alone, two pecks to a bushel will suf-
fice, this allowing the plant to branch. The larger the quantity of
seed therefore, the finer the straw, and likewise the fiber. (Note the
quantity of seed sownin Belgium). After sowing use the brush harrow ;
some growers also advocate rolling. As to time for sowing, a New York
grower says:

Sow when the soil has settled and is warmed by the influence of the sun, and weeds
and grass have begun to spring up, and the leaves of trees begin to unfold.

Too early sowing may result in injury to the young plants. The weed-
ing, when this is necessary, is performed when they are less than five
inches high. Mr. Todd’s practice for the removal of the coarser nox-
ious weeds like thistles, dock, etc., is to send a man into the field shod
with three or four pairs of woolen stockings, to avoid injury to the plants
by treading them into the soil. This is done when the plants are about

8 inches high, When the leaves begin to fall and the stalks to assume



52

a yellowish tinge, it is then time to harvest, and this is practiced abroad
almost universally by pulling. In this country, where so much farming
is done on the high-pressure principle, the reaper is depended upon,
though the results are not as satisfactory aS when the more tedious
foreign methods are practiced, particularly as there is loss’ of fiber.
Where the land has been well prepared and made smooth in the
manner that has been indicated, it is possible to cut low. By this course
there will be considerable fiber saved, though still a loss of several inches
of the best of the stem. Recalling the many wonderful inventions in
agricultural machinery in late years, a thoroughly successful machine
flax puller would seem a possibility, were such an implement demanded.
Such machines have already been tried in the West. It is a positive
injury to the fiber to allow the seed to mature upon the plant where it
is desired to produce the best results. Some assert that it will ripen
| equally well after harvesting, but in any event the quality of the fiber
is the first consideration. Securing the seed is the next operation after
the crop is harvested, called “ rippling.” There are machines to accom-
plish this, although the work can be well done in an ordinary thrashing
machine by opening the “concave” so that the teeth will just come to-
gether; then, with one man to open and pass the bundles, another
takes them by the butt ends and spreading them in fan shape, presents
- the seed end to the machine. The straw is not released, the operator
withdrawing it again as soon as the seed has been torn off. Witha_
whip the loose seed is shaken out and the flax rebundled. Some, how-
ever, perform the operation without breaking the bundles. ‘The best
method of separating the seeds is to pass the heads through plain rol- |
lers, free at one end, which avoids injury to the fiber; and there are
powerful machines for this purpose to be obtained in Great Britain. |
Whipping out the seed against a sharp stone set up at an angle of 45 |
degrees is a New York method. Two or three smart blows, the bundle’
being held in both hands, will accomplish the result. |
Now comes the important operation of retting. In this country the’
fiber is separated from the stalk by dew-retting almost wholly. ‘The
best results are accomplished by the foreign method of water-retting, ;
which necessitates the building of ‘‘steep-pools ” especially for the pur:
pose. A moist meadow is the proper place for dew-retting, the fiber!
being spread over the ground in straight rows, at the rate of a ton to an
acre. If laid about the 1st of October, and weather is good, a couple”
of weeks will suffice for the proper separation of the fiber and woody
matter. When the retting is progressing unevenly, the rows are opened
with a fork or turned with a long pole. iF
For water-retting the softest water gives the best results, and wher j
access can not be had to lakes or sluggish or slow running streams,
‘¢ steep pools” will have to be built.1. A pool 30 feet long, 10 feet wide,










1 There is always 0 objection to retting flax in quantity, in the running streams, for 1 :
ganibary reasons, : ae



53

and 4 feet deep will suffice for an acre of flax. Spring water should be
avoided, or if used, the pool should be filled some weeks before the flax
is ready for it in order to soften the water. It should be kept free from
all mineral or vegetable impurities. The sheaves are packed loosely in
the pool, sloping so as to rest lightly on their butt ends, if at all, for it
is considered best to keep the sheaves entirely under water without al-
lowing them to come in contact with the bottom. Irish growers cover
with long wheat straw or sods, grass-side down, the whole kept under
water by means of stones or other weights. Fermentation is shown by
the turbidity of the water, and by bubbles of gas, and as this goes on,
more weights are required—for the flax swells and rises. If possible,
the thick seum which now forms on the surface should be removed, by
allowing a slight stream of water to flow over the pool. The fiber sinks
when decomposition has been carried to the proper point, though this
is not always @ sure indication that it is just right to take out. In
Holland the plan is to take a number of stalks of average fineness,
which are broken in two places a few inches apart. If the woody por-
tion or core pulls out easily, leaving the fiber intact, it is ready to come
out.

When the retting has been accomplished the bundles should be taken
out by hand, for the use of pitchforks may injure the fiber, and set up
on end that the water may drain off gradually; twenty-four hours is a
sufficient time. Then the bundles are opeued and spread evenly over
a newly-mown grass field to cleanse the fiber and improve its color;
being turned occasionally by poles, that it may color evenly. Three or
four days will suffice for the grassing, and then, if thoroughly dry, the
flax is ready to lift, tie in sheaves, and be put under cover, ready for
Scutching. :

There are many different modes of retting practiced in foreign coun-
tries, not touched upon in Part I of this report; all are interesting, but
as far as the American flax-grower is concerned, enough has been stated
to show him what is required to produce the best quality of fiber.

The one great drawback to successful cultivation of flax in this country.
is carelessness. Many a farmer feels that he can not afford to waste
time over such nice manipulation and careful treatment. ‘To all such J
would say: Don’t try fine flax culture for profit, for you will necessarily
have to compete with foreign skill and low-priced labor, and will need
all the more to make hard work of it until you have acquired experience
and knowledge. But the American farmer is progressive; he has brains
and ambition, and inventive genius will aid him in surmounting many
difficulties if he will work intelligently and stick to it. Not one year
or three, but year after year, growing each season a little flax, growing
it well, and striving with the acquirement of skill and experience each
year produce the best results, and in the end he will be enabled to
successfully compete with the foreigner and drive his product out of
the market. But the farmer must keep both eyes open, making a study



54.

of the crop from the time the land is plowed until the last operation has
been performed, In this way, each year’s experience will suggest im-
provements in the next year’s practice, and in time a profitable flax
culture will be the crowning result.

PRESENT SUGGESTIONS.

In the preceding account of how the crop should be managed I have
considered the cultivation of flax for fine fiber only. Recalling the figures _
of seed production in the United States, it is shown that already a large
area is annually cultivated in flax for the seed alone, the amount of fiber
utilized being quite small.
duced each year, however, of which the greater part is represented by up-
holsterer’s tow ; a small quantity goes into bagging stock, perhaps, and
a less amount into twine. Theremainder of that which is used goes into
paper stock. In Ireland they grow for fiber, and, as arule, throw away
the seed ; in America we grow for seed, and, as arule, throw away what
fiber there is. If the Irish peasant is accused of being wasteful, what
can be said of the American tarmer? How to utilize these vast stacks —
of Western flax straw and make them a source of income to the grower |
is a problem which the farmers themselves must work out. A great deal |
of the straw is so good that it ought to be much better. It is possible
to grow for both seed and fiber, though the fiber will be coarse, naturally, —
and only fit for the lower classes of manufacture. Itis practically good |
for nothing, as at present produced, in its tangled, short, and broken |
condition, unless for paper, and its demand for paper stock is not large. —
Willit not be for the farmer’s interest, then, to adopt new methods, |
even when growing for seed? Will it not pay him to give a little better |
preparation to the seed-bed, making it smoother, so that he will be en- |
abled to run the reaper knives as near the roots as possible, and get the |
full length of straw ? Then let him discard the ruinous practice of tear- :
ing the straw into fragments in taking off the seed. Let him keep the
straw straight, water-ret it if he will take the trouble, or carefully dew: |
ret it if he thinks the water-retting will not pay, and there is not the
least doubt but he will make enough more out of the crop, in addition |
to the value of the seed, to compensate him handsomely for his trouble. |

As to the matter of scutching the straw, that need not be discussed |
here. When the better quality of straw is produced, there will be|
scutch-mills if they are needed. In this connection reference should!
be made to the communication of Mr. Ross, on another page, whose in- :
teresting statements show that good fiber can be produced without the)
operation of scutching. The beautifully prepared samples of Western ]
flax, grown for seed but kept straight, which accompanied this com
munication, were hackled directly from the breaker. There were also.
fine tow samples that are among the best that have been received by :
the Department. i

Letters were sent by me to some half-dozen leading flax manufact |













DD

urers, asking their opinions as to the value of the Western flax straw as
at present grown, its possible value with a little better cultivation and
preparation, as outlined on a preceding page, and a consideration of the
flax industry in general from the agricultural stand-point. These replies
bear such valuable testimony, and the opinions carry such weight, con-
sidering the high sources from which they emanate, that they are pro-
duced entire, or with the omission only of general remarks not bearing
specially on the subject.

The first is from Mr. A. R. Turner, jr., president of the Flax and Hemp
Spinners’ and Growers’ Association, and is an important document.

FLAX AND HEMP SPINNERS’ AND GROWERS’ ASSOCIATION.

Boston, Mass., February 4, 1890.

My Dear Sir: Iam in receipt of your valued favor of the 21st ultimo, which has
nad consideration.

The culture of flax for fiber demands careful attention at the hands of the farmers,
and this care has not been given while cereals have been very profitable. With the
reduction of margins on cereals the growth of #ax claims new attention, and it should
now be of interest to farmers to give special attention to flax.

As to duties on flax, it may be well to retain them for the present to stimulate the
raising of the fiber and to help the farmers in price at this time, and until they may
have established a business on such a basis as to reduce the cost of production mate-
rially from the present cost to them. Iam sure thatif we can re-establish flax culture
that with it we shall perfect new methods and cbheapen the production so as to be
able to compete with foreign nations. I venture to predict that the day may come
when we will be exporting flax. When that time comes no duty will be needed cn
raw material.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain imported last year about 90,000 tons of flax
and flax tow, all this being in addition to home production. The importations were
as follows:



Tons.

Brom Russia Cabot) 322255 eee en ee are eens 66, 765
Germany (about) i224 > 2 ee ee 2,101
Hollands¢abott) 4.435 oso ee ee a 4, 869
Belsiuin (abou) esss2 ee ie tee oid Belge 12, 832
Other COUNTIOS 22 se oe eee 2,591
Totals ceo 32 GS 6 te ee eee Se Spe 89, 158

Valued at £3,066,144 sterling, this would average a ltttle less than 74 cents per
pound. This price has only general value, as the statistics do not give detail of flax
and flax tow. ;

At present we have a home demand for good flax fiber for yarns, thread, ete., but
many farmers who have shown samples have offered inferior flax, raised from poor
seed, and the fiber has not been properly cleaned. While the making of threads re-
quires a strong flax, many grades of flax not fitted for threads are suited for weaving,
and it is a thoroughly practical matter to make coarse linens from ordinary grades of
Western flax when sufficient protection is given the manufacturer in the producing
of goods.

The manufacturers can not co-operate with the American farmers to-day as much
as they desire, because the supply is insufficient, and the manufacturers, for self pro-
tection, are obliged to buy in European markets (at certain seasons of the year) in
order to command the best assortment and lowest prices.

That we can grow flax is shown by the acreage of flax grown for seed.

A



D6

The report of the Chicago Board of Trade is as follows:





Acres. | Busbels. Value.
SBIR Sars se areata a eee ee eT tee Ue ere Lee 1, 284, 812 10, G19, 742 $9, 679, 703
SS Rees ae ne ee ee en ie) ea ey ee ee bat aa eas Cee eee 1, 081, 751 9, 479, 571 9, 232, 365
BOS ea aes ne recy en ay oe SE ae 1, 060, 285 9, 816, 320 10, 580, 855



The above covers acreage of flax raised for seed only, and the question arises can we —
profitably grow flax for the fiber as well as for the seed? That there has been good —
flax fiber raised in the United States through a long series of years, as well as good
flax fiber being raised at this time, is an established fact. Many years ago, flax was
raised on small farms where the fiber was prepared and spun, or spun and woven, for
domestic uses. In recent years the spinning-wheel and hand-loom have given way
to the power machinery in factories, and the raising of flax in small plots has been
discontinued. Enconragement has not been given to the raising of flax because the
supply of linens is principally imported, and we have lost our position as manufactur-
ers in the linen trade. Cotton and woolen products have had good protection from —
foreign competition, but the flax and hemp productions have had less protection and
have suffered in consequence. The manufacturing of twines is carried on extensively
in the United States, and the manufacturing of threads has assumed fair proportions,
the growth of the different branches of these industries depending Hpe’y on the —
amount of protection.

The importations of brown and bleached linen ducks, canvas, etc., for

the year ending January 30, 1888, amounted to...........----..----. $14, 003, 236
DOA pOLtations OL Mako... cscs Goce eben ee. Fee ee eee 1, 802, 089 —
TOA Seatl Cet OS. Ses ose So ee ee te aoe ee 516, 013

The references just given apply only to flax and linen goods, and do not cover hemp
and jute products.

The exports from the United Tanedon of Great Bain of plain unbleached or
bleached linens for the year 1888 amounted to £3,749,088, and for a period of seven
years 52 per cent. of the exports of this class of linens have been sent to the United ©
States. |

The American Economist, of New York, dated January 3, 1890, refers to an article
of a Washington correspondent of the New York Herald, and among the reasons he
gives for the lack of success in the linen industry is the following :

‘‘Another reason is that when, in 1861, Congress enacted tariff laws, there was no
association to set forth the linen interest.”

It is evident that in the past our legislators have not given the attention that
should have been paid to the flax and linen industry, and, as a result, we are not in
a commanding position to-day. It would seem wise that Congress sould place in the
hands of your Department a special appropriation for investigation, and to establish
experimental stations and deterinine just what can be done with the tangled straw
or with the straight straw of flax grown for seed, the seed being removed without
tangling the straw. This appropriation should be sufficiently large for you to secure
able talent, and to place experiments in the hands of men who have had a life- la
experience, and whu know the needs of the trade.

Some plan should be devised to save all the fiber that is now being wasted, and to
me it seems a safe statement to make that it is possible to preserve all the fiber from —
flax even though it may be sown primarily for seed. Your experiments should also
cover the raising of long and strong flax from the best seed, the aim being to produce ©
the best possible quality of fiber. Sowing, cultivating, harvesting, retting, breaking,
and scutching should all have your attention with a view to perfecting improved
methods and minimum cost of the production, and when you have arrived at a prac-
tical solution of the problem you will find farmers and manufacturers ready to co-







od

operate with you to establish a large business in the United States, and produce our
own linens, in the place of depending on foreign nations.

It is not my desire to make my letter to you cover too much the question of tariff

legislation, but we must have a demand for the fiber if the raising of it in large quan-
tities is to be a success, and the market for the fiber is dependent upon having suffi-
cient protection against foreign competition to build up the manufacturing industry.
This statement will be sufficient to show you why I have necessarily referred to the
question of protection, but I have aimed to simply touch matters of fact rather than
to submit an argument.
The raising of hemp is increasing in quantity, and while the greater part of the
crop is still raised in Kentucky they are also cultivating hemp in other States. There
is great need of a good power hemp brake to supplant the primitive hand-brake,
but although three hundred patents have been issued for power-brakes in a series of
years, up to the present time none have been adopted as a practical success, although
several brakes are now being perfected with a fair prospect of success.

In your consideration of fibers, flax and hemp should have special consideration
before the many new fibers which are constantly brought to your attention. The suc-
cessful raising or manipulating of many new fibers isa matter of speculation, but with
flax and hemp you have positive matter in hand, and fibers about which there 1s no
speculation. The United States is the first nation in the world in the consumption of
linens and binding twine, and this should inspire us to secure a home production for
our own home market. We have favorable climate, rich and extensive lands, the
need of diversified crops, and a ready market the best in the world; it remains for a
proper adjustment of conditions, and special support of the Government through you,
to establish enormous industries of national reputation.

If I can be of further assistance to you, I should be pleased to serve you.

Yours, very truly, A. R. TuRNER, JR
° e ) 9)

President.
CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,
Special Agent, Fiber Investigations. *

Another communication, with valuable suggestions on the subject,
was received from Mr. John H. Ross, of Boston, whose long experience
in handling flax fiber, as well as knowledge of the requirements of the
industry from the manufacturers standpoint, enables him to speak
authoritatively. Mr. Ross makes statements as follows :

Boston, February 7, 1890.

DEAR Sir: I have had before me for several days your favor of the 21st ultimo, and
have held my reply that it might be accompanied by the samples I send herewith,
and which are necessary to illustrate the points I wish to make. I would reply to
your questions as follows:-

Iam not aware of any use to which the Western straw in the tangled condition in
which it comes from the thrasher can be put other than to use it as upholsterers’
tow. I have neverseen the tangled straw retted or treated in any way which fitted it
for spinning purposes. I would note here, however, that regard it as possible that a
thorough process of water-retting, such as I shall refer to later, may bring the tangled
straw into a condition suitable for spinning into binder twine. AJl the tangled straw
that I have seen retted has been treated by retting on the grass, which process I do
not consider suitable for getting the best results from the Western straw. All the
dew-retted tangled straw I have seen has.been very imperfectly retted and cleaned,
and not suitable for any spinning purpose.

To obtain the best results as to quantity and quality from the Western straw, as at
present sown and cultivated for the seed, I believe that the straw should be cut, or
better, pulled and kept straight, and the seed removed by rippling or some similar

WW



58

process which will not tangle the straw. The straw must then be steeped in water
in streams, or in pits or ditches, and thoroughly water-retted, the process being car-
ried as far as is possible without positively endangering the strength of the fiber.
Then the retted straw must be thoroughly dried, and, if possible, exposed to some
artificial heat immediately before being broken. In Holland the straw is dried by
exposing to the heat produced by the combustion of the shives and dust from the
brakes, and this drying process is attended by a boy. The dry straw should then be
passed through a brake provided with several sets of fluted rollers, so that the straw,
rendered brittle by the drying process, will be thoroughly broken up, and the greater
part of it will fall, and that which remains on the fiber will be loose and will be easily
detached by the subsequent processes of hackling, carding and spinning, thus yield-
ing a clean yarn.

It will be noticed that this method of treatment omits the process of scutching.
This is always the most expensive process in the preparation of the flax fiber, and
when applied to so short and weak a fiber as is produced in the West under the present
system of cultivation, it would cause a large product of scutching tow, and would
raise the cost of the fiber beyond its market value.

I send, in the accompanying box, samples of the hackled line and tow produced
from Western straw which has been kept straight and retted in water and passed
through a brake without scutching. The samples of coarse line and tow represent a
product of 450 per cent. line, and about 40 per cent. tow, and 10 per cent. waste, and
are suitable for spinning into medium and coarse twine, and for the warp and weft
yarns in coarse crashes, etc. The samples of the fine line and tow show what can be
produced from this flax when thoroughly hackled, and from this line can be spun a
50-lea weaving yarn suitable for many of the finer and even some of the finest of the
linens on which the Flax and Hemp Spinners and Growers’ Association asks an addi-
tional duty that they may be made at home instead of imported from abroad. The
fine tow is suited for fine weft yarns for weaving purposes.

These samples of water-retted flax were produced from flax grown near Cedar
Falls, lowa, for seed purposes, and well illustrate the possibilities of this fibre when
properly handled and grown as at present without additional expense to the farmer
except the keeping of the straw straight and the rippling of the seed.

It should be noted that the straw from which this fiber was produced was longer
than some of the Western straw. It is, however, perfectly practicable to hackle a
shorter flax than this, although the longer it is the better, both for the growth and
the spinner. Of course if more and better seed was sown, and the young plants
weeded and pulled a great improvement both in quality and quantity would result,
but even as at present a fiber can be produced which will compare favorably with
‘the average of the water-steeped flaxes now exported from Russia.

I would note here that I have recently received samples of flax from Wisconsin
grown for the fiber from imported seed and water-retted, and this flax will compare
favorably for fineness and spinning quality with the higher grades of European flax.
It is suited for the finest yarns, and while there is but little demand for such fine
flax in this country, it could be exported and would find a ready sale among the
foreign spinners of fine weaving yarns.

This flax well illustrates the fact that with proper care and attention we can pro-

duce in our Northwestern States flax fiber fully equal to any now grown in Europe,
and if our farmers are willing to give this care and attention, it is quite unnecessary
for us to import any flax at all.
- To produce a good dew-retted fiber from our short and weak straw we should fol-
low the methods employed by the Russians, who obtain a good fiber with the shives
loose and not sticking fast, as is the case with our dew-retted flax; this loose shive
falls out in the process of manufacture, yielding a practically clean yarn. I believe,
however, that the water-retting process is more worthy of attention, as it will yield
a stronger and better fiber from our straw than by any other method.



oo

There is not to-day any large outlet with us for such a fiber as can be produced
from the western straw as now grown, but if adequate protection be granted to the
would-be producers of woven linens, there would beat once a place fora cheap home-
erown fiber for weaving yarns, and I believe even that this fiber, when produced. in
quantity, can be sold at a price which will admit of its exportation, and it will com-
pete successfully abroad with the European grown fiber.

The tangled straw, if properly retted and cleaned, may be adapted for bagging,
binder twine, and very coarse twines; I can not speak with any definite knowledge
on this point, as I have never seen any properly-retted tangled straw, and have there-
fore no practical knowledge of its capabilities. It is absolutely necessary that the
straw be kept straight that it may be worked for the best uses of which it is capable;
a method of stripping the seed which will admit of this is absolutely essential.

Yours, truly,
(Signed) 3 JOHN H. Ross.
CHARLES RicHarps DODGE,

Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

From Mr. Edwin A. Hartshorn, of Schaghticoke, N. Y., than whom
the American farmer has no better friend or the theory of protection in
its broadest sense no better advocate, some valuable suggestions are
received. Asa part of the letter referred to hemp matters, only the
portions relating to flax are produced here. Mr. Hartshorn says:

The Western flax straw which remains after thrashing the seed, as at present
grown, isof great value if it were not literally cut into pieces about two inches long
by thrashing out the seed in a wheat-thrasher. As it is now thrashed it is practically
worthless for spinning purposes. If it were thrashed in a suitable thrasher, which
costs no more than by the present method, the fiber would be valuable.

I send by this mail in separate inclosure a sample of flax straw from Clay County,
Iowa, which is cut short by the thrasher. You will observe that a few stalks have
escaped destruction. The writer picked out a few of these stalks and retted them
by our patent process in three hours, and cleaned them in our hemp-brake, and pro-
duced a fair quality of spinning tow, a sample of which is also sent you in the same
package. The tow is worth 5 cents a pound on the market, and will spin into a level
yarn for all coarse purposes, such as binder twine, thrashers’ cordage, etc.

I agree fully with the statement that if the present flax straw, grown for seed,
was only properly retted by water on the ground (or by my patent serial process,
- without chemicals) it would enter into many coarse goods, such as crash, twines, ete.
When this position has been obtained there is no question but what the fiber would |
be under better treatment and capable of spinning into finer goods for twines and
woven fabrics. The writer has thrashed thousands of tons of flax straw by ma-
chinery without breaking a fiber in the process. An inexpensive additional appli-
ance for the ordinary wheat-thrasher could be supplied and thrashing-machines put
upon the market, adjustable so as to thrash wheat as at present, or thrash flax in the
proper way. The adjustment of thrashing flax is as follows: In the place of the
ordinary cylinder carrying teeth or prongs, a cylinder of equal size should be placed,
with bars of iron bolted upon it lengthways about 6 inches apart; to act as beat-
ers. These bars should be half an inch thick by three-fourths inch width. Two
pairs of rollers to crush the bolls of the flax should be placed in front of the cylinder.
The cylinder, with its beater-bars revolving rapidly as the flax comes from the sec-
ond pair of rollers, will beat off the seed or bolls which escape the crushing process.
The first pair of rollers should have a very shallow groove, which will be barely
sufficient to erip the flax straw and draw it in, but not enough to prevent the erush-



60

ing of the bolls. The second pair of rollers should have the least possible groove,
that flax will not slip between them, but at the same time they should be almost
smooth.
In regard to duty on flax and hemp fiber, I would favor a specific duty, sufficient
to cover the additional cost of labor under our industrial system. The manufact-
urers should have a specific duty sufficient to cover the duty on the so-called ‘‘ raw
material,” and also an ad valorem duty of 50 per cent. to cover the extra cost of
manufacturing in this country. As you probably know, the entire flax-spinning in
dustry of the country has asked for an increase of duty on woven linen coarser
‘than ‘sixteen hundred,” which we ought to have. |

Here is added testimony from another well-known spinner, of Web-

ster, Mass. :
STEVENS LINEN WORKS,
Webster, Mass., February 6, 1890.

DEAR Sir: We have not used any flax grown in the United States since 1881, and
but a little since say 1875. The most of the United States flax we have used came
from Washington County, N, Y., and that vicinity, although some years ago we
worked some from Ohio. If well retted and worked it is worth more than the qual-
ity that we import from Russia.

Ifthe Western flax straw was grown a little less for seed and more for fiber, and
kept straight, fairly retted, broken, and scutched, it would answer our purpose.

1 can hardly tell whether the labor prices would make flax line profitable or not,
but should think an article of tow might be produced at a profit, though the demand
would be limited * * *

Iam, yours truly,
K. P. Morton, Agt.
CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,

Special Agent, Department of Agriculture.

In connection with the question of fiber preparation, brief reference
may be made to the process of Mr. S. 8. Boyce, of New York City, for
cleaning flax without first submitting the straw to the process of ret-
ting, thereby obtaining the fiber at once. Samples of flax so treated.
were shown me by Mr. Boyce in December, 1888, and a small series was
Subsequently sent to Paris with the fiber exhibit, though the samples
were not wholly satisfactory. After a year’s further experiment a num-
ber of samples from different lots of fiber produc .d in quantity have
been submitted which promise better results. It should be borne in
mind, however, that the only practical trial of a fiber is to test it in man
ufacture. This I understand is being done with a quantity of the fiber
produced by this process, the results of which will be awaited with in-
terest. - . |

In a communication from Mr. Bovece, submitting these samples, some
remarks on western flax straw are made, from which brief extracts are
reproduced.

For paper stock no better material than this flax straw can be desired, save that
the farmer stands in his own light in not preparing his land to cut the straw close in
order to give a greater length. If properly thrashed it would be doubled in value
And if properly prepared (in the subsequent operations), would furnish a fiber worth —
$75 to $100 per ton for coarse weaving, which would take it away from the paper-
maker who objects to stock costing over $50 per ton. For binder twine, bagging, salt —
bags, and coarse products generally, the straw as now grown for seed may be adopted —
and supplied with the simple modifications of (1) Cutting close to the ground. (2)





61

Thrashing without shortening or breaking and tangling. (3) Using imported tow-
producing machinery. Of course, sowing a larger quantity of seed is recommended,
and cutting or pulling and binding the straw are desirable.

Mr. H. C. Putnam, president of the Kau Claire (Wisconsin) Linen
Company, in reply to a question relative to the value of the western flax
straw per ton, aS at present produced, makes this statement:

If a machine can dress it in the condition it comes from the thrashing machine and
save, say 500 pounds of fiber from each 2,000 pounds of straw, it would be worth not
less than $25 a ton net as common tow. Flax like sample (a nice product) is worth for
spinning 7 and 8 cents per pound. If straw is cut and bound, kept straight, and
properly retted, it is worth more per ton,—greater product and better fiber.

The following is an extract received from Mr. John Heany, of Buck-
ley, Ll.:

In 1865 I was seventeen years of age, superintending a flax millin St. Lawrence
County, N. Y. The price of fiber was 25 cents per pound; previous year it was 30
cents per pound. I bought the mill. The tariff on foreign fibers was reduced
through the influence of the spinners, and our raw material fell to 12 cents per
pound. They called our fiber raw material, when the truth is it cost more to pro-
duce one pound of flax fiber than for the spinner to take our raw material and manu-
facture a pound of cloth. Iwas paying farmers $15 per acre for land on which to raise
flax, and employing from twenty to thirty hands. The result was, in 1870, I had to leave
my mill and come west to Illinois, where I became engaged in making tow from the
flax as grown for secd by farmerson their new land. Thetow was used for the manu-
facture of bagging to cover cotton bales. Iwas doing well at making tow, and thought,
if they would let the tariff alone, [ could make some money. But it was not to be.
The tariff was taken off jute butts, and I wasoutagain. The result was that millions
of tons of flax straw were burned in the West every year, when it could just as well
have been utilized for bagging. The Sonth would not have been the losers, because ~
they were paid cotton prices for bagging that only cost them about 5 cents per pound.
I would say now that it looks as though the tariff was going to be reduced on manilla,
sisal and jute, and flax andhemp. Instead of being reduced it should be increased on
a par, at least, with the manufactured material, such as bags, cloth and yarn and
twines. We could then have a show to produce our own fibers and on ourown land,
where the manufactured article is consumed.

Here is an extract from a letter received from Mr. John Hinde, of the
A. H. Hart Company, of New York City:

After further considering your question, ‘‘ What are your views regarding the ad-
vantage of re-establishing the flax-fiber industry among the western farmers, and
what means would be most likely to aid in bringing about the cultivation of flax for
fiber,” we wish to add to our former communication that the samples of Michigan
flax sent you were grown and worked by Messrs. J. & J. Livingston, Baden, Onta-
rio, who have built a mill at Yale, Mich., where they will have fully 100 tons of
dressed flax from last year’s crop. This flax straw (800 tons) was pulled from the
ground by hand, as all straw must be if used for fine spinning.

The western farmer, before going to the expense of pulling straw, must know that
he will find a market, and in order to supply this, mills must be built, and, if the mills
are successful, they must be controlled by thoroughly competent and experienced
men. Messrs. Livingston have been successful workers of flax in Canada for over
twenty-five years where they are now running twenty mills, and annually sow
0,000 acres to flax, and work as much more grown by farmers. Messrs. Livingston
have demonstrated that they can grow as good flax for fiber in Michigan as can be
produced in Canada, and wo. believe they would remove their entire plant to the



62

Western States if inducement sufficient to cover the expense was offered them. One
mill could be moved and located at a time, and we firmly believe that within five
years flax would be one of the largest and best paying crops in the Western States,
as if now is in Upper Ontario. r
We will be pleased to co-operate with you in all things that will promote the flax
industry in this country.

Mr. B. Bosse, of Green Bay, Wis., in a recent communication to the
Department, makes the following interesting statements:

The 6 acres of flax grown on my farm last year, and referred to in the Gazette
of Green Bay, February 3, were sown the Ist of May, 1889, with 14 bushels per acre
of Belgian seed (which I consider the very best for this country). I pulled it by
hand a little before ripe; let it dry standing on the ground for eight days; then bound
it with rye straw, and sheltered. I thrashed it by hand and spread it on land already
harvested, and let it ret by dews and rains; then stacked it in the barn again, but
bound this time with its own straw. I scutched it by the old system (breaker and
knives, still the best in use when the work is done by skilled scutchers). Thesoil is
a black loam mixed with black sand about 10 inches deep, with red clay for subsoil.
The result was as follows:



Sowed 9 bushels Belgian seed, at $1.56 per bushel._-......-.........--.-.-.-. $13. 50
PPM OV ANG oo eco a je ocala ie Sintra ate Ne ees 32. O9
pia Maan eSCLUCEIN Ott. + san - Saceeecs (sca eee ence a oe eee see 5. 00
pbhirasnimn On Dy aN cs. secs once sa ee ee ee ee ee ee 20. 65
Retpinig on the ground 22.6. 22-202 fe aes Cee renee oe 19. 40
Seutching. ..-- ------ ----- + en nnn ne oe ew ne ene wee Soe 120. 83
PUT PES coe See
Freight to Boston, about .....---------.---4- .------ eee eee ee see 30. 00
201, 97
Product:
60 bushels seed, valued at $1....-.. ee eee eee $60. 00
600 pounds tow, 2 cents per pound...--..- Ee en oe 12. 00
3,718 pounds fiber, at 11 cents per pound, as offered be manufact-
urers, Ross, oe 200. DOStONe: Ao ees a cee ec 408.98 480.98
Net protitess222 22-23. ee oe ee oie ae ee ee cic ais 229, 01

I think we can estimate this as an average crop, with careful preparation of the |

ground (which I described in a preceding letter) and well conducted operations in
retting and scutching.

One other system of retting is by water, or keeping the straw, after thrashed, in
running or stagnant water, and let it remain until the woody part of the plant will break
when folded it a little and the fiber is easily detached. This way of retting the flax is’
certainly the very best of all, and will, in my opinion, never be profitably replaced
by scientific systems. Science may shorten the time of operation, but can not com-
pare in good result with the silent and perfect work of nature in this proceeding.
The water process is a little more expensive than the dew or grass retting, as it is
called here, because it requires some previous accommodations and more labor, but,
though it produces no larger weight of fiber, it is more reliable, as one can control the
full progress of the operation until the proper and desirable degree of retting is at-
tained. Besides, it gives fiber which always find a ready market and commands
higher prices.

You will see by the figures relative to the six acres that I grow flax both for fiber
and seed, and that the weight of fiber per acre is about 620 pounds. I could grow
flax for fiber only, and so make a finer grade, according to the wants of manufacturers,
but the result in product for the grower should be very near the same, What helps





63

considerably the present possibilities of raising flax for fiber with success in this
country, in competition with the low wages paid in Kurope, is that our land is cheap;
that with so vast an area suitable for flax raising, our lands are new and fresh for that
textile, and are capable of yielding a much larger yield than the artificially manured
lands of the old continent. Also, where twenty-five or thirty years ago our good flax-
retted straw in Belgium gave us 25 per cent. of fiber, it yields now from 16 to 20 per
cent., with great depreciation in quality. I raised last year (and could hardly fail to
raise the same) such quality of fiber as was never surpassed anywhere, and obtained
from the same raw flax as that I send you to-day a yielding of 31 per cent. of fiber, for
which I never heard of a precedent in the old country.

Allthe States and Territories north of the thirty-sixth parallel are fitted for the culti-
vation of flax for fiber, except those Western lands where there is lack of rain. As
generally flax grows better in low lands and damp, temperate climate, I believe Michi-
gan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and lowa would be the States producing invariably the most
and best quality of fiber.

The following extract is from a letter received from William Ruther-
ford, of the California Cotton Mills Company, Hast Oakland, Cal. :

About two years ago we interested some farmers to grow trial lots of flax especially
for the fiber, and to a certain extent the experiment was successful. *. * * In the
prosecution of this industry we received sample lots of flax from Oregon and Idaho
which were good specimens of the fiber, and proved conclusively that the best quality
of flax could be produced in these regions. ‘That from Moscow, Nez Perces County,
Idaho, was excellent.

It would seem from the foregoing that no further testimony is nec-
essary to show that flax culture can be made an American industry in
the near future, though the farmers and the manufacturers must work
together to bring it about. As to the question of ‘ encouragement”
through legislation, I think with Mr. Turner that one form of legisla-
tion desirable would be an appropriation for purposes of experiment
by the Department of Agriculture for the practical demonstration of
the possibilities that have been briefly considered in the pages of this
report. I will therefore leave the subject at this point for the present.



64

THE HEMP INDUSTRY.

Hemp culture being already an established American industry, it
will not be necessary to go into the subject at great detail in the pres-
ent report. Some interesting communications have been received, how-
ever, which, with some matters of general information obtained by the
Department special agent, in the field, are herewith presented.

Statistics on hemp production show a steady decrease since 1860,
probably due to the decline in American ship-building and to the intro-
duction of manila fiber or ‘‘manila hemp” produced in such quantity in
the Philippine Isles. The figures may possibly show a slight increase
when the next census is taken, from the fact that considerable quanti-
ties of hemp are now used in the manufacture of binder twine employed
in the machine-binding grain harvesters and for ee purposes, from
Northern grown hemp.

The only hemp which comes into direct competition with the best
American hemp is the Russian. Kentucky hemp. however, possesses
greater flexibility than that of the Russian and can be dressed finer,
although the Russian is more equal in length, and while less flexible is
preferred when the cordage is to be used for shrouds and stays in the
rigging of vessels. The best hemp comes from Italy, though but little
vf it appears in our market. The principal uses of hemp in this coun-
try are in the manufacture of cordage, binder and other twines, and —
for mixing with flax in a cheap grade of carpet. Some facts in the pro-
duction of hemp for binder twine will be referred to on another page,
and as they relate to the cultivation of hemp in other States than Ken-
tucky they are especially interesting. Regarding the growth of hemp
in Kentneky, in former times considerable cordage was manufactured
within the borders of the State, although in more recent years this in-
dustry has declined greatly, and probably most of the hemp grown
in the State is manufactured in other sections, going to the New York
and Boston markets chiefly.

In November, 1888, I visited the *‘ Blue Grass region” of Kentucky,
which is the center of hemp production, and through the courtesy of Mr.
W. B. Hawkins not only secured interesting specimens of hemp stalks
and fiber but valuable information regarding its cultivation. Mr. Haw-
kins 1s a successful hemp-grower, having raised as high as 1,648 pounds
- peracre. His average yield for the season of 1888 was 1,400 pounds
per acre for a field of 65 acres. Hemp is grown in rotation, small
grain followed by clover putting the ground in the yery best condition



69

for the growth of the fiber. The hemp is cleaned in the field, the eum-
bersome slat brake which has been in use for a hundred years or more
in Kentucky being still employed. The cleaning is done in the field in
order that the waste portion or “‘shive” may be returned to the soil
again. This is burned and the ashes spread over the land ; as the waste
in its unrotted state would be injurious to the soil. Speaking to Mr.
Hawkins of the need of improved machinery for cleaning hemp, it was
stated that the old method suited the colored people better, as break-
ing hemp in the winter was the main dependence for many of them.

The farmers of this section, as a rule, dew-ret their hemp, although it
is stated that the manufacturers prefer, and the Navy regulations re-
quire, a water-retted hemp. As long as the hemp product is used chiefly
for twine and cordage, the extra labor and expense necessitated by
water-rettingis hardly warranted. With thedemand forspinning hemp,
at better prices there would be a demand for water-retted fiber. I
was shown in Frankfort, at the Kentucky River Mills, crash toweling
from hemp that had been in use for many years, and to all appear-
ances it was aS good as the same grade of fabric from flax. It is said
that Henry Clay introduced into Kentucky the practice of retting by
water, but few farmers of the present day are willing to take the trouble
to follow it, notwithstanding the better results that the practice would
give. The hemp stalks are usually spread upon the same ground where
grown, and when sufficiently retted, as is determined by breaking out
a little, it is again put into shocks. Hemp retted in winter is of a
brighter color than that spread in October. The crop requires a rich
loamy soil. ,

In a recent communication Mr. Hawkins details the general practice
of Kentucky growers at the present time, as follows:

The usual procedure in the cultivation and handling of hemp is about this: Our
best land produces the best hemp. Virgin soil sown to hemp can be followed by
hemp for fifteen to twenty years successively ; sown then to small grain and clover;
can be sown to hemp every third year (no fertilizer required) almost indefinitely.
Given blue-grass sod: Plow not over 4 inches deep in the fall or early spring; sow
about the time to plant corn; sow broadcast 33 pounds of seed per acre, having first
prepared the seed-bed thoroughly, and cover by dragging with the harrow as for any
of the small grains, wheat, oats, etc. No cultivation can be done, of course, as it is
broadcast.

About one hundred days are required for the crop to mature ready for the knife, or
when the first ripe seed can be found in the heads. The hempis then cut and spread
thinly, covering the ground it grows upon; it must be kept from tangling. Let it
lie for one or two weeks to cure; rain will not injure it in this time. Now rake into
bundles and tie (be careful to keep straight), about 10 inches in diameter, and stack
dry, about two acres in the stack. About December 1 we spread on the ground, as be-
fore, and when retted sufficiently set upon end in shocks about the ordinary size of
corn shocks, and the hands can carry their brakes from one shock to another in the
field to brake it out. Much depends upon the retting, and musé be determined by

20789—No. 1 5





66

testing when it is ready to take up. The approximate cost of an acre of hemp in
Kentucky, counting man and team worth $3.50 per day, is as follows:



Rlowine 3525 222 Soc sree Sea eee See tet es aes a Sedat $2. 00
ERA ITO WAN Gch eee See es sn oe eek se en ee ae ae hy eae 1. 00
SOCUs ib PO oe fo ee a oe ences ee eee ene eee ete secs 2. 50
Gt ee a ee es ne ere oe ee eee wipe ee eee ce ene oe nee coat 3. 00
Taking up and shaking o:.-.2. 2... 2.22: -5-5-. Bou Se sas See oo are ee sie sone 3. 00
Spreading... <7. Rniess Seas ene Ouse ete. eis sae es sees Cam ba ieee 2. 00
Ween rTetted.; shocking 9335.5 oes eee ols se ees Soe Sie oo se woe 1.00
Breaking, $1 per 100 (the usual crop being 1,000 pounds)........-.. Bee eee 10. 00

24. 00

There is no reason why hemp culture should not be extended over a
dozen States and the product used in manufactures which now employ
thousands of tons of imported fibers. In the manufacture of binder
twine alone there is an outlet for upwards of 50,000 tons of hemp
annually. The twine is now made from manila and sisal chiefly, the
first being no better than hemp and the last-named quite inferior.
American hemp twine is said to run 100 feet more to the pound than
sisal, 5 pounds of American hemp twine, at the same price per pound
as sisal, going as far as 6 of sisal, an advantage of about 17 per cent. in
favor of American hemp. See also letter on page 67.

When the market for binder-twine was first created, American hemp
filled the demand, the more carefully prepared article, straight or
dressed hemp, being employed. About ten years ago the demand in-
creased to a point beyond the supply of native hemp, and to meet the
exigency of the case other fibers were employed: Manila and sisal came
into use, and as the consumption of binder-twine grew to its present
enormous proportions, these fibers held their position, and hemp was
relegated to the background. The recent enormously high price of
sisal and manila twine has again called attention to hemp. By lessen-
ing the cost of production by the use of labor-saving machinery in all
operations of production, it has been possible to cheapen hemp, and
with a little present protection the foreign fibers can be driven out of
the market and the farmer receive a two fold benefit from the change.

The grain growers will be the hemp producers, and in point of fact
will only take from their own pockets in buying twine what they get
for their raw hemp, with the simple cost of manufacture and dealers’
profits added. It is proposed as a relief for the American farmers
from the unwarranted high prices of binder-twine last season to re-
move the duty on certain imported fibers.!

1]¢ is claimed that if manila, sisal, sunn, New Zealand, and other hemp substitutes
are placed upon the list of free raw materials it will be because some of the farmers
jn the West have demanded it, in view of the present agricultural depression, to
cheapen the present cost of binder-twine. No doubt should this occur the few manu-
facturing firms in the United States who produce binder-twine from foreign fibers
will thank these farmers who have actually aided them in the accomplishment of 4
much desired object that they have been unable to bring about through their owl —
efforts. There are many Western farmers, however, who look at this matter in its true





67

A surer relief for the farmers would be the distributing among them
of the $4,000,000 or $5,000,000, which the production of this fiber would
mean, with a possible saving of two or three millions more in the dif.
ference between the price for which a good hemp twine could be sold
and the prices paid last year for a twine of foreign fiber.

I am informed, upon reliable authority, that the proportion of hemp
twine to twine of manila, sisal, etc., that will enter into the present
year’s supply will not be over 10 per cent., or about 5,000 tons. This
twine, in car-load lots, can be sold at 125 cents per pound against 16
cents for manila. If only one-half of the binder-twine out-put were made
of hemp, at these prices there would be a clear saving of $1,750,000 to
the consumers in a Single year from difference in prices alone. And Iam
informed upon equally reliable authority that the machine binders
work with hemp twine quite as readily’as with the stiffer twines from
sisal and manila when a well-made hemp twine is used.

A great deal has been said on this subject, the principal objections
coming from those who are especially interested in manila and sisal,
but the fact is, and it can be proved by abundant evidence, that the
“prejudice” against hemp twine has no substantial foundation. In
this connection I can but present a letter on the subject, received while
this report is in press, which explains itself.

[D. M. Osborne & Co., Manufacturers of Harvesting Machinery. ]

AUBURN, N. Y., March 29, 1890.

DEAR Sir: We have your esteemed favor of the 26th instant, making inquiry as to
our judgment of the value of American hemp twine, commonly known and called
as ‘Kentucky hemp binding twine” for harvesting machinery. :

We have sold several thousand tons of this twine, and without exception it has
given the best of satisfaction to the farmers using it on their self-binding harvesters.
The standards for binding twine are, pure sisal, 500 feet long; half manila and half
sisal, 550 feet long, and pure manila 600 feet. American hemp when spun 525 feet



light, as is shown by the large correspondence of the Department relating to fiber
matters, received since the fiber investigation began. These farmers see what is the
fact, that every pound of binder-twine used can be made of native grown fibers, that
the twine will be as good as the best manila, run as many feet to the pound, and can
be produced at a saving of at least 4 cents a pound from the present prices. With free
foreign fibers the saving to the farmers by the removal of the duty will not be over a
cent a pound, and it remains to be seen whether the farmer will get any advantage, as
the production is now limited to a few manufacturers, who, it is claimed, even con-
trol the supply of raw material, thus shutting off allcompetition. At lowest estimates
we are now importing raw fibers and fiber manufactures to the extent of $26,000,000
(out of some $44,000,000, total imports), that could be saved to the country. The De-
partment of Agriculture has just initiated an effort to re-establish the fiber industry in
the United States, that the farmers of the country may gradually secure to themselves
this $26,000,000 through the cultivation of two easily grown crops. It is needlessto
say that if these foreign hemp substitutes, and jute especially, are placed upon the
free list, these efforts in a measure will be hampered and the farmers themselves will
be the losers. Both binder-twine and cotton bagging should be made from flax and
-hemp grown on American farms.



68

long is the equal of sisal, half each sisal and manila or pure manila, of the lengths
given above.

There is no fiber in the world better suited to this use than American hemp. It is
our judgment, based upon nearly ten years’ experience with large quantities of binder
twine each year, that the entire supply of this twine should be made from American
hemp. It has been demonstrated that this hemp can be grown in the States of Ken-
tucky, Missouri, Kansas, Southern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and New
- York, and probably several other States that are adapted to raising winter wheat,
There are 50,000 tons of this binding twine used annually, every pound of which
could and should be made from this home product.

Your department can do no greater service to the farming community than by
widely disseminating the information as to the extent of the use of this twine for
binding purposes, and the fact that American hemp is not a difficult crop to raise,
and that the usual average yield upon good soil is from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of hemp
per acre.

Very truly yours,

D. M. OSBORNE & Co.

. By G. W. ALLEN, Treasurer.
CHAS. RICHARDS DODGE, esq.,

Special Agent Liber Investigations,

If further evidence were desirable, the testimony of farmers them-
selves, who use and prefer hemp twine, could be given from the large
correspondence of the Department, but it is not necessary. One of the
strongest of these is signed by the president of an Alliance organiza-
tion in Minnesota.

HEMP CULTURE IN NEW YORK.

It may not be widely known that quite an area was cultivated in
hemp last season in this State. The industry is carried on in the
neighborhood of Troy and Schaghticoke where sixty years ago a con-
siderable amount of fine hemp fiber was annually produced. I visited
this section in January of the present year and obtained from Mr. BE. A.
Hartshorn many interesting facts in regard to North River hemp cul-
ture, which show the value of the industry to the State, an industry
which will be extended, as there is a good demand for the product.

A large portion of the hemp grown in this section last season was
used by the Cable Flax Mills at Schaghticoke, some twenty farmers hay-
ing been interested in its production, growing it underspecific conditions,
in a contract with the manufacturers, who agreed to furnish the seed and
pay $12 per ton of 2,000 pounds for the stalks delivered. On the other
hand the farmers agreed to sow the seed on good ground, at the rate of —
about 1 bushel per acre, to cut the hemp at maturity, and when prop-
erly cured or dried, to deliver the same, in bundles about 10 inches in
diameter, ‘dry and free from tree or bush hemp, weeds, thistles, grass
or other objectionable matter.”

They also agreed to a reduction of $3 per bushel for the seed when
the yield of stalks was more than 4,000 pounds per bushel, no charge
for seed being made when a less quantity was produced. :





69

The record of the twenty crops produced under this contract is given
as follows :!



Value at Net

Bush- | Yield $12 per | proceeds Rank
Name of farmer. els | of cured | ton, less ae acre vanee

sown. | stalks. | costof | (seed de- ti
seed. | ducted).| ‘0”-







aiMeseLhOMpSONG<.21> eee ost poco esa gee teen. 4 By oie $19. 12 $76. 48 1
BROMOMIOe VV TI GINU, sem vies cles ate cis re cinema mire eee 1 5, 630 30. 78 30. 78 6
ODED OMA Ss Ss oi ske Gin eae owes pk sO eatemeen ence 1 3, 340 20. 04 20, 04 10
aN Feats ev ene OT VOT ies eae i ee eae 1 10, 230 58. 38 58. 38 2
NG PELOUN cs cos Soca ace ne tle pep bean tie we cee cepa oer 1 2, 380 14, 28 14, 28 14
Se VWESR OR Gs acc accie ewtace sins en cats ae mis merce ae eee erate 14 5, 840 31,29 25. 08 8
UOWIOS KUO LCI Gs sc cnck eee ace baie ccc Seeieaes eae Soceee 2 4, 080 24,48 19.2426 216
PMO HIN OCR Open ye santa see o 0a oe octet oie prepeme ane ae = aie 2 14, 000 78. 00 39. 00 4
OHArlesePLerni@lorie. conse. cence some eee ee ee eee 2 7, 620 45. 92 22.96 9
IVEAT EUS EL OO ANY ae oa See oe cars wats wa ac aia aeicte atatee es isiere ec 2 Drewned out. 20
gu DOL GIMORG: (GEOLCesMUMNAM Ei to Ss ascnG cori wines sani te cae moemiee. 2 5, 290 31. 74 15. 87 13
eC OWAT Coos see cain coe ooh eae nem eeeciee see oes 2 3, 540 19. 85 9. 92 16
IS pal CUSm. craiaciscc coe tec ea aden eens cee eee eee cee. . 22 18, 340 73. 23 32. 54 5
GAW DIOWSLOD=.cs% cscs cee eo etree = eee eee 3 22, 590 126. 54 42.18 3
VelivAN Ce bau GUS: cee ses ce Cena seat aise eee eee eee 3 670 4, 02 | 1, 34 19
GieOree GillOrd:s-ose. woes soe no cee een See co meeee 4 5, 070 30. 42 7. 60 17
VAMOS MODI bb acess os Se Gus Sete cemca ema cess con eee 4 11, 825 70. 95 17. 74 11
OSS Mes aw nee ee Sok ne oc oe otis Gone ee Eee ee 43 12, 333 78. 98 16. 44 12
TORN Woh = se ses ah eco ae oe seers eee 43 2, 940 17. 64 3.924. - 18

We OURS SSeS ee aie ces Seen eee eeee BAR | oe Se oak eee eee eer ee ea ees

IRN OTR OO roe c cic chet casio a wus 6 eas sa we cetaim cin crmrcverel| Ccecercmereetee | erat ere sete] iene $18 225 |5 sees eee

The crop of Mr. Baucus, which stood nineteenth, the smallest re-
corded, was drowned out and not replanted. It was explained that this
phase of the business the farmers did not understand, and several crops
which were comparatively light might undoubtedly have been vastly
improved at a small outlay for additional labor and seed. Several crops
were also cut too soon, and considerable sacrifice made, both in the
quantity and quality of the product. |

Referring to the figures of production, the best record of income from _
sale of a crop, net proceeds per acre, cost of seed deducted, was $76.48.
The second best was $58.38, and the best five crops averaged $49.71
per acre, exclusive of the cost of seed. The total average of twenty
crops—that is, the crops on twenty farms—including the complete
failure referred to, and another crop which was almost a total failure
from the drowning out of the plants when they were 18 inches
high, was $18.22 per acre. Sandy or loamy soils are considered most
favorable, the hemp succeeding both on the “ uplands” and in the “bot-
toms.” The soil is plowed very deeply and made very mellow by the
use of the harrow. Barn-yard manures or standard fertilizers are
used, as the soil must be put in good fertility to produce a successful
crop. The seed is sown from April 20 to May 10, and the crop is usually
harvested between the 1st and 21st of September. When the stalks do
not exceed eight feet in height the cutting is done with an ordinary
Sweep-rake harvesting machine by cutting two-thirds the ordinary width



This table is taken from an interesting little pamphlet on ‘‘American Hemp Cult
ure,” relating to the recent efforts to réestablish hemp culture in New York State, by
Edwin A, Hartshorn.



ra)

of the swath, while a larger growth must be cut with a sickle, corn
hook, or short scythe. It is claimed that a light frost will not injure
the crop and that there need be no haste in cutting it, the plant con-
tinuing to grow until the stalks have turned a pale yellow. However:

this may be the opinion in New York State, where the fiber is employed —

in the coarser manufactures, a different idea prevails abroad ; that after
the proper time for cutting has arrived the fiber deteriorates, and for
fine manufactures there would be considerable loss in value.

The question of rotation is little regarded, as the production of hemp
is not considered exhaustive to the soil. As Mr. Hartshorn suggests,
however, it can hardly be claimed that the production of an annual
plant growing from 6 to 14 feet high does not exhaust the soil, though
it is certain that hemp contributes more than any other crop towards
repairing the damage done by its own growth through the return of
the leaves to the soil, besides other matters while it is undergoing the
process of retting. Hemp is an admirable weed-killer, and in flax
countries is Sometimes employed as a crop in rotation, to precede flax,
because it puts the soil in so good condition. As a proof of its weed-
killing powers a North River farmer makes the statement that thistles
heretofore had mastered him completely in a certain field, but after
sowing it with hemp not a thistle could be found, and while performing
this excellent service the hemp yielded him nearly $60 per acre, where
previously nothing valuable could be produced.

Regarding soil exhaustion by this crop, Henry Clay was of the opin-
ion that it exhausted the soil slowly, if at all, thirteen or fourteen suc-
cessive crops sometimes having been taken from the same land. It is
interesting in this connection to note that in France, where a fine quality
of hemp is produced, the plant is often grown on the same land without
rotation, although the soil is kept up to a high state of fertility. The
retting is done on grass or stubble where grown. It requires from four
to six weeks, according to weather and size of the stalks. Grass land,
however, is not thought favorable for the process in New York, as the
hemp, when imbedded in the grass, keeps wet on the under side, and if
not frequently turned over is liable to mold and the fiber to become dis-
colored and weakened. When water-retted, from eight to eighteen days
are required according to the temperature of the water.

The reader is referred to the chapter on hemp culture in France
in the first part of this report, where it will be seen that water ret-
ting in Brittany requires less than half so long atime. On this point
the growers will be led by experience, and it would be well to begin at
once the water-retting on a small scale, for the sake of the experience
and the knowledge that will be derived from the practice. The French
hemp farmers from time to time break a few stalks, taken from the water
for the purpose, to ascertain the condition of the fiber, so that it may
not become injured from over-retting.

It should be stated that most of the crop of North River hemp grown
last year was retted by the Cabie Flax mills on grass ground. A por

|



71

tion was retted on the stubble ground which produced the hemp. A
smaller portion was retted in stagnant water and some in running water.
Experiments were also made at the Cable Ilax mills in hot-water ret-
ting and likewise by a patented serial retting process consisting of: (1)
Hot-water pressure; (2) A cold-air blast; (3) Steam pressure; (4) A
cold water bath, all done in a revolving iron tank or boiler in about
three hours. The treatment required no chemicals. As the drying is
done under cover the process can be carried on with absolute safety to
the fiber at all seasons of the year.

Mr. Hartshorn says:

The shives or hurds from the hemp when broken out (which is the next process of
the indnstry), furnishes an excellent fuel, quite sufficient to make steam for retting,
drying, and breaking the hemp; hence this process can not be very expensive, while
the fiber produced is lighter in colorand more valuable than by the old out-door pro-
cess. Aside from the cost of building and maintaining a plant for this process, and the
hauling of the straw instead of the cleaned fiber to market, (as when retted and broken
by hand in the field), there can be but little difference in the cost of the two processes,
while the additional value of the fiber and the very present risk of spoiling entire
crops by over-retting out doors, the new process will speedily supersede the old.

The Flax and Hemp Spinners and Growers’ Association of America,
to stimulate to greater interest in the cultivation of hemp, have offered
a reward for the present year to the farmers of Rensselaer and Wash-
ington Counties, as follows: |

Fifty dollars to the farmer who produces the greatest number of acres,
and $25 for the second largest.

Also, $50 for the largest production per acre, and $25 for the second
largest.

HEMP CULTURE IN ILLINOIS.

Since 1860, or even earlier, this State has produced small quantities
of hemp; the census of 1880 showing, however, but 61 tons of fiber, a
great falling off from the production of previous years when there was
a demand for both flax and hemp in bagging manufacture. The indus-
try has had a considerable stimulus recently in several of the eastern
counties, including Champaign, Cole, Iroquois, and Will, through the
efforts of manufacturers and others in this section. The Department
has had considerable correspondence on the subject from Iroquois
County (though the locality has not yet been visited by the special
agent), and some valuable facts have been brought out.

Mr. John Heany states that the hemp is grown extensively for fiber
to be used in the manufacture of binder-twine. The crop now being
manufactured is the seventh successive crop on the same land, and is
said to be far ahead of any previous crop in quantity of fiber produced
to the acre. Mr. Heany believes the method of cultivation and prep-
aration in vogue is not in any way exhaustive to the soil, though the
refuse should be returned to the soil if possible. In hemp culture in
this section nearly everything is done by machinery, which reduces the
cost of production to a very low figure. The seed is sown as early as



(2.

possible—as soon as the ground is in condition—even as early as March
25, the date of sowing last year. The land is plowed in the fallif pos-
sible, and in spring the large disk-harrow is used, followed by the
smoothing-harrow. The seed is put in with a broadcast seeder and
afterwards carefully harrowed. When the crop is ready to harvest it
is cut with mowers, and spread evenly that the retting may be accom-
plished without the labor ofturningover. If rainy, however, the Bullard
hay-tedder is used to change the position of the straw or stalks, and to
expose to the air the inside of any bunches that might be left to the
action of the rains.

When retted, the stalks are raked up with the horse-rake and loaded —
upon wagons to transport to the breaker. Mr. H. says that 8 to 10
tons of straw per day are taken care of. The fiber is not kept in a
straight form, as the twine-makers break it up on the cards, and this
form of fiber suits better. The machinery used by Mr. Heany is a de-
vice of his own and not patented. As to facts he says:

I can furnish the clean fiber at 4 cents per pound at a profit. Iam no theorist; [
have 800 acres of hemp this year betwixt this place and Peotone, Il]. I have shipped
already 60 tons of fiber to the spinning mill this fall and winter, from Buckley. I
have one field of 140 acres from which I am expecting to get 1,500 pounds of fiber to
the acre. It usually costs $15 per acre for rent and labor—on the product of an acre
delivered on board cars. If the people would but take 3,000,000 acres of land out of
the corn and oats and wheat culture, and grow hemp, we gould then consume alJl our
grain at home and save the millions we annually pay out for fibers. It would relieve
the present agricultural depression wonderfully. All this fine country can raise good
hemp wherever it can.raise a good crop of anything else.

Notwithstanding that the aim is to produce a cheap fiber it must be
admitted that this is a careless kind of cultivation which may not
always give satisfactory results. In a recent communication, from
another source, the danger of over-retting is referred to, and the state-
ment made, that in practice a difference of 50 per cent. is found to exist
between well saved and badly saved hemp on the same ground. It will
certainly pay, even with the use of machinery, to give greater care to
the matter of harvesting and retting. Our New York friends have
demonstrated that it is possible to produce good fiber at a low cost, and
the general effort in the North River region is toward improvement
in all operations that will secure a thoroughly good quality of fiber.
The best yield of hemp recorded last season in Illinois was one ton of
tow per acre. Any corn land will grow hemp to perfection.

The success with hemp culture in this section has induced others to
embark in the industry, and during the coming year it will be extended,
not only in the State of Illinois but in others which hitherto have not
been enumerated in the list of hemp-growing States. With the further ~
extension of this industry it is claimed that it will soon be possible to
produce all the fiber needed for binder-twine, and similar uses, that may
be required by thecountry, though it is urged by those interested that
adequate protection should be assured against the cheap labor of India
and other foreign countries.



co
HEMP MACHINERY.

It is said that nearly three hundred patents have been issued in the
United States for machines for breaking hemp, most of them having
proved absolute failures from one cause or another, and the fact remains
that the cumbersome hemp-brake, an affair of the rudest deseription,
has held its own in Kentucky in spite of all efforts to supersedeit. It
is proposed therefore to notice here some recent inventions in this di-
rection which have given promise of success. |

In January I personally inspected at Schaghticoke, N. Y., a power-
brake, the invention of Mr. i. A. Hartshorn, which is described as fol-
lows:

The machine consists of several pairs of fluted rollers, interspersed at intervals
with peculiarly-constructed scutchers, or cleaning rollers, which pierce the hemp
with steel pins, and also beat, shake, and scrape it vigorously, whilé it is held on
either side by the breaking-rollers. By reason of a more rapid motion given to the
scraping are all accomplished while the hemp is passing rapidly through the machine.
The flutes are graduated from very coarse to fine, and the rollers are driven in such a
a manner that the stalks are not crushed, but broken by the most favorable leverage.



The machine, operated by three men, I was told, has already demon-
strated a capacity of 10,000 pounds of stalks, or 30 ewt. of cleaned fiber
in ten hours. It weighs, as at present constructed, abuut 4 tons, though
the inventor claims that it can be materially lightened in many -of its
parts without the sacrifice of necessary strength. One man feeds the
hemp stalks, while a second man, or boy, receives the fiber, which is
ceiven out in a continuous stream at the other end. The fiber is deliv-
ered in its full length.

In the Cable-Mills it is run in connection with the shell-card and hack-
ling machine, which takes the cleaned fiber at once and prepares it for
the next process of manufacture. In the present trial the machine was
not timed.

In a former test, before witnesses, two men cleaned 100 pounds of
retted hemp stalks, yielding 334 pounds of well-cleaned fiber, in five
and three-quarters minutes. From the practical working of the machine
during the past fall it is claimed that it will reduce the cost of hemp-
breaking from $1.25 to 25 cents per handred weight. The “shive” or



74

‘hurds” are used for fuel in place of the best quality of bituminous
coal, and the fact was demonstrated that when used under one boiler of
the series, less coal was consumed under the other boilers using coal as
fuel than when coal was employed for all.

The machine alluded to by Mr. Heany, of Buckly, Ill., his own inven-
tion, and unpatented, he describes as follows:

It consists of a very large brake with fluted rollers—flutes from 14 to 2 inches
deep. The cleaning cylinders are 5 feet in diameter of any desired width, with cross-
bars alternating with loose wings. In the cross-bars are pins, which are used as
combs, about three-quarters inch long, slightly bent back. Under the cylinders are
slats 2 inches apart to let shives through. I use one cylinder close behind the
brakes. The other two cylinders have each one pair of rollers in front to hold fiber
while shives are being cleaned out. The fiber is not left straight. It is claimed
that twine manufacturers prefer this product to straight Kentucky hemp fiber on
account of its superior strength.

The capacity of the machine is not cated nor has it been examined
by the Department of Agriculture. A hon. -orower in the vicinity
writes the Department as follows: |

New machinery will be tried the present season in this section; the brake in present
use is not heavy enough, strong, heavy machinery being demanded. In fact, the de-
mand is for a machine that will produce a good quality of fiber in large quantities at
a small profit.

A Kentucky machine for cleaning hemp, recently tested -in Lexington,
is reported upou by M. A. Scovill, director of the Kentucky Agricult-
ural Experiment Station. It is the invention of Mr. J. D. Shely, of
Lexington.
vill states that the machine is only a model, and has not yet been worked
upon a scale large enough to prove beyond doubt that it will be a suc-
cess.! It is portable, and will occupy in hemp handling about the posi-
tion occupied by the thrasher in wheat raising. In the trial referred
to, which was witnessed by numbers of hemp growers and manufact-
urers, between 50 and 100 pounds of fiber was made, the estimate for a
day’s work, with a force of 10 men, being 8,000 pounds of hemp, at an
expense of $20. The machine is not yet patented though protected by
caveats, as it is desired to further perfect it in certain directions. Mr.
Scovill also states that a number of hemp manufacturers, whose opin-
ions were solicited by him, spoke well of its operations at the trials at-
tended by them.

1Since the above was written another trial of the machine has taken place. From
Mr. Scovell’s letter regarding it, the following extract is taken:

“‘It is the first machine Mr. Shely has made of this pattern on a large working
scale. There was only about one hundred pounds of hemp at the machine and this
was run through in a very few moments. The power used was an eight-horse power
threshing-machine engine, with 80 pounds pressure. While the machine was run-
ning everything went off smoothly, and it certainly did its work well. If it can be
made to run so continuously I can see no reason why it should not be a success, but
I would express no opinion, and will not, until the machine goes into the field and
makes a day’srun. I send you samples of the hurds and fiber by this mail, as they
came from the machine last Friday. I selected the samples myself, and they are
what I consider a fair sample of what the machine did.”



THE RAMIE QUESTION.

What is Ramie? For the benefit of the many who may have only
an imperfect knowledge of the textile, a brief description of the plant
and its uses is herewith presented.

_ Ramie is a plant belonging to the nettle family (Urticacew), which

from time immemorial has been cultivated in China, and known to
botanists by the name Behmeria nivea,' frequently called the stingless
nettle. Itis also known as “ China-grass,” and “ Rhea.” It has long
been cultivated, also, in Japan, in Java, Bornea, Sumatra, and in the
Kast Indies, and during the present century has been introduced into
other countries. Its introduction into the United States dates back to
the year 1855.”

When fully grown the plant attains a height of 4 to 8 feet, clothed
with large ovate-acuminate leaves that are green above and whitish or
silvery beneath, the fiber being formed in the bark which surrounds the
stalk, this having a pithy center. It is of rapid growth and produces
from two to four, or even five, crops a year without replanting, depend-
ant upon the climate where cultivated. In China and Japan, where the
fiber is extracted by hand labor, it is manufactured not only into cordage,
fish-lines, nets, and similar coarse manufactures, but woven into the
finest and most beautiful of fabrics. In England, France, and Germany
the fiber has also been woven into a great variety of fabrics, covering
the widest range of uses, such as lace, lace curtains, handkerchiefs, cloth,
or white goods resembling fine linen, dress goods, napkins, table damask,
table-covers, bed-spreads, drapery for curtains or lambrequins, plush,
and even carpets and fabrics suitable for clothing. The fiber can be
dyed in all desirable shades or colors, some examples having the luster



1For present purposes it is assumed that but a single species of ramie is being
cultivated in the United States. The writer is fully aware, however, that two or
more recognized species of this plant have been under experimental cultivation in
countries that are seeking to introduce the ramie industry, besides a dozen others,
producing ‘‘rhea-like fibers,” in eastern countries. The subject of the scientific
nomenclature of ramie has been an interesting one to botanists, in the countries
where the plant has been introduced, and the Department of Agriculture will insti-
tute a special investi gation into the subject as it relates to our own country in the
near future. The reader is referred to Appendix A, at the close of this report, for
Interesting statements in this connection, relating to culture in France.

See report of the Commissioner of Patents, Agriculture, for 1855, p. 244.
75



16

and brillianey of silk. Itis one of the strongest and most durable of
fibers, is least affected by moisture of all fibers, and from these char-
acteristics must take first rank in value as a textile substance. It has
three times the strength of Russian hemp, while its filaments can be
separated almost to the fineness of silk. In manufacture it has been
spun on various forms of textile machinery, and also used in connection
with cotton, wool, and silk, and it can be employed as a substitute in
certain forms of manufacture, where elasticity is not essential, for all of
these textiles, and for flax also. It likewise produces superior paper,
and can be utilized in the manufacture of celluloid. In short, the uses
to which it may be put are almost endless, and when the economical
extraction of the fiber by machinery is successfully accomplished, it will
become one of the most valuable commercial products of the vegetable
kingdom.

Ramie is a plant of easy cultivation. It has been grown as far north
as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, though for the production of fiber its
culture succeeds best in the Southern States, and particularly those
bordering the Gulf of Mexico. It also thrives well on the Pacific coast,

having been grown with success experimentally in California for sev-
eral years.

The plant is propagated by seeds, by cuttings or by layers, and by
division of the roots. When produced from seed the greatest care is
taken with the planting, as the seed is very small. For this reason
open-air planting can hardly be relied upon, plants started in the hot-
bed giving the best results. After planting, the seeds are covered thinly
with sifted earth and kept shaded from the sun until the young plants
are 2 or 3 inches high, when sunlight is gradually admitted to them.
In five or six weeks they will be strong enough to transplant to the field.

In the East Indian method of propagating by cuttings of the stems,
the spring-grown stems are used, and when fully ripe. Only the well-
ripened portion, where the epidermis has turned brown, is employed,
the stem being divided into lengths that will include three buds, care
being taken to cut a quarter of an inch above and the same distance
below the top and bottom buds. These are planted with the central
bud on a level with the soil. The cuttings are shaded for ten days or
more unless the weather be cloudy or rainy. In India the cuttings are
planted a foot a part, although given more room as the plants mature.

By far the most practical method and the one which will give the
best results in this country, is the propagation by a division of the roots
of old or fully matured plants. The old plants are better than young
ones for the purpose as the root-mass is larger, the tuberous portions
showing a greater number of eyes and therefore giving stronger plants
after division. The practice varies as to distance apart that these are
planted. In India 4 feet apart each way is considered the proper dis-
tance, thongh in France some favor 2 feet apart each way as giving



(a

better results." In a conversation with M. Favier upon this subject
it was suggested by this gentleman that when it was desired to dry the
eut stalks upon the ground where gr own, a system of planting upon
ridges should be followed which would enable the planter to lay the cut
stalks from ridge to ridge in such manner that the air could circulate
freely under them in the furrows, and prevent injury from dampness.
In a former report on the culture of ramie issued by the Department
of Agriculture these directions are given. :

Furrows five or six inches deep, and five feet apart are opened with the plow. The
roots are laid lengthwise in the middle, close in succession if a thick standing crop
is desired, but placed at intervals if nursery propagation is the object in view. The
first mode will absorb 3,000 roots per acre, but will save the labor of often fillirig the
stand by propagation.

The plants are given cultivation at first, being hilled like corn or
potatoes, all weeds being kept down, though after getting a good start,
from the rankness of their growth and the density of the foliage, weeds
will have little chance to grow. These brief directions are sufficient to
enable any one to make a beginning; experience and a familiarity with
the plant and its manner of growth will suggest subsequent treatment
and assist the farmer in establishing the particular practice that it will
be best for him to follow. Southern cultivators choose a deep, rich,
light, and moist soil. Mr. Montgomery, writing on the cuiture of the
plant in the Kangra district of India, says:

A rich loam suits the plants best, but they will grow in any kind of soil, provided
a full supply of moisture be available, combined with thorough drainage.

If sufficient moisture cannot be assured it should be supplied by irri-
gation, a positive essential in many localities where ramie is grown.
It must be remembered, however, that ramie will not thrive in a “ wet”
soil. The ground must be well prepared by plowing to the depth of
ten inches, and well pulverized, and if the land is poor fertilizers must
be applied to bring it up to a good state of fertility. All weeds must



1M. Favier writes thus: ‘‘ The close system of planting, which we recommend, re-
quires for planting 1 hectare the first time about 35,000 to 40,000 plants. If obliged
to purchase these even at 30 francs per thousand, many proprietors would seriously
consider the question before incurring such an expense, and we advise those who wish
to plant ramie to first purchase a few thousand of plants for each hectare which they
may wish to devote to this purpose. By planting in the month of March one can
produce by the month of October in the following year, that is, within eighteen
mouths, or two years if the roots are left until the following March, from each stalk
twenty new stems, or, we will say, an average of fourteen or fifteen, so that from
3,000 original roots planted one will have on hand, and without expense, the plants
necessary for an entire hectare. Mr. Bean. a physician at Suméne (Gard), who has
cultivated ramie with great success and who wrote us an interesting letter in 1880,
was able to detach eighty new plants from a single original root. :

“Some years ago plants sold for 150 francs per thousand; to-day they are not
valued at more than 20 to 30 francs, and in a year from now the price will certainly
fall from 10 frances to 15 francs, while within two or three years proprietors will sup-
ply themselves, or they will courteously exchange the plants among themselves, aa
has become the custom to do with the native grape vines.”



18

be removed from the soil or they will sorely plague the cultivator in the
first year or so until the plants have grown large. When the climate
will admit of producing three crops a year, the cuttings are made at
intervals of about ten or twelve weeks, the first cuttings to be made
about the middle of May, dependent on the season.

STATUS OF THE RAMIE INDUSTRY.

In treating this subject as it relates to America, bearing in mind
~ how much has been written, how much has been claimed, and how large
a number of people are interested in it for one reason or another, I shall
endeavor to confine myself to the simple statement of such recent val-
uable facts illustrating progress as the Department has been able to
obtain. Nor will it be necessary to consider in detail the adaptability
of the plant for cultivation in the United States, as the fact of its suc-
cessful introduction has been fully established and the records of past
experience placed before the world. It has also been demonstrated in
Kurope and to a partial extent in the United States that the fiber can
be manufactured into a great variety of beautiful and useful fabrics
for a wide range of employment in the textile economy. Between these
two positions, however, forming either end of the industrial chain in the
utilization of this plant as a textile product, there is an intermediate
position in which ramie experts agree something has yet to be accom-
plished before unqualified success in the establishment of the industry
can be positively assured. I refer to that stage in the ‘‘ handling” of
ramie between the harvesting of the stalks and the first manipulation
of the ‘“‘cleaned” fiber in manufacture. To those who know nothing of
the story it may be briefly stated that the invention of machinery and
processes for the extraction and cleaning (degumming) of ramie fiber
in the last thirty years in the various countries where experiments are
going on, might foot up a hundred or more, could the entire catalogue
be enumerated.

In spite of this vast inventive effort, ramie, up to the present time,
has not been grown in any country (excepting China and Japan) save
in a limited way, because no machine or process for decortication thus
far has been presented that has filled all the requirements demanded
of a thoroughly practical decorticator. To inventors in our own coun-
try who have been working so indefatigably for the solution of this
problem, some of whom may not fully coincide with this statement, the
suggestion may be made that the Department of Agriculture can only
recognize such facts as have been established by actual tests, and that
mere claims, though honestly made, can not be conscientiously recog-
nized. It is to be hoped in this connection that the Department may
be able at some future time, not too remote, to obtain a knowledge of
the value of every American invention for the decortication of ramie,
by carefully conducted competitive official trials, and we hope that



2

when the plant is finally produced commercially in the South it will be
cleaned by an American machine.

The fact that ramie is grown in no country commercially on an ex-
tensive scale, notwithstanding the large rewards that in past time have
been offered for successful machinery, demonstrates how difficult of
solution is the problem. The present status of the ramie question may
be stated in epitome somewhat as follows:

It is not cultivated as an industry because the growers have no ade-
quate economical means of preparing the fiber formarket. Itis grown
industrially in China, Japan, and to a slight extent in a few other
Eastern countries. It is grown to an exceedingly limited extent also
in portions of Europe and the French colonies in Africa, in some of
the South American republics, and in the British colonies. The com-
mercial demand for the fiber is exceedingly limited, because, first, it has
not been spun as economically asis desirable to make the industry profit-
able; and secondly, the real reason, because the supply of the raw
material is so fluctuating and uncertain there has been no inducement
for manufacturers to put large capital into factories and machinery.’

As there is no present large demand for fiber from the manufacturers,
those who may have produced it in a limited way have found no market
for their product. With a perfected and satisfactory decorticator the
principal obstacle to success with the industry will disappear, manu-
facture will be encouraged, and, from present indications, nearly every
country in the great family of nations where ramie will grow will then
be producing fiber for the world’s market.

It is said that the first attempt to decorticate ramie by machinery
was made in India in 1816, a flax and hemp machine having been sent
out for the purpose from England. Little was accomplished during
the next fifty years, when the attention of inventors was called to the
importance of producing a mechanical decorticator through renewed ex-
periments with culture and the further introduction of the plant into
several countries. The date of the revival of these efforts M. Favier
fixes at about 1870. In America these efforts began at a much earlier
period, for the machine of Dr. Benito Roezl was patented September
17, 1867, and it is said that hundreds of them were made at a foundry
in New Orleans and offered for sale (at $225 each) the next year. The
list of inventions from Roezl down to the present time is a long one, in
which the United States figures conspicuously. And from Roezl to re-

ee ee

1 Exquisite samples of ramie manufacture were in possession of the Department of
Agriculture as long ago as 1867, received from Messrs. Joseph Wade & Sons, Brad-
ford, England. During the last forty years, up to the present time, there have been
factories in operation at various times in different parts of Kurope which have pro-
duced ramie goods, etc., in almost endless variety. And some of these factories have
sunk fortunes in their experiments.

Attention also is called to an announcement which appears in the latter part of this
chapter of the practical results of Mr. Charles Toppan’s experiments in degumming
and spinning this product in the New England States.



80

cent years the literature of the subject has been a record of asserted
successes. Yet, what is a practical ramie-machine? And what has been
accomplished in France, where they are laboring so indefatigably to
produce the successful decorticator ?

Here is a record made by one of the best French machines in actual
field-trials in 1888. With a single machine it required twenty-five days
to decorticate the product of a hectare, or 24 acres. With 20 acres, at
this rate, it would have required two hundred days, and a farmer with
one machine, decorticating three crops produced in a season, on 100
acres, would have to run the machine ten years, of three hundred work-
ing days each, to accomplish it. To state it differently, to decorticate
at this rate the product of a single cutting on 100 acres, in one month
of thirty days, would require eleven machines.

Mr. Hardy, ex-director of the botanical gardens, Algiers, calculates
that a field of ramie over a year old, whose stems had reached a
height of about 6 feet, would produce 48,000 pounds per acre of green
stems and leaves, the leaves representing 20,400 pounds. This gives the
weight of an acre of stripped stalks as 27,600 pounds. The best record
of one of the prize machines at the Paris trials of 1889, working on
green stalks with leaves, was about 132.8 pounds of stalks in eighteen
minutes. Atthis rate it would require almost eleven days to decor-
ticate the 48,000 pounds of stalks on an acre, or a year and eight
months of three hundred working days to the year to clean a single
cutting on 50 acres. Another prize machine decorticated 46 kilograms
of stalks with leaves in eleven and one-half minutes. I was informed
that there were 200 stalks in the bundle. Calling the time ten min-
utes, to avoid the fraction, we have 1,200 stalks an hour, or 12,000 in
aday. It is claimed that Louisiana ramie produces 250,000 stalks per
acre. At the above rate, working with one machine, ten hours a day,
it would require twenty days and eight hours to decorticate the stalks
on a single acre; and on 50 acres, with one machine, for a single cut-
ting of ramie, it woul require about three years and four months. It
should be stated, however, that at an earlier trial, working on 36 kilo-
grams, the deeereention was finished in 2.35 minutes, which, after
making due allowance for chips which were mixed with the ribbons,
would reduce the time given above more than one half. In the
eleven and one-half minutes required to decorticate the 46 kilograms
of green stalks, 15 kilograms, or about 33 pounds, of wet ribbons were
produced, equal to about 1,720 pounds, or 375 pounds of dry ribbons
inaday. This shows that if it does require time to decorticate the
250,000 stalks on an acre of ground, a tremendous yield of fiber is pro-
diced, illustrating the productiveness of the plant in cultivation in
a most forcible manner. See record on page 89.

The recent ramie literature is so voluminous that a tithe of the valu-
able points and suggestions presented could not be considered in the
brief space of these few pages. It is my intention, however, to bring



Si

together in one or two chapters for later publication as much of it as
will prove of interest to the American students of ramie. In studying
closely the recent American literature of this subject, one becomes
aware of two things. Thatan array of interesting facts bearing upon
many phases of the industry have been presented on the one hand; and
that a great deal has been committed to “ cold print,” on the other, which
amounts to useless reiteration of statements that were fresh a dozen
years ago and which, itis to be regretted, are sometimes accompanied
by other statements misleading and untrue.

I recall an exhaustive article on ramie which has lately had wide cir-
culation through the South, in which a statement is made, evidently
taken at random, from another source, to the effect that 250,000 tons of
ramie ribbons are annually shipped to Hurope from China, Japan, Java,
etc.; and that a French firm (named) will contract for 10,000 tons of
ramie monthly.

In a recent letter from Messrs. Ide & Christie, the London fiber
brokers, discussing this very point of demand and supply, it is stated
that ramie ribbons have at no time been shipped to Europe from any
country in large quantity. Three to four hundred tons during the last
five years would represent the maximum quantity brought from China,
while India and other producing countries ‘ have sent little more than
sample lots and trial parcels.” The largest lot of ramie ever received
at any one time was in October, 1888, when 120 to 130 tons of ribbons
were offered in the London market. There was nothing like competi-
tion for it, and I am informed that it was sold for “£8 to £9, less than
half what it costin China.” I introduce these explanations at this time
to illustrate the utter absurdity of the figures often given by careless
writers (and as often referring to cost of production), and to prove also
the truth of the statements made on a previous page regarding the pres-
ent status of the ramie industry. I can but refer at this point to an
article published about a year ago in the Kew Bulletin,’ in which the
writer says that In a word, itis found that ramie fiber when produced



i

1 These are the editor’s conclusions: ‘‘ In order to understand the present position of
the ramie industry it would be useful to adopt some kind of classification of the de-
tails connected with it. In the first place we have the mere business of cultivating
the ramie plant, and of producing stems with the fiber in the best possible condition.
This is purely the work of the planter. Secondly, we have the process or processes
necessary to separate the fiber from the stems in the form of ribbons and filasse. It
is necessary for many reasons that this should be done either by the planter on the
spot or by a central factory close at hand. Thirdly, we have the purely technical and
manufacturing process in which ramie filasse is taken up by the spinners, and utilized
- in the same manner as cotton flax and silk are utilized for the purpose of being made
into fabrics.

‘‘For our present purpose we may take it for granted that the cultivation of the
ramie plant presents no insuperable difficulty. Also that if a suitable selection of
soil is made, and the locality possesses the necessary climatic conditions as regards
heat and moisture, there is no reason to doubt that ramie could be grown to greater
or less extent in most of our tropical possessions. As regards thesecond stage, in which

20789-—No. 1 6





82

is practically unsalable in the London market at the present time.”
The demand has improved, however, within a few months, and prices
ace firm. |

The Department, at this date, knows of no large market in thiscountry
where ramie fiber could be disposed of by farmers were they to produce
it in quantity. Yet farmers are urged everywhere by interested parties
to take up its cultivation, and we are in receipt of letters almost daily
making inquiries upon the subject. Scores of replies have been received,
also, in answer to the Department’s Southern fiber circular, from those
who have grown both jute and ramie in past years experimentally or
in hope of profit. Some of the writers express disappointment that
nothing personally practical has come out of their efforts, and by a few
the matter is viewed in the light of a failure. A considerable number
of the present inquiries come from those who know nothing of the past
history of ramie cultivation in the United States, but who have been
attracted to the subject by glowing accounts of the marvelous value of
the plant as a textile, which have appeared in the columns of the press
recently, and who are anxious to embark in its production. To these
farmers its cultivation means the pursuit of a profitable new industry,
and by holding out to such the golden promises that are frequently
made in the journals of the day. only injury can result and the final es-
tablishment of ramie cultivation among the masses of southern agricult-
ur, sts be retarded.

The object of making these statements is not to discourage farmers
from going into ramie culture at all, but to induce them to take it up with
their eyes open and to caution them to begin its cultivation on a small
scale, until they know something about it by practical experience. Un-
doubtedly there is a great future for the industry, and the Department
would encourage Southern farmers to make small beginnings in order
to obtain needed experience. When a satisfactory and full demand for
fiber can be assured, and the decorticator question is settled, it will be

is involved the decortication of the ramie stems, the problem is by no means com-
pletely solved.

‘*On this really hangs the whole subject. The third stage is disappointing and un-
satisfactory because the second stage is still uncertain, and being thus uncertain the |
fiber is necessarily produced in small and irregular quantities, and only comes into
the market by fits and starts. It would appear that ramie fiber differs so essentially
from cotton and flax that it can only be manipulated and worked into fabrics by means
of machinery specially constructed to deal with it. Owing to the comparatively
limited supply of ramie fiber hitherto in the market no large firms of manufacturers —
have thought it worth while to alter the present or put up new machinery to work
up Ramie fiber. If appliances or processes for decorticating Ramie in the colonies
were already devised, and the fiber came into the market regularly, and in large
quantities—say hundreds of tons at a time, there is no doubt manufacturers would be
fully prepared to deal with it. At present the industry is practically blocked by the
absence of any really successful means of separating the fiber from the stems, and pre-
paring it cheaply and effectively. This after all is the identical problem which has
baffled solution for the last fifty years.” —Bulletin of the Royal Kew Gardens, December, —
1888, p. 298,



83

an easy matter to extend cultivation, and, if necessary, purchase ma- _
chines for the decortication of the product. In spite of past discour-
agements there is a great deal that is hopeful. The very difficulties
that have stood in the way of successfully establishing the industry have
spurred to greater effort. The question is being studied from new points
of view, and every aspect considered that may throw new light upon
the subject, and new discoveries are constantly being made. Re-—
garding the foreign trials Dr. Morris, the assistant director of Kew, has
recently said editorially :

To those generally interested in ramie culture it may be mentioned that the trials
of 1889 have proved much more favorable than those of 1888, and the subject is evi-
dently ripening for solution in many directions not thought of before.!

In the United States a great deal has been accomplished that is en-
couraging. But we must study the subject more carefully in the future
in special relation to our own country, developing the industry on
purely American lines, with regard to the conditions peculiar to our
soil, climate, labor, and finally the manufacturer’s demand for the prod-
uct. We have yet a great deal to learn regarding the cultivation of
the plant before we shall possess the practical knowledge, as it relates
to this country, that the experimenters in France and the French and
British colonies have obtained regarding its cultivation in these coun-
tries. It is one thing to grow ten acres of ramie stalks; another thing
to produce such stalks that an even and uniform fiber may be obtained
from the product of an entire field, and at different seasons. The re-
sult of studies in India some years ago suggested the suspicion that
they might not have been experimenting at all with the plant which
produces the celebrated ‘China grass-cloth,” but with something that
produces an inferior fiber. This is purely a suggestion, says one of these ©
writers, “but it seems highly desirable that we should thoroughly ex-
amine all the plants met with in India which afford rhea-like fibers, as
well as re-examine the plant from which the China grass-cloth 1s de-
rived before much money be spent on experiments with new machin-
ery.” There are even two distinct forms of the fiber which come to the
European market—from China—one bright and grass-like in appearance
as viewed in bundle; the other darker, more greenish in color, and
producing in manufacture indifferent results compared with the first.
One of these grows in Southern regions and the other in the more tem-
perate regions; one is used for fabrics, while the other finds employ-
ment in cordage and the coarser manufactures. I found great dissimil-

arity likewise in the filasse from stalks collected at the Exposition,
grown in different remote regions, and run through the Favier machine
at a private working in Paris. The American stalks produced a good
fiber, equal to the French in appearance, but neither sosoft or so silky
as the filasse from stalks grown in Spain, though, possibly, the stalks
may not have been fully matured.

1 Kew Bulletin, November, 1889, page 274, —



84

M. Favier informs me that there will be the greatest difference in
the stalks from several cuttings. Some will be tough and unyielding,
while others will give up their fiber readily, and it will be of the best
quality. These suggestions are thrown out to urge upon the Southern
growers who are interested in ramie culture the importance of making a
most careful study of the cultivation of the plant under different condi-
tions, that they may learn all there isto learn regarding it, and regarding
best manner of growing it in American soil. And I would urge upon
those who are experimenting with decorticators and processes to en-
deavor to obtain stalks grown in different sections and produced under
varied known conditions, that all points may be fully covered.

Mr. Favier has produced certain good results in Europe by controlling
under one direction and making consecutive the experiments with cul-
sivation, decorticating, degumming, and manufacture.: In this way one
condition is modified to meet the requirements of another, and with an
intelligent oversight of the whole field the chance for mistakes through
blind experiment is proportionately reduced and many difficulties suc-
cessfully overcome. In the same manner, experiments in cultivation
and. the cleaning of the fiber should proceed together in the South to
produce the best results, for the two branches of the industry are so
closely connected, both necessarily must be carried on upon the farm.

One of the problems which we must settle for ourselves is suggested
in the question whether it is best to decorticate the stalks green or dry.
M. Favier favors the dry method and produces some strong arguments
in support of his views which may be applicable to the situation in
America. On the other hand, Dr. Morris and the French official ex-
perts offer strong counter arguments to prove that the drying of a large
quantity of stalks is impracticable and out of the question. Certainly,
if theramie trialsin Paris demonstrated anything, they demonstrated that
thereare many difficulties in the way of working a large quantity of stalks
in the green state. In the limits of this report, however, there is little ©
space for a proper discussion of all the pros and cons of the subject.
Hnough for the present to note some of the conditions which will con-
front the Southern ramie-grower, when the industry will have become ©
general. A climate that will make it essential for him, if he works his
stock green, to decorticate many tons in a very few days, or the ramie,
just right when he commenced to work it, will often be too tough and dry
for his green-working machines before he completes his crop. This
means the use of many machines and a large force of laborers, who
must be especially hired for the-occasion. It also means the careful
after-drying of tons of green ribbons, to avoid fermentation in wass,
before he can bale them for market. Further than this, unless the
coming ramie decorticator is a cheaper machine than those now under
experiment, very few farmers will be able to purchase them, which —
will necessitate a central mill system. With such a system the harvest- —

a

1 See Summary of the Situation, at the close of this chapter.



85

ing of the crop green for immediate decortication is entirely out of the
question. The transportation of 20 tons of ramie stalks even 2 miles,
means the carriage of 16 tons of water that distance. Then if for any
reason the stalks can not be put through the machines when received
and must lie for twenty-four hours, a certain deterioration of the fiber
will ensue from fermentation, or sometimes, from mildew. With the
dry system a short-handed farmer would cure his crop in the field, house
- the stalks, or shelter them near by, and in a time most convenient for
himself, in connection with the other work of the farm, attend to the
cleaning of the fiber, or haul to the central mill as wanted. ‘To sum-
marize: If decorticated green the entire crop must be worked up in a
very few days. If dry, a farmer can take his time, and, as we have
shown, the best machines of to-day require a great deal of time.

Among the encouraging evidences of progress in the United States
may be mentioned the renewed interest that has been developed, in
the past year especially, not only in the South but in different parts of
country, in the matter of experiments with machinery and processes for
the preparation of the fiber. Even the cultivation ofthe plant is at-
tracting attention in various quarters, and some new areas will be
planted the present season, most of the work being under the direction
of ramie companies, or conducted by men who have studied the ques-
tion in all its economic bearings, and are supposed to know what they
are doing. This is quite another matter from hap-hazard embarkation
in the industry by individual farmers who have little money to risk in
such enterprises, and less knowledge to guide them in an undertaking,
where loss, under present existing conditions, is almost inevitable. In
this connection reference is made to a letter produced in the chapteron
jute and other fibers, which explains fully this point. This Texas farmer
was induced to plant 20 acres of jute, on the promise that a decorti-
cator would be available when the crop was ready to cut. His statement
that the crop was never harvested because the decorticator was not pro-
duced is the melancholy sequel to the story. He has probably had
enough of jute culture. A few Southern farmers have suffered from
ramie culture in a similar manner. |

On Oakbourne plantation, near La Fayette, La., [am informed that 90
acres of ramie were under cultivation last year, and as far as the ques-
tion of mere cultivation was concerned the experiment was successful.
I was informed also that ramie was decorticated on the farm last sea-
son, and several bales of the fiber sent to New Orleans, though nothing
could be learned by the Department of their final disposition.. Effort
was also made to secure samples of the fiber, but none have been re-
ceived up to the present time. Recent outside advices, however, prove
that the promoters of the enterprise have found themselves confronted
with the knotty decorticator problem, and for the present matters are
at a standstill, though the experiments will proceed this season. a



86

Through Mr. Felix Fremerey, of the Ramie Planting Association of
Texas, located at Yorktown, it is learned that Mr. Frederick Natho, who
produced the fine samples of ramie shown by the Department at the
Paris Exposition, will plant a large area this season on the lands of the
Pioneer Irrigation Company at Pecos City. |

The Department is also informed from anothersource that small areas
will be planted in Florida. The Ramie Company of America, of which
Mr. Burnet Landreth, of Philadelphia, is president, will put in limited
areas in Bristol, Pa., in Virginia,in Florida, and Alabama, the roots
to be used for extending cultivation another year. Iam also informed
that there are plantations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and
Georgia, and on the Pacific slope, where small areas will be grown the
present season, and at some of the State agricultural experiment sta-
tions a few roots will be planted. Itis to be hoped that the cultivation
of these small areas, will continue, and that those who grow ramie even
in a small way will make careful notes of their experiments and observa-
tions, for there is not the slightest doubt that the men who are most
familiar with the details of the agricultural side of the question, when
other questions have been satisfactorily settled, will be the first to profit
from growing the fiber commercially.

The subject of American machines and processes is an interesting
one. It was intended when the present report was being outlined to
devote a chapter to their consideration. Very little material has been
obtained, however, and rather than make an imperfect and incomplete
report on this mostimportant branch of the subject, it has been thought
wisest to delay the publication of this matter until definite statements
can be made. In this connection it is hoped that all who are interested
in machines or processes for the cleaning and preparation of ramie
fiber will send such descriptions of them, as they may see fit, with
claims as to capacity, etc., to the Department of Agriculture, for record,
or for examinationif desirable. The recent correspondence in the fiber
section of departmental work attests the wide-spread interest that exists
in this matter, and it is earnestly hoped that further communications
will be received. In this connection attention is called to Appendix B,
at the end of the report.

Before closing this subject, however, it may be interesting to record
the recent experiments of Mr. Charles Toppan, of Salem, Mass., in de-
gumming and manufacturing ramie fiber from the raw product grown
in China. Under instructions from the Department of Agriculture,
last January I visited Mr. Toppan at his chemical laboratory in Salem,
where the details of his process for degumming ramie were examined
with greatest interest ; thence to the works in Peabody, Mass., where
the raw fiber is treated by the ton; and thence to Providence, R. L.,
where, in company with Mr. Toppan and his son, Mr. Arthur L. Toppan,
Mr. John Richie, jr., of Boston, and Messrs. Thomas Mabbett and Ben-
jamin M. Earle, of Providence, the entire process of preparing and





87

spinning the degummed ramie on woolen machinery was witnessed to
the point of yarn production. The yarn has already been produced in
quantity, and I am informed finds a ready market in New York City, at
good prices. In a recent letter received from Mr. Toppan he says:

I am now carding and spinning yarns on both woolen and cotton machinery, no
changes being made with either. I have spun commercially both coarse and fine
yarns, and this by the ton. These yarns bring 75 cents to $1 per pound in the gray};
and in colors $1.50 to $2 per pound. You will note in the samples sent I have a jet
black—a color never produced in ramie before, as] am informed. Cotton, worsted,
and silk colors all take readily and are fast. We are in the market for American-
grown ramie, paying the market price for the same quality of ramie ribbons that we
are now using. ‘The decortication is an important part of the treatment. There are
many decorticators in the field, all having the same vital defects regarding quantity
and simplicity of construction.

Recently some beautiful samples of fringes have been received from
Mr. Toppan, which are already on the market, and orders have been
received by him for yarns for the manufacture of sail cloth, hard
twisted yarns for hammocks, and some other manufactures, specimens
of which are early promised.

From a knowledge of Mr. Toppan’s process I am satisfied that the
important results he has attained in the manufacture are due to the
fact that the degumming is carried only to the point where a filasse is
produced, which, when separated and broken into short lengths on the
fearnaught and garnet machines, is sufficiently soft and pliant to work
well on woolen machinery. —

It should be borne in mind, however, that the fiber, in the condition
in which it is left after drying, is only applicable to one form of spinning.
In Burepe, ramie has been worked almost wholly upon line-spinning
machinery, where it is necessary tokeep the filaments straight, or paral-
lel, like flax or silk. Both silk and woolen machinery have been used
abroad, of the latter, that for working ‘long wool,” though the use of
flax machinery, with modifications to adapt it to all the reqirements of
the new fiber, has been thought to give the best results. With the
process under consideration there is more or less tangling or interlacing
of the filaments which would make it quite difficult to prepare the fiber
for line spinning without some loss. Even with the best systems of
degumming followed abroad, and I was told there were several
factories for the purpose, there is more or less of this trouble, and
in French manufacture a large percentage of waste fiber is produced
which must be sold at a low price for other uses. It would appear,
therefore, that perfectly satisfactory results in this branch of the
manipulation of the fiber have not been attained in either country.
Mr. Toppan’s discoveries are important, but to this extent he does not
cover the whole ground. This tangling of the filaments, when the
fibrous mass is manipulated in solutions, is one of the many difficulties |
that enter into the ramie problem. Regarding the Toppan experiments,
however, this much is proved, that by spinning a short length fiber in



88

the form of wool, it is possible to utilize all “ waste” from combing,
even should it amount to 60 per cent., in a form of manufacture that
makes it about as valuable as the straight fiber that has been combed
out. If these New England experimenters have done nothing else.
they have shown how to degum and spin ramie in an economical man-
ner, and have been the first American manufacturers who hive actually
placed ramie.products on the market, and made a demand for the raw
material in large quantities. :

Since the preparation of this report a small sample of cloth for suit-
ings has been received from Mr. Burnet Landreth, president of the
Ramie Company of America. A few yards of this fabric were manu-
factured for the company (made February 20, of this year) on woolen
machinery, from American and Chinese ramie, a very little cotton
having been mixed with the fiber to facilitate the operation of spinning.
Figures as to price of the goods were not given, nor the name of the
woolen mill stated. The American ramie was ae on the farm at
Bristol, Pa.

There are two forms of the Chinese product, as has been previously
Stated, the white and the green, costing practically the same as imported,
yet in manufacture showing considerable difference in value from a vari-
ation in the percentages of loss both in preparation and spinning. This
suggests the idea that when ramie is grown commercially in America
there will be great differences in quality at first, and anew difficulty will
arise, of establishing standards and fixing values. And in this connec-
tion I shall await with great interest the result of the first trials of

manufacture with American-grown ramie produced in commercial quan-
tity. The imported “ grass” thus far has been used in manufacture, and
if Mr. Toppan’s enterprise should be greatly extended, it is a question
whether he will not find himself in exactly the same nasition in which
other ramie spinners in Europe have found themselves placed—ham-
pered by a small] and uncertain supply of the raw material. Mr. Top-
pan states that he will purchase American-grown-ramie at the market
price of the foreign, if it is of the same quality, which, with duty and
transportation across the sea added, amounts to about 9 cents a pound.

As to the question of quality, the Chinese article, as hand-stripped
and cleaned, is brighter than any machine-prepared I have yet seen,
some of the machine-prepared being simply in the form of ribbons or
flat strips of fiber with the outer pellicle still adhering. This could
not be graded with the thoroughly cleaned imported grass, though the
Providence manufacturers would prefer it in this form to ramie cleaned
chemically, which might not give so good results with their process. |
Those who may have ramie to sell in the future, therefore, will do well
to ascertain the exact form in which it will be purchased.



89
SUMMARY OF THE SITUATION. _

From the foregoing it may appear to some readers of these pages that
the situation is rather discouraging. It can only be regarded so in the
light of the rose-tinted statements frequently made regarding the in-
dustry, wherein are set forth the ease and profits of cultivation, with no
whisper as to the reasons why the industry has not been established.
Having glanced at the facts of the case, let us summarize the situation.
The Huropean supply of commercial ramie (that which can be purchased
in open market) comes from China. It is produced there in a small
way and prepared by tedious methods, which give but a very few pounds
of the “ China grass” a day—less than 2 pounds, one writer asserts—
the operations, according to Michotte, being as follows: The freshly
cut stalk is stripped of its leaves and scraped with a bamboo knife to
raise the pellicle or outer bark. This done, the fibrous part is extracted
in small ribbons. The further preparation consists in boiling these rib-
bons in lye water; that is, in water and ashes. They are then spread
out upon the houses to dry, the operation being repeated several times,
the final result being the extraction of about 25 per cent. of the gum.

In manufacture the filaments of ramie are deftly tied or joined together,
end to end, and the delicate thread thus formed is woven into the won-
derful fabric that bears the name of China grass cloth. With only such
rude preparation of the filasse and laborious manufacture the situation
would be indeed discouraging, yet for hundreds of years ramie has been
manufactured in this manner in Eastern countries. Contrast with these
statements some of the facts brought out in this report. From a pro-
duction of 2 or 3 pounds of ribbons per day by one man, we can now
produce by existing machines (even though they are not fully satisfac-
tory) over half a ton of ribbons in ten hours. The record of one of the
irials of the Landtsheer machine, at Paris last summer, demonstrated
that 22 pounds of wet ribbons could be produced in two and one-half
minutes, which, with an allowance of 20 per cent. for chips and refuse,
is equal to 1,400 pounds of dry fiber per day; and a later trial of the
Favier machine demonstrated a capacity of 1,100 pounds in a day of
ten hours. In this connection the importance of a thorough official
test of American ramie machines can not be too strongly urged, in order
that we may know precisely what America is doing in this direction,
and that American inventors may have an opportunity to prove their
claims and compare results with their French confreres.

The results of the foreign trials have inspired such confidence in the
establishment of the industry in the near future that ramie companies
are forming everywhere. In our sister republic of Mexico large tracts
of land have been set aside for ramie culture and planting begun, and I
am informed that French and American machines will be imported into
the country to make practical field tests the present season. The South
American republics also are active. In Venezuela alone some 2,500 acres —



90

of land have been given by the Government to aramie company, which
has already made a beginning with cultivation. Even Cuba is inter-
ested in the new fiber, and a year ago imported French machinery for
actual field experiment, and fiber has been produced in salable quantity
in the Sandwich Islands.

It is worth recording that the French Ramie Association ( La Ramie
Francaise”), of which M. P. A. Favier is the head, put in operation last
year three decorticating establishments in France, Spain, and Hgypt,
respectively. The association has also a spinning mill operating 2,500
spindles. Its contracts with agriculturists cover 350 hectares of land
in the three countries named above.

I have shown in another part of the report how long a time is required
to decorticate the product of 50 acres with one of the present machines,
but only a hint was given of the tremendous yield of fiber that can be
produced on an acre of ground. In I'rance, it is claimed,. by estimates
based on the weight of stalks that can be produced on a hectare, and
after considering the expenses of cultivation and decortication, that an
income of 1,500 franes per hectare is possible the third year. This is
equal to about $120 per acre. There is no question but that ramie cult-
ure will pay well when the industry is fairly established; and the very
fact that it will prove so remunerative wili spur to greater effort to
overthrow all remaining obstacles. :



JUTE AND OTHER FIBERS,

Regarding jute there is little that can be added to that which hag
previously been said in the many reports emanating from this Depart-
ment. It has. been satisfactorily demonstrated over and over again,
that we can produce a fine quality of fiber and in any quantity. The
nearer approach to a successful solution of the ramie machine problem ~
is most encouraging for jute culture. There are a number of machines
in the United States that are claimed to have done fairly good work,
we are well aware, and we are hoping much from them, though, if asked
to do so, the Department could not, at the date of publication of this
report, refer its correspondents to a purchasable machine upon which
the decortication could be economically accomplished. We have even
endeavored to place a description of one of these machines before the
readers of this report, because of the claims that have been made for it,
but when the mechanical drawings were received the Department was
requested, for reasons given by the inventor in the letter accompanying,
to publish only an indication of the principle with a statement of what
the new machine would do when completed. Under such circumstances
- the Department can only wait until positive statements can be made.
A machine that. will decorticate ramie will strip jute, and probably,
with some slight changes, other bast fibers. The problem which has
confronted the world with regard to ramie is almost identical, therefore,
with that which has proved the stumbling block of the jute industry
and other good fibers as well. |

For the benefit of those who may wish to make a trial with jute, a
brief description of the cultivation of the plant will be given, though
the remarks that were made regarding the advisability of farmers going
into the culture of ramie apply equally to this fiber. Here is an extract
from the Texas letter referred to on a former page: coe

I was handed a circular from your Department making inquiry about fibers and
their culture. Something more than two years ago a man came here (a Frenchman)
and organized a jute manufacturing company with a subscribed capital of $25,000.
The same party had a decorticator which he was to furnish to work up the jute ready
for manufacturing purposes. In order tu get the thing started they made a contract
with me to plant, cultivate, and harvest 20 acres of jute at $20 per acre, the company
to furnish the seed. I had black land, part loam, and about one-third stiff land. I
prepared the land by breaking with two-horse plow and harrowing well. Planted

first about 15th to 25th of March, which proved to be too early. The seed rotted in

the ground. I planted about two-thirds of it over about the 1st of May, sae made



92

It a little too late to obtain the largest growth. The second planting I got a good
stand and it all made a very satisfactory growth from 6 to 9 feet high, with an aver-
age of about 7 4 feet. It is very tedious to work with when it first comes up, and re-
quires the weeds and grass to be cleaned by hand-picking, asno tool can be used to work
among the plants. This crop was raised in 1888, and was never harvested. Theman
that organized the company was to have the decorticator here by the time the jute
was ready to cut,but he went from here to New York and we lost track of him, so
we had no machinery to work the crop with. The crop bore an abundance of seed,
but the pods burst open and spilled the seed out. With machinery to separate the
fiber we can raise either jute or ramie on our valley lands. * * *

The extract tells its own story and comment is unnecessary. Refer-
ence may be made also to an item in the Manufacturers’ Record to the
effect that a prominent manufacturer in Ohio will buy 2,500 tons of jute
fiber the present season, and pay 4 centsapound forit. Themarket price
for the imported article in the New York market is from 24 to 44 cents.

If our Southern farmers have means to decorticate it, and can grow it

with a profit to themselves and seli the cleaned fiber at 4 cents a pound,
there is probably a large demand for it already, because what one juto
manufacturer can afford to do another can do, and if a prime article is
produced, no manufacturer can lose anything at the figure quoted. It
is stated that jute can be grown in Texas at a cost of 21 to 21 cents a
pound, and yield the farmers $40 to $60 per acre.' This is a very good
showing, but at the same time we would advise no one to go into the
culture extensively until he has assured himself, by a knowledge of every —
step from seed to fiber, that he can produce it profitably. Undoubtedly
when these fiber industries are fairly started, and a steady market is
assured, they will be the means of putting considerable money in the
pockets of the Southern farmers, a consummation devoutly to be wished,
and for the realization of which the Department of Agriculture will do
all in its power.

The following regarding the cultivation of jute is by Mr. Felix
Fremerey, before referred to, who has had practical experience in its
cultivation. The two varieties are Corchorus capsularis and C. olitorius.

The seeds of both varieties are sown as soon as the soil gets warm—about the be-
ginning of April—in drills some 5 or 6 inches apart, taking about 15 pounds of seed
to the acre of the former, and, of the latter, about 20 pounds.

The olitorius kind growing faster, its stalks will be matured enough for cutting in
about seventy or eighty days after sowing. When the stems have reached a length
of some 8 or 9 feet, its filasse being a very fine structure, it will command a higher
price. The capsularis stems will grow to a height of from 9 to 10 or 11 feet in about
eighty or ninety or one hundred days, when they should be cut. In every case none
of either species should be allowed to grow any longer than to their blooming time, by
risk of the stalks branching out and rendering their decortication very difficult if not
impossible. The best mode for cutting is by means of a mowing-machine having a
dropper attachment. Farmers not having a degumming apparatus at their dis-
position will be compelled to operate this manipulation in a pool or tank, or in run-
ning water. The ribbons, before getting dry, are tied in bundles of from 50 to 60
pounds and carried to the water, where the decomposition of the glutinous matter is



‘These figures are given on the authority of Prof. 8. Waterhouse of St. Louis.



93

achieved in six to ten days, according to the degree of the warmth of the water. When
the gum is properly destroyed by fermentation, the fibers are submitted to a thorough
washing, then dried in the sun or some place in the barn, when they are ready for
packing. The market price of jute filasse is mostly dependent upon the care in its
preparation.

The earlier experiments of the Department proved that the plant re-
quires a hot damp climate and a moist soil of sandy clay or alluvial
mold. 3 ;

The advantage of jute production to the South is made apparent by -
a glance at our jute imports in a single year. These amount to a total
of $7,000,000. The latest quotations per pound for the different grades
of jute are as follows:

Cents.
Jute butts, bagging quality. ..- 2.0 2.00 cece cow eee nnn e cme en one nwo ne wae nee 28
Jute butts, paper stock... - 2. 2... pete cee cee cers mater se ecse esas comnences- 12
Rejections -. 0.20. cee ene cone e wee core cee e cee cee cee ee enn cece ween cece nes 2-24
Jute: (fiber)... 2. 2. oe oes n cee e snes cask ee con nes cogs eames een nnes oreo mene ennees 24-4}

If jute is placed on the free list with sisal, manila and other foreign
cordage fibers it will be very difficult to compete with it, for prices are
lownow. But itis said that American agriculture can receive no ben-
efit from a duty on jute, because farmers can not produce it commer-
cially for want of decorticating machinery. Recalling the interest in
the jute bagging question, it should be borne in mind, however, that if
we are not growing jute we are producing a good quality of bagging
from low-grade cotton, and also from pine fiber. And with the thou-
sands of tons of flax straw produced every year on western farms, and
which now is wasted, every pound of jute imported for bagging pur-
poses represents so much money that ought to go to the farmers of our
own country.

=

OTHER FIBERS.

Considerable interest has been aroused recently in regard to okra.
This plant, which thrives everywhere in the South, furnishes a valuable
fiber, some very fine specimens of which have lately been received.
Sisal hemp can be grown in Florida, remarkably fine samples of this
fiber also having been sent from several localities. But the catalogue
is a long one, many interesting additions to the list having been made
in the last two or three months, including a malvaceous plant growing
wild over several States, the fiber of which, grown in India, is stated
to be more valuable than jute.

There are many other fibrous plants, that are now erowing or that can
be grown in the South, of which considerable might be said. The investi-
gation, as it relates to these Southern fibers, however, has hardly been
more than begun; and while a great deal of important information has
already been collected, so much ground has yet to be covered that it
must be left for the later report.



94

To conclude, within the length and breadth of our country we have
- resources in this direction the proper development of which would put
millions of dollars in the pockets of American farmers annually, and
save to the United States immense sums now paid to fiber producers in
other countries. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the farmers of the
United States, North and South, will study the question as it relates to
themselves individually, with the end to securing all information possi-
. ble that may help them to make a beginning. The success of any in.
dustry depends largely upon how well it is conducted. With new or
untried industries there is all tbe more necessity to make haste slowly.
An intelligent appreciation of the whole situation will go far towards
bringing about the desired result in regard to fiber culture, while spas-
modie and hap-hazard attempts to set it on its feet will only result in
disappointment and failure, and put us back a decade.



A

a
PPHN DICH.

95







Apprenpix A.

BOTANICAL CONSIDERATIONS ON THE RAMJE QUESTION IN FRANCE.

The following considerations, touching upon the species and varieties
of ramie cultivated in France, are taken from statements made by M.
P. A. Favier, in“ La Ramie.” 3

_ In our description we will preserve the denominations adopted by the ~
greater number of those who have treated upon this subject but, as in
the varieties which we are going to describe, and of which we have the
living species before our eyes, we do not recognize but two really dis-
tinct species, we will avoid the first confusion by making the distine-
tion in our agricultural practice of two species only, which we denomi-
nate white ramie and green ramie.

In the white ramie we possess two varieties, to each one of which we
will apply the name best adapted to the appearance of the plant. To
that one which has the under part of the leaf entirely silvered, and is
snow-white, we will preserve the name of ‘‘nivea,” while to that which
has the under part of the leaf only approaching the white, we will apply
the name of “candicans.” The nivea has the leaf slightly tapering
towards the petiole. The upper part of the leat is bright green and
the lower side is a uniform white, which is entirely silvered over in the
young leaves, and which takes on a regular grayish white when they
become matured. The veins on the under side are slightly colored.
The dry leaves recover their whiteness and the veins preserve a reddish
brown coloring. This species resists cold better than the greener
species, and could perhaps be acclimated in the southwest. It is this
species which Colonel Nicolle is said to have eultivated with success
at Jersey, in the British Channel, and in Dordogne.

Its vegetation is earlier than that of the other species, but its yield
is inferior in quality to the green, as it produces less stalks, and does
not grow as high as that; the quality of the fiber is also less resistant
and much less abundant. It is, in our opinion, the same as they culti-
vate in China under the name of Tchou-Ma, and which produces the
nagnificent fiber which comes to us from that country. In Europe,
during the first years of the plantation, this has a tendency to ramify,
and the stalks: present the difficulty of becoming withered in desicca-

20789—No. 1—_—7 , ote





98

tion, which robs it of a great part of its value. This difficulty seems
to disappear in the older plantations.

The candicans, in the deseription of which we made some reserva-
tions in our preceding edition, is the species which had been introduced
into the south of France under the name of nivea. It resists cold still
better than the nivea. Itis the species which was tried in belgium
in 1860. In the garden of acclimation, in Paris, it can pass the winter
in the open grounds, while the other forms have to be sheltered. It
has on the under part of the leaf a less decided white appearance than
the nivea. The veins are of a grayish white tint which conforms to the
color of the groundwork of the leaf as its development progresses. As
in the nivea, the white loses its intensity in proportion as the leaf ap-
proaches its maturity, and remains a grayish white after desiccation,
with the veins brown. The upper side of the leaf is dark green, and it
is more tapering towards the petiole than the nivea ; but all these dif-
ferences must be carefully observed to prevent confusion between these
two varieties of white ramie. This has a growth lower in stem than
the green ramie, or the nivea, and this is its most distinctive charac-
teristic. Its tendency to ramify is so great during its first years that
it often grows in quite bushy forms. This objection disappears also in
the older plantations, but the stalks remain slender and short and
although they may grow thickly the agricultural yield is very inferior.

The utilis or tenacissima, or green ramie, has the leaf quite heart-
shaped toward the petiole. In thisit is quite distinct from the varieties
of white ramie, in which the leaves are more tapering towards the pet-
lole, and this difference alone makes it easy to distinguish them. The
upper part of the leaf is light green, the lower part is also light green,
Sometimes covered with a grayish down, which appears in the squares
formed by the veins. These veins, which are slightly paler than the
green of the leaf, are very prominent. This species has a very vigorous
growth; it produces the highest and most numerous stalks and the
quality of its fiber, which is more abundant than in any of the other
_ Species, is of the most tenacious kind, making it well worthy of the
name of “ tenacissima.” It grows in the warmest climates, but can re-
sist cold to the extreme of 6 to 8 degrees, and even support 10 degrees
(centigrade) by taking certain precautions, but it requires a high and ~
even temperature during the period of vegetation. This is the species
which we recommend to be cultivated in the south of France, in Spain,
Portugal, Italy, Egypt, Algeria, in our colonies, and wheresoever the
climate wili permit, because of its agricultural yield, which we estimate
at one quarter more than that of other species, and because of the
superiority of its fiber in spinning into thread. Manufacturers will
purchase the product of this species at a higher price than the others,
whieh can perhaps be cultivated in certain countries but with smaller
yield.



AppEenpix B. -

CIRCULAR OF INQUIRY IN REGARD TO FIBER CULTURE OR MACHINERY.

The Department is extremely desirous of obtaining all information
possible from those who may have interesting statements to make
regarding success or failure with the cultivation, experimental or other-
wise, of various fibrous plants in the United States. The question of
machinery or processes for the preparation or decortication of fibrous
plants is also an important subject of inquiry, and all who are interested
in matters pertaining to either branch of the investigation now being
pursued by the Department are earnestly solicited to aid the Depart-
ment by such brief statements as they may feei inclined to present,
The following circular in relation to this matter was sent out at the
beginning of the present year.

FIBER INVESTIGATION.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
Washington, D. C., January 1, 1890.

Sir: The interest in fibers among farmers and others, and the necessity for extend-
ing the range of agricultural production as the numbers of rural laborers increase,
have led to an investigation in Europe and in this country which is intended to be
as thorough and practical as possible.

During the last twenty years, at various times and in many localities in the United
States, experiments have been undertaken relative to the cultivation of a number of
fiber-producing plants indigenous or introduced, a list of which is given below. ‘The
Department is desirous of securing information from every source bearing upon the
success or failure of experiments with the cultivation of any of these fiber plants, and
I beg to call your attention to the following questions, hoping you will be able to
aid us with information upon the subject as far as possible, without, however, taxing
too severely your time and patence:

LIST OF FIBROUS PLANTS.

Flax, Linum usitatissimum. Bear grass (Dasylirion graminifolium).
Hemp, Cannabis sativa. American aloe, (Agave Americana).
Ramie, or China grass (Boehmeria nivea). | Sisal hemp, ‘‘ lenequin” (Agave-Sisal-
Indian jute (Corchorus olitorius and capsu- ana).

laris). Spanish bayonet, Adam’s needle, ete.
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). (Yucca ; species).

Swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos). | Palmetto (Sabal and Chamerops).
Indian mallow, “American jute” (Abuti- | Pine apple, Ananassa sativa, and Brome-
lon avicenne). lia—species.
There are many other plants on the Department list, but the above are the princi-
pal ones. ; oe



100

INFORMATION DESIRED.

1. Names of fibers from above list grown either in large or sinall quantities, for ex-
periment or otherwise, at any time during the past twenty years, in your locality or
State, and names and addresses of experimenters or growers of such fibers, stating as
far as possible the extent of experiments and the period or year when such experi-
ments were made or the plants cultivated. :

2. Names of any person or persons who are or have been interested in any form of
new machine or device for the extraction of fiber of above plants, or any fiber-pro-
ducing plants in your State, as well as name of any persons who have experimented
in any way with the extraction of fiber from fiber-producing plants.

3. If you have had any personal experience in the cultivatien or manipulation of
any of the above fibers, brief statements relating to such experience, with accounts
of success or failure, will be thankfully received. -

Very respectfully,
J. M. Rusk,
Secretary.

The interest in ramie machinery and processes is increasing. Our
country has held a prominent position in the field of invention, in this
direction, since the revival of the question of ramnie cultivation a quar-
ter of a century ago. The Department has records of many of these
machines and processes, but it is important to complete the list, and
especially in regard to proposed official trials of ramie or other fiber
machinery that may be made at some future time.

Those who may wish to submit samples of any fibers, or even speci-
mens of indigenous fiber-producing plants (and such are invited) will,
upon receipt of a letter indicating the fact, receive instructions for for-
warding the specimens without cost to the sender for postage. Com.
munications on this subject should be addressed to the Secretary of
Agriculture, the words “Fiber Investigation,” also being inscribed on

the envelope, in one corner.



Full Text
DEPARIMENT OF AGRICULIURS

FIBER INVESTIGATIONS.

Report No. 1.



A PORT

ON

FLAX, HEMP, RAMIE, AND JUTE,

WITH

CONSIDERATIONS UPON FLAX AND HEMP CULTURE IN EUROPH,
A REPORT ON THE RAMIE MACHINE TRIALS OF 1889
IN PARIS, AND PRESENT STATUS OF FIBER
INDUSTRIES IN THE UNITED STATES.

BY

CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,
SPECIAL AGENT.

AINW OF EL
PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY OF THE/SECRELARY OM AG RS

i
| US DEPOSsTORY >
SECOND EDITION: . 2a erent mn Goce






any
j

Se

—

WASHINGTON:
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
1892,
eae ts ea


PEELE OF TRANSMURAL 7.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
OFFICE OF ASSISTANT SECRETARY, _
Washington, D. O., March 10, 1890.
Sin: [have the honorto transmit herewith for your approval the spe-
cial report on fiber investigations made in pursuance of your instruc-
tions, by Mr. Charles Richards Dodge, under my direction.
The interest in this subject is widespread, and the inquiries which
have reached me in regard to it are numerous. eS
I take pleasure in recommending its early publication.
I have the honor to remain, sir, yours respectfully,
EDWIN WILLITS,
Assistant Secretary.
Hon. J. M. Rusk, :
Secretary of Agriculture.

LETTER OF SUBMITTAL.

U. 8. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
| March 1, 1890.
Sir: In accordance with instructions in my commission from the
Secretary of Agriculture, under date of July 11, 1889, I have the honor
to submit herewith a report embodying the account of my investiga-
tions and studies in Europe last season, in relation to flax and hemp
culture, and flax and ramie machinery and processes, together with
special chapters on the present status of the flax, hemp, ramie, and jute
industries in the United States. In the preparation of this document
many interesting and useful facts have been omitted necessarily, for
reasons given in my introductory remarks, but I trust enough has been
presented to fully answer the questions of the many correspondents of
*the Department, and others, who are seeking information relating to
these fibers, at the present time.
I am, sir, respectfully yours, ?
| CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,
Special Agent, In charge of Fiber Investigations.

Hon. EDWIN WILLITS,
Assistant Secretary.

INTRODUCTION.

During the season of 1889 I spent some six months in Europe, where,
among other things, | was commissioned to study the foreign practices
or methods of fiber culture, chiefly of flax and hemp, and to investigate
the new machinery for the cleaning of these fibrous plants, as well as
the important machines or processes for the decortication of ramie.
Through my official connection with the American Commission to the
Paris Exposition, many facilities for the pursuit of this undertaking
were afforded which otherwise might not have been available, and
through which I was able to secure much valuable information. At the
close of my labors in behalf of the American Commission, the inquiries
were continued as a special agent of the Department of Agriculture,
and on my return to the United States in November last, a similiar line
of investigation was entered upon for this country, with a view to bring-
ing the knowledge of the progress and present status of the fiber in-
dustry, on both sides of the ocean, up toe date. It was intended to em-
body this information in a special report, to be published at an early
date, and which should cover the ground as completely as possible. As
the work proceeded, however, and was pushed in different directions,
it soon appeared that only a small part of the valuable material which
would be available could be published in a bulletin of forty or fifty pages,
as originally intended, and to wait for the completion of the full report
would delay too long the printing of the special information obtained
abroad, which it was desired to publish at once. The present report is
issued, therefore, as preliminary to the final report, in which not only
flax, hemp, ramie, and jute will be treated as fully as possible, but many
other fibers of commercial interest, or that might from their cultivation
add to the resources of our country.

The present report is arranged in two parts, the first relating to Abar
matters and machines in Europe, while in the second is presented some
interesting facts regarding the present status of flax and hemp culti-
vation in the United States, together with some important statements
bearing upon ramie. Much interesting material upon the subject of
indigenous fiber plants, or others which might be successfully cultivated
here, has been collected, but this must necessarily await the publication

of the later report. |
a.
8

Before closing, I wish to make my acknowledgments to the follow-
ing persons to whom I am especially indebted for favors or assistance °
in the prosecution of my investigations abread. To General William
B. Franklin, commissioner-general of the United States to the Paris
Exposition of 1889, for his kind co-operation in and hearty appreciation
of the work in hand. In France, to M. Leopold Faye, minister of agri-
culture, M. Eugene Tisserand, director of agriculture, and M. Henri
Grosjean, inspector of agricultural instruction, for official papers and
special information. ToM. P.A. Favier, of Paris, for statements regard-
ing ramie culture and manufacture, together with a complete series of
specimens. To Alfred Renouard, jr., of Lille, for references and in-
formation. In Belgium to M. J. Cartuyvels, director of the administra-
tion of agriculture, for sets of official documents, and to M. Paul De
Vuyst, state agronomist, and to Prof. Adolphe Damseau, director of
the state agricultural experiment station, who visited with me some
of the flax fields of the Brabant, and furnished me with valuable facts
regarding the special practice in this district and in other portions of
Belgium as well. To M. Frederick D’Hont, director of the communal
laboratory of chemistry and agriculture at Courtrai, through whose untir-
ing endeavors I was enabled to learn much regarding the culture and
management of flax in Flanders, and especially of the treatment of flax
along the River Lys.

For valuable aid and kind offices in England I am indebted to Dr.
D. Morris, assistant director of the Royal Gardens, Kew, and to Edmund
J. Moffat, United States deputy consul-general, London, for assistance
and favors. In Ireland I was placed under obligations to Mr. John Orr
Wallace, Mr. William Morton, secretary of the Flax Supply Association,
to Mr. F. W. Smith, editor of the Irish Textile Journal, and to Mr. J.
Carmichael Allen, for useful information, statistics, and documents.
And I gratefully recall the memory of another Belfast gentleman
whose acquaintance was made in Paris, and to whom I was indebted
for much that made my brief stay in Ireland pleasant and instructive,
and through whose influence doors were opened to me that might other-
wise have remained closed, the late William K. Brown, J. P., of the firm
of John 8S. Brown & Sons.

To the flax and hemp manufacturers and growers in the United
States, the ramie experimenters, and all others in this country, who
have taken an interest in the present investigation, or have in any
way aided in the work, I beg to make acknowledgment, and to thank
them for their kind efforts in behalf of American agriculture.
PART I.

FIBER INDUSTRIES IN EUROPE.

FLAX CULTURE IN EUROPE.

PRACTICE IN BELGIUM.

The finest flax grown in Europe is unquestionably produced in west-
ern Belgium, and largely in a region of country through which flows the
River Lys, the town of Courtrai being the center of the industry. This
is thecreamy Flemish flax, from which the finest linen fabrics are made,
and which owes its peculiar color to the waters of this famed stream,
‘‘the golden Lys,” in which the Courtrai flax is always retted. Flax is
grown, however, in other sections of Belgium, a fine flax, but darker in
color, coming from the country of Waes, and retted in stagnant water
in specially constructed ‘‘pools.” In the Brabant, too, considerable
quantities of flax are grown, both dew and pool-retted, and known as
‘(blue flax” from its very dark color.

Desiring to know by personal experience something of the peculiar
methods of handling flax in the Belgium flax-growing districts I visited
several of the most important centers of the industry about the Ist of
September, 1889, at which time the river retting, as practiced in Courtrai,
is in full operation. Through the courtesy of Belgian officials and
others I was able not only to see the various operations after harvest-
ing that it was desirable to study, but to learn much that was interest-
ing regarding cultivation and the industry in general.

While the superior quality of Courtrai flax is claimed to be due chiefly
to the action of the soft, slowly running, almost sluggish waters of the
River Lys, without doubt there are three other important factors which
aid in the result: First, a soil preparation, with systematic rotation of
crops and extent of fertilizing that few, if any, flax farmers in America
have ever practiced; second, the use of only the best seed; and lastly,
most careful handling and skillful manipulation from the time the crop
is ready to pull until the straw goes to the scutch mill. Nor is the care
and vigilance relaxed even here.

I was informed that flax succeeded best in a deep and well-cultivated
soil that is not too heavy, experience proving that in a dry calcareous
soil the stalk remains short, while in heavy clayey soil it grows very
long, although its fiber is not so fine. The ground is plowed either in
the fall or spring—plowed or spaded, for a great deal of the flax land

11
12

is turned with the spade. The work may begin in November, some-
times a little earlier, or it may be put off until February or the first
days of March. I was told that both methods had their advocates and
opponents, and that either season may be advantageous or disadvanta-
geous, according to the kind of winter which follows or precedes.

In the matter of enriching the soil there is no half-way work or turn-
ing “short corners.” Where stable manure is used it is generally put
on before winter sets in. Then in spring before sowing time the ground
is heavily treated with fertilizers, or night-soilin solution is poured over
it. A great deal of the material is brought from the towns and kept in
closed receptacles or reservoirs until the time for using it on the ground.
Stable manures are used in connection with chemical fertilizers. Of
the latter it is common to employ from 600 to 800 kilograms per hec-
tare, or roughly, from 500 to 750 pounds per acre, and to go over the
ground with the liquid night-soil in addition.

But the Belgian flax farmer does not depend upon careful fertilizing
or cultivation alone to put the soil in the proper condition for growing
flax, a careful system of crop rotation playing a very important part. —
Regarding the precise order of rotation and even the length of time be-
tween two growths of flax on the same land, there is the greatest differ-
ence of practice in the several districts and even in different towns of
the same district, so no one absolute course of cropping can be laid
down. In the Courtrai region the occupancy of the land with flax varies
from five to ten years, the average being about eight. In eastern
Flanders it is five to nine, and in the Brabant five to eight. In some
other sections a much longer time elapses between two crops of flax,
and one or two generations back fifteen and even eighteen years were-
sometimes allowed to intervene. 3

One informant stated to me that flax was most generally sown after
leafy plants, such as potatoes or turnips, wheat and especially oat
stubble being highly approved. A common rotation is clover, oats, rye,
wheat, and in some cases hemp. Crops of rape, tobacco, beans, and
vegetables (these latter crops on farms contiguous to towns) or even
onions and salsify, are grown, as in middle Belgium. Clover is consid-—
ered one of the best crops to precede acrop of flax, as its numerous roots -
go deep into the soil and from their decomposition not only furnish nu-
triment to the growing flax roots, but enable them more easily to push —
down into the soil. In the pamphlet of instructions published by the —
Irish Flax Supply Association, the Belgian rotation is given as flax fol-
lowing corn (grain not maize) after potatoes, mangold, or beet, iow ;
not being mentioned at all. <

After spading or plowing, the ground is well broken with the harrow,
oftentimes being brought almost to the condition of garden soil. It is |
then rolled and the seed planted, this being done anytime from the last 3
week in February until the latter part of March, dependent upon os :
weather.
13

It is considered of prime importance that a good quality of seed be
used, and in Belgium the greatest care is taken—I might almost say
utmost vigilance is exercised, because so many frauds are perpetrated—
to secure only such a quality of seed as will give the best results. The
appearance of the grain, its richness in oil, the absence of all foreign —
odors indicating mustiness or bad condition, purity, and its germinating
power, are all considered, and no test neglected that will enable the:
cultivator to assure himself as to what he is buying. Limited space
necessitates dismissing this subject of the selection of seed thus briefly,
though the editor of the Irish Textile Journal dismisses it more briefly,
as follows:

Select your seedman, for it is an open secret in this age of commercial shams, an old
or inferior article can be made to look almost equal to new. :

The most common and the best course is to import the seed annually,
though I found that in some localities a different custom prevailed, as
in the Brabant. Imported seed is planted the first year, Dutch or
kussian, and the seed product of this crop planted the second year, giv-
ing, it is claimed, a better quality of flax than the first year; but for the
next year’s sowing new seed is again secured. This is due to the dete-
rioration of the home-grown seed, from the flax being pulled before it
is fully mature. And as seed grown in parts of Russia, notably around
Riga, attains the most perfect state of maturity, 1t 1s considered the
best practice to renew annually with the fully matured seed. The sow-
ing must be done with great regularity, the best results being attained
only with long experience. I understand that a great deal of this work
is done in Flanders by special workmen, who, in the flax-sowing sea-
son, make it a business, receiving their pay, not by the day, as is usual
in this country, but by the number of hectares! sown.

The seed is most usually sown in the morning and harrowed with a
harrow set with very close teeth. This is considered necessary for
giving a uniformity to the stand of flax in the field, insuring the same
standard of fineness in the ultimate product for every part of the field.

The amount of seed sown varies ordinarily from 24 to 3 bushels per
acre, though in one district (Hainault) it is claimed that the quantity
sown is sometimes double this amount. Probably 3 bushels per acre
comes nearer the general practice. Some growers hold that more should
be used when the sowing is late than when early; at any rate, when
planted too thickly, as is sometimes the case, it is afterwards thinned,
though such a pee of course a just so much more to the cost of
production. —

After the seed has germinated and the plant is about ready to appear
above ground, or sometimes even after it has sprouted, the land is
rolled, partly for the purpose of laying the soil firmly and partly to
make the surface even to facilitate the next operation that demands the



1A hectare is 2.471 or almost 24 acres. All calculations in this report are made on
the basis of 24 acres.
14

cultivator’s attention, the weeding; this is done by women chiefly at a
time when the flax plants are from 3 to 6 centimeters high (approxi-
mately 1 to 24 inches), or at the end of eight to ten days from time of
sowing. The women (sometimes men or boys) work upon their knees
in this operation, proceeding against the wind in order that the plants
may soon be blown or returned to their normal position again. Some
attention is also paid to the time of weeding, as neither a too wet nor
too dry condition of the soil is desirable. On good soil, from which
weeds have been pretty well eradicated by thorough culture, one weed-
ing suffices, though occasionally two and even three weedings are nec-
essary.

Of the diseases that flax is heir to in Belgium nothing can be said

here, owing to limited space. As to accidents due to meteorological —
causes, as high winds straining and toughening the stems, or heavy —
rain-Storms, which sometimes cause the flax in a whole field to lodge or
break down, or hail, which play worse havoe, there is little that can —
be done in such cases. Professor Damseau, of the State agricultural —
experiment station at Gembloux, informed me that hail does great —
injury to the growing flax, even when the stalks are not broken, owing —
to the fact that where the straw is struck by the hailstone a knot or ©
knob forms which “ breaks the length” in the final operations of clean- —
ing and dressing. In case of total destruction, when the flax is not .

more than a foot high, a crop has sometimes been secured by imme-

diately cutting it down to a couple of inches all over the field and _ let-

ting it grow up again.

In Flanders, and throughout Belgium as well, the seed is of secondary —
importance, and therefore to obtain as fine and strong a fiber as pos-
sible the flax is pulled before it is fully ripe, or when it is just begin-—
ning to turn yellow, coarse flax ripening earlier than fine. The work —

a beng Basta

is done (or begins usually) the last week of June, sometimes a little
earlier, for, as the old proverb runs, “ C'est Juin qui fait le lin” (“ June

makes the flax”).

The flax is pulled with great care, the ends being kept very even, and —

the straw laid in handfuls upon the ground, a line of straw first being
laid down, which serves to bind these handfuls when a sufficient quan-

tity has been pulled to tie. When put into stooks to dry, the seed

ends being tied together, the bottom ends are opened out, giving to the

stook the appearance of an A-tent. After drying in the stook the

handfuls of straw are then tied into small bunches or “beets” and piled, |

something as cord-wood is piled in this country, two poles being first
laid upon the ground to prevent injury to the bottom layer by damp-
ness, and two poles driven at each end of the pile to keep the “ hedge Mo
in form. :
In piling it is the custom to reverse the beets in alternate layers ; be
fore the top layer is put on a row of beets is laid lengthwise near tho
edge of the pile, so that the top layer will be given the proper slant to

]
q
15

shed the rain. The flax is left in this position for several weeks, and
then either retted very soon or put into immense stacks, or sometimes
into sheds, to remain till spring. I found a great diversity of practice
in different sections in the method of handling the flax after pulling and
before the retting.

The practice detailed above pertains to Flanders more especially,
while in the Brabant and elsewhere a very different practice prevails.

M. DeVuyst, of the State agricultural inspection, with whom I visited
a flax-growing locality in the Brabant, informed me that the seed is
usually removed soon after the flax is pulled. A common method of
accomplishing this is to draw the heads through a hetchel or comb of
square iron pickets some fifteen inches high. ‘These pickets are about
half an inch wide at base, and, as they are pointed at the top, the spaces
between them grow narrower as the bottom board into which they are
driven is approached by the head of the bundle of flax straw, and the
seed capsules are detached. When the seed vessels are dry, they are
threshed with an instrument made from a square block of wood, either
flat on the bottom or fluted to form coarse teeth, a curved handle being
mortised into the top. In ascutch-mill near Gembloux I witnessed two
other methods of getting out the seed, this being accomplished in the
first instance by means of a machine with large crushing-rolls, the ends
of which were free at one side of the piece of mechanism, in such man-
ner that only the heads of the flax could be passed through, the bundle
of straw remaining uninjured in the operator’s hands. Two or three
times passing through sufficed to crush the capsules and clear the seed
perfectly. The other method was to go over the straw with a heavy
roller upon a slatted floor, through which the seed and chaff fell. In
Courtrai the seed is usually mauled out with the contrivance described
above. This is done in sheds for the most part or on floors, though
IT have seen the work going on out of doors at the side of the highway,
or on the stone paving in front of the peasants’ cots.

There are three systems of retting practiced in Belgium, the dew ret-
ting most commonly followed in the neighborhood of Brussels, and in
the flax district I visited near Gembloux; the retting in crates anchored
in running water (rouissage au ballon), as practiced in the River Lys, in
Flanders, and tbe system of plunging the flax straw into pools or cis-
terns as soon as pulled, which pertains in the Waes country and some
other sections. The dew retting need not be described here, as it is the
usual practice In our own country, giving an uneven and least valuable
product of all methods of retting. In the pool retting the pits or reser-
voirs are dug some months in advance, so that the loose earth will have
been washed from the walls and they will be clean. They are of vary-
ing dimensions, and are sometimes divided into several compartments
by partitions these are formed either of boards or walls of sod, or of
earth, the bottom being very clean. Sometimes alder fagots are placed
with the flax to influence its color, slight differences in color depending
16

upon many things, all of which are taken into consideration by the
operator. The first process is to secure the seed, as has been described,
after which the flax is again bound into small bundles, which must
be neither too light nor too loose, so that the water will penetrate
them freely after they have been placed in the pits. To keep the bun-
dles under water they are covered with a layer of straw, on which sods,
or in some localities stones or boards, are placed. Precisely how long
the flax should be allowed to remain in the water must be determined
by the operator; five to ten days is the range, the quality of the growth
itself, the weather, and other circumstances all being considered. A
farmer learns by experience when the flax is sufficiently retted-to raise,
though tests by breaking a few stalks from time to time must be
made. After being ‘‘ washed out” or “ taken out of the rot,” and while
still wet, the straw is spread upon the neighboring fields to dry, or in
order that the process of retting may be completed ; the precise duration
of time necessary for this operation is also determined by various cir-
cumstances. By breaking a few flax stalks or rubbing them between
the palms of the hands, however, thefarmer can judge pretty nearly when
the crop should be housed.

The Courtrai method of retting is the most interesting, though not
as important to us, for (presumably), there is no River Lys in America,
and if there were one, it would not be desirable to use it for retting flax.
There is but one Lys in Belgium, a dark and murky stream, with sullen
flow, its waters an indescribable greenish hue, and its odor as pro-
nounced as its color, yet to its banks comes the flax of this entire region,
by the wagon-load, by the car-load, and even by railway trains of twenty
to thirty cars, loaded like hay, though in the regulation bundles, and —
covered with large oil-cloths or tarpaulins. I shall never forget my —
first walk up the Lys on a bright September afternoon in company with
M. Frederick D’ Hont, director of the Communal Laboratory of Agri- —
cultural Chemistry, Courtrai.

But 3 miles of the right bank of the river was traversed, though the
flax industry occupies its banks for 20 miles. On both sides of the nar-
row stream, reminding one of a canal more than a river, though there
was no tow-path, back for 50 rods or more, and as far into the distance ©
as the eye could reach, one saw only flax. There were the immense
stacks containing tons and thatched as carefully as the roofs of the
peasant cottages. There were acres of “ hedges,” as the ‘cord wood”
piles are called, and long lines of the big bundles made up ready for —
immersion, while farther back in the fields were the opened bundles or —
beets, tied at the top and spread apart at the bottom in circular form,
like bell-tents, the plan always adopted for drying the flax that has been
immersed. This is the manner of packing the bundles for immersion: —
Crates or frames of wood are used, having solid floors of boards, the —
sides being open. These measure about 12 feet Square and perhaps a
meter in height, or a little overa yard. Tirst a strip of jute burlap is —
17

carried around the four sides, on the inside, coming well to the top rail
of the crate. This is to strain the water, or to keep out floating par-
ticles or dirt which would injure the flax by contact with it. The bun-
dles, which measure 8 to 10 inches through, are composed of beets laid
alternately end for end, so that the bundle is of uniform size through-
out. They are stood on end and packed so tightly into place that
they can not move, each crate holding about 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of
straw. When a crate is filled the entire top is covered with clean rye
straw and launched and floated into position in the stream. It is then
weighted with large paving blocks or other stones until it has sunk to
the top rail, when it is left for the forces of nature to do the remainder.
The time of immersion is from four to fifteen days, dependent upon tem-
perature of the water and of the air, quality of flax, and other influences. '
There are several delicate tests which indicate when the flax should
come out, although the near approach of the time is made known by the
self-raising of the crate out of the water (often a foot or more), caused
by the gases of decomposition.
When ready to remove, the crate is floated opposite a windlass, and
- there are many along the shore, the chain attached, and the affair pulled
half way up the bank, when the bundles are at once removed. The
big bundles are taken back to the field and are now broken up and again
put into the form of the little bell-tents described above. This work is
done by boys, who show great dexterity not only in spreading and stand-
ing up the little bundle when it is first opened for drying, but in the sub-
sequent operation of turning the tent completely inside out, so that the
straw that was shaded in the interior may be subjected to the air and
sunshine and the drying be accomplished evenly. :
After this drying process is completed, the flax again goes into th
big bundles for a second immersion, and I was told sometimes a third,
though rarely. This work begins in September and continues until too
cool to ret the flax advantageously. Thenit begins againin March and ~
continues until all the flax has been retted. Much of the unretted flax
is carried over to the next year in this manner. Not only is it thought
to improve the flax in quality, but is better for the producers, enabling
them to hold their product for good prices when the fall prices are low.
Formerly the farmers did the principal part of the retting, selling
their crop to the merchants in the form of fiber. I was told that this
custom no longer prevails, the work now being carried on wholly by
the flax merchant, who either buys the pulled straw of the farmer or
purchases the standing flax, in the field, his own employés doing the
pulling. When the farmer does the pulling he hauls the crop to the
Lys, unless he wishes to hold it over, securing the market price that
prevails at the time. Many flax merchants are also owners of scutch
mills, and have charge of the entire manipulation from the time the
crop is ripe until the cleaned fiber is sold. |
L visited one of these scutch mills in the little hamlet of Waverlyhem,
20789—No,. las=2
18

and witnessed with pleasure the entire process of converting the clear,
glistening, almost white straw, into the beautiful semi-golden line fiber
which distinguishes the flax of western Flanders. The rude machinery
was run by steam, the brake being a primitive affair, with simple fluted
rollers, but which did their work perfectly, however, largely due to the —
splendidly-prepared fiber which the operator had to work upou.
There is little hand scutching in Belgium at the present day, although
the scutching machines in general use aré of the simplest form. Through —
the center of the mill is arranged a line of seutching berths before ©
which, or rather in which, each operator stands. A single shaft runs —
through the structure from end to end, and at each berth is arranged a —
breaker-wheel, or simple iron frame (called a “ wiper-ring”), to which is —
affixed the beating-blades, made of wood. These are about 3 feet long |
and 4 or 5 inches wide, there being ten blades to each wheel. |
These arms or blades revolve at the rate of 300 to 400 revolutions
per minute, dependent upon the quality of flax being cleaned, and —
move parallel with an upright partition of iron or wood, in which there |
is a wedged-shaped opening, the lower edge being horizontal and a
little above the center of the shaft. The ‘‘boon,” or broken woody por- :
tion of the straw, and the dust are carried back by the whipping action ‘
of the beaters or blades, as the broken flax is projected through the
wedge-shaped opening, and falls into the deep space beneath. As a
handful of flax is beaten or “buffed,” first one end and then the other,
a certain amount of fiber is whipped off, known as scutching tow, or in_
Irish scutch-mills as “codilla.” This should not be confounded with —
the tow proper, which results from dressing or hackling the cleaned
fiber, nor with the product of the western tow-mills in our own
country. i
When the handful of flax Hak been properly buffed, itis snapped or
shaken and passed to a second man, who finishes the operation of
cleaning on another wheel. Then it is ready for the hackler. But as
these operations pertain rather to- the manufacturer than the farmer,
they need not be considered at greater length here. The agricultural
operations of the flax industry, as conducted in Belgium, have been de-
scribed thus minutely because they illustrate, or rather ‘omphasizg to
the fullest degree, the necessity of high cultivation and skill and care-
ful management in the production of this fiber. And while itis hardly
possible that our farmers will ever take such pains with, or put so much
- hard labor into, the growth of this crop, the Belgian pracbieg affords,
many hints which may gradually lead us into a practice essentially
American, which will in time produce good results, with an economy of
time, fron the employment of labor-saving appliances. i
Through such practice, and from the fact that our laborers aré
quicker than the laborers of foreign countries, and more ingenious in
inventing “short cuts” in the attainment of an object, we need not be
so much at the mercy of the under-paid labor of Burope, after all,

ae

Ms ak
4 a 5
can
Lg

Here are some of the prices paid for labor in the flax fields of the
Brabant, gleaned from an interview with a large grower and scutcher
near Gembloux: workmen in field, 2.50 franes per day, not boarded
(equal to 50 cents American money); women, 1.50 frances (30 cents) ;
weeders, boys 80 centimes, and women 1.25 frances per day (16 to 25
cents); spreaders, when flax is dew-retted, boys at various wages, from
75 centimes upward, and women 1.50 franes. Seed was quoted by the
100 kilograms, at 24 francs (approximately $4.75 for 220 pounds). Bel-
sian “ blue flax,” dew-retted, 30 frances per 100 kilograms (8 cents per
pound), though it is éGtinated that these prices are too low to pay.
Russian flax retted under the snow is sometimes sold in Belgium at75
frances per 100 kilograms, or a half-cent less per pound than the above.
Naturally, the production of the cheaper grades of flax is declining
under this competition.

EFRENCH CULTURE.

The flax culture of France is confined for the most part to the de-
partments of Nord, Pas-de-Calais, and others contiguous in the North,
Lille being the center of the industry. I visited Lille, but found nothing
especially different in methods of culture and after-treatment from the
practices pursued in Belgium, though I was surprised to learn that
most of the flax grown in this section is transported to the River Lys,
or its tributaries, for retting. Flax culture in France has suffered a
considerable decline in late years, having ceased entirely in some de-
partments, while the quantity has diminished in nearly all, save perhaps
in Nord, in which the city of Lille is located. It may be stated on the
authority of M. Alfred Renouard, jr., of Lille, that the preservation of
the industry in Nord is owing to the proximity of the Lys, and to the
great sacrifices which the agricultural people-of the section impose
upon themselves in transporting the product to this stream. —Were this _
form of retting (the river-retting as practiced in Courtrat) abandoned, ~
the culture of flax would decline at Lille as in other districts, because.
the sales from other systems of retting, such as _the pool or dew-retting,
making dark fiber, would bring such return as would only cause a loss
to the producer. In other provinces the culturé-has fallen off two-
thirds in the last thirty years, the most rapid decline being noticed since
1875.

The French flax that finds its way to the Lys is retted at Bousbecques
and all along the stream at Flives, les Rauches, Hasnon, etc. It is the
‘most expensive form of retting practiced, known as “ rowissage au
_ ballon”; but, on the other hand, it gives that value to the flax which

makes its culture profitable. The product goes to Hngland chiefly, a
little of it being used in France for the manufacture of sewing thread.
20

I append prices of the different forms of flax fiber produced in
France, from M. Renouard:

Dew-retted, 75 to 100 francs per 100 kilograms (about 74 to 10 cents per pound).

Tank-retted, 100 to 150 frances per 100 kilograms (about 10 to 15 cents per pound).

River-retted, 150 to 300 francs per 100 kiloyrams (about 15 to 30 cents per pound).

The cultivator receives from 300 to 1,000 franes per hectare for the
raw product; that is to say, approximately, $24 to $80 per acre. Butthe
net cost of cultivation per hectare is said to be 600 frances, or in American
money about $48 per acre rental included, so that the farmer grows
flax at a loss if his sales fall below this figure, and at a profit if the price
realized gives him more than this sum per acre. Unfortunately, there
has been loss in many districts in late years, which accounts for the
decline of the industry in France. |

METHODS IN IRELAND.

My visit to Belfast, in the latter part of October, was mainly for the
purpose of examining special flax machinery; so, little time was spent
in studying the Irish methods of culture, and of handling the product
after the crop is pulled. :

In Ireland, as in other flax-growing countries, clean land, in good
state of fertility, and with proper drainage, is required for the crop.
A. systematic rotation is followed, with a most thorough preparation of
the land by deep ploughing, harrowing, and pulverizing (the latter es-
pecially in heavy soils), and subsequent rollings. The best of seed that
can be got is sown at the rate of two bushels to the acre! On heavy
soils the Dutch seed is considered the most suitable, while the Riga seed
is thought to answer better for the light or medium soils. The ground
is kept free from weeds, the weeding being done when the flax is 4 to
7 inches high. The crop is pulled when ripe and immediately rippled,
if it is desired to secure the seed, many of the Irish peasants of late
years, I am informed, paying little aeearion tosaving the seed. ‘+ Dams”
or pools are Saplovel. in the retting, these being dug out in the winter,
though some of the peasantry are content to use bog-holes, soft water
being requisite. While the Irish peasant farmer is perhaps less careful
than his Belgian confrére in pursuing this industry, it will be observed
in studying the system in vogue in Ireland that success is only attained
by skill and close attention to details.

Mr. John Orr Wallace gives me the following general instructions in
regard to Irish flax culture:

Any good soil that will produce a good crop of wheat, oats, or barley |
will suffice for flax. The soil should be in good condition, but must not |



‘Says Michael Andrews, honorary secretary of the flax supply association: “ Riga
seed should be cleaned with a flax-sieve previous to sowing to get rid of the weed |
seeds; this will save expense and labor when weeding time comes round, Dutol :
seed being much better cleaned, will seldom require this operation.” : 4
21

have had manure recently applied before sowing the seed; plowing
should not exceed four inches indepth. The best rotation is to sow flax
after oats from lea ground; that is, grass land which has been prepared
for and has produced a crop of oats, the stubble plowed in autumn,
again in February or March, harrowed and rolled until the soil is
thoroughly pulverized; destroy all weeds before sowing flax seed.
This seed should be sown about the second week in April. When the
plants are about four inches high all weeds must be pulled, the boys
and girls who do the work to proceed against the wind, that the flax
plants may be blown erect when the weeders have passed on.

When the straw begins to turn yellow and the foliage within six
inches of the ground is drooping, pull at once. At this stage the seed
in the bolls is changing to a dark green or brownish tinge. Tie the straw
in small bundles and stand on end to winnow. When quite hard and
dry put in stack. There is a largér and better yield of fiber when the
straw is kept until the year following its growth. If fiber is required at
once the seed can be rippled and the straw steeped in soft water, that
is, rain-water, or, if this is not attainable, in pits of water in which veg-
etable matter grows, and which has been exposed to the sun’s rays for
a period of five or six weeks. The straw should be protected from the
earth at the sides of the retting pits; place the straw in layers until
the pit is quite full; stones, or planks of wood with stones on top to
keep the straw entirely under the water, are laid upon the top layer of
flax straw. If the temperature of the water is 80° Fahrenheit or up-
wards, about six days will be sufficient toret the straw. From the fifth _
day examine a few straws, at different parts of the pit, several times
daily, and when the fiber pulls readily and entirely off the woody core
it is time to remove from the pits. Stand the sheaves on end to dry;
pull the band or tying on each sheaf close to the top and spread out
the root ends, so as to expose to sun and wind. When perfectly dry
stack for afew weeks. This improves and mellows, or brings “ nature,”
or a soft silky feeling to the fiber. It is now ready for the machine.

There are many interesting details regarding the Irish practice, but
owing to limited space the complete account, should it be thought nec-
essary to give it, must await the publication of the final report.

FOREIGN FLAX-CLEANING MACHINERY.

There was little of novel interest that could be classified under this
head at the Paris Exposition; nor could I learn of anything of recent
invention that was to be seen in successful operation in Belgium. In
_ England and Ireland, however, there are several machines that should
_ be mentioned in this communication, and one, the mechanical device in-
: vented by John Orr Wallace, of Belfast, that I wish especially to report
_ upon, having spent several days in this center of the Irish linen industry,
_ where I saw it in operation.

.
22,

THERE WALLACHK MACHINE.

This is a flax-scutching machine. It occupies a comparatively small -
floor space, being 4 feet wide and but 5 long; its height is 6 feet
6 inches. It consists of an upper feed-table,on which the straw is fed
to three pairs of fluted rollers, which deliver the fax downwards between
five pairs of pinning tools alternating with six pairs of guide rollers.
The pinning tools somewhat resemble hand-hackles, and are attached —
to two vertical frames, to which a horizontal to and-fro motion is im-—
parted, and the pins interlace as the two sides approach. The fibrous—
material is drawn downwards by the rollers, which have an intermit-
tent motion, and at each momentary pause the pricking pins enter the
material and are rapidly withdrawn from it. By degrees this fibrous
descending curtain is delivered on to an endless apron at the bottom of.
the machine, the woody substance falling in a crushed and semi- pulver-
ized condition and free from fiber beneath. After the fiber has been
taken from the machine it is shaken once or twice and immediately sub-
jected to a buiier, a few revolutions of the blades, comparatively, brush- |
ing or beating out the 10088 bits of woody matter or ‘‘shive” that mayy
be adhering. -
Referring to the canoe Fig. 1 is the breaker. A is the feed
table, B is the endless apron, C is the buffer, and D the hand of the
operator who presents the broken and semi-cleaned fiber to the action

of the wooden buffing blades. A platform should be erected in conven






ad

aes ab ea Cee te eR enh Come RE SORT Sache
t * Tee TR ET oak
1 : n



LORS NE aren NEA eeoe





































































Fig. 1.—The Wallace Flax Maalune:





jent position for the attendant who feeds the machine; or, when a set
of three machines are employed, the platform is ed. as in Fig. 2,
23

one feeder being able to attend the three machines. Mr. Wallace in-
formed me that three assistants are necessary; on the breaker or ma-
chine proper one person, a boy or a girl, to prepare the straw in bundles
and one boy to feed. To attend the “buffer” one man, who takes the
flat mass of disintegrated fiber as it comes from the machine and sub-
jects it to beating blades to remove the shive. It was also explained
that in the old system, as pursued atthe Irish scutch mills, one attendant
carries the straw to the breaker, one opens the sheaves or * beets” and
hands to the man who feeds the straw into the fluted rollers, one ties
the sheaves, one or two prepare the rolled straw into “strikes” or bun-
dles for the men at scutching stocks, which are in sets of two and
sometimes three men; that is, one man who puts the straw on the first
stock where the blades are broader on edge and act as a further “ break”
on the straw; he passes the bundle to the second man, who finishes
dressing, or, aS is Sometimes the case, passes it to a third man, and fre- ©
quently these sets of men have an attendant who keeps them we
with the ‘‘strikes” or bundles; a total of eight or ten men.

Where large quantities of flax are to be worked there will be a con-
siderable gain by the use of two or three machines, as the two attend-
ants who prepare the bundles for and feed the single machine can
attend two or three as well. One buffer will be required for each ma-
chine, however. With a set of three machines and buffers the work
can be done by—one or two to prepare bundles, according to speed
of machines, one to feed, and three to buff—a total of three boys or
girls and three men, or six persons. One machine will work from 10 ewt.
to 20 ewt. of retted straw per day. If the straw is properly retted and
of fair length the yield of clean fiber will amount to 25 per cent. Mr.

Te ~
WTA ai AL MiTT ULNA Aviat
———————
viii DTN Midian vit
fits ub

wT

Fia. 2.—Three Wallace Machines in position.

7?



Wallace says that good Irish has given 30 per cent. and Belgian 33 per
cent., and he has obtained 24 pounds to the cwt. from straw which was
so tender that no fiber could be yielded by the common system of
cleaning in vogue in Ireland. He explains that the average yield under
this system is but 124 per cent. For comparison of the cost of cleaning
fiber by mill-scutching and by the Wallace machine the statement was
24

made that the farmer pays the owner of the scutch-mill one shilling!
per stone (14 pounds) of fiber cleaned. At this amount one-half, or a
sixpence, is retained by the owner as the mill earnings, the other six-
pence going to the “‘foreman finisher,” who divides it pro rata among
the entire staff of workmen. | :

From these figures and the statement regarding the capacity of one
machine, the advantage in favor of the machine may readily be com-
puted. When the cost of attendants is distributed over two or three
machines the net earnings will be greater. i

In a recent communication from Mr. Wallace he says:

The proved capacity of the breaker is now such that it will keep fully occupied two
buffing machines, and on good straw will enable the machines to earn from 20 to
40 shillings per day when properly fed and attended.

T'wo-horse power per machine is required todrivethem. Thepriceof
the machine in Belfast is £250 net, payable when the machine has been
tested in the foundery and found in good working order.

I witnessed the working of this machine in Belfast, various kinds of

flax straw being run through it, as green or unretted, good retted, —
grassed and over-retted, tangled or thrashed similar to the flax straw |
of the Western States after the seed has been extracted, besides some —
other fibers. The machine worked smoothly and well, there being no —
waste of fiber whatever, and the cleaning was apparently accomplished

evenly and thoroughly.

The unretted flax straw naturally showed the poorest results, the —
sample having been put through to show the adaptability of the |
machine for preparing a substitute for oakum, from green flax straw. —
The sample from over-retted straw has the appearance of a fair fiber |
as to length and evenness, though in color it was spotted or mottled —
and in places semi-bleached. A few stalks of Egyptian hemp which —

were run through gave a fairly good fiber.

The machine was not timed by me, and I made no attempt to demon- )

Strate its capacity for any given length of time. The samples were all
retained by me and will be preserved in the fiber collection of the De-
partment as specimens and for future reference, though as yet I have
made no microscopic or other tests in detail to learn if the flax fila-
ments have in any way been injured by the system of pins which enters
into the mechanical construction of this device. This, I have been in-

formed, was one of the weak points of another machine, invented by

Jules Cardon, and which at one time gave great promise, but which
has now been abandoned.- Mr. Wallace claims, however, to have
obviated all danger of injury from the pins piercing the fibers them-
Selves, and the testimony of others whose opinions were asked have
been favorable to this view.

While the inventor ealls it a flax-seutching machine, it is claimed to
be adapted to clean hemp, flax, ramie, jute, and other fibers. I had no
a ee ee a ee Oe eee

Practically 25 cents. The legal value of a shilling as established by the United
States Treasury is 24.33. cents,

PRR TTT ae ET TIT ren

SEPANG eT RTC SA MISISE RTS AT Torbee oeRra ee ny eee oy apa Py pe Pree aatee cninp os ga esate

E
25

opportunity of witnessing its work on ramie staiks, but find in the
Bulletin of the Royal Gardens, Kew, for November, 1888, the following
reference to it, which may be introduced here:

The machine was not constructed for the special treatment of ramie. In spite of
this, however, it has cleaned ramie in a fairly satisfactory manner, and the inventor
claims that, with a few necessary alterations in detail, he will be able to treat the
stems, either green or dry, at the rate of 1 cwt. per hour.

THE JOHNSON MACHINE.

This is another Belfast machine, but regarding which I can give little
information other than gleaned from the patent specification and draw-
ings, and from various extracts from the Irish Textile Journal and other
publications, manuscript copies of which were given me. The machine
was not in operation when I was in Belfast, and there was no oppor-
tunity to make a personal inspection of its workings. It is the inven-
tion of Mr. Sibbald Johnson, of Newtonards (Belfast), Ireland, who is
the patentee. It may be briefly described as a rectangular horizontal
frame, carrying two revolving beaters, very much like the drum of a
thrashing machine. These are about 7 feet long by 2 feet in diameter,
and are parallel to each other and at such a distance that their longi-
tudinal lower blades interlock to a depth of 3 inches, like the teeth of
wheels. This relative position is maintained by means of a pair of spur
wheels fitted to the ends of each axle. Over the line of interlock, at an
equal distance vertically and horizontally from both axles, there is what
may be termed an inclined railway. Along this slides the holders in
which the flax is screwed. The holder, with its beet of flax, which has
been previously bréken on another machine, is placed on the high end
of the railway. ‘The ends of flax are instantly caught by the beaters
as they revolve downwards, and this action strips the shives and at the
same time draws the holder along the incline to the other end, where it
is removed. The holder is then unscrewed and the flax turned end for
end, as only one-half of the beet has been cleaned, screwed up again,
and a second time passed through the machine. There are several draw-
backs to this feature of the machine: the danger of injury to the flax
fiber from twice screwing it into the metal holders; the loss of time
and the increase in number of attendants (boys) to perform the extra
work; and, lastly, which is perhaps the smallest objection, the increased.
area of floor space required. In a trial reported the yield averaged from
20 to 25 per cent. of fiber, which dressed 62 to 70 per cent. of line.

THE DEATH FIBER COMPANY'S MACHINE.

This machine, for general fiber decortication, has attracted more or
less attention for some years past, and a notice of it will not be out of
place. It is the invention of W. E. Death, of Brixton, England, popu-
larly known as the ‘“‘ Death and Ellwood” machine, patent bearing date
July 13, 1885, improvements having been added. It claims to work well
on all foncas plants, from flax straw and hemp and ramie stalks to
fleshy-leaved plants, like the Agaves.
26 :

It is a single-drum machine, involving the beater principle, the break-
ers operating upon the fiber in conjunction with a stream of water,
which washes out the refuse.

The feed motion is worked as follows:

The upright handle C is for the self-acting motion to carry the leaves
to or from the machine. By simply moving it backward or forwards it
puts friction wheels into gear, which take the table to or from the ma-
chine. In working the holder F the levers are lifted by means of a knob
at the end, and as many leaves or stems (as the case may be) as the ma-
chine will take are put across the V part in the holder and placed so
that the grip on the holder may be taken near the ends of them. With
ramie the point ends are cleaned first and the butt end last. After se-
curing the stems or leaves to be cleaned the clip is put on and the lever
pressed down by the knobs and the material fed into the machine by



ACH.DEATHS: PATENT 2=

ee





















Fic. 3.—The ‘‘ Death and Ellwood” Machine.

pushing the upright handle. When the holder has traveled as far as
possible into the mouth-piece the handle is reversed for drawing the
cleaned fiber out. The stems are then reversed in the holder and the
fiber gripped in it and the ends sent forward for cleaning, as before.
The wheel 1 is for working by hand, if desired.

The machine requires a three-horse-power engine to drive it, the
velocity being 400 revolutions perminute. [rom 300 to 400 gallons of
water per machine per hour are necessary, and this it is reckoned is
attainable by a 7-foot fall through a three-fourths service pipe. The
capacity of the machine is placed at 2 ewt. of dry fiber per day of ten
hours. hegarding the drying of the fiber after cleaning, it is hung out
on frames of bamboo poles, and when about half dry large handfuls of
the fiber are whipped against a post six inches in diameter, a drawing
action as the blow is given producing the same effect “as brushing and
combing it and will leave it thoroughly separated when whipped a second
time just before it is dry for baling.” It may be noted that in field
work, in the decortication of ramie, this machine has made a good
record, though it has the serious fault of all ramie-cleaning machines, |
failure as to quantity.
THE HEMP INDUSTRY IN FRANCE.

In the latter part of September I spent a week in the hemp district.
of France, with a view to learn something of French methods of retting,
and of the special treatment of the hemp crop in this country by means
of which so white and lustrous a fiber is produced. It was my inten-
tion to go to Angers, which is the center of the industry and the head-
quarters of both the cordage and hemp fabric manufacture, but being
able to secure all desired information in the departments of Sarthe and
Ille-et-Vilaine, [ did not visit Maine-et-Loire. These are the principal
departments of France engaged in the industry, although Cotes-du-
Nord, Morbihan, and Isére should also be mentioned.

HEMP CULTURE.

Climate has much to do with the successful cultivation of this plant,
as it makes the best length of stalk, and therefore gives a greater yield
of fiber, in those situations where the climate is mild and the atmos-
phere humid. Limestone soils or the alluvial soils, as found in the river
bottoms, are most congenial to its growth, and as this portion of France
is well watered by rivers or smaller streams, the cultivation is quite
general along their banks. Imay say that such soils in our own country
have given the best results. A rotation of crops is practiced, hemp
alternating with grain crops, although MM. Girardin and Du Breuil
- state thatit is also allowed to grow continually upon the same land. Re-
garding this mode of cultivation, they consider that it is not contrary
to the law of rotation, as by deep plowing and the annual use of an
abundance of fertilizers the ground is kept sufficiently enriched for the
demands which are made upon it. If the soil is not sufficiently rich in
phosphates or the salts of potassium, these must be supplied by the
use of lime, marl, ground bone, animal charcoal, or ashes mixed with
prepared animal compost. Even hemp-cake, the leaves of the plant and
the ‘‘shive” or “ boon,” may be returned to the land with benefit. This
high fertilizing is necessary, as “the hemp absorbs the equivalent of
1,500 kilos of fertilizers per every hundred kilos of fiber obtained.” ‘The
deep plowing is absolutely essential, as the hemp roots require a mellow

Od
28

soil. The final plowing is done in the autumn, the land being thrown
into ridges, and a couple of weeks later carefully leveled with the roller.

Some farmers take this time to apply their fertilizer, or a portion of it
at least, and also sow beans to form a green compost. When the beans
areup the land is plowed a second time between the rows, and after
making furrows to carry off the excess of water it is left until spring,

- The best seed comes from Piedmont, and, as it deteriorates rapidly,
it is frequently renewed. The closer the plants can be grown the bet-
ter the fiber; and to this end a large quantity of seed is used. A
farmer in Sarthe informed me that the usual custom was to sow 60 liters
of seed to 44 ares, 40 ares being equal to an acre. This would give as
the proper rate to sow about one and a half bushels to the acre, though
four bushels are sometimes put in where fine fiber is desired. The sow-
ing is done about the last of April. As in flax culture, the crop must be
kept free from weeds, all injured plants must be removed, and it is the
custom even to thin out the plants when growing too thickly, as is fre-
quently the case from irregular sowing. I learned that two hundred
and fifty plants to a square meter! of ground is considered the right
average when the fiber is grown for cordage; but when produced for
fabrics at least four hundred plants are allowed to grow in this area.
I did not obtain full details of the manner of harvesting the crop at the
farms visited, and have therefore condensed the following account of
methods of harvesting from a French work? put into my hands by M.
Grosjean, of the ministry of agriculture. 7

In order to obtain the best possible results in the quality of fiber, the
plants should be gathered when the male stalks have shed their flow-
ers and the stems begin to be yellow. Regarding the sex of the plant
the authors state in a foot-note that—

In many localities they give the name of male hemp to those plants which bear the
fruit, and that of female hemp to those which have no fruit, a less development, and
in which the vegetation is sooner arrested. This nomenclature is incorrect, as pre-
cisely the contrary (terms) should be employed.

This season of shedding the flowers comes in the west of France
about the middle of July. There are two modes of gathering, depend-
ent upon the use to which the fiber will be put. If for cordage the
Stalks are cut with a sharp instrument resembling a short scythe, and
laid upon the ground in sheaves, where they are left to dry from one to
three days. The leaves are then stripped and the stalks removed to
the sheds to be assorted, placed in piles horizontally, the lower ends of
the stalks being pressed firmly against a wall, so that the inequalities
of their length may plainly appear. Upon each pile there is placed
close to the wall a weight, to prevent deranging the stems while draw-
ing them out in assorting. This is done just by handfuls, first the
longest stems, then the medium, and then the short ones. They are



‘ A meter is about three and three eighths inches over a yard.
7A Treatise on Agriculture, by Messieurs Girardin and Du Breuil.
29

bound into sheaves, several of which are put together, forming bundles,
each containing stalks of equal length. The tops of the sheaves are
then cut off, and only the portion preserved that will make good fiber.

When the hemp is grown for use in spinning, that is, for fabrics, the
stalks are not cut, but are pulled like flax. The operator first removes
the leaves by passing his hand from top to bottom of the stalk, it being
important to return the leaves to the soil where they were grown. Six
to fifteen stalks are pulled at one operation, according to the ease with
which they can be drawn out of the ground, and the earth shaken off.
These handfuls are made into bundles about six inches in diameter ;
after bundling the roots and tops are cut off by means of an ax and
chopping-block. The clipped stalks are then made up into larger
bundles a foot or more in diameter, and are sent to be retted at once,
as it is claimed that the hemp is not so white if it is dried before retting.
When the seed is saved the method of procedure is as follows:

In some localities the gathering of the hemp is somanaged as tosecure the greatest
quantity of seed possible of good quality. To this purpose the male stalks are first
collected, which ripen six weeks earlier than the female stalks, the latter being given
plenty of time to mature and not being gathered until their leaves and stems begin
to turn yellow and the seeds to grow dark. They are tied in bunches, and of these
there are made large bundles, which are placed upright, that the seed may complete
its opening. The seeds are extracted by beating the stalks. This manner of operat-
ing produces less fiber, and these female plants yield fiber of inferior quality from
those collected at the time of maturing of the male plants; but the harvest of
seed compensates for the difference. If you take into account the expense occasioned
by the double harvesting and double retting, we find that there is greater advantage
in having but one harvest without reference to the seed. Dried in the air the male
hemp contains an average of 26 per cent. of stripped hemp, and the female plants ©
from 16 to 22 per cent. The stripped hemp dried in the air does not yield more than
60 to 75 per cent. of textile fiber, the remainder being foreign matter soluble in leached
alkali, so that 100 parts of green hemp do not produce more than 5 to 8 parts of textile
fiber. .

There are two systems of retting practiced in western France, the
retting in the open field, where the stalks are allowed to lie about a
month, and similar to the plan followed in Kentucky, in our own country,
and the water retting, which produces the best fiber. The water ret-
ting (rouissage) is accomplished both in pools and in running streams.
The river retting seems to accomplish the best results, although taking
a little longer time than the pool retting, the duration of immersion
varying from five to eight days. If the weather is cold it retards the
operation two or three days longer than if warm. ‘This accounts, too,
for the shorter time occupied when the immersion takes place in pools.
This work is usually done in the latter part of August. The bundles
of hemp are floated in the water, secured if in a running stream, and
are covered with boards kept in place by stones or any weight that will
keep them under. From all I could learn there is little pool retting in
the Sarthe district, although public opinion is generally against river
retting, on the score of its rendering the waters of the streams foul and
detrimental to health as well as destroying all animal life with which
— 30

they should abound. I understand there are very stringent police re;,
ulations against the use of streams for this purpose, and as long ago as
1886, in a brochure published by M. Bary, a hemp-spinner of Le Mans,
attention is called to the desirability of introducing an improved method
of retting, which would accomplish all the beneficial results of retting
in running water artificially, and therefore render unnecessary the pol-
luting of streams. From M. Janvier (of the hemp-spinning establish-
ment of Janvier, Pere et Fils et Cie, at Le Mans, successors to M.
Bary) I learn that while many attempts have been made to bring about
a better system, none have been successful, and, police regulations to
the contrary notwithstanding, the best hemp fiber produced in the
Sarthe district is still retted in the running streams. Where pool ret-
ting is followed the pools are specially constructed, dug out of the
earth to the depth of a yard or more, walled up or the sides made solid,
and lined and floored with cement usually, in order that the water shall
remain clean and the hemp retain its color. The stalks are watched
very closely after the third or fourth days, the farmer breaking and ex-
amining a few at intervals to guard against over retting, which weakens

the fiber.
When sufficiently retted, whether the work is done in streams or

pools, the hemp bundles are removed from the water, but first agitated
to remove all waste matter that may be adhering to the stalks. They
are then drained, and the bundles, opened at the bottom, are set up in
conical sheaves to dry, this operation being accomplished in two-or
three days. Considerable of the hemp grown in the Sarthe district (I
can not speak for other sections) is further dried in brick-kilns. One
of these examined on a large hemp farm visited near Le Mans, and at
that time in operation, may be described as a circular brick structure
some 10 or 12 feet in height, resembling a smoke-house in our country.
It was built on a side hill, the door opening into the chamber where
the hemp was drying being on one level, the higher, while the floor to
the fire-pit, at the back of the building, was on the lower level. As
no evidence of a fire was observed, I infer that the fire is drawn when
the right temperature has been reached, and the hemp introduced upon
the grated floor to dry slowly by moderate heat. I witnessed the process
of breaking hemp in the Sarthe district and brought away samples of |
both stalks and cleaned fiber as sent to market, as well as samples of
scutched, softened, and dressed fiber prepared both for cordage manu-
facture and for weaving into “linen.” The stalks are of creamy white-
ness, as brittle as pipe-stems, and the filasse, particularly next the wood,
so bright incolor that no tinge of yellow is observable. A farm operatey
questioned told me he was able to break out 30 to 35 kilograms of fiber
per day (say 60 to 75 pounds). A brake similar in principle to the old
fashioned Kentucky hemp-brake is used, though lighter and smaller in
the first place, produced with seven instead of five breaking-slats (ar-
ranged three opposite to four), both wood and metal being used in its
construction, Double this quantity of hemp is cleaned in a day by the —
31

a

negro operators in Kentucky, butit should be explained that the French
operator is nicer in his manipulation of the fiber, running through a
smaller quantity at one time, skillfully twisting the product into a very
loose rope or ‘* streak” of fiber, these as produced being laid most care-
fully side by side so that when thelarger bundle of fiber is made up each
has its place and can be detached from its fellows by the scutcher with
hardly the disarrangement of a filament.

At a scutch-mill, where, by the way, only hand- Guelune was prac-
ticed, I was shown some bales of softened fiber, and afterwards visited
the pullin ot a hemp-softener (Batteur de Chanvre), near Le
Mans, to observe the process. The mill was run by water-power, the
fiber being manipulated on a circular platform a couple of feet in height
and perhaps eight in diameter, made of solid oak timber, the end-wood
formiug the surface. To a heavy spindle in the center was attached a
short conical cylinder of iron weighing some 2,400 pounds. The
‘‘ streaks” or ropes of fiber as received from the farmer are made up
into bundles weighing perhaps 64 pounds each, and these to the amount
of 130 pounds are arranged over the surface of the circular bed or plat-
form. The heavy iron cone is then made to revolve or travel around in
a circle at a rate of speed equal to thirty-five times a minute, the soft-
ening process requiring from half an hour to one hour and a half, de-
pendent upon the condition of the hemp under treatment. Only the
finest fiber is softened, the product going to the spinning mills for the
manufacture of coarse sheeting, shirting, canvas, and similar fabrics,
the peasantry of Brittany, for the most part, employing hemp instead of
flax in the domestic economy.

Although these details relate to the manufacturing side of the indus-
try, rather than the agricultural, they are interesting as showing by
what careful means a fiber is produced in this country (France) that
will take the place of linen. While on this subject I would add that
the softened hemp is not used in its whole length, but is broken (pulled
apart) into three pieces on a mechanical device for the purpose found
in all hemp-mills (and even in our own country). The bottom third is
the best, and is kept separate for use in the finest numbers of yarn.

How much of the French methods of hemp culture and manipulation
might be adopted in America, with advantage, remains to be deter-_
mined. Two points however may be noted: That a more careful
practice with more thorough methods of handling throughout will be
necessary to improve the fiber to that point that will make it available
for the higher grades of manufacture, and also that a better system of
retting must be followed, though the contamination of streams in the
rural districts of the United States will hardly be allowed by the resi-
dents of any section of the country. American ingenuity must devise
a plan which will be distinctly American, and both practical and
economical, and one that will not at the same time tend to make the
cultivation of this crop exhaustive to the soil.
THE RAMIE MACHINE TRIALS.

Probably no one fiber interest represented in the Paris Exposition of

1889 attracted more attention than ramie, nearly every country of any
prominence which took part in the exposition either sending specimens
of fiber to show the result of experiments or progress of its own culture,
or commissioning representatives to ascertain the latest facts regarding
it. The United States Department of Agriculture made a small dis-
play of ramie illustrating the simple fact that the plant can be grown
successfully in the United States, and produce a filasse of good quality.

During my residence in Paris, and while connected with the Ameri-
can Commission to the Exposition of 1889, I studied as far as possible
the recent progress that has been made towards establishing the ramie
industry, and especially in relation to machines or processes for the
decortication or cleaning of the fiber. I can only place on record here,
however, the result of the official tests of the ramie machines, which
took place September 23, 24, and 25, on the grounds of the exposition,

with brief descriptions of these machines and such other general infor- —

mation aS may be deemed important.

Six machines and one chemical process were entered, as follows:

The Armand-Barbier machine (HE. Armand, 46 Boulevard Richard-
Lenoir, Paris); two forms of the Favier machine, one for green and
one for dry stalks, exhibited by the “Société la Ramie Franeaise,”
(P. A. Favier, 14 Rue St. Fiacre, Paris); two forms, a large and small,
of the De Landtsheer machine (Norbert de Landtsheer, 2 Place des
Batignolles, Paris), and the machine exhibited by Felicien Michotte (of
43 Rue de Saintonge, Paris). The process was that of Ch. Crozat de
Fleury et A. Moriceau (7 Rue de Londres and 4 Faubourg Poissonni-
ere, Paris), and was for treatment of the stems in green condition.

- THE FAVIER MACHINE.

The first trial was that of the smaller of the machines exhibited by
the French Ramie Association, adapted for work upon green stalks.

Ten kilograms of stripped stalks (equal to about 22 pounds) were put

through the machine in four minutes and thirty seconds, which in-—

cluded one or two brief stoppages. The net product of well cleaned
wet ribbons weighed 2.82 kilograms, equal to almost 64 pounds.

In the second test 60 kilograms of stalks with leaves were used ;

(about 123 pounds), divided into lots of 10and 50 kilograms respectively.
32 :
33

The first lot ran through in two and a half minutes, the second in fif-
teen minutes and a half, the difference in time being due to some of the
ribbons fouling the last pair of roiles, necessitating a stoppage. The
product of the decortication was 18.1 kilograms, equal to about 40
pounds of wet ribbons nicely cleaned. :

On the afternoon of the 24th of September a test was made with the
Favier machine ondry ramie with the following results: Thirty kilograms
of stalks ran through the machine in thirty-three minutes, there being
several stops. (The actual time, that is, deducting time lost in stop-
pages, was twenty-seven minutes forty seconds.) The yield of dry rib-
bons was 7.70 kilograms, or very nearly 17 pounds. A later trial of this
machine on five kilograms of ramie stalks dried in a furnace at 30 centi-
grade (which makes softer fiber) ran through in three minutes and sixteen
seconds actual time. The product was 21 per cent. of fiber, as claimed
by M. Favier, though the record of actual weight can not be given. At
these tests two men were employed, although a feeder and an assistant
and a receiver and an assistant make up the usual complement of at-
tendants or operators required.

Some days before the official trials Thad an opportunity of examining
the larger machine privately, and seeing its work for dry ramie stalks
crown in several countries, including some secured by myself from two
localities in Texas and sent to Paris with the United States agricult-
ural exhibits. Without considering the capacity of the machine, that
is, the amount of fiber it will turn out in a given time, it must be ad-
mitted that on ary ramie it does its work more perfectly than any decor-
ticating machine I have ever seen. Some of the filasse from Spanish-
grown stalks was almost nice enough to work up into twine or cordage
or Similar coarse manufactures without further manipulation. It may
be remarked, however, that ramie is too valuable a fiber to be employed
in cordage or the coarser manufactures. There is little or no waste by
this machine; the chief objection that may be urged against it is its
very complicated mechanism, adapting it more for use in a central fac-
tory, where it would be attended by experienced operators, than for em-
ployment on the farm to be run by ordinary farm hands. Its cost, too,
makes it at once a machine for the central factory and not for the farm.
Thesmaller machine, adapted for work on green stalks, costs 2,500 francs,
and the dry stalk-machine, making acomplete decortication, 5,000 franess
practically $500 and $1,000 respectively. Hither machine requires a
force of three fourths horse-power, the refuse of decortication supplying
more fuel than the boiler requires. In fact the refuse of one machine
‘is sufficient to furnish power for four. As has been stated, while two
operators can run the machine, it is adapted for four persons ; but as the
work is light, it is claimed that it can be performed by two women and
two children. It should be remarked that women are frequently em-
ployed in such occupation in Europe where only men would be ae

20789—No, 1——3
oA.

in this country. In a personal communication to the writer M. Favier
claims the following as the capacity of this machine:

With two workmen, employed ten hours, according to the degree of
decortication required, the machine will produce from 120 to 180 kilo-
grams of decorticated fiber; with four workmen, 240 to360. The quan-
tity of dry stalks passed through the machine “ with one workman at
the point of introduction is 600 kilograms;” and with “ two workmen,
of course double that quantity, or 2,640 pounds.” Owing to the pecul-
jar construction of this machine the stalks are fed one at a time, the
feed entrance being reached between a 1umber of metal pins one-fourth
inch thick, 4 inches long, and placed at proper intervals apart to admit
easily a large stalk of ramie. These were evidently guides. When the
stalks with leaves were fed, [ supposed many of these would bestripped
off by this attachment, but such was not the case. The machine may
be deseribed as follows:

The machine (as illustrated by Fig. 4) consists of two parts, which are
shown combined, but which may be used separately if desired. The



Pp 2SORSR’

eas so 2 Boe te BE Frets Bi : cad x =
B £a¥: oe SF Par 4 : SSS Siw Sey A if 3,
(eee peste arm pra MBAR A alc flac
A Ee iter Pel foe 7 Yea

Sa

ria. 4.—The Favier Ramie Machine.

first slits the stem or stalk either entirely through or nearly through, —

flattening it into two bands. As the stem is fed by hand two vertical
feed-rollers receive it and pass it through a tube provided with the slit-
ting-knife, and so shaped that the slit is opened out. These parts are
hidden from view in the illustration. Flattening-rollers next receive

the stems, crushing them, the wood and bark however maintaining their
layer-like positions. Here the stems pass into the second machine.

Rollers with wide grooves seize these ribbons or layers of wood and
park, breaking the wood into short pieces a quarter of an inch in length,
which drop away, leaving the bark intact. This is then subjected to a

series of rubbing and beating rollers, which manipulate the ribbon on
both sides, removing the pellicle and disintegrating the fiber, which —


3D

is produced entire, cleaned and straight, within perhaps two seconds
from the time the stem leaves the attendant’s hands.

Since the trials the following letter has been received from M. Favier,
which explains itself:

Paris, October 27, 1889.

DEAR Sir: I have received your favor of 16th instant, andI had delivered already
to Mr. Amory Austin some samples of ramie for you. To-day I deliver samples of
fiber proceeding from my machine working the stalks in the dry state, and from my
new machine working green stalks. Since the trials we have made new experiments,
and here is the result :

In twelve minutes we passed through the machine 100 kilograms of green stalks,
which correspond to 500 kilograms an hour, and 5,000 for ten hours, with but two
workmen. With four workmen, it. is not exaggerating to say that we can operate
upon 7,500 kilograms.

This result will be probably interesting to your Government.

Entirely at your service.

I remain, dear sir, yours truly,
(Signed. ) A. FAVIER,
Le Directeur de la Ramie Francaise.

Mr. CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,

Special Agent, fiber Investigations.

THE ARMAND-BARBIER MACHINE.

In the first trial with this machine 10 kilograms of stripped stalks
were decorticated in six minutes, giving 1.30 kilograms of wet ribbons,
or about 23 pounds of ribbons from 22 pounds of stalks. In the sec-
ond trial 24 kilograms of stems with leaves were decorticated in ten
minutes and thirty seconds, giving 1.20 kilograms of wet ribbons, or
about 22 pounds of fiber from about 624 pounds of stalks and leaves.
In the trial of dry stalks, 12 kilograms of stalks were passed through
the machine in thirty minutes, yielding 2.20 kilograms, approximately
47 pounds of ribbons from 26.75 pounds of dry stalks.

The ribbons produced were not of the best quality, and the reverse
action of the machine, that is running the fiber part way through, then
withdrawing it and presenting the other end, makes it very slow in
operation. The machine is quite simple, however, though to all intents
and purposes is the same in principle of construction as the Landtsheer
machine, considered a little further on. Thedry ribbons produced are
broad and flat, and none of the outer pellicle is removed. The refuse
woody material comes away in large pieces, and a considerable percent-
age of the fiber itself is whipped or torn off, and falls with the refuse
of decortication. This machine occupies but a small floor space and
weighs about 1,375 pounds. Its cost is 1,200 frances. No other infor-
mation was obtained concerning it.

THE MICHOTTE MACHINE.

The trials of this machine were the most unsatisfactory of any in the
contest, the quality of decorticated fiber being very poor, as it was filled
with unseparated fragments of wood and the ribbons much broken and
36

&

injured. In the trial with stalks retaining their leaves, the machine
clogged frequently, the cylinders becoming badly fouled. There were no
tests with dry ramie. The record of the first trialis as follows: Green
stalks 7 kilograms, equal to 152 pounds; time of the decortication, one
minute and thirty seconds; product 1 kilogram, equal to 24 pounds of
semi-cleaned ribbons. In the second trial 17.4 kilograms (38.28 pounds)
of green stems with leaves were decorticated in two and one-half minutes,
the result giving 6 kilograms (13.2 pounds) of ribbons. There were no
trials on dry stalks at this time.

This machine is composed of four crushing rollers of large size, hav-
ing a special form of fluting. These rollers are followed by a steel
breaker with elastic beaters working in connection with another breaker
of similar form. The largerollers first crushed the stems and then



Ramie Machine.

passed them to the beaters which were intended to free them from wood
and fiber. Ihave specimens of the work of the machine on stalks of
dry ramie, obtained from a private trial, and while better than the
specimens of the green decortication, they are nevertheless poor. The
price of the machine, made in two types, has been placed at 3,800 and
4,000 francs.

THE LANDTSHEER MACHINES.

In the first trials of the large machine 36 kilograms of stripped green
stems were decorticated in two minutes and thirty-five seconds, the yield
being 10 kilograins of wet ribbons (or about 22 pounds). This was in two
lots of 10 kilograms without leaves and 26 kilograms with the leaves.
At another trial, 46 kilograms of green stalks with leaves (two hundred
3

stems) were cleaned in eleven and one-half minutes, giving 15 kilograms
of wet ribbons, filled with fragments of woody matter, chips, and even
short sections of stems. ‘This was then passed through the small ma-
chine in six and a half minutes, the 15 kilograms of partially cleaned
ribbons giving 10.5 kilograms, showing a shrinkage of almost five kilo-
grams weight by the second operation, or 30 per cent. Another trial
of the small machine with 24.4 kilograms of green stalks with leaves,
gave in ten minutes 6.50 kilograms of ribbons. This was at the rate of
14.32 pounds of wet ribbons from 53.79 pounds green stalks.

It was noticed that the larger machine did not decorticate well the
last few inches of the stalk when fed in tops first, pieces of almost
unbroken wood an inch or more in length loosely adhering to the rib-
bons. When fed butts first better results were obtained, though the
ribbons invariably showed a percentage of semi-loose chips and litter.
These machines have also the reverse action described in the Barbier
machine, though in the trials with the large machine the action was con-
tinuous. |

In the trial with dry stalks, without changing or cleaning the large
machine, 30 kilograms were decorticated in twenty-one minutes, giving















































Wea)
a











Fic. 6.—The Landtsheer Ramie Machine.

10 kilograms of flat ribbons, the outer pellicle not being removed. ‘lwo
men were required to run each machine.

The Landtsheer machine may be described as composed of three
cylinders tangent to another central cylinder. The feeding cylinder is
38

arranged with spiral grooves to regulate the feeding of the ramie stalks.
The crushing cylinders are alternately smooth and grooved longitudi-
nally in such manner that when working together the grooved part of
one bearing upon the smooth parts of the other crushes the stalks.
These cylinders are held in place by springs. After leaving the crush-
ing cylinders the broken stalk passes between a pair of beaters, each
supplied with sixteen winglets geared in such manner that they lightly
interlock, this action brushing off or removing the woody matter and
the bark. drive the machine.

THE FLEURY-MORICEAU PROCESS.

This seemed to be simply immersion of a quantity of ramie stalks,

either dry or green, in a rectangular galvanized iron tank of boiling

water set upon masonry to admit of fire beneath to continue the boiling

for a certain time, varying from five to fifteen minutes. The stripping ©

of the ribbons was performed by hand by two men with occasional out-
side assistance. Highteen kilograms of green stalks were used in the
trial, the boiling occupying ten minutes and the decorticating thirty-six
minutes, the result being 5 kilograms of good ribbons. ‘The process is
too laborious to be used in any country where living wages are paid,
though the inventors claim that the ribbons can be produced, baled for
shipment, for 8 to 10 centimes per kilogram, or about $21 per ton.

Here is the summary of the ramie machine trials of 1889, reduced to
tabular form :
TABLE I.—Summary of the trials.







Machine. es Condition of the stalks. Time. et
Kilos. fee ee IAO Ss
jelstayier -siial lees = 10 Green, without leaves......-. 4 30 2. 82
Dial eae dos BOS Amare 60 Green, with leaves ..........- 18 18.1
Be SR AVIOl Lato C ss eee ies: 30 DD RvestalicS =. so-so oars 33 7. 70
4 | Armand-Barbier ~....<-.-- 10 Green, without leaves........ 6 lees 0
Helmer COs eee etter ee 24 Green, with leaves ..........- 10 30 1. 26
Glee Ons eres ees 12 Dnwastalks 7. eben coe 30 2. 20
TeeNIChotte ss. scoe eee. = see 7 Green, without leaves .....-.. 1230 1
8 CO eee ee ee 17.4 | Green, with leaves ...-....... D230) 6
9 Landtsheer, lavgewsss =. 36 Green, without leaves ..-..--. 2.35 10
1s ates dO eee ek Se 46 Green, with leaves ........... fe230 15
11 Landtsheer, Snialese see Ge ES ecu tk ete ae eae eg eee 6 30 10,5
De pe 02ers 24.4 | Green, with leaves ..........- 10 6.5
13 | Landtsheer, large .-.-...---., 30 DR VEStALS ee er ee sie os 21 10
_14 | Fleury- -Moriceat process . | 18 Green, without leaves .......- 46 5. 6







|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|



* The 15 Silos can of ribbons from preceding.





As a showing of the capacity of these machines for a day’s work of

ten hours, I subjoin a table prepared by Dr. Morris and published in

the Kew Bulletin for November, 1839. The trials are numbered to

correspond with the arrangement in my own table. The column relat-

ing to condition of the stalks 1s omitted.

,
Snr Wor efit tee mur

pe ate SSS eS 09 Sin) ENS SE ns a BS ee ot,

ape cetemndinennrtnersitemedciuacin tne te tee at a a EL

as renee ctlzt ts 2
SACRE eeee as Var Pee i
PPI TE ee ET IE LT EE TE IT Ie FT EY PTT EE PEI Ee BTL BE IE Ley


39

TABLE II.



|

Veto Weight Esti- |

Machine.. cay Time of fiber |mate per!
Pine (wet). day.*

Be | Secon pean crests | Ut a eee sauce | Oe |

|

Kilos et Kilos. Pounds. |

Tale Mawaeresmiall lz sate shen ocacera:a ominie 10 40 30 2. 82 276 |

De laenes (Oe ee eer eee 60. 35 18 18.1 443 |
Sees BE ee ein Sa we aco cc rara le varatacete seca ca us ac tear een | tev mee ee re [een ares
AAT Man d= bat Diels ei a eer 10 6 lee 96
De |iteec Os eee ee ee 26 10 30 2 50
i ee ar orca ear re ats oe eet | ema remn leat asa wie mim [oe eee ee | meee eevee
(le MACGHOUbpKa ettct ee es ere 7 1 30 Eee eee ae
Sanaa (OSes eee oie ore ae 17.4 2 30 Giz 3 Pee
Oz| Sand tsneer, large ose) e ee ee 36 2 30 10 T1, 763
10sp O22 eae ae ee 4S Ji 30 15 575
ULE | eR a ere es ac canoe | ewer create era Lerten ree (ee reir
122|- Landtsheer, small 22s se 24, Ao 10 6.5 287
a eee iene ies URE aa As On eran gee aramrrcrd Sere mee beam mc an oleae Rae Pye oS
14 | Fleury-Moriceau | 18 46 5. 6 161

*Estimated quantity in pounds of dry ribbons producible in a day of ten hours.



In preparing this

estimate the wet ribbons are calculated to yield one-third of their weight of dry ribbons, and the kilo-
gram is taken as equivalent to 2.204 pounds avoirdupois.
+This large yield of ribbons must be reduced about 20 per cent. on account of the pith and wood

ightly adhering to them.

YT also append another table, from the same source,

of the trials of 1889 with those of 1888.

Machine.

De Landtsheer:

Darce machine =.=. 2-25.25

MavienaNo.d.. 2:

TABLE IIT.

Ponce ity of dry rib-

bons producible in
a day often hours,
(pounds avoirdu-
pois), working on
green stems.

1888. | 1889.

Fleury-Moricean .....-.-.-.--



=Sce second note in table above.

comparing results

Comparing the results of the French ramie-machine trials of 1889
with those of the previous year, it is evident that some progress has
been made, and the prospect of putting the ramie industry upon its
feet seems brighter than at any previous time in the history of the ex-

periments with this fiber.

The record of progress of the industry in

general, with interesting statements relating to our own country, will
be found in its appropriate place in the second part of this report.
Pee

oy

:
ie


PARE Ei.

———

FIBER PRODUCTION IN AMERICA.

4l
ea se
meek Beas
Sos reper ory
eines
e

eo =
oe


FIBER PRODUCTION IN AMERICA.

FLAX CULTURE IN THE UNITED STATES.

Regarding this industry, were we to accept as final the statements of
a few of the American flax-spinners who use fine line flax in their manu-
factures, we would be obliged to say that, from the agricultural stand-
point, a flax industry not only does not exist in the United States, but,
following the arguments presented in favor of admitting raw flax free
of duty, never could be established. Even cleverly selected official
figures from, and statements of experts in, more recent Government
publications on the subject, have been repraduced and presented as
arguments to support this view.

It is proper, at the very outset, to look the fact.squarely in the face,

that we produce at present very little if any flax that would compete
with the fine line flax! imported for manufacture into the higher numbers
of yarns. It is equally true that our farmers do not now, nor have they
‘in many years, if ever, followed the careful methods of culture and
after-treatment in harvesting and retting of the straw that are practiced
in the prominent flax growing countries of Hurope; nor could they, at
once, acquire the skill of these foreign flax growers (and grandchildren
of flax growers), were they to adopt their methods, with ample re-
muneration, in this the present year of our Lord.

And this is the full text of the arguments put forth by inece who —
have no wish to see a flax fiber industry established in the United
States, and all that can be found in any publication of the Department
of Agriculture to support the arguments they present. As there are
degrees in skill in the growing of flax fiber, so are there grades in
manufacture, and to assume that because we can not, at once, produce
a quality of fiber fit for table damask or linen thread, we can not pro-
duce a quality of fiber fit for any form of manufacture from flax, is to
create an impression thatis false and misleading. But I will go a step
farther, bearing in mind the vast extent of our country, its great diver-
sity of soil and climate, and the fact that it is inhabited by a people

1 As this report is going through re press a fine sample of a car-load lot of Wis-
consin flax has been received from an Eastern manufacturer, who says, in concluding
the letter accompanying, ‘‘ and this flax is good enough for even fine linens.”

43










Ae.

noted for intelligence, energy, and inventive genius, having in its citizen.
ship those who have successfully grown flax, not only in the United)
States, but in the old world, to assert that, with proper encouragement,
we can not in time produce fine flax, is to compromise American agua
culture and the millions who are following it as an occupation.
In part I of this report I have endeavored to present detailed state:
ments showing the careful culture and skillful manipulation necessary
to produce fine fiber. These are recorded, not so much with the idea
that our farmers will adopt them wholly, as to supply hints for a prae-_
tice adapted to American agriculture which will result in improved
methods over the practices at present followed, to the end of producing”
@ fiber that, if not fit for fine linen manufacture, will at least be fit for
some form of manufacture sufficient to create a demand for the product, |
Reference has been made to Government publications, i. e., the reports
of the Department of Agriculture. A perusal of these documents fora
period of forty years, and in connection with the census volumes, gives _
abundant evidence that flax cultivation for fiber has been a recognized
American industry. In a flax and hemp inquiry,! made by the Depart-
ment of Agriculture ten years ago or more, many interesting statements.
were received regarding the cultivation of flax in this country during
the first half century of the Republic, which were not recorded, being
chiefly historical rather than personal experiences, showing how well
established was the industry. Not only were references made to that
early period in the nation’s history, when the flax-wheel was as common _
in the household as is the sewing-machiue in our generation, but ib was
shown that at a later period good flax fiber was produced in many por-
tions of the United States, and at various times quite extensively. Lef-—
erence was made to the New York and New Kingland flax of sixty to.
Seventy years ago, which is described as strong and flexible, though
not always as clean as it should have been, and sometimes uneven in
quality. The history of the flax culture from that time down to within
a score of years of the present time is a history of flax fiber production —
in varying quantities, the most of it being good staple flax.
As late as ten years ago a Massachusetts manufacturer of crash and |
similar grades of linen goods, who used flax from Russia, from Canada,
and from New York State at his mills, stated in a communication to.
the writer that he made a difference of one-half cent in favor of Ameri-
ean flax when properly dressed. Another manufacturer, in considering |
the quality of American flax, said that it was about equal to third crown |
Archangel, and also stated at when American flax was abundant and _
the fiber was satisfactory there was less call for the grade of Russian, .
with which it competed. [
And since the Ist of January of the present year a number of prom: I
inent manufacturers in various parts of the country have expressed the
opinion that with a better system of cultivation and handling of the)

:
i
E
I

|
E
t
f
E
a



ere eters ———

1 See Annual Report for the Department of Agriculture for for 1879, 1 pages | 565-611,




45

flax crop of the United States, as now grown for seed, the fiber could
be utilized in coarser manufactures, though a higher rate of duty on
‘these manufactures is desired. And in several instances their state-
ments were accompanied by samples of the flax fiber.

The flax producer who is asked to improve his product, as he scans
these pages, may well demand why he too may not be encouraged in the
adoption of a better practice by a higher rate of duty on the raw
material. Itisareasonable request, despite the objection urged by some
manufacturers that an immediate supply of the home-grown raw
product to meet the existing demand could not be assured, and that it
would still be necessary to rely upon the foreign market. The answer
to this argument is that without making a beginning there can never be
an agricultural flax industry in the United States. There are many ex-
perienced flax growers in the United States who are now ready to make
a beginning, but who hesitate to embark in flax production on the pres-
ent narrow margin of profit. The manufacturers ask an increase from
35 per cent. ad valorem to 50 per cent. The present duty on the raw
material is about 7 per cent. In view of the wide difference in the tariff
already existing between the manufactured article and the raw material,
it would seem a very modest demand on the part of the flax and hemp
growers to ask for one-half the rate of advance demanded by the manu-
facturers. This would be equivalent to doubling the present tariff on
the raw material; and even then the grower’s protection would not
amount to more than 15 per cent.

To go back a quarter of a century or more to the period of the war,
it is not so long ago that the labors of the flax and hemp commission,
in the interest of flax culture in the United States at that time, are
entirely forgotten. But allow me to give the reference in the words of
a little work on ‘“* Flax Culture,”! recently published, because it states
the matter so truthfully :

In 1863 Congress appropriated $20,000 for an investigation to test the practicability
of cultivating and preparing flax or hemp as a substitute for cotton. A commission
- was appointed which examined the whole subject thoroughly, and made a most elab-
orate report to Congress. These efforts of the General Government, combined with

the high price of flax, stimulated the growth of flax, and the amount of flax fiber
produced was large.

Here is the next chapter: In 1866 the area under cultivation in flax
was something over 50,000 acres. In the short period between 1866
and 1869 it was almost doubled. In 1866 about three-sixteenths of the
cottvn crop was covered with flax bagging, and in 1869 three-fourths
of the entire crop was baled with flax fiber, the remaining one-fourth
being covered with bagging made from other fibers. This meant an
increase in four years from 12,000,000 pounds of fiber to 80,000,000
pounds. The cotton crop of 1870 was 4,347,000 bales, this enormous
production taxing the capacity 0. of every bagging-mill in the country to









-—-

ee: A. Whitman, A. M., and J. R. Leeson, Boston, 1883.
46

its utmost. Kven with the opening of the new factories large orders
tor jute bagging were placed abroad to make good the short supply
which seemed inevitable. Then followed the year 1871, a year of the
bitterest antagonism between manufacturers and the holders of raw
material. It was necessary to effect sales, and prices of both fiber and
bagging were forced down. Then followed the tariff legislation of
1872, which removed the duty on jute butts, and mill after mill through-
out the West was forced to suspend operations, and they never re-
sumed.! Here was a very good beginning of a flax fiber industry in
the United States, that with a very little encouragement at the time
would have been developed into something better than bagging-tow
production. The people interested in the industry were not only en-
thusiastic but sanguine. So sure were they that the flax culture was
an established thing that in some instances machinery was procured
for the manufacture of crash and the coarser goods and located in the
eenters of flax fiber production. :
I have betore me a communication, only recently received, wherein is.
detailed the history of one of these invent enterprises, the manu-
facturer having lost $18,000 through the collapse. His machinery had
just been imported from Belfast, and a Belfast spinner was employed )
to direct the operations. JI am aware that there was a duty of $20 per
ton upon raw flax fiber at this time, but as the men who were seeking |
to extend their business in this manner derived their income from bag:
ging manufacture chiefly, itis to be seen that the new industry could -
but fail when the old one collapsed. The act of 1870 placed a duty of
$20 on a product worth at that time from $250 to $300 per ton. This,
when hemp had, up to a year or two, been protected at the rate of $40_
per ton. I can only touch thus briefly upon these interesting points in.
the limited space of the present report; but more detailed statements
accompanied with tables of explanatory figures can be made ata tuto |
time if desired. Enough to show that even with the slight encourage |
ment this industry has had in the past, the growing of flax for fiber in |
the United States has been a source of revenue to the American farmer.
But it may be urged that growing flax for bagging is a pretty low or |
der of fiber cultivation. As I have said, there must always be a begin- |
ning. When our farmers have learned hon to produce fiber from flax
straw that is good enough and cheap enough for bagging or binder
twine, they are on the sure road towards the production of a better
quality of the raw material for employment in a higher grade of manu:

facture. From the experience gained by a very few years of practice
with better methods of culture and treatment, and with the assurance of 4
market for their product at fairly pominente prices, it would be buta_
step to the proscoe! of a quality of fiber fit for the coarse linens, and





1 A former cami faction of flax bagging informs me that the industry also suffered |
injury through the careless use by a few bagging producers of a bad quality ot
fiber produced from green or unretted flax. Ep


AT

to that promising extent the flax industry would be established. Good
samples of fiber from old flax-growers in several of the Western States,
and even from Texas and California, have been received by the Depart-
ment recently, one especially noteworthy coming from a former Belgian
flax-grower, now a resident of Wisconsin, who is sending flax in quan-
tity to the Eastern market. An Illinois farmer, within a few weeks, has
sent to the Department-a sample of flax fiber that is strong, though
coarse, asking if it is not good enough for binder twine. He quotes
prices paid for binder twine in the past two seasons, and makes the
statement that the farmers in his section are ready to put up a flax
binder-twine mill if the flax produced on their farms and grown for seed
can be utilized in the manufacture. He says:

This flax was cut short so as to save only the seed, but if it was known that we
could use it for binder twine we could cut it within 2 inches from the ground so as to

give longer fiber; it could be bound and only the heads of the bundle thrashed and
the straw kept whole. j

As a relief from high prices it is proposed by the manufacturers of
binder twine from sisal, manila, and jute, to place these fibers on the
free list, because they are not produced by the American farmer, yet
binder twine can be manufactured from both hemp and flax, and every
pound of it grown in our own country.

“Yes, but at the expense of the grain-grower,” suggests the advocate
of free sisal and manila.

Well, who are the grain-growers? In foreign countries the grain-
growers are the flax-producers, for in the regions where the best flax is
cultivated, as already shown, rotation of crops is positively essential to
success. In a nine years’ rotation in Belgium there are often five crops
of grain to one of flax on the same piece of land, which means, as flax
is grown every year on some one Section of the farm, five other sections
must be devoted to wheat, oats, barley, or rye, or perhaps all four.

But even the argument that our farmers can not compete with foreign
fiber-producers in an open market is not a conclusive one, for, hav-
ing made a beginning, the effect of competition at home would be to
gradually reduce the cost of production through the acquirement of
knowledge and skill and the American tendency to turn “ short corners.”
The statement made in another part of this report that a French hemp-
breaker produces or cleans but 75 pounds of fiber in a day against the
Kentucky negro’s 150 pounds is an illustration of the point I would
make. The difference in the two products is something, it is true, but,
after all, the advantage is largely on the side of the American workman.
And right here the suggestion is in place that the future of the fiber-
producing industries of America depends largely (after reaching a certain
point) upon theinvention of labor-saving machinery, as well as the adapta-
tion of present machinery to new uses, to take the place, in a measure,
of the costly practice and tedious methods followed abroad.

Given the advantage of labor-saving and time-saving appliances, with
48

the increase of man-power, as represented by the greater development

of energy and nervous force in the American laborer, the difference in

the cost of labor here and abroad would be more nearly equalized. In

the production of wheat to feed Europeans we employ the best labor-

saving machinery that the world can produce, and it is of American in--
vention and manufacture. What we can do for wheat-growing we can

do for flax culture when there is an incentive for the effort.

It has been stated that when we had the beginning of a flax indus-
try, and the fiber was produced in New England and the Middie States,
that there were no standards; that American flax was rarely prepared
twice alike, and as there was no unity either between growers or
among dealers, a manufacturer seldom knew what he was buying with-
out testing samples of the product offered ; yet this is a matter that in:
a very short time would regulate itself, or as soon as there was a steady
production, as an official inspection and grading would be established
by the buyers and sellers, just as the flax-seed product is now inspected
by the Board of Trade of Chicago. The farmers would soon learn the
requirements of the trade, and with experience would be able to pro-
duce a certain quantity of fiber, just as a certain quality of butter is
regularly produced on dairy farms where systematic methods are pur-
sued. ;

PRESENT STATUS OF THE INDUSTRY.

What of the flax culture of the present? In general terms the situa-
tion may be briefly stated thus: Grown almost wholly for seed, the
straw, of inferior quality, when used at all, going to the tow-mills or the
paper-mills, and worth from $1 to $8 a ton, the average in different
sections being not more than $2.50 to $4. In the older States, the area
under present cultivation is very small and steadily decreasing ; in thé |
newer States, or States where agriculture is being pushed steadily west-
ward from year to year, the area under calbatice either just holds its |
own one season with another, or 1s increasing.

In all the newer States it is the common practice to grow on “first ”
breaking,” or land plowed from the prairie sod, no manures being used, or |
rarely used. On cultivated land it is the custom to grow after corn,
grain, or clover, and it is almost the rule to follow with a grain crop of |
some sort, wheat and oats being most commonly cultivated. Corn is |
also grown, and sometimes grasses and clover or potatoes. In such cases ;
the ground is prepared as fora wheat crop, barn-yard manures being
applied ; in some rare instances, bone or other fertilizer is spread after
seeding, and the soil is brought to a fine state of tilth by harrowing.|
It seems to be generally understood that a tine mellow soil is necessary |
for the success of the crop ; one or more, sometimes three plowings are!
given, and the earth pulverized as thoroughly as possible. The seed is :
obtained at the oil mills, at the local stores, and impcrted, some Rus |
sian seed (“Large Russian”) being sown in the new States. It is eithel :
drilled or sown broadcast, the latter being the almost universal custom. |










AY

There is no cultivation given the crop while growing, and when the
seed is ripe the straw is cut with the reaper, the knives set high, and
the ‘‘self-raker” employed. The straw is run through an ordinary
thrashing-machine, which breaks it up worse than hay. When not sold
for fiber it is fed to sheep and cattle, used to thatch sheds and for bed-
ding for stock or for packing ice; it is rotted for manure, wasted, or
even burned to get rid of it. Regarding its use in feeding stock, when
in Belfast, my attention was called by Secretary Morton, of the Flax
Supply Association, to a statement in one of the Department reports to
the effect that flax straw could be fed to cattle. Mr. Morton took ex-
- ception to the statement, and criticised its having been made in an
official publication, urging that the fiber in the straw was more than
likely to cause the death of any animal eating it in quantity. I would
like to inform our foreign friends that the practice of feeding flax straw
to sheep and cattle is common in the West; that were the question
asked of a thousand flax-growing farmers, fully four hundred would an-
swer ‘ yes.” While this is a fact, the practice can not be condemned
too strongly.

As to growing for fiber, there are small areas which produce a fair
quality for coarse uses, though the product is extremely small. And
what may appear as a novel statement isthe fact that in the year 1889,
in Virginia, good home-spun linen was made for family use, the straw
being carefully grown on thoroughly prepared soil, well cultivated, and
the product well handled and retted, and the seed was beaten out by
hand and sold at $1 a bushel.

Ina very few localities flax straw brings somewhat higher prices
than those I have quoted. The little sold in New York ranges from $7
to $25 per ton, the latter price being quoted in Schenectady County.
In Ohio the range is $2 to $°5 per ton, the latter figure having been
paid recently in Shelby County, and in other counties from that price
down. Ohio formerly manufactured large quantities of flax bagging,
and on the authority of the Department State agent for Ohio, the state-
mentis made that alittle flax bagging is still manufactured there. The
following figures ot acreage for three years are from the Flax-Seed In-
spection Report of 1889, published by the Chicago Board of Trade:





1887.
State Acres Bushels. Value.
MOM ae cg ee ere oe ae 14, 872 107,208 | $107, 208
BEM Onsen oe es Pa eh eee ee ee ee 10. 184 81, 472 81, 472
IMS SOUT se oa ae a ee eee 45, 000 395, 000 875, 250
RSA IS AS cee ee ee See ee 142,577 | 1,400,741 | 1, 190, 630
IOUS Iss ee es ee ee eee 150,922 | 1,220,006 | 1, 098, 005
CN SUN Ses se es Oe ee ee 265,000 | 2,186,250 | 2,055,075

DALOlA ie ae ee ea ek eer ee 488,993 | 3,910,944 | 3, 519, 849
Minnesota: fee ee ee ie ee 167,264 | 1,318,121 | 1,252, 214

Dotal: 2 2 ce ae ee “1, 284, 812 | 10, 619, 742 | 9, 679, 703

&

20789-—No, 14












1888.

Widian a: 2 ee ee, 13, 949 101, 693 101, 698
SPE TAVOUG Ro Soe eee ate eet ree eco nist eile bee oral cate ae kine Meee ow utes 6, 181 49, 448 54, 394
MAS SOUTIeSen ccm ie ee eee oo eee cot emt Steseaciine Seatac 43, 000 387, 000 387, 000 —
ERAT S AIS eee Re ee SNe ig Ge DnIeE Seles tatnie ue Me ae eS 162,655 | 1, 340, 222 1, 206, 200
ENG DRES ISA ew sears = wo simeiemre cacree mus ciemec nis Sree mis woes opens Siete Sone 67, 626 710, 871 639, 334
OWA eee Se os tee Se re nao SORE Sone le Lae Ieee EO eet 201, 1005)" 42,200,700 2, 514, 982
WD aKOta ste os se eee ees SOR RG G aea a aaa es are ac secre 370,406 | 2, 963, 247 2, 666, 922
EITM OSO Hei Ses eo eee ha SE he Been ny, Rens wee ee an coeeeaeas 166, 184 J, 661, 840 1, 661, 840

DWOtales ce oo eee Soe ee eee oe ee oe eer oc en obese 1, 081, 751 | 9, 479, 571 9, 232, 365

1889.

Heya ee cee eee ee a Sa ee en eee 12, 860 102, 860 113, 146
MM OTS ee ee ce ea ran epee: Suen aoeion Gees came 5, 556 44, 448 48, 893
IVETSS OURS Ae ones occ cure eteere Sees bo tiie oaloe came eee ubre sec Sees 40, 000 360, 000 396, 000 —
GANS Magee oie Shree as ree Sea eS nies Se cise Sieg Syeuis ame 113, 829 | 1,019, 961 1,019, 961
INOUUAS dts ete seen ss ae carte ee Cea net ee Rca ste eect Toes 81,151 887, 964 976, 760
NG) Wit tet eee ee cre se Se Ve ce seas was oars bine y Srera S 246, 588 | 2, 465, 350 2, 761, 192 |
NO AOGAE eee ne eae oe ones eos pence os occ oN ee eae 403,314 | 3, 288,115 1, 452, 520
IVERIT CSO Ui ree es access ea cle omicic Se pire Sone a Ss ocica vale e Srciccces 157, 540 | 1, 647, 622 1, 812, 384

PROG Sos ceascdas Sines a cee penis wo sees Sina soute's Dem eyomimven 1, 060, 285 | 9, 816,320 | 10, 580, 855 855° |

Ohio, which is omitted, had an area of 16,154 acres under cultivation
Jast season.

A. great deal is said by the farmers in this country about flax being
an exhaustive crop. That it is not an exhaustive crop is abundantly
proved by repeated chemical tests in this country and Europe, showing |
that flax takes less inorganic matter from the soil, per acre, than wheat,
oats, barley, or tobacco. It must naturally prove a very exhausting -
crop as the majority of our farmers grow it—for seed ‘production, with-/
out rotation, and with little or no manuring, selling the seed to the oil
manufacturers, burning or wasting the straw, and returning nothing to
the ground. It is not found an exhaustive crop in Europe, because its
cultivation is conducted on common-sense principles. As the fiber ig
composed of elements taken almost wholly from the atmosphere, while
the mineral elements of the soil are found in the waste material of the
plant, the only rational course to pursue suggests itself,

|
|
I
f
E
i



CULTIVATION.

For the guidance of those who may wish to try the experiment a
growing flax for fiber the present season a few brief hints are given
Much depends upon the selection of the soil, a moist, deep, strong loam
upon upland giving the best results. Barley lands in the Middle States,
and new prairie lands or old turf in the Western States are frequently
chosen. On the contrary, a soil full of the seeds of weeds is not to be
thought of under any consideration. Some New York flax-growers in
cline to a heavy clay loam for the production of fiber and seed, though
the choice of a wet soil will be fatal to success. |

Flax culture in Russia is carried on upon the vast plains in the inte.
rior subject to annual overflow from the rivers. As we have seen, rote q
tion of crops is an element of success in all foreign countries oe fas 4





51

is produced. By studying the practices abroad the American flax-
grower can determine what will be best in his own practice. Fall
plowing is desirable in our own country, with a second plowing in the
spring as early as possible. Then harrow, reduce to fine tilth, and roll
the ground well before putting in the seed. Mr. 8S. Edwards Todd, in
a prize essay on flax culture published six years ago, lays great stress
on the matter of reducing the soil to fine tilth and rolling well, the ob-
ject being to have the surface of the ground as smooth and uniform as
it can be made, so that the flax may get an even start, grow more uni-
formly, and the surface of the ground be better to work over when the
flax is pulled. Of course all stones should be removed or pressed into
the earth, and lumps are to be equally avoided. Phosphates, plaster,
ashes, and salt are considered the best manures. Dr. Ure recommends
a mixture of 30 pounds of potash, 28 of common salt, 34 of burnt gyp-
sum, 04 of bone dust, and 56 of magnesia, which he claims will replace
the constituents of an average acre of flax. Belgian farmers use liquid
night soil or other liquid manure collected from the cow-house and sta- |
bles. itis fermented in cisterns and is sometimes mixed with oil cake.
One trouble with stable manure is its liability to contain ungerminated
seeds of weeds, which is as fatal as a weedy soil. And weeds may also
be sown with flaxseed that has not been carefully selected. As a final
preparation for sowing the seed it has been advocated to run over the
ground with a harrow the day the seed is to be sown to destroy all the
little weeds that may be just appearing, then put in the seed while
the soil is fresh.

Only the best quality of seed should be used. Mr. J, BR. Proctor, of
Kentucky, advocates the white blossom Dutch as the best seed for
American flax-growers. In all cases the heaviest, brightest, and plump-
est seed should be preferred. Finer fiber is obtained from early
sown flax than from later sown, and two bushels per aere is the smallest
quantity that should be sown when the best results are desired. When
sowing for the production of seed alone, two pecks to a bushel will suf-
fice, this allowing the plant to branch. The larger the quantity of
seed therefore, the finer the straw, and likewise the fiber. (Note the
quantity of seed sownin Belgium). After sowing use the brush harrow ;
some growers also advocate rolling. As to time for sowing, a New York
grower says:

Sow when the soil has settled and is warmed by the influence of the sun, and weeds
and grass have begun to spring up, and the leaves of trees begin to unfold.

Too early sowing may result in injury to the young plants. The weed-
ing, when this is necessary, is performed when they are less than five
inches high. Mr. Todd’s practice for the removal of the coarser nox-
ious weeds like thistles, dock, etc., is to send a man into the field shod
with three or four pairs of woolen stockings, to avoid injury to the plants
by treading them into the soil. This is done when the plants are about

8 inches high, When the leaves begin to fall and the stalks to assume
52

a yellowish tinge, it is then time to harvest, and this is practiced abroad
almost universally by pulling. In this country, where so much farming
is done on the high-pressure principle, the reaper is depended upon,
though the results are not as satisfactory aS when the more tedious
foreign methods are practiced, particularly as there is loss’ of fiber.
Where the land has been well prepared and made smooth in the
manner that has been indicated, it is possible to cut low. By this course
there will be considerable fiber saved, though still a loss of several inches
of the best of the stem. Recalling the many wonderful inventions in
agricultural machinery in late years, a thoroughly successful machine
flax puller would seem a possibility, were such an implement demanded.
Such machines have already been tried in the West. It is a positive
injury to the fiber to allow the seed to mature upon the plant where it
is desired to produce the best results. Some assert that it will ripen
| equally well after harvesting, but in any event the quality of the fiber
is the first consideration. Securing the seed is the next operation after
the crop is harvested, called “ rippling.” There are machines to accom-
plish this, although the work can be well done in an ordinary thrashing
machine by opening the “concave” so that the teeth will just come to-
gether; then, with one man to open and pass the bundles, another
takes them by the butt ends and spreading them in fan shape, presents
- the seed end to the machine. The straw is not released, the operator
withdrawing it again as soon as the seed has been torn off. Witha_
whip the loose seed is shaken out and the flax rebundled. Some, how-
ever, perform the operation without breaking the bundles. ‘The best
method of separating the seeds is to pass the heads through plain rol- |
lers, free at one end, which avoids injury to the fiber; and there are
powerful machines for this purpose to be obtained in Great Britain. |
Whipping out the seed against a sharp stone set up at an angle of 45 |
degrees is a New York method. Two or three smart blows, the bundle’
being held in both hands, will accomplish the result. |
Now comes the important operation of retting. In this country the’
fiber is separated from the stalk by dew-retting almost wholly. ‘The
best results are accomplished by the foreign method of water-retting, ;
which necessitates the building of ‘‘steep-pools ” especially for the pur:
pose. A moist meadow is the proper place for dew-retting, the fiber!
being spread over the ground in straight rows, at the rate of a ton to an
acre. If laid about the 1st of October, and weather is good, a couple”
of weeks will suffice for the proper separation of the fiber and woody
matter. When the retting is progressing unevenly, the rows are opened
with a fork or turned with a long pole. iF
For water-retting the softest water gives the best results, and wher j
access can not be had to lakes or sluggish or slow running streams,
‘¢ steep pools” will have to be built.1. A pool 30 feet long, 10 feet wide,










1 There is always 0 objection to retting flax in quantity, in the running streams, for 1 :
ganibary reasons, : ae
53

and 4 feet deep will suffice for an acre of flax. Spring water should be
avoided, or if used, the pool should be filled some weeks before the flax
is ready for it in order to soften the water. It should be kept free from
all mineral or vegetable impurities. The sheaves are packed loosely in
the pool, sloping so as to rest lightly on their butt ends, if at all, for it
is considered best to keep the sheaves entirely under water without al-
lowing them to come in contact with the bottom. Irish growers cover
with long wheat straw or sods, grass-side down, the whole kept under
water by means of stones or other weights. Fermentation is shown by
the turbidity of the water, and by bubbles of gas, and as this goes on,
more weights are required—for the flax swells and rises. If possible,
the thick seum which now forms on the surface should be removed, by
allowing a slight stream of water to flow over the pool. The fiber sinks
when decomposition has been carried to the proper point, though this
is not always @ sure indication that it is just right to take out. In
Holland the plan is to take a number of stalks of average fineness,
which are broken in two places a few inches apart. If the woody por-
tion or core pulls out easily, leaving the fiber intact, it is ready to come
out.

When the retting has been accomplished the bundles should be taken
out by hand, for the use of pitchforks may injure the fiber, and set up
on end that the water may drain off gradually; twenty-four hours is a
sufficient time. Then the bundles are opeued and spread evenly over
a newly-mown grass field to cleanse the fiber and improve its color;
being turned occasionally by poles, that it may color evenly. Three or
four days will suffice for the grassing, and then, if thoroughly dry, the
flax is ready to lift, tie in sheaves, and be put under cover, ready for
Scutching. :

There are many different modes of retting practiced in foreign coun-
tries, not touched upon in Part I of this report; all are interesting, but
as far as the American flax-grower is concerned, enough has been stated
to show him what is required to produce the best quality of fiber.

The one great drawback to successful cultivation of flax in this country.
is carelessness. Many a farmer feels that he can not afford to waste
time over such nice manipulation and careful treatment. ‘To all such J
would say: Don’t try fine flax culture for profit, for you will necessarily
have to compete with foreign skill and low-priced labor, and will need
all the more to make hard work of it until you have acquired experience
and knowledge. But the American farmer is progressive; he has brains
and ambition, and inventive genius will aid him in surmounting many
difficulties if he will work intelligently and stick to it. Not one year
or three, but year after year, growing each season a little flax, growing
it well, and striving with the acquirement of skill and experience each
year produce the best results, and in the end he will be enabled to
successfully compete with the foreigner and drive his product out of
the market. But the farmer must keep both eyes open, making a study
54.

of the crop from the time the land is plowed until the last operation has
been performed, In this way, each year’s experience will suggest im-
provements in the next year’s practice, and in time a profitable flax
culture will be the crowning result.

PRESENT SUGGESTIONS.

In the preceding account of how the crop should be managed I have
considered the cultivation of flax for fine fiber only. Recalling the figures _
of seed production in the United States, it is shown that already a large
area is annually cultivated in flax for the seed alone, the amount of fiber
utilized being quite small.
duced each year, however, of which the greater part is represented by up-
holsterer’s tow ; a small quantity goes into bagging stock, perhaps, and
a less amount into twine. Theremainder of that which is used goes into
paper stock. In Ireland they grow for fiber, and, as arule, throw away
the seed ; in America we grow for seed, and, as arule, throw away what
fiber there is. If the Irish peasant is accused of being wasteful, what
can be said of the American tarmer? How to utilize these vast stacks —
of Western flax straw and make them a source of income to the grower |
is a problem which the farmers themselves must work out. A great deal |
of the straw is so good that it ought to be much better. It is possible
to grow for both seed and fiber, though the fiber will be coarse, naturally, —
and only fit for the lower classes of manufacture. Itis practically good |
for nothing, as at present produced, in its tangled, short, and broken |
condition, unless for paper, and its demand for paper stock is not large. —
Willit not be for the farmer’s interest, then, to adopt new methods, |
even when growing for seed? Will it not pay him to give a little better |
preparation to the seed-bed, making it smoother, so that he will be en- |
abled to run the reaper knives as near the roots as possible, and get the |
full length of straw ? Then let him discard the ruinous practice of tear- :
ing the straw into fragments in taking off the seed. Let him keep the
straw straight, water-ret it if he will take the trouble, or carefully dew: |
ret it if he thinks the water-retting will not pay, and there is not the
least doubt but he will make enough more out of the crop, in addition |
to the value of the seed, to compensate him handsomely for his trouble. |

As to the matter of scutching the straw, that need not be discussed |
here. When the better quality of straw is produced, there will be|
scutch-mills if they are needed. In this connection reference should!
be made to the communication of Mr. Ross, on another page, whose in- :
teresting statements show that good fiber can be produced without the)
operation of scutching. The beautifully prepared samples of Western ]
flax, grown for seed but kept straight, which accompanied this com
munication, were hackled directly from the breaker. There were also.
fine tow samples that are among the best that have been received by :
the Department. i

Letters were sent by me to some half-dozen leading flax manufact |










DD

urers, asking their opinions as to the value of the Western flax straw as
at present grown, its possible value with a little better cultivation and
preparation, as outlined on a preceding page, and a consideration of the
flax industry in general from the agricultural stand-point. These replies
bear such valuable testimony, and the opinions carry such weight, con-
sidering the high sources from which they emanate, that they are pro-
duced entire, or with the omission only of general remarks not bearing
specially on the subject.

The first is from Mr. A. R. Turner, jr., president of the Flax and Hemp
Spinners’ and Growers’ Association, and is an important document.

FLAX AND HEMP SPINNERS’ AND GROWERS’ ASSOCIATION.

Boston, Mass., February 4, 1890.

My Dear Sir: Iam in receipt of your valued favor of the 21st ultimo, which has
nad consideration.

The culture of flax for fiber demands careful attention at the hands of the farmers,
and this care has not been given while cereals have been very profitable. With the
reduction of margins on cereals the growth of #ax claims new attention, and it should
now be of interest to farmers to give special attention to flax.

As to duties on flax, it may be well to retain them for the present to stimulate the
raising of the fiber and to help the farmers in price at this time, and until they may
have established a business on such a basis as to reduce the cost of production mate-
rially from the present cost to them. Iam sure thatif we can re-establish flax culture
that with it we shall perfect new methods and cbheapen the production so as to be
able to compete with foreign nations. I venture to predict that the day may come
when we will be exporting flax. When that time comes no duty will be needed cn
raw material.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain imported last year about 90,000 tons of flax
and flax tow, all this being in addition to home production. The importations were
as follows:



Tons.

Brom Russia Cabot) 322255 eee en ee are eens 66, 765
Germany (about) i224 > 2 ee ee 2,101
Hollands¢abott) 4.435 oso ee ee a 4, 869
Belsiuin (abou) esss2 ee ie tee oid Belge 12, 832
Other COUNTIOS 22 se oe eee 2,591
Totals ceo 32 GS 6 te ee eee Se Spe 89, 158

Valued at £3,066,144 sterling, this would average a ltttle less than 74 cents per
pound. This price has only general value, as the statistics do not give detail of flax
and flax tow. ;

At present we have a home demand for good flax fiber for yarns, thread, ete., but
many farmers who have shown samples have offered inferior flax, raised from poor
seed, and the fiber has not been properly cleaned. While the making of threads re-
quires a strong flax, many grades of flax not fitted for threads are suited for weaving,
and it is a thoroughly practical matter to make coarse linens from ordinary grades of
Western flax when sufficient protection is given the manufacturer in the producing
of goods.

The manufacturers can not co-operate with the American farmers to-day as much
as they desire, because the supply is insufficient, and the manufacturers, for self pro-
tection, are obliged to buy in European markets (at certain seasons of the year) in
order to command the best assortment and lowest prices.

That we can grow flax is shown by the acreage of flax grown for seed.

A
D6

The report of the Chicago Board of Trade is as follows:





Acres. | Busbels. Value.
SBIR Sars se areata a eee ee eT tee Ue ere Lee 1, 284, 812 10, G19, 742 $9, 679, 703
SS Rees ae ne ee ee en ie) ea ey ee ee bat aa eas Cee eee 1, 081, 751 9, 479, 571 9, 232, 365
BOS ea aes ne recy en ay oe SE ae 1, 060, 285 9, 816, 320 10, 580, 855



The above covers acreage of flax raised for seed only, and the question arises can we —
profitably grow flax for the fiber as well as for the seed? That there has been good —
flax fiber raised in the United States through a long series of years, as well as good
flax fiber being raised at this time, is an established fact. Many years ago, flax was
raised on small farms where the fiber was prepared and spun, or spun and woven, for
domestic uses. In recent years the spinning-wheel and hand-loom have given way
to the power machinery in factories, and the raising of flax in small plots has been
discontinued. Enconragement has not been given to the raising of flax because the
supply of linens is principally imported, and we have lost our position as manufactur-
ers in the linen trade. Cotton and woolen products have had good protection from —
foreign competition, but the flax and hemp productions have had less protection and
have suffered in consequence. The manufacturing of twines is carried on extensively
in the United States, and the manufacturing of threads has assumed fair proportions,
the growth of the different branches of these industries depending Hpe’y on the —
amount of protection.

The importations of brown and bleached linen ducks, canvas, etc., for

the year ending January 30, 1888, amounted to...........----..----. $14, 003, 236
DOA pOLtations OL Mako... cscs Goce eben ee. Fee ee eee 1, 802, 089 —
TOA Seatl Cet OS. Ses ose So ee ee te aoe ee 516, 013

The references just given apply only to flax and linen goods, and do not cover hemp
and jute products.

The exports from the United Tanedon of Great Bain of plain unbleached or
bleached linens for the year 1888 amounted to £3,749,088, and for a period of seven
years 52 per cent. of the exports of this class of linens have been sent to the United ©
States. |

The American Economist, of New York, dated January 3, 1890, refers to an article
of a Washington correspondent of the New York Herald, and among the reasons he
gives for the lack of success in the linen industry is the following :

‘‘Another reason is that when, in 1861, Congress enacted tariff laws, there was no
association to set forth the linen interest.”

It is evident that in the past our legislators have not given the attention that
should have been paid to the flax and linen industry, and, as a result, we are not in
a commanding position to-day. It would seem wise that Congress sould place in the
hands of your Department a special appropriation for investigation, and to establish
experimental stations and deterinine just what can be done with the tangled straw
or with the straight straw of flax grown for seed, the seed being removed without
tangling the straw. This appropriation should be sufficiently large for you to secure
able talent, and to place experiments in the hands of men who have had a life- la
experience, and whu know the needs of the trade.

Some plan should be devised to save all the fiber that is now being wasted, and to
me it seems a safe statement to make that it is possible to preserve all the fiber from —
flax even though it may be sown primarily for seed. Your experiments should also
cover the raising of long and strong flax from the best seed, the aim being to produce ©
the best possible quality of fiber. Sowing, cultivating, harvesting, retting, breaking,
and scutching should all have your attention with a view to perfecting improved
methods and minimum cost of the production, and when you have arrived at a prac-
tical solution of the problem you will find farmers and manufacturers ready to co-




od

operate with you to establish a large business in the United States, and produce our
own linens, in the place of depending on foreign nations.

It is not my desire to make my letter to you cover too much the question of tariff

legislation, but we must have a demand for the fiber if the raising of it in large quan-
tities is to be a success, and the market for the fiber is dependent upon having suffi-
cient protection against foreign competition to build up the manufacturing industry.
This statement will be sufficient to show you why I have necessarily referred to the
question of protection, but I have aimed to simply touch matters of fact rather than
to submit an argument.
The raising of hemp is increasing in quantity, and while the greater part of the
crop is still raised in Kentucky they are also cultivating hemp in other States. There
is great need of a good power hemp brake to supplant the primitive hand-brake,
but although three hundred patents have been issued for power-brakes in a series of
years, up to the present time none have been adopted as a practical success, although
several brakes are now being perfected with a fair prospect of success.

In your consideration of fibers, flax and hemp should have special consideration
before the many new fibers which are constantly brought to your attention. The suc-
cessful raising or manipulating of many new fibers isa matter of speculation, but with
flax and hemp you have positive matter in hand, and fibers about which there 1s no
speculation. The United States is the first nation in the world in the consumption of
linens and binding twine, and this should inspire us to secure a home production for
our own home market. We have favorable climate, rich and extensive lands, the
need of diversified crops, and a ready market the best in the world; it remains for a
proper adjustment of conditions, and special support of the Government through you,
to establish enormous industries of national reputation.

If I can be of further assistance to you, I should be pleased to serve you.

Yours, very truly, A. R. TuRNER, JR
° e ) 9)

President.
CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,
Special Agent, Fiber Investigations. *

Another communication, with valuable suggestions on the subject,
was received from Mr. John H. Ross, of Boston, whose long experience
in handling flax fiber, as well as knowledge of the requirements of the
industry from the manufacturers standpoint, enables him to speak
authoritatively. Mr. Ross makes statements as follows :

Boston, February 7, 1890.

DEAR Sir: I have had before me for several days your favor of the 21st ultimo, and
have held my reply that it might be accompanied by the samples I send herewith,
and which are necessary to illustrate the points I wish to make. I would reply to
your questions as follows:-

Iam not aware of any use to which the Western straw in the tangled condition in
which it comes from the thrasher can be put other than to use it as upholsterers’
tow. I have neverseen the tangled straw retted or treated in any way which fitted it
for spinning purposes. I would note here, however, that regard it as possible that a
thorough process of water-retting, such as I shall refer to later, may bring the tangled
straw into a condition suitable for spinning into binder twine. AJl the tangled straw
that I have seen retted has been treated by retting on the grass, which process I do
not consider suitable for getting the best results from the Western straw. All the
dew-retted tangled straw I have seen has.been very imperfectly retted and cleaned,
and not suitable for any spinning purpose.

To obtain the best results as to quantity and quality from the Western straw, as at
present sown and cultivated for the seed, I believe that the straw should be cut, or
better, pulled and kept straight, and the seed removed by rippling or some similar

WW
58

process which will not tangle the straw. The straw must then be steeped in water
in streams, or in pits or ditches, and thoroughly water-retted, the process being car-
ried as far as is possible without positively endangering the strength of the fiber.
Then the retted straw must be thoroughly dried, and, if possible, exposed to some
artificial heat immediately before being broken. In Holland the straw is dried by
exposing to the heat produced by the combustion of the shives and dust from the
brakes, and this drying process is attended by a boy. The dry straw should then be
passed through a brake provided with several sets of fluted rollers, so that the straw,
rendered brittle by the drying process, will be thoroughly broken up, and the greater
part of it will fall, and that which remains on the fiber will be loose and will be easily
detached by the subsequent processes of hackling, carding and spinning, thus yield-
ing a clean yarn.

It will be noticed that this method of treatment omits the process of scutching.
This is always the most expensive process in the preparation of the flax fiber, and
when applied to so short and weak a fiber as is produced in the West under the present
system of cultivation, it would cause a large product of scutching tow, and would
raise the cost of the fiber beyond its market value.

I send, in the accompanying box, samples of the hackled line and tow produced
from Western straw which has been kept straight and retted in water and passed
through a brake without scutching. The samples of coarse line and tow represent a
product of 450 per cent. line, and about 40 per cent. tow, and 10 per cent. waste, and
are suitable for spinning into medium and coarse twine, and for the warp and weft
yarns in coarse crashes, etc. The samples of the fine line and tow show what can be
produced from this flax when thoroughly hackled, and from this line can be spun a
50-lea weaving yarn suitable for many of the finer and even some of the finest of the
linens on which the Flax and Hemp Spinners and Growers’ Association asks an addi-
tional duty that they may be made at home instead of imported from abroad. The
fine tow is suited for fine weft yarns for weaving purposes.

These samples of water-retted flax were produced from flax grown near Cedar
Falls, lowa, for seed purposes, and well illustrate the possibilities of this fibre when
properly handled and grown as at present without additional expense to the farmer
except the keeping of the straw straight and the rippling of the seed.

It should be noted that the straw from which this fiber was produced was longer
than some of the Western straw. It is, however, perfectly practicable to hackle a
shorter flax than this, although the longer it is the better, both for the growth and
the spinner. Of course if more and better seed was sown, and the young plants
weeded and pulled a great improvement both in quality and quantity would result,
but even as at present a fiber can be produced which will compare favorably with
‘the average of the water-steeped flaxes now exported from Russia.

I would note here that I have recently received samples of flax from Wisconsin
grown for the fiber from imported seed and water-retted, and this flax will compare
favorably for fineness and spinning quality with the higher grades of European flax.
It is suited for the finest yarns, and while there is but little demand for such fine
flax in this country, it could be exported and would find a ready sale among the
foreign spinners of fine weaving yarns.

This flax well illustrates the fact that with proper care and attention we can pro-

duce in our Northwestern States flax fiber fully equal to any now grown in Europe,
and if our farmers are willing to give this care and attention, it is quite unnecessary
for us to import any flax at all.
- To produce a good dew-retted fiber from our short and weak straw we should fol-
low the methods employed by the Russians, who obtain a good fiber with the shives
loose and not sticking fast, as is the case with our dew-retted flax; this loose shive
falls out in the process of manufacture, yielding a practically clean yarn. I believe,
however, that the water-retting process is more worthy of attention, as it will yield
a stronger and better fiber from our straw than by any other method.
oo

There is not to-day any large outlet with us for such a fiber as can be produced
from the western straw as now grown, but if adequate protection be granted to the
would-be producers of woven linens, there would beat once a place fora cheap home-
erown fiber for weaving yarns, and I believe even that this fiber, when produced. in
quantity, can be sold at a price which will admit of its exportation, and it will com-
pete successfully abroad with the European grown fiber.

The tangled straw, if properly retted and cleaned, may be adapted for bagging,
binder twine, and very coarse twines; I can not speak with any definite knowledge
on this point, as I have never seen any properly-retted tangled straw, and have there-
fore no practical knowledge of its capabilities. It is absolutely necessary that the
straw be kept straight that it may be worked for the best uses of which it is capable;
a method of stripping the seed which will admit of this is absolutely essential.

Yours, truly,
(Signed) 3 JOHN H. Ross.
CHARLES RicHarps DODGE,

Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

From Mr. Edwin A. Hartshorn, of Schaghticoke, N. Y., than whom
the American farmer has no better friend or the theory of protection in
its broadest sense no better advocate, some valuable suggestions are
received. Asa part of the letter referred to hemp matters, only the
portions relating to flax are produced here. Mr. Hartshorn says:

The Western flax straw which remains after thrashing the seed, as at present
grown, isof great value if it were not literally cut into pieces about two inches long
by thrashing out the seed in a wheat-thrasher. As it is now thrashed it is practically
worthless for spinning purposes. If it were thrashed in a suitable thrasher, which
costs no more than by the present method, the fiber would be valuable.

I send by this mail in separate inclosure a sample of flax straw from Clay County,
Iowa, which is cut short by the thrasher. You will observe that a few stalks have
escaped destruction. The writer picked out a few of these stalks and retted them
by our patent process in three hours, and cleaned them in our hemp-brake, and pro-
duced a fair quality of spinning tow, a sample of which is also sent you in the same
package. The tow is worth 5 cents a pound on the market, and will spin into a level
yarn for all coarse purposes, such as binder twine, thrashers’ cordage, etc.

I agree fully with the statement that if the present flax straw, grown for seed,
was only properly retted by water on the ground (or by my patent serial process,
- without chemicals) it would enter into many coarse goods, such as crash, twines, ete.
When this position has been obtained there is no question but what the fiber would |
be under better treatment and capable of spinning into finer goods for twines and
woven fabrics. The writer has thrashed thousands of tons of flax straw by ma-
chinery without breaking a fiber in the process. An inexpensive additional appli-
ance for the ordinary wheat-thrasher could be supplied and thrashing-machines put
upon the market, adjustable so as to thrash wheat as at present, or thrash flax in the
proper way. The adjustment of thrashing flax is as follows: In the place of the
ordinary cylinder carrying teeth or prongs, a cylinder of equal size should be placed,
with bars of iron bolted upon it lengthways about 6 inches apart; to act as beat-
ers. These bars should be half an inch thick by three-fourths inch width. Two
pairs of rollers to crush the bolls of the flax should be placed in front of the cylinder.
The cylinder, with its beater-bars revolving rapidly as the flax comes from the sec-
ond pair of rollers, will beat off the seed or bolls which escape the crushing process.
The first pair of rollers should have a very shallow groove, which will be barely
sufficient to erip the flax straw and draw it in, but not enough to prevent the erush-
60

ing of the bolls. The second pair of rollers should have the least possible groove,
that flax will not slip between them, but at the same time they should be almost
smooth.
In regard to duty on flax and hemp fiber, I would favor a specific duty, sufficient
to cover the additional cost of labor under our industrial system. The manufact-
urers should have a specific duty sufficient to cover the duty on the so-called ‘‘ raw
material,” and also an ad valorem duty of 50 per cent. to cover the extra cost of
manufacturing in this country. As you probably know, the entire flax-spinning in
dustry of the country has asked for an increase of duty on woven linen coarser
‘than ‘sixteen hundred,” which we ought to have. |

Here is added testimony from another well-known spinner, of Web-

ster, Mass. :
STEVENS LINEN WORKS,
Webster, Mass., February 6, 1890.

DEAR Sir: We have not used any flax grown in the United States since 1881, and
but a little since say 1875. The most of the United States flax we have used came
from Washington County, N, Y., and that vicinity, although some years ago we
worked some from Ohio. If well retted and worked it is worth more than the qual-
ity that we import from Russia.

Ifthe Western flax straw was grown a little less for seed and more for fiber, and
kept straight, fairly retted, broken, and scutched, it would answer our purpose.

1 can hardly tell whether the labor prices would make flax line profitable or not,
but should think an article of tow might be produced at a profit, though the demand
would be limited * * *

Iam, yours truly,
K. P. Morton, Agt.
CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,

Special Agent, Department of Agriculture.

In connection with the question of fiber preparation, brief reference
may be made to the process of Mr. S. 8. Boyce, of New York City, for
cleaning flax without first submitting the straw to the process of ret-
ting, thereby obtaining the fiber at once. Samples of flax so treated.
were shown me by Mr. Boyce in December, 1888, and a small series was
Subsequently sent to Paris with the fiber exhibit, though the samples
were not wholly satisfactory. After a year’s further experiment a num-
ber of samples from different lots of fiber produc .d in quantity have
been submitted which promise better results. It should be borne in
mind, however, that the only practical trial of a fiber is to test it in man
ufacture. This I understand is being done with a quantity of the fiber
produced by this process, the results of which will be awaited with in-
terest. - . |

In a communication from Mr. Bovece, submitting these samples, some
remarks on western flax straw are made, from which brief extracts are
reproduced.

For paper stock no better material than this flax straw can be desired, save that
the farmer stands in his own light in not preparing his land to cut the straw close in
order to give a greater length. If properly thrashed it would be doubled in value
And if properly prepared (in the subsequent operations), would furnish a fiber worth —
$75 to $100 per ton for coarse weaving, which would take it away from the paper-
maker who objects to stock costing over $50 per ton. For binder twine, bagging, salt —
bags, and coarse products generally, the straw as now grown for seed may be adopted —
and supplied with the simple modifications of (1) Cutting close to the ground. (2)


61

Thrashing without shortening or breaking and tangling. (3) Using imported tow-
producing machinery. Of course, sowing a larger quantity of seed is recommended,
and cutting or pulling and binding the straw are desirable.

Mr. H. C. Putnam, president of the Kau Claire (Wisconsin) Linen
Company, in reply to a question relative to the value of the western flax
straw per ton, aS at present produced, makes this statement:

If a machine can dress it in the condition it comes from the thrashing machine and
save, say 500 pounds of fiber from each 2,000 pounds of straw, it would be worth not
less than $25 a ton net as common tow. Flax like sample (a nice product) is worth for
spinning 7 and 8 cents per pound. If straw is cut and bound, kept straight, and
properly retted, it is worth more per ton,—greater product and better fiber.

The following is an extract received from Mr. John Heany, of Buck-
ley, Ll.:

In 1865 I was seventeen years of age, superintending a flax millin St. Lawrence
County, N. Y. The price of fiber was 25 cents per pound; previous year it was 30
cents per pound. I bought the mill. The tariff on foreign fibers was reduced
through the influence of the spinners, and our raw material fell to 12 cents per
pound. They called our fiber raw material, when the truth is it cost more to pro-
duce one pound of flax fiber than for the spinner to take our raw material and manu-
facture a pound of cloth. Iwas paying farmers $15 per acre for land on which to raise
flax, and employing from twenty to thirty hands. The result was, in 1870, I had to leave
my mill and come west to Illinois, where I became engaged in making tow from the
flax as grown for secd by farmerson their new land. Thetow was used for the manu-
facture of bagging to cover cotton bales. Iwas doing well at making tow, and thought,
if they would let the tariff alone, [ could make some money. But it was not to be.
The tariff was taken off jute butts, and I wasoutagain. The result was that millions
of tons of flax straw were burned in the West every year, when it could just as well
have been utilized for bagging. The Sonth would not have been the losers, because ~
they were paid cotton prices for bagging that only cost them about 5 cents per pound.
I would say now that it looks as though the tariff was going to be reduced on manilla,
sisal and jute, and flax andhemp. Instead of being reduced it should be increased on
a par, at least, with the manufactured material, such as bags, cloth and yarn and
twines. We could then have a show to produce our own fibers and on ourown land,
where the manufactured article is consumed.

Here is an extract from a letter received from Mr. John Hinde, of the
A. H. Hart Company, of New York City:

After further considering your question, ‘‘ What are your views regarding the ad-
vantage of re-establishing the flax-fiber industry among the western farmers, and
what means would be most likely to aid in bringing about the cultivation of flax for
fiber,” we wish to add to our former communication that the samples of Michigan
flax sent you were grown and worked by Messrs. J. & J. Livingston, Baden, Onta-
rio, who have built a mill at Yale, Mich., where they will have fully 100 tons of
dressed flax from last year’s crop. This flax straw (800 tons) was pulled from the
ground by hand, as all straw must be if used for fine spinning.

The western farmer, before going to the expense of pulling straw, must know that
he will find a market, and in order to supply this, mills must be built, and, if the mills
are successful, they must be controlled by thoroughly competent and experienced
men. Messrs. Livingston have been successful workers of flax in Canada for over
twenty-five years where they are now running twenty mills, and annually sow
0,000 acres to flax, and work as much more grown by farmers. Messrs. Livingston
have demonstrated that they can grow as good flax for fiber in Michigan as can be
produced in Canada, and wo. believe they would remove their entire plant to the
62

Western States if inducement sufficient to cover the expense was offered them. One
mill could be moved and located at a time, and we firmly believe that within five
years flax would be one of the largest and best paying crops in the Western States,
as if now is in Upper Ontario. r
We will be pleased to co-operate with you in all things that will promote the flax
industry in this country.

Mr. B. Bosse, of Green Bay, Wis., in a recent communication to the
Department, makes the following interesting statements:

The 6 acres of flax grown on my farm last year, and referred to in the Gazette
of Green Bay, February 3, were sown the Ist of May, 1889, with 14 bushels per acre
of Belgian seed (which I consider the very best for this country). I pulled it by
hand a little before ripe; let it dry standing on the ground for eight days; then bound
it with rye straw, and sheltered. I thrashed it by hand and spread it on land already
harvested, and let it ret by dews and rains; then stacked it in the barn again, but
bound this time with its own straw. I scutched it by the old system (breaker and
knives, still the best in use when the work is done by skilled scutchers). Thesoil is
a black loam mixed with black sand about 10 inches deep, with red clay for subsoil.
The result was as follows:



Sowed 9 bushels Belgian seed, at $1.56 per bushel._-......-.........--.-.-.-. $13. 50
PPM OV ANG oo eco a je ocala ie Sintra ate Ne ees 32. O9
pia Maan eSCLUCEIN Ott. + san - Saceeecs (sca eee ence a oe eee see 5. 00
pbhirasnimn On Dy aN cs. secs once sa ee ee ee ee ee ee 20. 65
Retpinig on the ground 22.6. 22-202 fe aes Cee renee oe 19. 40
Seutching. ..-- ------ ----- + en nnn ne oe ew ne ene wee Soe 120. 83
PUT PES coe See
Freight to Boston, about .....---------.---4- .------ eee eee ee see 30. 00
201, 97
Product:
60 bushels seed, valued at $1....-.. ee eee eee $60. 00
600 pounds tow, 2 cents per pound...--..- Ee en oe 12. 00
3,718 pounds fiber, at 11 cents per pound, as offered be manufact-
urers, Ross, oe 200. DOStONe: Ao ees a cee ec 408.98 480.98
Net protitess222 22-23. ee oe ee oie ae ee ee cic ais 229, 01

I think we can estimate this as an average crop, with careful preparation of the |

ground (which I described in a preceding letter) and well conducted operations in
retting and scutching.

One other system of retting is by water, or keeping the straw, after thrashed, in
running or stagnant water, and let it remain until the woody part of the plant will break
when folded it a little and the fiber is easily detached. This way of retting the flax is’
certainly the very best of all, and will, in my opinion, never be profitably replaced
by scientific systems. Science may shorten the time of operation, but can not com-
pare in good result with the silent and perfect work of nature in this proceeding.
The water process is a little more expensive than the dew or grass retting, as it is
called here, because it requires some previous accommodations and more labor, but,
though it produces no larger weight of fiber, it is more reliable, as one can control the
full progress of the operation until the proper and desirable degree of retting is at-
tained. Besides, it gives fiber which always find a ready market and commands
higher prices.

You will see by the figures relative to the six acres that I grow flax both for fiber
and seed, and that the weight of fiber per acre is about 620 pounds. I could grow
flax for fiber only, and so make a finer grade, according to the wants of manufacturers,
but the result in product for the grower should be very near the same, What helps


63

considerably the present possibilities of raising flax for fiber with success in this
country, in competition with the low wages paid in Kurope, is that our land is cheap;
that with so vast an area suitable for flax raising, our lands are new and fresh for that
textile, and are capable of yielding a much larger yield than the artificially manured
lands of the old continent. Also, where twenty-five or thirty years ago our good flax-
retted straw in Belgium gave us 25 per cent. of fiber, it yields now from 16 to 20 per
cent., with great depreciation in quality. I raised last year (and could hardly fail to
raise the same) such quality of fiber as was never surpassed anywhere, and obtained
from the same raw flax as that I send you to-day a yielding of 31 per cent. of fiber, for
which I never heard of a precedent in the old country.

Allthe States and Territories north of the thirty-sixth parallel are fitted for the culti-
vation of flax for fiber, except those Western lands where there is lack of rain. As
generally flax grows better in low lands and damp, temperate climate, I believe Michi-
gan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and lowa would be the States producing invariably the most
and best quality of fiber.

The following extract is from a letter received from William Ruther-
ford, of the California Cotton Mills Company, Hast Oakland, Cal. :

About two years ago we interested some farmers to grow trial lots of flax especially
for the fiber, and to a certain extent the experiment was successful. *. * * In the
prosecution of this industry we received sample lots of flax from Oregon and Idaho
which were good specimens of the fiber, and proved conclusively that the best quality
of flax could be produced in these regions. ‘That from Moscow, Nez Perces County,
Idaho, was excellent.

It would seem from the foregoing that no further testimony is nec-
essary to show that flax culture can be made an American industry in
the near future, though the farmers and the manufacturers must work
together to bring it about. As to the question of ‘ encouragement”
through legislation, I think with Mr. Turner that one form of legisla-
tion desirable would be an appropriation for purposes of experiment
by the Department of Agriculture for the practical demonstration of
the possibilities that have been briefly considered in the pages of this
report. I will therefore leave the subject at this point for the present.
64

THE HEMP INDUSTRY.

Hemp culture being already an established American industry, it
will not be necessary to go into the subject at great detail in the pres-
ent report. Some interesting communications have been received, how-
ever, which, with some matters of general information obtained by the
Department special agent, in the field, are herewith presented.

Statistics on hemp production show a steady decrease since 1860,
probably due to the decline in American ship-building and to the intro-
duction of manila fiber or ‘‘manila hemp” produced in such quantity in
the Philippine Isles. The figures may possibly show a slight increase
when the next census is taken, from the fact that considerable quanti-
ties of hemp are now used in the manufacture of binder twine employed
in the machine-binding grain harvesters and for ee purposes, from
Northern grown hemp.

The only hemp which comes into direct competition with the best
American hemp is the Russian. Kentucky hemp. however, possesses
greater flexibility than that of the Russian and can be dressed finer,
although the Russian is more equal in length, and while less flexible is
preferred when the cordage is to be used for shrouds and stays in the
rigging of vessels. The best hemp comes from Italy, though but little
vf it appears in our market. The principal uses of hemp in this coun-
try are in the manufacture of cordage, binder and other twines, and —
for mixing with flax in a cheap grade of carpet. Some facts in the pro-
duction of hemp for binder twine will be referred to on another page,
and as they relate to the cultivation of hemp in other States than Ken-
tucky they are especially interesting. Regarding the growth of hemp
in Kentneky, in former times considerable cordage was manufactured
within the borders of the State, although in more recent years this in-
dustry has declined greatly, and probably most of the hemp grown
in the State is manufactured in other sections, going to the New York
and Boston markets chiefly.

In November, 1888, I visited the *‘ Blue Grass region” of Kentucky,
which is the center of hemp production, and through the courtesy of Mr.
W. B. Hawkins not only secured interesting specimens of hemp stalks
and fiber but valuable information regarding its cultivation. Mr. Haw-
kins 1s a successful hemp-grower, having raised as high as 1,648 pounds
- peracre. His average yield for the season of 1888 was 1,400 pounds
per acre for a field of 65 acres. Hemp is grown in rotation, small
grain followed by clover putting the ground in the yery best condition
69

for the growth of the fiber. The hemp is cleaned in the field, the eum-
bersome slat brake which has been in use for a hundred years or more
in Kentucky being still employed. The cleaning is done in the field in
order that the waste portion or “‘shive” may be returned to the soil
again. This is burned and the ashes spread over the land ; as the waste
in its unrotted state would be injurious to the soil. Speaking to Mr.
Hawkins of the need of improved machinery for cleaning hemp, it was
stated that the old method suited the colored people better, as break-
ing hemp in the winter was the main dependence for many of them.

The farmers of this section, as a rule, dew-ret their hemp, although it
is stated that the manufacturers prefer, and the Navy regulations re-
quire, a water-retted hemp. As long as the hemp product is used chiefly
for twine and cordage, the extra labor and expense necessitated by
water-rettingis hardly warranted. With thedemand forspinning hemp,
at better prices there would be a demand for water-retted fiber. I
was shown in Frankfort, at the Kentucky River Mills, crash toweling
from hemp that had been in use for many years, and to all appear-
ances it was aS good as the same grade of fabric from flax. It is said
that Henry Clay introduced into Kentucky the practice of retting by
water, but few farmers of the present day are willing to take the trouble
to follow it, notwithstanding the better results that the practice would
give. The hemp stalks are usually spread upon the same ground where
grown, and when sufficiently retted, as is determined by breaking out
a little, it is again put into shocks. Hemp retted in winter is of a
brighter color than that spread in October. The crop requires a rich
loamy soil. ,

In a recent communication Mr. Hawkins details the general practice
of Kentucky growers at the present time, as follows:

The usual procedure in the cultivation and handling of hemp is about this: Our
best land produces the best hemp. Virgin soil sown to hemp can be followed by
hemp for fifteen to twenty years successively ; sown then to small grain and clover;
can be sown to hemp every third year (no fertilizer required) almost indefinitely.
Given blue-grass sod: Plow not over 4 inches deep in the fall or early spring; sow
about the time to plant corn; sow broadcast 33 pounds of seed per acre, having first
prepared the seed-bed thoroughly, and cover by dragging with the harrow as for any
of the small grains, wheat, oats, etc. No cultivation can be done, of course, as it is
broadcast.

About one hundred days are required for the crop to mature ready for the knife, or
when the first ripe seed can be found in the heads. The hempis then cut and spread
thinly, covering the ground it grows upon; it must be kept from tangling. Let it
lie for one or two weeks to cure; rain will not injure it in this time. Now rake into
bundles and tie (be careful to keep straight), about 10 inches in diameter, and stack
dry, about two acres in the stack. About December 1 we spread on the ground, as be-
fore, and when retted sufficiently set upon end in shocks about the ordinary size of
corn shocks, and the hands can carry their brakes from one shock to another in the
field to brake it out. Much depends upon the retting, and musé be determined by

20789—No. 1 5


66

testing when it is ready to take up. The approximate cost of an acre of hemp in
Kentucky, counting man and team worth $3.50 per day, is as follows:



Rlowine 3525 222 Soc sree Sea eee See tet es aes a Sedat $2. 00
ERA ITO WAN Gch eee See es sn oe eek se en ee ae ae hy eae 1. 00
SOCUs ib PO oe fo ee a oe ences ee eee ene eee ete secs 2. 50
Gt ee a ee es ne ere oe ee eee wipe ee eee ce ene oe nee coat 3. 00
Taking up and shaking o:.-.2. 2... 2.22: -5-5-. Bou Se sas See oo are ee sie sone 3. 00
Spreading... <7. Rniess Seas ene Ouse ete. eis sae es sees Cam ba ieee 2. 00
Ween rTetted.; shocking 9335.5 oes eee ols se ees Soe Sie oo se woe 1.00
Breaking, $1 per 100 (the usual crop being 1,000 pounds)........-.. Bee eee 10. 00

24. 00

There is no reason why hemp culture should not be extended over a
dozen States and the product used in manufactures which now employ
thousands of tons of imported fibers. In the manufacture of binder
twine alone there is an outlet for upwards of 50,000 tons of hemp
annually. The twine is now made from manila and sisal chiefly, the
first being no better than hemp and the last-named quite inferior.
American hemp twine is said to run 100 feet more to the pound than
sisal, 5 pounds of American hemp twine, at the same price per pound
as sisal, going as far as 6 of sisal, an advantage of about 17 per cent. in
favor of American hemp. See also letter on page 67.

When the market for binder-twine was first created, American hemp
filled the demand, the more carefully prepared article, straight or
dressed hemp, being employed. About ten years ago the demand in-
creased to a point beyond the supply of native hemp, and to meet the
exigency of the case other fibers were employed: Manila and sisal came
into use, and as the consumption of binder-twine grew to its present
enormous proportions, these fibers held their position, and hemp was
relegated to the background. The recent enormously high price of
sisal and manila twine has again called attention to hemp. By lessen-
ing the cost of production by the use of labor-saving machinery in all
operations of production, it has been possible to cheapen hemp, and
with a little present protection the foreign fibers can be driven out of
the market and the farmer receive a two fold benefit from the change.

The grain growers will be the hemp producers, and in point of fact
will only take from their own pockets in buying twine what they get
for their raw hemp, with the simple cost of manufacture and dealers’
profits added. It is proposed as a relief for the American farmers
from the unwarranted high prices of binder-twine last season to re-
move the duty on certain imported fibers.!

1]¢ is claimed that if manila, sisal, sunn, New Zealand, and other hemp substitutes
are placed upon the list of free raw materials it will be because some of the farmers
jn the West have demanded it, in view of the present agricultural depression, to
cheapen the present cost of binder-twine. No doubt should this occur the few manu-
facturing firms in the United States who produce binder-twine from foreign fibers
will thank these farmers who have actually aided them in the accomplishment of 4
much desired object that they have been unable to bring about through their owl —
efforts. There are many Western farmers, however, who look at this matter in its true


67

A surer relief for the farmers would be the distributing among them
of the $4,000,000 or $5,000,000, which the production of this fiber would
mean, with a possible saving of two or three millions more in the dif.
ference between the price for which a good hemp twine could be sold
and the prices paid last year for a twine of foreign fiber.

I am informed, upon reliable authority, that the proportion of hemp
twine to twine of manila, sisal, etc., that will enter into the present
year’s supply will not be over 10 per cent., or about 5,000 tons. This
twine, in car-load lots, can be sold at 125 cents per pound against 16
cents for manila. If only one-half of the binder-twine out-put were made
of hemp, at these prices there would be a clear saving of $1,750,000 to
the consumers in a Single year from difference in prices alone. And Iam
informed upon equally reliable authority that the machine binders
work with hemp twine quite as readily’as with the stiffer twines from
sisal and manila when a well-made hemp twine is used.

A great deal has been said on this subject, the principal objections
coming from those who are especially interested in manila and sisal,
but the fact is, and it can be proved by abundant evidence, that the
“prejudice” against hemp twine has no substantial foundation. In
this connection I can but present a letter on the subject, received while
this report is in press, which explains itself.

[D. M. Osborne & Co., Manufacturers of Harvesting Machinery. ]

AUBURN, N. Y., March 29, 1890.

DEAR Sir: We have your esteemed favor of the 26th instant, making inquiry as to
our judgment of the value of American hemp twine, commonly known and called
as ‘Kentucky hemp binding twine” for harvesting machinery. :

We have sold several thousand tons of this twine, and without exception it has
given the best of satisfaction to the farmers using it on their self-binding harvesters.
The standards for binding twine are, pure sisal, 500 feet long; half manila and half
sisal, 550 feet long, and pure manila 600 feet. American hemp when spun 525 feet



light, as is shown by the large correspondence of the Department relating to fiber
matters, received since the fiber investigation began. These farmers see what is the
fact, that every pound of binder-twine used can be made of native grown fibers, that
the twine will be as good as the best manila, run as many feet to the pound, and can
be produced at a saving of at least 4 cents a pound from the present prices. With free
foreign fibers the saving to the farmers by the removal of the duty will not be over a
cent a pound, and it remains to be seen whether the farmer will get any advantage, as
the production is now limited to a few manufacturers, who, it is claimed, even con-
trol the supply of raw material, thus shutting off allcompetition. At lowest estimates
we are now importing raw fibers and fiber manufactures to the extent of $26,000,000
(out of some $44,000,000, total imports), that could be saved to the country. The De-
partment of Agriculture has just initiated an effort to re-establish the fiber industry in
the United States, that the farmers of the country may gradually secure to themselves
this $26,000,000 through the cultivation of two easily grown crops. It is needlessto
say that if these foreign hemp substitutes, and jute especially, are placed upon the
free list, these efforts in a measure will be hampered and the farmers themselves will
be the losers. Both binder-twine and cotton bagging should be made from flax and
-hemp grown on American farms.
68

long is the equal of sisal, half each sisal and manila or pure manila, of the lengths
given above.

There is no fiber in the world better suited to this use than American hemp. It is
our judgment, based upon nearly ten years’ experience with large quantities of binder
twine each year, that the entire supply of this twine should be made from American
hemp. It has been demonstrated that this hemp can be grown in the States of Ken-
tucky, Missouri, Kansas, Southern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and New
- York, and probably several other States that are adapted to raising winter wheat,
There are 50,000 tons of this binding twine used annually, every pound of which
could and should be made from this home product.

Your department can do no greater service to the farming community than by
widely disseminating the information as to the extent of the use of this twine for
binding purposes, and the fact that American hemp is not a difficult crop to raise,
and that the usual average yield upon good soil is from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of hemp
per acre.

Very truly yours,

D. M. OSBORNE & Co.

. By G. W. ALLEN, Treasurer.
CHAS. RICHARDS DODGE, esq.,

Special Agent Liber Investigations,

If further evidence were desirable, the testimony of farmers them-
selves, who use and prefer hemp twine, could be given from the large
correspondence of the Department, but it is not necessary. One of the
strongest of these is signed by the president of an Alliance organiza-
tion in Minnesota.

HEMP CULTURE IN NEW YORK.

It may not be widely known that quite an area was cultivated in
hemp last season in this State. The industry is carried on in the
neighborhood of Troy and Schaghticoke where sixty years ago a con-
siderable amount of fine hemp fiber was annually produced. I visited
this section in January of the present year and obtained from Mr. BE. A.
Hartshorn many interesting facts in regard to North River hemp cul-
ture, which show the value of the industry to the State, an industry
which will be extended, as there is a good demand for the product.

A large portion of the hemp grown in this section last season was
used by the Cable Flax Mills at Schaghticoke, some twenty farmers hay-
ing been interested in its production, growing it underspecific conditions,
in a contract with the manufacturers, who agreed to furnish the seed and
pay $12 per ton of 2,000 pounds for the stalks delivered. On the other
hand the farmers agreed to sow the seed on good ground, at the rate of —
about 1 bushel per acre, to cut the hemp at maturity, and when prop-
erly cured or dried, to deliver the same, in bundles about 10 inches in
diameter, ‘dry and free from tree or bush hemp, weeds, thistles, grass
or other objectionable matter.”

They also agreed to a reduction of $3 per bushel for the seed when
the yield of stalks was more than 4,000 pounds per bushel, no charge
for seed being made when a less quantity was produced. :


69

The record of the twenty crops produced under this contract is given
as follows :!



Value at Net

Bush- | Yield $12 per | proceeds Rank
Name of farmer. els | of cured | ton, less ae acre vanee

sown. | stalks. | costof | (seed de- ti
seed. | ducted).| ‘0”-







aiMeseLhOMpSONG<.21> eee ost poco esa gee teen. 4 By oie $19. 12 $76. 48 1
BROMOMIOe VV TI GINU, sem vies cles ate cis re cinema mire eee 1 5, 630 30. 78 30. 78 6
ODED OMA Ss Ss oi ske Gin eae owes pk sO eatemeen ence 1 3, 340 20. 04 20, 04 10
aN Feats ev ene OT VOT ies eae i ee eae 1 10, 230 58. 38 58. 38 2
NG PELOUN cs cos Soca ace ne tle pep bean tie we cee cepa oer 1 2, 380 14, 28 14, 28 14
Se VWESR OR Gs acc accie ewtace sins en cats ae mis merce ae eee erate 14 5, 840 31,29 25. 08 8
UOWIOS KUO LCI Gs sc cnck eee ace baie ccc Seeieaes eae Soceee 2 4, 080 24,48 19.2426 216
PMO HIN OCR Open ye santa see o 0a oe octet oie prepeme ane ae = aie 2 14, 000 78. 00 39. 00 4
OHArlesePLerni@lorie. conse. cence some eee ee ee eee 2 7, 620 45. 92 22.96 9
IVEAT EUS EL OO ANY ae oa See oe cars wats wa ac aia aeicte atatee es isiere ec 2 Drewned out. 20
gu DOL GIMORG: (GEOLCesMUMNAM Ei to Ss ascnG cori wines sani te cae moemiee. 2 5, 290 31. 74 15. 87 13
eC OWAT Coos see cain coe ooh eae nem eeeciee see oes 2 3, 540 19. 85 9. 92 16
IS pal CUSm. craiaciscc coe tec ea aden eens cee eee eee cee. . 22 18, 340 73. 23 32. 54 5
GAW DIOWSLOD=.cs% cscs cee eo etree = eee eee 3 22, 590 126. 54 42.18 3
VelivAN Ce bau GUS: cee ses ce Cena seat aise eee eee eee 3 670 4, 02 | 1, 34 19
GieOree GillOrd:s-ose. woes soe no cee een See co meeee 4 5, 070 30. 42 7. 60 17
VAMOS MODI bb acess os Se Gus Sete cemca ema cess con eee 4 11, 825 70. 95 17. 74 11
OSS Mes aw nee ee Sok ne oc oe otis Gone ee Eee ee 43 12, 333 78. 98 16. 44 12
TORN Woh = se ses ah eco ae oe seers eee 43 2, 940 17. 64 3.924. - 18

We OURS SSeS ee aie ces Seen eee eeee BAR | oe Se oak eee eee eer ee ea ees

IRN OTR OO roe c cic chet casio a wus 6 eas sa we cetaim cin crmrcverel| Ccecercmereetee | erat ere sete] iene $18 225 |5 sees eee

The crop of Mr. Baucus, which stood nineteenth, the smallest re-
corded, was drowned out and not replanted. It was explained that this
phase of the business the farmers did not understand, and several crops
which were comparatively light might undoubtedly have been vastly
improved at a small outlay for additional labor and seed. Several crops
were also cut too soon, and considerable sacrifice made, both in the
quantity and quality of the product. |

Referring to the figures of production, the best record of income from _
sale of a crop, net proceeds per acre, cost of seed deducted, was $76.48.
The second best was $58.38, and the best five crops averaged $49.71
per acre, exclusive of the cost of seed. The total average of twenty
crops—that is, the crops on twenty farms—including the complete
failure referred to, and another crop which was almost a total failure
from the drowning out of the plants when they were 18 inches
high, was $18.22 per acre. Sandy or loamy soils are considered most
favorable, the hemp succeeding both on the “ uplands” and in the “bot-
toms.” The soil is plowed very deeply and made very mellow by the
use of the harrow. Barn-yard manures or standard fertilizers are
used, as the soil must be put in good fertility to produce a successful
crop. The seed is sown from April 20 to May 10, and the crop is usually
harvested between the 1st and 21st of September. When the stalks do
not exceed eight feet in height the cutting is done with an ordinary
Sweep-rake harvesting machine by cutting two-thirds the ordinary width



This table is taken from an interesting little pamphlet on ‘‘American Hemp Cult
ure,” relating to the recent efforts to réestablish hemp culture in New York State, by
Edwin A, Hartshorn.
ra)

of the swath, while a larger growth must be cut with a sickle, corn
hook, or short scythe. It is claimed that a light frost will not injure
the crop and that there need be no haste in cutting it, the plant con-
tinuing to grow until the stalks have turned a pale yellow. However:

this may be the opinion in New York State, where the fiber is employed —

in the coarser manufactures, a different idea prevails abroad ; that after
the proper time for cutting has arrived the fiber deteriorates, and for
fine manufactures there would be considerable loss in value.

The question of rotation is little regarded, as the production of hemp
is not considered exhaustive to the soil. As Mr. Hartshorn suggests,
however, it can hardly be claimed that the production of an annual
plant growing from 6 to 14 feet high does not exhaust the soil, though
it is certain that hemp contributes more than any other crop towards
repairing the damage done by its own growth through the return of
the leaves to the soil, besides other matters while it is undergoing the
process of retting. Hemp is an admirable weed-killer, and in flax
countries is Sometimes employed as a crop in rotation, to precede flax,
because it puts the soil in so good condition. As a proof of its weed-
killing powers a North River farmer makes the statement that thistles
heretofore had mastered him completely in a certain field, but after
sowing it with hemp not a thistle could be found, and while performing
this excellent service the hemp yielded him nearly $60 per acre, where
previously nothing valuable could be produced.

Regarding soil exhaustion by this crop, Henry Clay was of the opin-
ion that it exhausted the soil slowly, if at all, thirteen or fourteen suc-
cessive crops sometimes having been taken from the same land. It is
interesting in this connection to note that in France, where a fine quality
of hemp is produced, the plant is often grown on the same land without
rotation, although the soil is kept up to a high state of fertility. The
retting is done on grass or stubble where grown. It requires from four
to six weeks, according to weather and size of the stalks. Grass land,
however, is not thought favorable for the process in New York, as the
hemp, when imbedded in the grass, keeps wet on the under side, and if
not frequently turned over is liable to mold and the fiber to become dis-
colored and weakened. When water-retted, from eight to eighteen days
are required according to the temperature of the water.

The reader is referred to the chapter on hemp culture in France
in the first part of this report, where it will be seen that water ret-
ting in Brittany requires less than half so long atime. On this point
the growers will be led by experience, and it would be well to begin at
once the water-retting on a small scale, for the sake of the experience
and the knowledge that will be derived from the practice. The French
hemp farmers from time to time break a few stalks, taken from the water
for the purpose, to ascertain the condition of the fiber, so that it may
not become injured from over-retting.

It should be stated that most of the crop of North River hemp grown
last year was retted by the Cabie Flax mills on grass ground. A por

|
71

tion was retted on the stubble ground which produced the hemp. A
smaller portion was retted in stagnant water and some in running water.
Experiments were also made at the Cable Ilax mills in hot-water ret-
ting and likewise by a patented serial retting process consisting of: (1)
Hot-water pressure; (2) A cold-air blast; (3) Steam pressure; (4) A
cold water bath, all done in a revolving iron tank or boiler in about
three hours. The treatment required no chemicals. As the drying is
done under cover the process can be carried on with absolute safety to
the fiber at all seasons of the year.

Mr. Hartshorn says:

The shives or hurds from the hemp when broken out (which is the next process of
the indnstry), furnishes an excellent fuel, quite sufficient to make steam for retting,
drying, and breaking the hemp; hence this process can not be very expensive, while
the fiber produced is lighter in colorand more valuable than by the old out-door pro-
cess. Aside from the cost of building and maintaining a plant for this process, and the
hauling of the straw instead of the cleaned fiber to market, (as when retted and broken
by hand in the field), there can be but little difference in the cost of the two processes,
while the additional value of the fiber and the very present risk of spoiling entire
crops by over-retting out doors, the new process will speedily supersede the old.

The Flax and Hemp Spinners and Growers’ Association of America,
to stimulate to greater interest in the cultivation of hemp, have offered
a reward for the present year to the farmers of Rensselaer and Wash-
ington Counties, as follows: |

Fifty dollars to the farmer who produces the greatest number of acres,
and $25 for the second largest.

Also, $50 for the largest production per acre, and $25 for the second
largest.

HEMP CULTURE IN ILLINOIS.

Since 1860, or even earlier, this State has produced small quantities
of hemp; the census of 1880 showing, however, but 61 tons of fiber, a
great falling off from the production of previous years when there was
a demand for both flax and hemp in bagging manufacture. The indus-
try has had a considerable stimulus recently in several of the eastern
counties, including Champaign, Cole, Iroquois, and Will, through the
efforts of manufacturers and others in this section. The Department
has had considerable correspondence on the subject from Iroquois
County (though the locality has not yet been visited by the special
agent), and some valuable facts have been brought out.

Mr. John Heany states that the hemp is grown extensively for fiber
to be used in the manufacture of binder-twine. The crop now being
manufactured is the seventh successive crop on the same land, and is
said to be far ahead of any previous crop in quantity of fiber produced
to the acre. Mr. Heany believes the method of cultivation and prep-
aration in vogue is not in any way exhaustive to the soil, though the
refuse should be returned to the soil if possible. In hemp culture in
this section nearly everything is done by machinery, which reduces the
cost of production to a very low figure. The seed is sown as early as
(2.

possible—as soon as the ground is in condition—even as early as March
25, the date of sowing last year. The land is plowed in the fallif pos-
sible, and in spring the large disk-harrow is used, followed by the
smoothing-harrow. The seed is put in with a broadcast seeder and
afterwards carefully harrowed. When the crop is ready to harvest it
is cut with mowers, and spread evenly that the retting may be accom-
plished without the labor ofturningover. If rainy, however, the Bullard
hay-tedder is used to change the position of the straw or stalks, and to
expose to the air the inside of any bunches that might be left to the
action of the rains.

When retted, the stalks are raked up with the horse-rake and loaded —
upon wagons to transport to the breaker. Mr. H. says that 8 to 10
tons of straw per day are taken care of. The fiber is not kept in a
straight form, as the twine-makers break it up on the cards, and this
form of fiber suits better. The machinery used by Mr. Heany is a de-
vice of his own and not patented. As to facts he says:

I can furnish the clean fiber at 4 cents per pound at a profit. Iam no theorist; [
have 800 acres of hemp this year betwixt this place and Peotone, Il]. I have shipped
already 60 tons of fiber to the spinning mill this fall and winter, from Buckley. I
have one field of 140 acres from which I am expecting to get 1,500 pounds of fiber to
the acre. It usually costs $15 per acre for rent and labor—on the product of an acre
delivered on board cars. If the people would but take 3,000,000 acres of land out of
the corn and oats and wheat culture, and grow hemp, we gould then consume alJl our
grain at home and save the millions we annually pay out for fibers. It would relieve
the present agricultural depression wonderfully. All this fine country can raise good
hemp wherever it can.raise a good crop of anything else.

Notwithstanding that the aim is to produce a cheap fiber it must be
admitted that this is a careless kind of cultivation which may not
always give satisfactory results. In a recent communication, from
another source, the danger of over-retting is referred to, and the state-
ment made, that in practice a difference of 50 per cent. is found to exist
between well saved and badly saved hemp on the same ground. It will
certainly pay, even with the use of machinery, to give greater care to
the matter of harvesting and retting. Our New York friends have
demonstrated that it is possible to produce good fiber at a low cost, and
the general effort in the North River region is toward improvement
in all operations that will secure a thoroughly good quality of fiber.
The best yield of hemp recorded last season in Illinois was one ton of
tow per acre. Any corn land will grow hemp to perfection.

The success with hemp culture in this section has induced others to
embark in the industry, and during the coming year it will be extended,
not only in the State of Illinois but in others which hitherto have not
been enumerated in the list of hemp-growing States. With the further ~
extension of this industry it is claimed that it will soon be possible to
produce all the fiber needed for binder-twine, and similar uses, that may
be required by thecountry, though it is urged by those interested that
adequate protection should be assured against the cheap labor of India
and other foreign countries.
co
HEMP MACHINERY.

It is said that nearly three hundred patents have been issued in the
United States for machines for breaking hemp, most of them having
proved absolute failures from one cause or another, and the fact remains
that the cumbersome hemp-brake, an affair of the rudest deseription,
has held its own in Kentucky in spite of all efforts to supersedeit. It
is proposed therefore to notice here some recent inventions in this di-
rection which have given promise of success. |

In January I personally inspected at Schaghticoke, N. Y., a power-
brake, the invention of Mr. i. A. Hartshorn, which is described as fol-
lows:

The machine consists of several pairs of fluted rollers, interspersed at intervals
with peculiarly-constructed scutchers, or cleaning rollers, which pierce the hemp
with steel pins, and also beat, shake, and scrape it vigorously, whilé it is held on
either side by the breaking-rollers. By reason of a more rapid motion given to the
scraping are all accomplished while the hemp is passing rapidly through the machine.
The flutes are graduated from very coarse to fine, and the rollers are driven in such a
a manner that the stalks are not crushed, but broken by the most favorable leverage.



The machine, operated by three men, I was told, has already demon-
strated a capacity of 10,000 pounds of stalks, or 30 ewt. of cleaned fiber
in ten hours. It weighs, as at present constructed, abuut 4 tons, though
the inventor claims that it can be materially lightened in many -of its
parts without the sacrifice of necessary strength. One man feeds the
hemp stalks, while a second man, or boy, receives the fiber, which is
ceiven out in a continuous stream at the other end. The fiber is deliv-
ered in its full length.

In the Cable-Mills it is run in connection with the shell-card and hack-
ling machine, which takes the cleaned fiber at once and prepares it for
the next process of manufacture. In the present trial the machine was
not timed.

In a former test, before witnesses, two men cleaned 100 pounds of
retted hemp stalks, yielding 334 pounds of well-cleaned fiber, in five
and three-quarters minutes. From the practical working of the machine
during the past fall it is claimed that it will reduce the cost of hemp-
breaking from $1.25 to 25 cents per handred weight. The “shive” or
74

‘hurds” are used for fuel in place of the best quality of bituminous
coal, and the fact was demonstrated that when used under one boiler of
the series, less coal was consumed under the other boilers using coal as
fuel than when coal was employed for all.

The machine alluded to by Mr. Heany, of Buckly, Ill., his own inven-
tion, and unpatented, he describes as follows:

It consists of a very large brake with fluted rollers—flutes from 14 to 2 inches
deep. The cleaning cylinders are 5 feet in diameter of any desired width, with cross-
bars alternating with loose wings. In the cross-bars are pins, which are used as
combs, about three-quarters inch long, slightly bent back. Under the cylinders are
slats 2 inches apart to let shives through. I use one cylinder close behind the
brakes. The other two cylinders have each one pair of rollers in front to hold fiber
while shives are being cleaned out. The fiber is not left straight. It is claimed
that twine manufacturers prefer this product to straight Kentucky hemp fiber on
account of its superior strength.

The capacity of the machine is not cated nor has it been examined
by the Department of Agriculture. A hon. -orower in the vicinity
writes the Department as follows: |

New machinery will be tried the present season in this section; the brake in present
use is not heavy enough, strong, heavy machinery being demanded. In fact, the de-
mand is for a machine that will produce a good quality of fiber in large quantities at
a small profit.

A Kentucky machine for cleaning hemp, recently tested -in Lexington,
is reported upou by M. A. Scovill, director of the Kentucky Agricult-
ural Experiment Station. It is the invention of Mr. J. D. Shely, of
Lexington.
vill states that the machine is only a model, and has not yet been worked
upon a scale large enough to prove beyond doubt that it will be a suc-
cess.! It is portable, and will occupy in hemp handling about the posi-
tion occupied by the thrasher in wheat raising. In the trial referred
to, which was witnessed by numbers of hemp growers and manufact-
urers, between 50 and 100 pounds of fiber was made, the estimate for a
day’s work, with a force of 10 men, being 8,000 pounds of hemp, at an
expense of $20. The machine is not yet patented though protected by
caveats, as it is desired to further perfect it in certain directions. Mr.
Scovill also states that a number of hemp manufacturers, whose opin-
ions were solicited by him, spoke well of its operations at the trials at-
tended by them.

1Since the above was written another trial of the machine has taken place. From
Mr. Scovell’s letter regarding it, the following extract is taken:

“‘It is the first machine Mr. Shely has made of this pattern on a large working
scale. There was only about one hundred pounds of hemp at the machine and this
was run through in a very few moments. The power used was an eight-horse power
threshing-machine engine, with 80 pounds pressure. While the machine was run-
ning everything went off smoothly, and it certainly did its work well. If it can be
made to run so continuously I can see no reason why it should not be a success, but
I would express no opinion, and will not, until the machine goes into the field and
makes a day’srun. I send you samples of the hurds and fiber by this mail, as they
came from the machine last Friday. I selected the samples myself, and they are
what I consider a fair sample of what the machine did.”
THE RAMIE QUESTION.

What is Ramie? For the benefit of the many who may have only
an imperfect knowledge of the textile, a brief description of the plant
and its uses is herewith presented.

_ Ramie is a plant belonging to the nettle family (Urticacew), which

from time immemorial has been cultivated in China, and known to
botanists by the name Behmeria nivea,' frequently called the stingless
nettle. Itis also known as “ China-grass,” and “ Rhea.” It has long
been cultivated, also, in Japan, in Java, Bornea, Sumatra, and in the
Kast Indies, and during the present century has been introduced into
other countries. Its introduction into the United States dates back to
the year 1855.”

When fully grown the plant attains a height of 4 to 8 feet, clothed
with large ovate-acuminate leaves that are green above and whitish or
silvery beneath, the fiber being formed in the bark which surrounds the
stalk, this having a pithy center. It is of rapid growth and produces
from two to four, or even five, crops a year without replanting, depend-
ant upon the climate where cultivated. In China and Japan, where the
fiber is extracted by hand labor, it is manufactured not only into cordage,
fish-lines, nets, and similar coarse manufactures, but woven into the
finest and most beautiful of fabrics. In England, France, and Germany
the fiber has also been woven into a great variety of fabrics, covering
the widest range of uses, such as lace, lace curtains, handkerchiefs, cloth,
or white goods resembling fine linen, dress goods, napkins, table damask,
table-covers, bed-spreads, drapery for curtains or lambrequins, plush,
and even carpets and fabrics suitable for clothing. The fiber can be
dyed in all desirable shades or colors, some examples having the luster



1For present purposes it is assumed that but a single species of ramie is being
cultivated in the United States. The writer is fully aware, however, that two or
more recognized species of this plant have been under experimental cultivation in
countries that are seeking to introduce the ramie industry, besides a dozen others,
producing ‘‘rhea-like fibers,” in eastern countries. The subject of the scientific
nomenclature of ramie has been an interesting one to botanists, in the countries
where the plant has been introduced, and the Department of Agriculture will insti-
tute a special investi gation into the subject as it relates to our own country in the
near future. The reader is referred to Appendix A, at the close of this report, for
Interesting statements in this connection, relating to culture in France.

See report of the Commissioner of Patents, Agriculture, for 1855, p. 244.
75
16

and brillianey of silk. Itis one of the strongest and most durable of
fibers, is least affected by moisture of all fibers, and from these char-
acteristics must take first rank in value as a textile substance. It has
three times the strength of Russian hemp, while its filaments can be
separated almost to the fineness of silk. In manufacture it has been
spun on various forms of textile machinery, and also used in connection
with cotton, wool, and silk, and it can be employed as a substitute in
certain forms of manufacture, where elasticity is not essential, for all of
these textiles, and for flax also. It likewise produces superior paper,
and can be utilized in the manufacture of celluloid. In short, the uses
to which it may be put are almost endless, and when the economical
extraction of the fiber by machinery is successfully accomplished, it will
become one of the most valuable commercial products of the vegetable
kingdom.

Ramie is a plant of easy cultivation. It has been grown as far north
as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, though for the production of fiber its
culture succeeds best in the Southern States, and particularly those
bordering the Gulf of Mexico. It also thrives well on the Pacific coast,

having been grown with success experimentally in California for sev-
eral years.

The plant is propagated by seeds, by cuttings or by layers, and by
division of the roots. When produced from seed the greatest care is
taken with the planting, as the seed is very small. For this reason
open-air planting can hardly be relied upon, plants started in the hot-
bed giving the best results. After planting, the seeds are covered thinly
with sifted earth and kept shaded from the sun until the young plants
are 2 or 3 inches high, when sunlight is gradually admitted to them.
In five or six weeks they will be strong enough to transplant to the field.

In the East Indian method of propagating by cuttings of the stems,
the spring-grown stems are used, and when fully ripe. Only the well-
ripened portion, where the epidermis has turned brown, is employed,
the stem being divided into lengths that will include three buds, care
being taken to cut a quarter of an inch above and the same distance
below the top and bottom buds. These are planted with the central
bud on a level with the soil. The cuttings are shaded for ten days or
more unless the weather be cloudy or rainy. In India the cuttings are
planted a foot a part, although given more room as the plants mature.

By far the most practical method and the one which will give the
best results in this country, is the propagation by a division of the roots
of old or fully matured plants. The old plants are better than young
ones for the purpose as the root-mass is larger, the tuberous portions
showing a greater number of eyes and therefore giving stronger plants
after division. The practice varies as to distance apart that these are
planted. In India 4 feet apart each way is considered the proper dis-
tance, thongh in France some favor 2 feet apart each way as giving
(a

better results." In a conversation with M. Favier upon this subject
it was suggested by this gentleman that when it was desired to dry the
eut stalks upon the ground where gr own, a system of planting upon
ridges should be followed which would enable the planter to lay the cut
stalks from ridge to ridge in such manner that the air could circulate
freely under them in the furrows, and prevent injury from dampness.
In a former report on the culture of ramie issued by the Department
of Agriculture these directions are given. :

Furrows five or six inches deep, and five feet apart are opened with the plow. The
roots are laid lengthwise in the middle, close in succession if a thick standing crop
is desired, but placed at intervals if nursery propagation is the object in view. The
first mode will absorb 3,000 roots per acre, but will save the labor of often fillirig the
stand by propagation.

The plants are given cultivation at first, being hilled like corn or
potatoes, all weeds being kept down, though after getting a good start,
from the rankness of their growth and the density of the foliage, weeds
will have little chance to grow. These brief directions are sufficient to
enable any one to make a beginning; experience and a familiarity with
the plant and its manner of growth will suggest subsequent treatment
and assist the farmer in establishing the particular practice that it will
be best for him to follow. Southern cultivators choose a deep, rich,
light, and moist soil. Mr. Montgomery, writing on the cuiture of the
plant in the Kangra district of India, says:

A rich loam suits the plants best, but they will grow in any kind of soil, provided
a full supply of moisture be available, combined with thorough drainage.

If sufficient moisture cannot be assured it should be supplied by irri-
gation, a positive essential in many localities where ramie is grown.
It must be remembered, however, that ramie will not thrive in a “ wet”
soil. The ground must be well prepared by plowing to the depth of
ten inches, and well pulverized, and if the land is poor fertilizers must
be applied to bring it up to a good state of fertility. All weeds must



1M. Favier writes thus: ‘‘ The close system of planting, which we recommend, re-
quires for planting 1 hectare the first time about 35,000 to 40,000 plants. If obliged
to purchase these even at 30 francs per thousand, many proprietors would seriously
consider the question before incurring such an expense, and we advise those who wish
to plant ramie to first purchase a few thousand of plants for each hectare which they
may wish to devote to this purpose. By planting in the month of March one can
produce by the month of October in the following year, that is, within eighteen
mouths, or two years if the roots are left until the following March, from each stalk
twenty new stems, or, we will say, an average of fourteen or fifteen, so that from
3,000 original roots planted one will have on hand, and without expense, the plants
necessary for an entire hectare. Mr. Bean. a physician at Suméne (Gard), who has
cultivated ramie with great success and who wrote us an interesting letter in 1880,
was able to detach eighty new plants from a single original root. :

“Some years ago plants sold for 150 francs per thousand; to-day they are not
valued at more than 20 to 30 francs, and in a year from now the price will certainly
fall from 10 frances to 15 francs, while within two or three years proprietors will sup-
ply themselves, or they will courteously exchange the plants among themselves, aa
has become the custom to do with the native grape vines.”
18

be removed from the soil or they will sorely plague the cultivator in the
first year or so until the plants have grown large. When the climate
will admit of producing three crops a year, the cuttings are made at
intervals of about ten or twelve weeks, the first cuttings to be made
about the middle of May, dependent on the season.

STATUS OF THE RAMIE INDUSTRY.

In treating this subject as it relates to America, bearing in mind
~ how much has been written, how much has been claimed, and how large
a number of people are interested in it for one reason or another, I shall
endeavor to confine myself to the simple statement of such recent val-
uable facts illustrating progress as the Department has been able to
obtain. Nor will it be necessary to consider in detail the adaptability
of the plant for cultivation in the United States, as the fact of its suc-
cessful introduction has been fully established and the records of past
experience placed before the world. It has also been demonstrated in
Kurope and to a partial extent in the United States that the fiber can
be manufactured into a great variety of beautiful and useful fabrics
for a wide range of employment in the textile economy. Between these
two positions, however, forming either end of the industrial chain in the
utilization of this plant as a textile product, there is an intermediate
position in which ramie experts agree something has yet to be accom-
plished before unqualified success in the establishment of the industry
can be positively assured. I refer to that stage in the ‘‘ handling” of
ramie between the harvesting of the stalks and the first manipulation
of the ‘“‘cleaned” fiber in manufacture. To those who know nothing of
the story it may be briefly stated that the invention of machinery and
processes for the extraction and cleaning (degumming) of ramie fiber
in the last thirty years in the various countries where experiments are
going on, might foot up a hundred or more, could the entire catalogue
be enumerated.

In spite of this vast inventive effort, ramie, up to the present time,
has not been grown in any country (excepting China and Japan) save
in a limited way, because no machine or process for decortication thus
far has been presented that has filled all the requirements demanded
of a thoroughly practical decorticator. To inventors in our own coun-
try who have been working so indefatigably for the solution of this
problem, some of whom may not fully coincide with this statement, the
suggestion may be made that the Department of Agriculture can only
recognize such facts as have been established by actual tests, and that
mere claims, though honestly made, can not be conscientiously recog-
nized. It is to be hoped in this connection that the Department may
be able at some future time, not too remote, to obtain a knowledge of
the value of every American invention for the decortication of ramie,
by carefully conducted competitive official trials, and we hope that
2

when the plant is finally produced commercially in the South it will be
cleaned by an American machine.

The fact that ramie is grown in no country commercially on an ex-
tensive scale, notwithstanding the large rewards that in past time have
been offered for successful machinery, demonstrates how difficult of
solution is the problem. The present status of the ramie question may
be stated in epitome somewhat as follows:

It is not cultivated as an industry because the growers have no ade-
quate economical means of preparing the fiber formarket. Itis grown
industrially in China, Japan, and to a slight extent in a few other
Eastern countries. It is grown to an exceedingly limited extent also
in portions of Europe and the French colonies in Africa, in some of
the South American republics, and in the British colonies. The com-
mercial demand for the fiber is exceedingly limited, because, first, it has
not been spun as economically asis desirable to make the industry profit-
able; and secondly, the real reason, because the supply of the raw
material is so fluctuating and uncertain there has been no inducement
for manufacturers to put large capital into factories and machinery.’

As there is no present large demand for fiber from the manufacturers,
those who may have produced it in a limited way have found no market
for their product. With a perfected and satisfactory decorticator the
principal obstacle to success with the industry will disappear, manu-
facture will be encouraged, and, from present indications, nearly every
country in the great family of nations where ramie will grow will then
be producing fiber for the world’s market.

It is said that the first attempt to decorticate ramie by machinery
was made in India in 1816, a flax and hemp machine having been sent
out for the purpose from England. Little was accomplished during
the next fifty years, when the attention of inventors was called to the
importance of producing a mechanical decorticator through renewed ex-
periments with culture and the further introduction of the plant into
several countries. The date of the revival of these efforts M. Favier
fixes at about 1870. In America these efforts began at a much earlier
period, for the machine of Dr. Benito Roezl was patented September
17, 1867, and it is said that hundreds of them were made at a foundry
in New Orleans and offered for sale (at $225 each) the next year. The
list of inventions from Roezl down to the present time is a long one, in
which the United States figures conspicuously. And from Roezl to re-

ee ee

1 Exquisite samples of ramie manufacture were in possession of the Department of
Agriculture as long ago as 1867, received from Messrs. Joseph Wade & Sons, Brad-
ford, England. During the last forty years, up to the present time, there have been
factories in operation at various times in different parts of Kurope which have pro-
duced ramie goods, etc., in almost endless variety. And some of these factories have
sunk fortunes in their experiments.

Attention also is called to an announcement which appears in the latter part of this
chapter of the practical results of Mr. Charles Toppan’s experiments in degumming
and spinning this product in the New England States.
80

cent years the literature of the subject has been a record of asserted
successes. Yet, what is a practical ramie-machine? And what has been
accomplished in France, where they are laboring so indefatigably to
produce the successful decorticator ?

Here is a record made by one of the best French machines in actual
field-trials in 1888. With a single machine it required twenty-five days
to decorticate the product of a hectare, or 24 acres. With 20 acres, at
this rate, it would have required two hundred days, and a farmer with
one machine, decorticating three crops produced in a season, on 100
acres, would have to run the machine ten years, of three hundred work-
ing days each, to accomplish it. To state it differently, to decorticate
at this rate the product of a single cutting on 100 acres, in one month
of thirty days, would require eleven machines.

Mr. Hardy, ex-director of the botanical gardens, Algiers, calculates
that a field of ramie over a year old, whose stems had reached a
height of about 6 feet, would produce 48,000 pounds per acre of green
stems and leaves, the leaves representing 20,400 pounds. This gives the
weight of an acre of stripped stalks as 27,600 pounds. The best record
of one of the prize machines at the Paris trials of 1889, working on
green stalks with leaves, was about 132.8 pounds of stalks in eighteen
minutes. Atthis rate it would require almost eleven days to decor-
ticate the 48,000 pounds of stalks on an acre, or a year and eight
months of three hundred working days to the year to clean a single
cutting on 50 acres. Another prize machine decorticated 46 kilograms
of stalks with leaves in eleven and one-half minutes. I was informed
that there were 200 stalks in the bundle. Calling the time ten min-
utes, to avoid the fraction, we have 1,200 stalks an hour, or 12,000 in
aday. It is claimed that Louisiana ramie produces 250,000 stalks per
acre. At the above rate, working with one machine, ten hours a day,
it would require twenty days and eight hours to decorticate the stalks
on a single acre; and on 50 acres, with one machine, for a single cut-
ting of ramie, it woul require about three years and four months. It
should be stated, however, that at an earlier trial, working on 36 kilo-
grams, the deeereention was finished in 2.35 minutes, which, after
making due allowance for chips which were mixed with the ribbons,
would reduce the time given above more than one half. In the
eleven and one-half minutes required to decorticate the 46 kilograms
of green stalks, 15 kilograms, or about 33 pounds, of wet ribbons were
produced, equal to about 1,720 pounds, or 375 pounds of dry ribbons
inaday. This shows that if it does require time to decorticate the
250,000 stalks on an acre of ground, a tremendous yield of fiber is pro-
diced, illustrating the productiveness of the plant in cultivation in
a most forcible manner. See record on page 89.

The recent ramie literature is so voluminous that a tithe of the valu-
able points and suggestions presented could not be considered in the
brief space of these few pages. It is my intention, however, to bring
Si

together in one or two chapters for later publication as much of it as
will prove of interest to the American students of ramie. In studying
closely the recent American literature of this subject, one becomes
aware of two things. Thatan array of interesting facts bearing upon
many phases of the industry have been presented on the one hand; and
that a great deal has been committed to “ cold print,” on the other, which
amounts to useless reiteration of statements that were fresh a dozen
years ago and which, itis to be regretted, are sometimes accompanied
by other statements misleading and untrue.

I recall an exhaustive article on ramie which has lately had wide cir-
culation through the South, in which a statement is made, evidently
taken at random, from another source, to the effect that 250,000 tons of
ramie ribbons are annually shipped to Hurope from China, Japan, Java,
etc.; and that a French firm (named) will contract for 10,000 tons of
ramie monthly.

In a recent letter from Messrs. Ide & Christie, the London fiber
brokers, discussing this very point of demand and supply, it is stated
that ramie ribbons have at no time been shipped to Europe from any
country in large quantity. Three to four hundred tons during the last
five years would represent the maximum quantity brought from China,
while India and other producing countries ‘ have sent little more than
sample lots and trial parcels.” The largest lot of ramie ever received
at any one time was in October, 1888, when 120 to 130 tons of ribbons
were offered in the London market. There was nothing like competi-
tion for it, and I am informed that it was sold for “£8 to £9, less than
half what it costin China.” I introduce these explanations at this time
to illustrate the utter absurdity of the figures often given by careless
writers (and as often referring to cost of production), and to prove also
the truth of the statements made on a previous page regarding the pres-
ent status of the ramie industry. I can but refer at this point to an
article published about a year ago in the Kew Bulletin,’ in which the
writer says that In a word, itis found that ramie fiber when produced



i

1 These are the editor’s conclusions: ‘‘ In order to understand the present position of
the ramie industry it would be useful to adopt some kind of classification of the de-
tails connected with it. In the first place we have the mere business of cultivating
the ramie plant, and of producing stems with the fiber in the best possible condition.
This is purely the work of the planter. Secondly, we have the process or processes
necessary to separate the fiber from the stems in the form of ribbons and filasse. It
is necessary for many reasons that this should be done either by the planter on the
spot or by a central factory close at hand. Thirdly, we have the purely technical and
manufacturing process in which ramie filasse is taken up by the spinners, and utilized
- in the same manner as cotton flax and silk are utilized for the purpose of being made
into fabrics.

‘‘For our present purpose we may take it for granted that the cultivation of the
ramie plant presents no insuperable difficulty. Also that if a suitable selection of
soil is made, and the locality possesses the necessary climatic conditions as regards
heat and moisture, there is no reason to doubt that ramie could be grown to greater
or less extent in most of our tropical possessions. As regards thesecond stage, in which

20789-—No. 1 6


82

is practically unsalable in the London market at the present time.”
The demand has improved, however, within a few months, and prices
ace firm. |

The Department, at this date, knows of no large market in thiscountry
where ramie fiber could be disposed of by farmers were they to produce
it in quantity. Yet farmers are urged everywhere by interested parties
to take up its cultivation, and we are in receipt of letters almost daily
making inquiries upon the subject. Scores of replies have been received,
also, in answer to the Department’s Southern fiber circular, from those
who have grown both jute and ramie in past years experimentally or
in hope of profit. Some of the writers express disappointment that
nothing personally practical has come out of their efforts, and by a few
the matter is viewed in the light of a failure. A considerable number
of the present inquiries come from those who know nothing of the past
history of ramie cultivation in the United States, but who have been
attracted to the subject by glowing accounts of the marvelous value of
the plant as a textile, which have appeared in the columns of the press
recently, and who are anxious to embark in its production. To these
farmers its cultivation means the pursuit of a profitable new industry,
and by holding out to such the golden promises that are frequently
made in the journals of the day. only injury can result and the final es-
tablishment of ramie cultivation among the masses of southern agricult-
ur, sts be retarded.

The object of making these statements is not to discourage farmers
from going into ramie culture at all, but to induce them to take it up with
their eyes open and to caution them to begin its cultivation on a small
scale, until they know something about it by practical experience. Un-
doubtedly there is a great future for the industry, and the Department
would encourage Southern farmers to make small beginnings in order
to obtain needed experience. When a satisfactory and full demand for
fiber can be assured, and the decorticator question is settled, it will be

is involved the decortication of the ramie stems, the problem is by no means com-
pletely solved.

‘*On this really hangs the whole subject. The third stage is disappointing and un-
satisfactory because the second stage is still uncertain, and being thus uncertain the |
fiber is necessarily produced in small and irregular quantities, and only comes into
the market by fits and starts. It would appear that ramie fiber differs so essentially
from cotton and flax that it can only be manipulated and worked into fabrics by means
of machinery specially constructed to deal with it. Owing to the comparatively
limited supply of ramie fiber hitherto in the market no large firms of manufacturers —
have thought it worth while to alter the present or put up new machinery to work
up Ramie fiber. If appliances or processes for decorticating Ramie in the colonies
were already devised, and the fiber came into the market regularly, and in large
quantities—say hundreds of tons at a time, there is no doubt manufacturers would be
fully prepared to deal with it. At present the industry is practically blocked by the
absence of any really successful means of separating the fiber from the stems, and pre-
paring it cheaply and effectively. This after all is the identical problem which has
baffled solution for the last fifty years.” —Bulletin of the Royal Kew Gardens, December, —
1888, p. 298,
83

an easy matter to extend cultivation, and, if necessary, purchase ma- _
chines for the decortication of the product. In spite of past discour-
agements there is a great deal that is hopeful. The very difficulties
that have stood in the way of successfully establishing the industry have
spurred to greater effort. The question is being studied from new points
of view, and every aspect considered that may throw new light upon
the subject, and new discoveries are constantly being made. Re-—
garding the foreign trials Dr. Morris, the assistant director of Kew, has
recently said editorially :

To those generally interested in ramie culture it may be mentioned that the trials
of 1889 have proved much more favorable than those of 1888, and the subject is evi-
dently ripening for solution in many directions not thought of before.!

In the United States a great deal has been accomplished that is en-
couraging. But we must study the subject more carefully in the future
in special relation to our own country, developing the industry on
purely American lines, with regard to the conditions peculiar to our
soil, climate, labor, and finally the manufacturer’s demand for the prod-
uct. We have yet a great deal to learn regarding the cultivation of
the plant before we shall possess the practical knowledge, as it relates
to this country, that the experimenters in France and the French and
British colonies have obtained regarding its cultivation in these coun-
tries. It is one thing to grow ten acres of ramie stalks; another thing
to produce such stalks that an even and uniform fiber may be obtained
from the product of an entire field, and at different seasons. The re-
sult of studies in India some years ago suggested the suspicion that
they might not have been experimenting at all with the plant which
produces the celebrated ‘China grass-cloth,” but with something that
produces an inferior fiber. This is purely a suggestion, says one of these ©
writers, “but it seems highly desirable that we should thoroughly ex-
amine all the plants met with in India which afford rhea-like fibers, as
well as re-examine the plant from which the China grass-cloth 1s de-
rived before much money be spent on experiments with new machin-
ery.” There are even two distinct forms of the fiber which come to the
European market—from China—one bright and grass-like in appearance
as viewed in bundle; the other darker, more greenish in color, and
producing in manufacture indifferent results compared with the first.
One of these grows in Southern regions and the other in the more tem-
perate regions; one is used for fabrics, while the other finds employ-
ment in cordage and the coarser manufactures. I found great dissimil-

arity likewise in the filasse from stalks collected at the Exposition,
grown in different remote regions, and run through the Favier machine
at a private working in Paris. The American stalks produced a good
fiber, equal to the French in appearance, but neither sosoft or so silky
as the filasse from stalks grown in Spain, though, possibly, the stalks
may not have been fully matured.

1 Kew Bulletin, November, 1889, page 274, —
84

M. Favier informs me that there will be the greatest difference in
the stalks from several cuttings. Some will be tough and unyielding,
while others will give up their fiber readily, and it will be of the best
quality. These suggestions are thrown out to urge upon the Southern
growers who are interested in ramie culture the importance of making a
most careful study of the cultivation of the plant under different condi-
tions, that they may learn all there isto learn regarding it, and regarding
best manner of growing it in American soil. And I would urge upon
those who are experimenting with decorticators and processes to en-
deavor to obtain stalks grown in different sections and produced under
varied known conditions, that all points may be fully covered.

Mr. Favier has produced certain good results in Europe by controlling
under one direction and making consecutive the experiments with cul-
sivation, decorticating, degumming, and manufacture.: In this way one
condition is modified to meet the requirements of another, and with an
intelligent oversight of the whole field the chance for mistakes through
blind experiment is proportionately reduced and many difficulties suc-
cessfully overcome. In the same manner, experiments in cultivation
and. the cleaning of the fiber should proceed together in the South to
produce the best results, for the two branches of the industry are so
closely connected, both necessarily must be carried on upon the farm.

One of the problems which we must settle for ourselves is suggested
in the question whether it is best to decorticate the stalks green or dry.
M. Favier favors the dry method and produces some strong arguments
in support of his views which may be applicable to the situation in
America. On the other hand, Dr. Morris and the French official ex-
perts offer strong counter arguments to prove that the drying of a large
quantity of stalks is impracticable and out of the question. Certainly,
if theramie trialsin Paris demonstrated anything, they demonstrated that
thereare many difficulties in the way of working a large quantity of stalks
in the green state. In the limits of this report, however, there is little ©
space for a proper discussion of all the pros and cons of the subject.
Hnough for the present to note some of the conditions which will con-
front the Southern ramie-grower, when the industry will have become ©
general. A climate that will make it essential for him, if he works his
stock green, to decorticate many tons in a very few days, or the ramie,
just right when he commenced to work it, will often be too tough and dry
for his green-working machines before he completes his crop. This
means the use of many machines and a large force of laborers, who
must be especially hired for the-occasion. It also means the careful
after-drying of tons of green ribbons, to avoid fermentation in wass,
before he can bale them for market. Further than this, unless the
coming ramie decorticator is a cheaper machine than those now under
experiment, very few farmers will be able to purchase them, which —
will necessitate a central mill system. With such a system the harvest- —

a

1 See Summary of the Situation, at the close of this chapter.
85

ing of the crop green for immediate decortication is entirely out of the
question. The transportation of 20 tons of ramie stalks even 2 miles,
means the carriage of 16 tons of water that distance. Then if for any
reason the stalks can not be put through the machines when received
and must lie for twenty-four hours, a certain deterioration of the fiber
will ensue from fermentation, or sometimes, from mildew. With the
dry system a short-handed farmer would cure his crop in the field, house
- the stalks, or shelter them near by, and in a time most convenient for
himself, in connection with the other work of the farm, attend to the
cleaning of the fiber, or haul to the central mill as wanted. ‘To sum-
marize: If decorticated green the entire crop must be worked up in a
very few days. If dry, a farmer can take his time, and, as we have
shown, the best machines of to-day require a great deal of time.

Among the encouraging evidences of progress in the United States
may be mentioned the renewed interest that has been developed, in
the past year especially, not only in the South but in different parts of
country, in the matter of experiments with machinery and processes for
the preparation of the fiber. Even the cultivation ofthe plant is at-
tracting attention in various quarters, and some new areas will be
planted the present season, most of the work being under the direction
of ramie companies, or conducted by men who have studied the ques-
tion in all its economic bearings, and are supposed to know what they
are doing. This is quite another matter from hap-hazard embarkation
in the industry by individual farmers who have little money to risk in
such enterprises, and less knowledge to guide them in an undertaking,
where loss, under present existing conditions, is almost inevitable. In
this connection reference is made to a letter produced in the chapteron
jute and other fibers, which explains fully this point. This Texas farmer
was induced to plant 20 acres of jute, on the promise that a decorti-
cator would be available when the crop was ready to cut. His statement
that the crop was never harvested because the decorticator was not pro-
duced is the melancholy sequel to the story. He has probably had
enough of jute culture. A few Southern farmers have suffered from
ramie culture in a similar manner. |

On Oakbourne plantation, near La Fayette, La., [am informed that 90
acres of ramie were under cultivation last year, and as far as the ques-
tion of mere cultivation was concerned the experiment was successful.
I was informed also that ramie was decorticated on the farm last sea-
son, and several bales of the fiber sent to New Orleans, though nothing
could be learned by the Department of their final disposition.. Effort
was also made to secure samples of the fiber, but none have been re-
ceived up to the present time. Recent outside advices, however, prove
that the promoters of the enterprise have found themselves confronted
with the knotty decorticator problem, and for the present matters are
at a standstill, though the experiments will proceed this season. a
86

Through Mr. Felix Fremerey, of the Ramie Planting Association of
Texas, located at Yorktown, it is learned that Mr. Frederick Natho, who
produced the fine samples of ramie shown by the Department at the
Paris Exposition, will plant a large area this season on the lands of the
Pioneer Irrigation Company at Pecos City. |

The Department is also informed from anothersource that small areas
will be planted in Florida. The Ramie Company of America, of which
Mr. Burnet Landreth, of Philadelphia, is president, will put in limited
areas in Bristol, Pa., in Virginia,in Florida, and Alabama, the roots
to be used for extending cultivation another year. Iam also informed
that there are plantations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and
Georgia, and on the Pacific slope, where small areas will be grown the
present season, and at some of the State agricultural experiment sta-
tions a few roots will be planted. Itis to be hoped that the cultivation
of these small areas, will continue, and that those who grow ramie even
in a small way will make careful notes of their experiments and observa-
tions, for there is not the slightest doubt that the men who are most
familiar with the details of the agricultural side of the question, when
other questions have been satisfactorily settled, will be the first to profit
from growing the fiber commercially.

The subject of American machines and processes is an interesting
one. It was intended when the present report was being outlined to
devote a chapter to their consideration. Very little material has been
obtained, however, and rather than make an imperfect and incomplete
report on this mostimportant branch of the subject, it has been thought
wisest to delay the publication of this matter until definite statements
can be made. In this connection it is hoped that all who are interested
in machines or processes for the cleaning and preparation of ramie
fiber will send such descriptions of them, as they may see fit, with
claims as to capacity, etc., to the Department of Agriculture, for record,
or for examinationif desirable. The recent correspondence in the fiber
section of departmental work attests the wide-spread interest that exists
in this matter, and it is earnestly hoped that further communications
will be received. In this connection attention is called to Appendix B,
at the end of the report.

Before closing this subject, however, it may be interesting to record
the recent experiments of Mr. Charles Toppan, of Salem, Mass., in de-
gumming and manufacturing ramie fiber from the raw product grown
in China. Under instructions from the Department of Agriculture,
last January I visited Mr. Toppan at his chemical laboratory in Salem,
where the details of his process for degumming ramie were examined
with greatest interest ; thence to the works in Peabody, Mass., where
the raw fiber is treated by the ton; and thence to Providence, R. L.,
where, in company with Mr. Toppan and his son, Mr. Arthur L. Toppan,
Mr. John Richie, jr., of Boston, and Messrs. Thomas Mabbett and Ben-
jamin M. Earle, of Providence, the entire process of preparing and


87

spinning the degummed ramie on woolen machinery was witnessed to
the point of yarn production. The yarn has already been produced in
quantity, and I am informed finds a ready market in New York City, at
good prices. In a recent letter received from Mr. Toppan he says:

I am now carding and spinning yarns on both woolen and cotton machinery, no
changes being made with either. I have spun commercially both coarse and fine
yarns, and this by the ton. These yarns bring 75 cents to $1 per pound in the gray};
and in colors $1.50 to $2 per pound. You will note in the samples sent I have a jet
black—a color never produced in ramie before, as] am informed. Cotton, worsted,
and silk colors all take readily and are fast. We are in the market for American-
grown ramie, paying the market price for the same quality of ramie ribbons that we
are now using. ‘The decortication is an important part of the treatment. There are
many decorticators in the field, all having the same vital defects regarding quantity
and simplicity of construction.

Recently some beautiful samples of fringes have been received from
Mr. Toppan, which are already on the market, and orders have been
received by him for yarns for the manufacture of sail cloth, hard
twisted yarns for hammocks, and some other manufactures, specimens
of which are early promised.

From a knowledge of Mr. Toppan’s process I am satisfied that the
important results he has attained in the manufacture are due to the
fact that the degumming is carried only to the point where a filasse is
produced, which, when separated and broken into short lengths on the
fearnaught and garnet machines, is sufficiently soft and pliant to work
well on woolen machinery. —

It should be borne in mind, however, that the fiber, in the condition
in which it is left after drying, is only applicable to one form of spinning.
In Burepe, ramie has been worked almost wholly upon line-spinning
machinery, where it is necessary tokeep the filaments straight, or paral-
lel, like flax or silk. Both silk and woolen machinery have been used
abroad, of the latter, that for working ‘long wool,” though the use of
flax machinery, with modifications to adapt it to all the reqirements of
the new fiber, has been thought to give the best results. With the
process under consideration there is more or less tangling or interlacing
of the filaments which would make it quite difficult to prepare the fiber
for line spinning without some loss. Even with the best systems of
degumming followed abroad, and I was told there were several
factories for the purpose, there is more or less of this trouble, and
in French manufacture a large percentage of waste fiber is produced
which must be sold at a low price for other uses. It would appear,
therefore, that perfectly satisfactory results in this branch of the
manipulation of the fiber have not been attained in either country.
Mr. Toppan’s discoveries are important, but to this extent he does not
cover the whole ground. This tangling of the filaments, when the
fibrous mass is manipulated in solutions, is one of the many difficulties |
that enter into the ramie problem. Regarding the Toppan experiments,
however, this much is proved, that by spinning a short length fiber in
88

the form of wool, it is possible to utilize all “ waste” from combing,
even should it amount to 60 per cent., in a form of manufacture that
makes it about as valuable as the straight fiber that has been combed
out. If these New England experimenters have done nothing else.
they have shown how to degum and spin ramie in an economical man-
ner, and have been the first American manufacturers who hive actually
placed ramie.products on the market, and made a demand for the raw
material in large quantities. :

Since the preparation of this report a small sample of cloth for suit-
ings has been received from Mr. Burnet Landreth, president of the
Ramie Company of America. A few yards of this fabric were manu-
factured for the company (made February 20, of this year) on woolen
machinery, from American and Chinese ramie, a very little cotton
having been mixed with the fiber to facilitate the operation of spinning.
Figures as to price of the goods were not given, nor the name of the
woolen mill stated. The American ramie was ae on the farm at
Bristol, Pa.

There are two forms of the Chinese product, as has been previously
Stated, the white and the green, costing practically the same as imported,
yet in manufacture showing considerable difference in value from a vari-
ation in the percentages of loss both in preparation and spinning. This
suggests the idea that when ramie is grown commercially in America
there will be great differences in quality at first, and anew difficulty will
arise, of establishing standards and fixing values. And in this connec-
tion I shall await with great interest the result of the first trials of

manufacture with American-grown ramie produced in commercial quan-
tity. The imported “ grass” thus far has been used in manufacture, and
if Mr. Toppan’s enterprise should be greatly extended, it is a question
whether he will not find himself in exactly the same nasition in which
other ramie spinners in Europe have found themselves placed—ham-
pered by a small] and uncertain supply of the raw material. Mr. Top-
pan states that he will purchase American-grown-ramie at the market
price of the foreign, if it is of the same quality, which, with duty and
transportation across the sea added, amounts to about 9 cents a pound.

As to the question of quality, the Chinese article, as hand-stripped
and cleaned, is brighter than any machine-prepared I have yet seen,
some of the machine-prepared being simply in the form of ribbons or
flat strips of fiber with the outer pellicle still adhering. This could
not be graded with the thoroughly cleaned imported grass, though the
Providence manufacturers would prefer it in this form to ramie cleaned
chemically, which might not give so good results with their process. |
Those who may have ramie to sell in the future, therefore, will do well
to ascertain the exact form in which it will be purchased.
89
SUMMARY OF THE SITUATION. _

From the foregoing it may appear to some readers of these pages that
the situation is rather discouraging. It can only be regarded so in the
light of the rose-tinted statements frequently made regarding the in-
dustry, wherein are set forth the ease and profits of cultivation, with no
whisper as to the reasons why the industry has not been established.
Having glanced at the facts of the case, let us summarize the situation.
The Huropean supply of commercial ramie (that which can be purchased
in open market) comes from China. It is produced there in a small
way and prepared by tedious methods, which give but a very few pounds
of the “ China grass” a day—less than 2 pounds, one writer asserts—
the operations, according to Michotte, being as follows: The freshly
cut stalk is stripped of its leaves and scraped with a bamboo knife to
raise the pellicle or outer bark. This done, the fibrous part is extracted
in small ribbons. The further preparation consists in boiling these rib-
bons in lye water; that is, in water and ashes. They are then spread
out upon the houses to dry, the operation being repeated several times,
the final result being the extraction of about 25 per cent. of the gum.

In manufacture the filaments of ramie are deftly tied or joined together,
end to end, and the delicate thread thus formed is woven into the won-
derful fabric that bears the name of China grass cloth. With only such
rude preparation of the filasse and laborious manufacture the situation
would be indeed discouraging, yet for hundreds of years ramie has been
manufactured in this manner in Eastern countries. Contrast with these
statements some of the facts brought out in this report. From a pro-
duction of 2 or 3 pounds of ribbons per day by one man, we can now
produce by existing machines (even though they are not fully satisfac-
tory) over half a ton of ribbons in ten hours. The record of one of the
irials of the Landtsheer machine, at Paris last summer, demonstrated
that 22 pounds of wet ribbons could be produced in two and one-half
minutes, which, with an allowance of 20 per cent. for chips and refuse,
is equal to 1,400 pounds of dry fiber per day; and a later trial of the
Favier machine demonstrated a capacity of 1,100 pounds in a day of
ten hours. In this connection the importance of a thorough official
test of American ramie machines can not be too strongly urged, in order
that we may know precisely what America is doing in this direction,
and that American inventors may have an opportunity to prove their
claims and compare results with their French confreres.

The results of the foreign trials have inspired such confidence in the
establishment of the industry in the near future that ramie companies
are forming everywhere. In our sister republic of Mexico large tracts
of land have been set aside for ramie culture and planting begun, and I
am informed that French and American machines will be imported into
the country to make practical field tests the present season. The South
American republics also are active. In Venezuela alone some 2,500 acres —
90

of land have been given by the Government to aramie company, which
has already made a beginning with cultivation. Even Cuba is inter-
ested in the new fiber, and a year ago imported French machinery for
actual field experiment, and fiber has been produced in salable quantity
in the Sandwich Islands.

It is worth recording that the French Ramie Association ( La Ramie
Francaise”), of which M. P. A. Favier is the head, put in operation last
year three decorticating establishments in France, Spain, and Hgypt,
respectively. The association has also a spinning mill operating 2,500
spindles. Its contracts with agriculturists cover 350 hectares of land
in the three countries named above.

I have shown in another part of the report how long a time is required
to decorticate the product of 50 acres with one of the present machines,
but only a hint was given of the tremendous yield of fiber that can be
produced on an acre of ground. In I'rance, it is claimed,. by estimates
based on the weight of stalks that can be produced on a hectare, and
after considering the expenses of cultivation and decortication, that an
income of 1,500 franes per hectare is possible the third year. This is
equal to about $120 per acre. There is no question but that ramie cult-
ure will pay well when the industry is fairly established; and the very
fact that it will prove so remunerative wili spur to greater effort to
overthrow all remaining obstacles. :
JUTE AND OTHER FIBERS,

Regarding jute there is little that can be added to that which hag
previously been said in the many reports emanating from this Depart-
ment. It has. been satisfactorily demonstrated over and over again,
that we can produce a fine quality of fiber and in any quantity. The
nearer approach to a successful solution of the ramie machine problem ~
is most encouraging for jute culture. There are a number of machines
in the United States that are claimed to have done fairly good work,
we are well aware, and we are hoping much from them, though, if asked
to do so, the Department could not, at the date of publication of this
report, refer its correspondents to a purchasable machine upon which
the decortication could be economically accomplished. We have even
endeavored to place a description of one of these machines before the
readers of this report, because of the claims that have been made for it,
but when the mechanical drawings were received the Department was
requested, for reasons given by the inventor in the letter accompanying,
to publish only an indication of the principle with a statement of what
the new machine would do when completed. Under such circumstances
- the Department can only wait until positive statements can be made.
A machine that. will decorticate ramie will strip jute, and probably,
with some slight changes, other bast fibers. The problem which has
confronted the world with regard to ramie is almost identical, therefore,
with that which has proved the stumbling block of the jute industry
and other good fibers as well. |

For the benefit of those who may wish to make a trial with jute, a
brief description of the cultivation of the plant will be given, though
the remarks that were made regarding the advisability of farmers going
into the culture of ramie apply equally to this fiber. Here is an extract
from the Texas letter referred to on a former page: coe

I was handed a circular from your Department making inquiry about fibers and
their culture. Something more than two years ago a man came here (a Frenchman)
and organized a jute manufacturing company with a subscribed capital of $25,000.
The same party had a decorticator which he was to furnish to work up the jute ready
for manufacturing purposes. In order tu get the thing started they made a contract
with me to plant, cultivate, and harvest 20 acres of jute at $20 per acre, the company
to furnish the seed. I had black land, part loam, and about one-third stiff land. I
prepared the land by breaking with two-horse plow and harrowing well. Planted

first about 15th to 25th of March, which proved to be too early. The seed rotted in

the ground. I planted about two-thirds of it over about the 1st of May, sae made
92

It a little too late to obtain the largest growth. The second planting I got a good
stand and it all made a very satisfactory growth from 6 to 9 feet high, with an aver-
age of about 7 4 feet. It is very tedious to work with when it first comes up, and re-
quires the weeds and grass to be cleaned by hand-picking, asno tool can be used to work
among the plants. This crop was raised in 1888, and was never harvested. Theman
that organized the company was to have the decorticator here by the time the jute
was ready to cut,but he went from here to New York and we lost track of him, so
we had no machinery to work the crop with. The crop bore an abundance of seed,
but the pods burst open and spilled the seed out. With machinery to separate the
fiber we can raise either jute or ramie on our valley lands. * * *

The extract tells its own story and comment is unnecessary. Refer-
ence may be made also to an item in the Manufacturers’ Record to the
effect that a prominent manufacturer in Ohio will buy 2,500 tons of jute
fiber the present season, and pay 4 centsapound forit. Themarket price
for the imported article in the New York market is from 24 to 44 cents.

If our Southern farmers have means to decorticate it, and can grow it

with a profit to themselves and seli the cleaned fiber at 4 cents a pound,
there is probably a large demand for it already, because what one juto
manufacturer can afford to do another can do, and if a prime article is
produced, no manufacturer can lose anything at the figure quoted. It
is stated that jute can be grown in Texas at a cost of 21 to 21 cents a
pound, and yield the farmers $40 to $60 per acre.' This is a very good
showing, but at the same time we would advise no one to go into the
culture extensively until he has assured himself, by a knowledge of every —
step from seed to fiber, that he can produce it profitably. Undoubtedly
when these fiber industries are fairly started, and a steady market is
assured, they will be the means of putting considerable money in the
pockets of the Southern farmers, a consummation devoutly to be wished,
and for the realization of which the Department of Agriculture will do
all in its power.

The following regarding the cultivation of jute is by Mr. Felix
Fremerey, before referred to, who has had practical experience in its
cultivation. The two varieties are Corchorus capsularis and C. olitorius.

The seeds of both varieties are sown as soon as the soil gets warm—about the be-
ginning of April—in drills some 5 or 6 inches apart, taking about 15 pounds of seed
to the acre of the former, and, of the latter, about 20 pounds.

The olitorius kind growing faster, its stalks will be matured enough for cutting in
about seventy or eighty days after sowing. When the stems have reached a length
of some 8 or 9 feet, its filasse being a very fine structure, it will command a higher
price. The capsularis stems will grow to a height of from 9 to 10 or 11 feet in about
eighty or ninety or one hundred days, when they should be cut. In every case none
of either species should be allowed to grow any longer than to their blooming time, by
risk of the stalks branching out and rendering their decortication very difficult if not
impossible. The best mode for cutting is by means of a mowing-machine having a
dropper attachment. Farmers not having a degumming apparatus at their dis-
position will be compelled to operate this manipulation in a pool or tank, or in run-
ning water. The ribbons, before getting dry, are tied in bundles of from 50 to 60
pounds and carried to the water, where the decomposition of the glutinous matter is



‘These figures are given on the authority of Prof. 8. Waterhouse of St. Louis.
93

achieved in six to ten days, according to the degree of the warmth of the water. When
the gum is properly destroyed by fermentation, the fibers are submitted to a thorough
washing, then dried in the sun or some place in the barn, when they are ready for
packing. The market price of jute filasse is mostly dependent upon the care in its
preparation.

The earlier experiments of the Department proved that the plant re-
quires a hot damp climate and a moist soil of sandy clay or alluvial
mold. 3 ;

The advantage of jute production to the South is made apparent by -
a glance at our jute imports in a single year. These amount to a total
of $7,000,000. The latest quotations per pound for the different grades
of jute are as follows:

Cents.
Jute butts, bagging quality. ..- 2.0 2.00 cece cow eee nnn e cme en one nwo ne wae nee 28
Jute butts, paper stock... - 2. 2... pete cee cee cers mater se ecse esas comnences- 12
Rejections -. 0.20. cee ene cone e wee core cee e cee cee cee ee enn cece ween cece nes 2-24
Jute: (fiber)... 2. 2. oe oes n cee e snes cask ee con nes cogs eames een nnes oreo mene ennees 24-4}

If jute is placed on the free list with sisal, manila and other foreign
cordage fibers it will be very difficult to compete with it, for prices are
lownow. But itis said that American agriculture can receive no ben-
efit from a duty on jute, because farmers can not produce it commer-
cially for want of decorticating machinery. Recalling the interest in
the jute bagging question, it should be borne in mind, however, that if
we are not growing jute we are producing a good quality of bagging
from low-grade cotton, and also from pine fiber. And with the thou-
sands of tons of flax straw produced every year on western farms, and
which now is wasted, every pound of jute imported for bagging pur-
poses represents so much money that ought to go to the farmers of our
own country.

=

OTHER FIBERS.

Considerable interest has been aroused recently in regard to okra.
This plant, which thrives everywhere in the South, furnishes a valuable
fiber, some very fine specimens of which have lately been received.
Sisal hemp can be grown in Florida, remarkably fine samples of this
fiber also having been sent from several localities. But the catalogue
is a long one, many interesting additions to the list having been made
in the last two or three months, including a malvaceous plant growing
wild over several States, the fiber of which, grown in India, is stated
to be more valuable than jute.

There are many other fibrous plants, that are now erowing or that can
be grown in the South, of which considerable might be said. The investi-
gation, as it relates to these Southern fibers, however, has hardly been
more than begun; and while a great deal of important information has
already been collected, so much ground has yet to be covered that it
must be left for the later report.
94

To conclude, within the length and breadth of our country we have
- resources in this direction the proper development of which would put
millions of dollars in the pockets of American farmers annually, and
save to the United States immense sums now paid to fiber producers in
other countries. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the farmers of the
United States, North and South, will study the question as it relates to
themselves individually, with the end to securing all information possi-
. ble that may help them to make a beginning. The success of any in.
dustry depends largely upon how well it is conducted. With new or
untried industries there is all tbe more necessity to make haste slowly.
An intelligent appreciation of the whole situation will go far towards
bringing about the desired result in regard to fiber culture, while spas-
modie and hap-hazard attempts to set it on its feet will only result in
disappointment and failure, and put us back a decade.
A

a
PPHN DICH.

95

Apprenpix A.

BOTANICAL CONSIDERATIONS ON THE RAMJE QUESTION IN FRANCE.

The following considerations, touching upon the species and varieties
of ramie cultivated in France, are taken from statements made by M.
P. A. Favier, in“ La Ramie.” 3

_ In our description we will preserve the denominations adopted by the ~
greater number of those who have treated upon this subject but, as in
the varieties which we are going to describe, and of which we have the
living species before our eyes, we do not recognize but two really dis-
tinct species, we will avoid the first confusion by making the distine-
tion in our agricultural practice of two species only, which we denomi-
nate white ramie and green ramie.

In the white ramie we possess two varieties, to each one of which we
will apply the name best adapted to the appearance of the plant. To
that one which has the under part of the leaf entirely silvered, and is
snow-white, we will preserve the name of ‘‘nivea,” while to that which
has the under part of the leaf only approaching the white, we will apply
the name of “candicans.” The nivea has the leaf slightly tapering
towards the petiole. The upper part of the leat is bright green and
the lower side is a uniform white, which is entirely silvered over in the
young leaves, and which takes on a regular grayish white when they
become matured. The veins on the under side are slightly colored.
The dry leaves recover their whiteness and the veins preserve a reddish
brown coloring. This species resists cold better than the greener
species, and could perhaps be acclimated in the southwest. It is this
species which Colonel Nicolle is said to have eultivated with success
at Jersey, in the British Channel, and in Dordogne.

Its vegetation is earlier than that of the other species, but its yield
is inferior in quality to the green, as it produces less stalks, and does
not grow as high as that; the quality of the fiber is also less resistant
and much less abundant. It is, in our opinion, the same as they culti-
vate in China under the name of Tchou-Ma, and which produces the
nagnificent fiber which comes to us from that country. In Europe,
during the first years of the plantation, this has a tendency to ramify,
and the stalks: present the difficulty of becoming withered in desicca-

20789—No. 1—_—7 , ote


98

tion, which robs it of a great part of its value. This difficulty seems
to disappear in the older plantations.

The candicans, in the deseription of which we made some reserva-
tions in our preceding edition, is the species which had been introduced
into the south of France under the name of nivea. It resists cold still
better than the nivea. Itis the species which was tried in belgium
in 1860. In the garden of acclimation, in Paris, it can pass the winter
in the open grounds, while the other forms have to be sheltered. It
has on the under part of the leaf a less decided white appearance than
the nivea. The veins are of a grayish white tint which conforms to the
color of the groundwork of the leaf as its development progresses. As
in the nivea, the white loses its intensity in proportion as the leaf ap-
proaches its maturity, and remains a grayish white after desiccation,
with the veins brown. The upper side of the leaf is dark green, and it
is more tapering towards the petiole than the nivea ; but all these dif-
ferences must be carefully observed to prevent confusion between these
two varieties of white ramie. This has a growth lower in stem than
the green ramie, or the nivea, and this is its most distinctive charac-
teristic. Its tendency to ramify is so great during its first years that
it often grows in quite bushy forms. This objection disappears also in
the older plantations, but the stalks remain slender and short and
although they may grow thickly the agricultural yield is very inferior.

The utilis or tenacissima, or green ramie, has the leaf quite heart-
shaped toward the petiole. In thisit is quite distinct from the varieties
of white ramie, in which the leaves are more tapering towards the pet-
lole, and this difference alone makes it easy to distinguish them. The
upper part of the leaf is light green, the lower part is also light green,
Sometimes covered with a grayish down, which appears in the squares
formed by the veins. These veins, which are slightly paler than the
green of the leaf, are very prominent. This species has a very vigorous
growth; it produces the highest and most numerous stalks and the
quality of its fiber, which is more abundant than in any of the other
_ Species, is of the most tenacious kind, making it well worthy of the
name of “ tenacissima.” It grows in the warmest climates, but can re-
sist cold to the extreme of 6 to 8 degrees, and even support 10 degrees
(centigrade) by taking certain precautions, but it requires a high and ~
even temperature during the period of vegetation. This is the species
which we recommend to be cultivated in the south of France, in Spain,
Portugal, Italy, Egypt, Algeria, in our colonies, and wheresoever the
climate wili permit, because of its agricultural yield, which we estimate
at one quarter more than that of other species, and because of the
superiority of its fiber in spinning into thread. Manufacturers will
purchase the product of this species at a higher price than the others,
whieh can perhaps be cultivated in certain countries but with smaller
yield.
AppEenpix B. -

CIRCULAR OF INQUIRY IN REGARD TO FIBER CULTURE OR MACHINERY.

The Department is extremely desirous of obtaining all information
possible from those who may have interesting statements to make
regarding success or failure with the cultivation, experimental or other-
wise, of various fibrous plants in the United States. The question of
machinery or processes for the preparation or decortication of fibrous
plants is also an important subject of inquiry, and all who are interested
in matters pertaining to either branch of the investigation now being
pursued by the Department are earnestly solicited to aid the Depart-
ment by such brief statements as they may feei inclined to present,
The following circular in relation to this matter was sent out at the
beginning of the present year.

FIBER INVESTIGATION.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
Washington, D. C., January 1, 1890.

Sir: The interest in fibers among farmers and others, and the necessity for extend-
ing the range of agricultural production as the numbers of rural laborers increase,
have led to an investigation in Europe and in this country which is intended to be
as thorough and practical as possible.

During the last twenty years, at various times and in many localities in the United
States, experiments have been undertaken relative to the cultivation of a number of
fiber-producing plants indigenous or introduced, a list of which is given below. ‘The
Department is desirous of securing information from every source bearing upon the
success or failure of experiments with the cultivation of any of these fiber plants, and
I beg to call your attention to the following questions, hoping you will be able to
aid us with information upon the subject as far as possible, without, however, taxing
too severely your time and patence:

LIST OF FIBROUS PLANTS.

Flax, Linum usitatissimum. Bear grass (Dasylirion graminifolium).
Hemp, Cannabis sativa. American aloe, (Agave Americana).
Ramie, or China grass (Boehmeria nivea). | Sisal hemp, ‘‘ lenequin” (Agave-Sisal-
Indian jute (Corchorus olitorius and capsu- ana).

laris). Spanish bayonet, Adam’s needle, ete.
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). (Yucca ; species).

Swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos). | Palmetto (Sabal and Chamerops).
Indian mallow, “American jute” (Abuti- | Pine apple, Ananassa sativa, and Brome-
lon avicenne). lia—species.
There are many other plants on the Department list, but the above are the princi-
pal ones. ; oe
100

INFORMATION DESIRED.

1. Names of fibers from above list grown either in large or sinall quantities, for ex-
periment or otherwise, at any time during the past twenty years, in your locality or
State, and names and addresses of experimenters or growers of such fibers, stating as
far as possible the extent of experiments and the period or year when such experi-
ments were made or the plants cultivated. :

2. Names of any person or persons who are or have been interested in any form of
new machine or device for the extraction of fiber of above plants, or any fiber-pro-
ducing plants in your State, as well as name of any persons who have experimented
in any way with the extraction of fiber from fiber-producing plants.

3. If you have had any personal experience in the cultivatien or manipulation of
any of the above fibers, brief statements relating to such experience, with accounts
of success or failure, will be thankfully received. -

Very respectfully,
J. M. Rusk,
Secretary.

The interest in ramie machinery and processes is increasing. Our
country has held a prominent position in the field of invention, in this
direction, since the revival of the question of ramnie cultivation a quar-
ter of a century ago. The Department has records of many of these
machines and processes, but it is important to complete the list, and
especially in regard to proposed official trials of ramie or other fiber
machinery that may be made at some future time.

Those who may wish to submit samples of any fibers, or even speci-
mens of indigenous fiber-producing plants (and such are invited) will,
upon receipt of a letter indicating the fact, receive instructions for for-
warding the specimens without cost to the sender for postage. Com.
munications on this subject should be addressed to the Secretary of
Agriculture, the words “Fiber Investigation,” also being inscribed on

the envelope, in one corner.
i Page.
Accidents and diseases of flax... 2.02 0c ee oo ee 14
Mekmowlede@mients =. .ce60) ee oie ee eldo eens 8
Acreage of flax in United States 71.- 2 252. 25. ee 49
Allon. GW. letter rom: ==. 525522 isi oes oe 67
Armand Barbier ramie machine: : 2552. 722. 2s. ose a 35.
B.
Bagong made Mom Max !.22- 56.06. Sei eee 45
“balvlons:? for revving flax, Gescription Of 23... 22-22... ase oe. DOR ae ee 16
Binder twine ...... ES Ck eas OBS Nie ieee ce eee eee ..--47, 57, 66, 67
manufactured first from hemp —-2: -.-..-2.. 2 ee ee 66
from ‘flax fiber: <2 oi 22s. oes ee 47
Bosse, Eugene, communication from .... -.c.---. = 22 os 62
Botanical considerations of the ramie question ---...-.-.-- .--.-- ---- «s-- ses 97
Boyce, S.S., communication: front siw0s oa sos ee ee oe 60
Brake for hemp; in Frances. 2022222 soe see so ee 30
old-fashioned, for:hemp, im Kentucky... --¢.:/.2-. 22 64
Brakes, machine, for dientp =: 2 22 ss secs ras See ee 73
C.
Climate best suited to flax culture in the United States ........ oe eo owas 63
Competition with foreion labor, note on -3252..----- 3-2 --< ee ee 47
Cost of-orowine flax in Pranc6 <2 602s 222 eet ee eee 26
WISCONSING 42 occ ee cee one eee 62
hemp-in: THinois: 2222502205 (22 oon) ee ee ee 72
Kien bucky 2552 o5 0 epee oo ee eee ee 66.
labor in Belgian flax culture. 2. 3.22. =. 5 19
Culturetofilax in Wurope. <2 ose ce ee es re ee 11
United: States. 2 22222 2 ee ee 50
hemp in. France 22:22. 2.52. ee =e bs Soe Se ce ees eee 27
Wnited States <2 sc. 22. ee ee 64
jute. sco... icc a 91
TAM1G. oo 5 es os ee es oa eee eee 76
D.
Heath's fiber machine 2.23.2 st2 2 see os ee ee 23 25
Wecortication Of ramie.-21522-- 82s. ses ccc ee ee | 32
Dew retting oPflax. 20.252. 22-2. 222-3 ee 15, 52
WOMipre 2s os oo ee oe eee rece 65, 70, 72
Diseases and accidents, flax...-.. 2.224 sescee co eeee eee ee cee e cone ee ceneee 14
Drying flax, in Courtval.¢2. -2 52-0552 2-202 30-5 o = 5 = oe 14
Hemip sos esse saw ean ee bees ee ee 30
102 | INDEX.

Hxchaustive crop: flax nOb ane =... 625. occu, te Se ee ee

EOSOL Sem Pp NOt te es es ee es oe ec oe te ete ee
Experiments, appropriations urcved fOr. 5... 12.2. oe ce
HE XLOUSLONOmbemM ps Cul ULC sso 6 oe a ae re ac sc Soo ee eee

aWwieleramire Machines: soc 75 oo. Secs eee Oe cc Pole ccc eee See ee cok
Feeding flax straw to cattle............ See ee a cae Sots Op ie dy ae
PHOrunNZOrs TOM Hak ee Se ee ee
USC Ole -DelOtUM ce cee ase Scere er Sen css ee hae

TAGs eee see et ee as coe ie roe oe

ESHWErSs DOLGON-OLNOr-SPOCles Of). ss... e ee et ee Cee et
Miperinvestioation. circular of inquiry 4-2-3. 25— 22.52 6s eee
Fibrous plants, partial list of in U. S...--- eos toes ec tee ee
Flax-cleaning machinery. .... Be cise Sen oe ea oe po ee ee re So eee

Flax culture in-—
Biel Sepia ee ee oe ee ee ro ees aie

industry in the United States in early times......-.........-.---.-..-
Guilook for TOViV al Of a

Boraiw, DECSONL USCS OF 52-2 ee (SSS pcre te cc ae ees
Fleury-Moricean process for ramie...... Bees er ee ee ee

Hackled line flax without seutching Sanco eae Soe pees Cee Cee ee
BleitshOnD oh ewineA, lebter 1rOM..22 Hangshor hemp brake, (hes =i oso See
Harvesting flax in the United States..........-......- Se ce esi noes ae
Che emp Chopin btanCG soo. ee

New: York=:2..- wiebices cao ie sf ais ke See cee

EWN O18 S50 eS ee ee

Piaryvestinog. See Pulling): (2.25 ee Doge Seo oes ece eee
la WAGs, Wb, COULMUIM CA ULON4rOM = <2 2... ae
Heany, John, communications EQ Mss irs ee ee ie Se
Eicamy Hom p Wrvke cescse he ee ee

Hemp culture in—
an One eso2 5 ees eee oe ee ee ee

TUIN GIS. oe ee es ee eee eeteeio oe Sacre

NG wcVorka ee ee ee ee eS oor

States adapted to......... Be peer eeice cees ce ee
industry in America

eect eg oar Set ee Le Og O10) SOLO O'S OO. OS, OS OLS OS) a Oi. 0 C10 0 ow w o.0 fe elo alaiele ea sia ele

Kentucky
Hinde, John, letter from

os ww ere eww weeeees @eeweeeeece seteweeenaneaenanecaewe
«wec@wmeaecneewe ceveen ©Cf2e@4v wee ecwree wesc e case eee ee oe

"- eseeemecseeemeeeneeweseeeeos ., ome sc pa ee

Investigation, need of appropriations for-
TOW oa Waxes ee

58, 59
INDEX. : 103

v
Page.
Jute culture in the United: States. o2.. 2 oe ees 94
; bagging Siew siw's’@ (cide a ot wine wes isiale's wine cic wie a slo'saa x Sule Sour oe ee ee 45,93
IK:
Wiln-dtyine hemp. .. 5.2. oa ee ee 30
Piciin-dried: ramie, NOtCON .. 6.6. cse ce eo ee tee ee a 22
L.
Wmabor, cost-0f, in Beloium. 222. ce os 19
Hand tsheer: ramie machines: 5.2. ss nace ee ee 36
ibys, retiing of Prench flax 1m, thes: 2225. ssc. t oe 19
the river, in Planders 3.22 eee ee oe ®
M.
Machines for flaxss: 22.22. Sos eece 2 oes rs ee es ee ee ee 22,25
Machinery: for cleanin Sem ps. <<. - 3022. occa 73
Manufacture of hemp in Brittany =.=. = 3 ss ee oo 31
Marketing fax-in- Beloitim = 52222322. 2s eee ee 17
Michi Gam lax % i252 oes cere oe oe ee ee see ee ee 61
Michotte ramie machine 2 22.2 ec oe 30
Morton, HP, letter om s22s. 2. oe ee ee 60
P. 7
Rae: coasts tax CulbUre ON eos soccer tentee soe See 63
Percentace of flax fier tO Straw... 2-2 2. sa cece esac a 23, 63
Prices-of flax in-the United States <<. 20-25. (20 ee ee 59, 60, 61, 62
ELAN CO! 32 Rae eS Se se ee ee ee eee ee 20
flax seed in the-United States... 2.222. 20 ee ee 49
“flax Straw 22s SS ee ae ee eee 48, 49
Profits of hemp culture in New York .......... See ee 69
Production of flax per acre in Wisconsin.-.......-...----- eee e oe eee 62
Otho er cee ee eae ee ernie eee ee eo ee eee 14,52
TOI aaa aera ce 29
Ruinam; HC. letter trom... 24 ec ee waa dee Eee ec a ee ee eee 61
228 R.
ihamre, commercial supply: <2. 22. . 2 =e ee Seok CoG See eee 79, 81
Company. of America 2. 3 = 222. ee 86, 88
- description. and uses of: 2). ea 7a
éxtent of cultivation in United States.c2---.5--- 22 = ee 80
industry in France, note on...-.. SS SG aoe ae ee eee 90
present status. 2.2). ee es eee eee 78
machines, study of French records of ..-.----..----2 ---+-+----+-+-- 80
MANULACTULe. IN: AMOLICA 2-2... ce Se ee ee 86, 88
iN DUTOpG.56 2s ce se ec ee ee ee 79, 87
question; the: 23 a ee oy ae 75
S01 best -SUILeG 1Ole soci 6 oe ee ee ee See Ce eae v7
BENNO See ee a ee pees 86
trials of machines in Paris..--.~ ..--.0<-6- --+5 ----2- 20 os =e 32
summary of the situation..---..----- ..-0 --2 0 ee eens eee eee eee eee 89
value of the crop in France ....-. =... ..------ ---- +--+ - 20+ 0-2-7 os 90
Retting flax, description of “ballon” for. .......----.-+----+ ++ +222 eee eee eee 16
dew rebting <2 6 = 23. 5. cee oe 15
at: COULthat<22S 2 oe oe eee De ee eee ee eee 16
in WrelanG: 2. eo ee ee ae ee eee sekce 21
in running streams ._...-.....5..---2- e-----~ 4+ - =e 15, 62
OO) T6thiWos. i: sei sss sees oe 52, 62
three systems in Belgium....-..---. .--- ------ ---- + --e er ceo 15

in’ United States 2k ee a ees oe ee ee be
104. | INDEX.

Page
Retting of hemp in France...-. @oses el foes wes se oe Goce ee 29
hewards to encourage hemp culture-::-:. .c2.55-22..2sc2s- Seo css esse 71
Rippling flax in United States.-.--.......---- ieee Ge poe eee eee ee eee | 52
Ross; Joon i letter of.295 22. 3 ee, eee Ea Soe S: OT
Rotation of crops tor flax, Belowum=:-. 22.2.2 es ee ee oe 12
Treland 083s se oe isda so tose Ot
hem prin rane 222 2s ee ee ee ce os tos
culture on the same soll <2. -2 22-2 see i
IK ONtUCKY. .6-= oe sos ee oe oe See es 64
Eutoertord. Walham, lettertrom —22- 2 22. oe oes ce ae eee 63 —
S. |
Scurchimo lax. o. 226s i os Se ee ee ee «18, 24, 54
cost, Of in Ireland. 22202. asc 2ss eee sae eee Ben 24
Seed, flax, Desh tOSOW.-oo-20 25 es sos, bt es ra eS es a oe ee * ol
Carebul SelechlOl Of: so. 82. 2a. Ce Se ee ee ee, 132
rippling or threshing, in Belgium-.....-...-.- eee 15
United States. .-:. 2... =< ae 52)
kinds sown in the United States: .-- 9... ss 48
- Seed, hemp, gathering in France..........-- Sobol eee a eee 29
Seeding flax ...... pee ee ae ee ee ees eee Bet ee a Sree 13, 51
quantity sown ..--...-- ss Be Sap eos oes ee oe ne ees 13, 51
MOMIP. @ oe fe eee ee Seen See en ape ee ere oe a eee 65, 69
Quantity SOW. so 522 28s. oe Pe Se wire ee oe -28, 65, 68
WHeLy Lemp Deak 222.2... 55. ee ee eee 74
Soil best for flax in United States............--.. Se ae eee ae 48, 50
OM Pe esos es eG ee eS ee 27
preparavon for flax. 2s... 6 BS ce cige oe ee coe ee ee ee 51
MieBelOummMs ss ee ee 11
Hemp in rane 22 = eee ee eee 28
| United: States: <-.--2. Pee ee 65, 69, 72
SOLMONING NeMip. — sees os ee es ee ee |
Stackime-tlax 22.95.2202 =. Se ae ee ee 14
Sham@ardstor Wax. 6 he ee eee 48
Status of the flax industry ...........--... fo er se oe bees aN
Suggestions towards flax culture in America.......--. .--ce.------eeeeceee- 54
| iy 3
Martie CONSIMCTADIONS 92 Sacer. Cl Oo ee ee 45, 47,57, 60
moreshing flax in United States 2... ee ee
Trials of ramie machines in Paris, tables .... - ee ee 38, 39
Hopyans-Charles.ramie. experiments. 2.2.2. 22. 2... 86
eluthiern Ay i. letter on thetlax InGduUsiny 6... 25-0 oye es 20
| V.
IVA OUIN AS MON ke ee Ag
| Ww. :
VW allacedtlax Scubehimo machines 4:2 favs a 22
Wastetulness ot American flax-orowers::2o.2. 22 2.62. 2s O4
Weeding tax in: Bel oium=2 2.2! eee ee ae eee 14
7 United: States 222 32 hes ec ees ee ees oe ee ee 51
Wisconsin flax...-. Se eS Se TS Te ee ne Ge Vas ee ee 58, 62
| XG
Yield of hemp in United States ........... Ws Gee eee ee ee a ee 64, 68, 78
Wax In WASCONSIN . cle ce ee ee ee 62
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.



BCH NT ta\Crs

: REGARDING

“THE RAWIE INDUSTRY IN AWERICA,

WITH BRIEF STATEMENTS RELATING TO

MANUFACTURE IN EUROPE, ETC. —

BY

CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,

Special Agent in Charge of Fiber Investigations.

PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY OF THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE.

REPRINTED FROM TER REPORT angdrnsaggds: MAY, 1891.

ag

.@
®

-_——

WASHINGTON:
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
1891.
CONTENTS.

Ramie Culture in California: Page.
Statemen ts:of Prot. fs W.. cellOard 8. or ee oes eens ae oe eee ee 3
Table of yield at Agricultural Experiment Station -...............--....- 4
Necessity of keeping up fertility of the soil. ..-.-. 22-2. soe. eee eee cee 5
iene Wane bounty: bill: ioe. 2 ee co ee css oe ee 5
@Canbionary remarks. 22-5. cers see os oe ee cere 6

Ramie Industry in Mexico: :

General stavemenrs 222 oe oe es ae ee te ee ee ee i
_ Letter of General L. Sewell regarding the Forbes and Streuby process -... o

Machinery for Decortication : .
Statements regarding American machines ..-.....--...--..-5---. ...----- 9
Importance of competitive trials ....-.. ets Se eee Be 10
The Favier machine. Model A...............-.. Seco Ge ceess cscs eee se 11

Manufacture in Europe:

General-statements as to: extent of culture. .--. 2.222502 ee 12
Ramie-yanns technically considered <= 22. =.<22- 5525 13
Locations of principal European manufactories....-...---....--.---..-.- 12, 14
Same osteo tises- Of-Wamie t1DCL . 2. 2 se oes ee 14
- The Industry in China: .
Waherezc bieH y=OrO Wes eee es ee ee ere os eo oie ee oes 14
Soil, propagation, and prep: ciation ODOM ees a SP ee “14
IHICOS OL-uhnerdiitenentskKINdS=22- sens. Se ee ee ae 14
Amount of fiber available {omexport = «26. = 2) 15

Conclusions:

Remarks regard no- Chinese-supply: 22s 555. 2 ce 15
Extract from speech of President Diaz.............. Ose eee ee 16
2
RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE.

In the annual report upon the fiber investigations of the Department
for 1890 the statement was made that the culture of ramie was prac-
tically at a standstill, both here and in Europe, the knotty problem of
economical decortication of the stalks when grown not having received
satisfactory solution. Through the efforts of experimenters the situ-
ation has been changed somewhat in the past 6 months, and I wish to
record at the present time the degree of progress that has been made
during this period in the direction of establishing the industry.

In culture there is little progress to chronicle in the Gulf States,
though two or three ramie companies that are interested in machines
have been active in promoting cultivation. Without authoritative in-
formation concerning their operations, however, there is little to be
said. A Southern company which has been working quietly, perfect-
ing its machine, has small areas under cultivation for experimental
purposes only. What others are doing the Department is unable to
learn. As to individual effort, we do not hear of any considerable areas
being put in the present season, nor has there been a demand for plants
or for information regarding culture by Southern farmers that would
denote anything like excitement upon the subject of ramie cultivation.
There is a healthy interest, however, and no doubt a large number of
farmers are ready to begin operations when assured of a money return
for the crop when grown. :

EFFORTS IN CALIFORNIA.

In California the interest in the subject, which was revived less than
a year ago, chiefly through the exertions of those interested in the
machinery question, has steadily increased, and at the present time
considerable areas of roots are being planted. ee

I am informed officially that the demand for ramie roots at the State
Agricultural Experiment Station at Berkeley still continues, although
the supply is exhausted. The ramie beds are ample, however, and it
is said will furnish a large stock of plants next fall. Many letters are
received asking about the culture of the plant, and the interest seems
to be increasing. In a recent report on the subject, by Director H.W.
Hilgard, the following statements are made:

Without discussing the merits of the different machines now offered. to producers
as a guaranty that their crop when grown will be convertible into a merchantable
article, and of which I personally am not at present fally informed, it should be said

3

Pa
A RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE.

as regards the culture of ramie that by actual trial it has been found to be readily
feasible in all the larger valley regions of the State, so far as the suceessful growth
of the plant is concerned, but thatit will doubtless prove most profitable where a long
growing season, combined with irrigation, permits of making three or four cuts an-
nually. In the Kern Valley there is little difficulty in getting four cuts of good size
and quality, and the same is probably true on the stronger soils as far north as
Fresno, and southward in the valley of South California. In Sacramento Valley
three cuts can doubtless be obtained, at least when irrigation is employed, or in nat-
urally moist land. At Berkeley and elsewhere on the immediate coast two cuts (the
second usually asmall one) is all that can be counted on; but in warm valleys of the
Coast Range doubtless from two to three full crops, according to the supply of mois-
ture and the strength of the soil, may be looked for.

An interesting table is appended, giving a record of crops of the
white-leaved ramie (Urtica nivea) harvested on the experiment grounds
at Berkeley during four years. It isstated that no manure was usedon
the plot, which was reset in 1888 in order to equalize the stand, which
had been impaired by the distribution of roots; this accounts for a low
product, and a later cut that year which will be noted. The size of the
plots was 18 by 34 feet, or about one forty-fifth of an acre. Here is the
table:

Results of experimental culture of ramie on the University grounds, Berkeley.











Plot. Yield per acre.
Per cent-
Date of cutting. Yield. age dry
No, | ———— Green Dry. | to green.
Green. | Dry

First crop. Pounds. Pounds. Pounds.| Pounds. | Per cent.

JUIN ORR socal me as See oe obs Sas obese eaete. 5 1 DIGE eese ee. 252 OBD iicl eee iscie ces | oe ck wees

DAULLVSLO SL SSSe sect tee cu ae ace ts cos sis seee: 1 491 1354 | 22,004.0 | 6,072.4 27.6

HLS aie ERs Se Sao ye oe OE 1 624 133 28,616.0 | 6,095.2 21s

Oe VeO OO Oresere se ciccicoa Siecle oh ce — oe ce es cee cies eoeOo 122 | 34,194.0| 5,471. 16.0

QTY Oe SOO aces peetdye kacciaiciosioaiciecins so seule eos 2 6233 117 | 27, 942.0 | 5, 283.1 18.8
Second crop.

OCtIBel8kiere- sso Se Re Swicla eee ewes ease eee Ages ee ae Te QT AG ees erated ie eae

NON 2 ROO = See Se na Ses aes eee Oe a 1 210 74 9, 411.1 ovoleet. Sone

ENON: ol elo Ose see co Se cicic Sats cio ts see aimee were ee elere 210 74 9,411.1] 3,312.7 3D. 2

It is explained that the green plants were weighed with leaves, which
are estimated at about one-half * of the “live weight.” The dry stalks
were weighed practically leafless.

In the summary which follows, the product is set down at the average
rate of about 5,700 pounds of dry stalks for the first cutting and 3,300
for the second. Itis explained that the gross weight would naturally
be somewhat less in the dry air of the interior of the State, the figures
showing that on strong soils the expectation of 18 to 20 thousand pounds
per acre where four cuts can be made is not extravagant. The
minimum produce from dry stalks is estimated to be 15 per cent of raw
merchantable fiber. Upon these data an approximate estimate of the
crop and of its financial outcome in the several climatic regions of the
State may be based.

*Mr. Hardy, director of the botanical garden of Algiers, gives the weight of leaves
as five-twelfths the weight of the unstripped stalks.
RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE. 5

Regarding soils and the question of keeping up the fertility of the
land the following interesting suggestions are made:

It is hardly necessary to remind any intelligent farmer that only strong soilscan be
expected to produce, in one season, a crop of 10 tons of dry stalks of any kind, and
that few can continue to produce such crops for many years without substantial re-
turns to the land, no matter how fertile originally ; but there is no reason why the
offal of the ramie crop—the leaves and stalk-trash—should not be regularly returned
to the soil. The leaves can be and are usually dealt with by stripping the stalks on
the ground, leaving them where they grew. As to the stalks, it, is true that with
three or four cuts per season it will be difficult to deal with the large mass of refuse
by spreading it on the stubble, although in the more northerly portions of the area
of cultivation it may be desirable to use this material for protection against frost.
But as the return must either be made, or fertilizers purchased, the proper mode of
procedure will be to make compost heaps of the trash and thus render it less bulky,
. and convenient for spreading on the stubble after the last cut. This, in the case of
strong soils, is all that will be required to keep up production for a long time,
although the raw fiber sold represents a larger production of the soil’s plant-food than
in the case of cotton, in which the return of seed and stalk will maintain production
indefinitely on any soil capable of yielding a profitable crop. When no returns are
made, ramie will prove even a more exhaustive crop than is cotton when the seed is
not returned, and those engaging in its cultivation had better understand from the
outset that they can ‘‘rob the soil” with the ramie even more effectually than with
the wheat.

One of the results of the revival of interest in the ramie industry on
the Pacific coast has been the passage this spring of an act to encourage —
the cultivation of ramie in the State of California, and to provide a
bounty for the fiber as well as to make appropriation for payment of
bounties and for the salary of a State superintendent of ramie culture.
The text of the first three sections of the bill is here reproduced.

The people of the State of California, represented in senate and assembly do enact as follows:

For the purpose of encouraging the cultivation of ramie in the State of California,
there is hereby appropriated out of any money in the State Treasury not otherwise ap-
propriated, for the forty-third fiscal year, the sum of five thousand dollars, and for the
forty-fourth fiscal year the sum of five thousand dollars. |

Said appropriation shall be under the direction and control of the State board of
agriculture, and may be expended as said society may direct, either for the purchase
of ramie roots for free distribution to farmers, or in payment of a bounty for mer-
chantable ramie fiber (but no greater sum than one thousand dollars shall be paid in
any one year for the purchase of ramie roots), and no greater amount than one cent
per pound shall be paid as a bounty for merchantable ramie fiber. Any portion of said
appropriation for the forty-third fiscal year remaining unexpended may be used by
the State board of agriculture for the payment of bounties during the forty-fourth
fiscal year. |

The State controller shall draw his warrant upon the State treasurer for the amount
appropriated for each fiscal year, in favor of said State board of agriculture, or the
proper officers thereof, in the same manner as other*appropriations are drawn upon
and paid to said State board of agriculture, and the treasurer shall pay the same.

I understand that Mr. W. H. Murray, of San Francisco, has been

named by the board of agriculture for the position of State superin-
tendentas above. Mr. Murray has been interested in the subject of
6 RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE. ©

ramie decortication for some time past, and conducted the exhibition
trials of a machine at the State fair last year. -

While this Department will follow with interest the progress of the
industry in California, the fact remains that the question of culture was
settled both in California and in the Gulf States long ago; and without
“an economical machine or process for securing the fiber when the
stalks are ready for cutting the farmers are no betteroff now than they
were before the bounty bill was passed. The State of New Jersey
passed a bounty bill many years ago encouraging the culture of ramie
as well as several other fiber plants which are adapted for culture in a
northern latitude, and not a dollar of the bounty was ever called for by
farmers or others. As a stimulus to the production of ‘*‘ the successful
machine” (producing in paying quantity), the California ramie-culture act .
may accomplish certain results, though I would not dare hazard a pre-
diction on the matter. If the present experiment is simply confined to
promoting culture among farmers the results will not be very different
from the results of former efforts in this country.* If the importance
of the question of economical decortication, on the other hand, is fully
appreciated, something may coine out of the present ‘‘ boom” that will
show substantial progress. In the recent communication from the di-
reetor of the State Experiment Station previously referred to, the state-
ment is made that there is quite a demand not only for ramie but other
textile plants. An experimental plat has been devoted to the culture
of these plants on the grounds of the State capitol at Sacramento, to.
which the station has contributed a stock of the different kinds at its
disposal.

* In this connection I can not but reproduce an extract bearing pointedly upon the
subject, from the ramie report issued by the Department of Agriculture a year ago.

‘“The Department, at this date, knows of no large market in this country where
ramie fiber could be disposed of by farmers were they to produce it in quantity. Yet
farmers are urged everywhere by interested parties to take up its cultivation, and
we are in receipt of letters almost daily making inquiries upon the subject. A con-
siderable number of the present inquiries come from those who know nothing of the
past history of ramie cultivation in the United States, but who have been attracted
to the subject by glowing accounts of the marvelous value of the plants as a textile,
which have appeared in the columns of the press recently, and who are anxious to
embark in its production. To these farmers its cultivation means the pursuit of a
protitable new industry, and by holding out to such the golden promises that are fre-
quently made in the journals of the day only injury can result and the final estab-
lishment oframie cultivation among the masses of southern agriculturists be retarded.
The object of making these statements is not to discourage farmers from going into
ramie culture at all, but to induce them to take it up with their eyes open and to
eaution them to begin its cultivation on a small scale until they know something
about it by practical experience.

‘‘ Undoubtedly there is a great future for the industry, and the Department will en-
courage Southern farmers to make small beginnings in order to obtain needed ex-
perience. When a satisfactory and full demand for fiber can be assured, and the
decorticator question is settled, it will be an easy matter to extend cultivation, and,
if necessary, purchase machines for the decortication of the product. In spite of past
RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE. ¢

Reference has been made, in a former report, to the experiments of
Mr. Charles Toppan, of the Toppan-Howland Company, of Boston, in
ramie manufacture in this country. From recent correspondence I learn
that Mr. Toppan has made contracts with responsible concerns for the
manufacture of different kinds of ramie goods, to theamount of several
tons per day of boiled stock. Oneyarn mill will run exclusively on this
fiber, and it is promised that the ramie goods produced from this yarn
will be on the market very soon after the first deliveries of fiber ‘‘ from
the boil.” Carpets, sail duck, tinsel yarns, ete., are mentioned as im-
mediate uses for this new textile.

A new use for the fiber is in the maufacture of “ absorbent.” It is
stated that while cotton lint, specially prepared for this purpose, absorbs
374 per cent. of water, actual tests show that ramie absorbs 87.9 per
cent. This substance is already on the market.

THE INDUSTRY IN MEXICO.

For a year or more past, or since the close of the Paris Exposition,
there has been an active interest in the ramie question in Mexico, where,
as in our own country, it has been demonstrated that the raw material
can be readily grown in any quantity. The enterprise is conducted by
a large company, and has had official support, and several gentlemen
who are citizens of the United States are also interested in it. Last
season there were trials of various machines for decorticating the
stalks, but as far as the Department has been able to learn, both
from private advices and published reports, these machines did not
fulfill the promises made for them, and the enterprise was still to be
regarded as an experiment. oe

The present seat of the industry is at Motzorongo, State of Vera
Cruz, where some two months ago a very enthusiastic meeting was
held, with an exhibition of ramie products. There was also a banquet
and speeches. From the indifferent published translation of the speech
of General Sewell on this occasion, some interesting paints are brought
out. The extracts are as foliows:

I do not permit my experience in various machines of decortication to influence
my judgment, knowing that Senor President Diaz and Senor-General Pacheco esteem
only the truth, and therefore are only interested in the solution of the problem. * * *

Preoccupied by the paramount idea to convert into fiber the fertile shoots of the
ramie which the first essays of the cultivation of the plant in Mexico presented to
me, and corresponding to the desire of the gentlemen forming the now existing com-
pauy, at this point I wish to have it understood that there is no time to take account
of old methods, but to consider an invention which is destined to produce a beneficent
revolution in this industry. * * *

LE eee ee ee ee

discouragements there is a great deal that is hopeful. The very difficulties that have
stood in the way of successfully establishing the industry have spurred to greater
effort. The question is being studied from new points of view and every aspect con-
sidered that may throw new light upon the subject, and new discoveries are constantly

being made.”
8 RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE.

An instinctive sentiment leads me to believe that through the want of perfection of
decorticating machines we are operating on a false plane. At the instance of Gov-
ernor Gordon, governor of Georgia, a young inventor explained to me his ideas,
which comprised a complete change from the old methods of decortication. Itisa
new system, admirable in its results, as it is greatly lucrative. Its machinery is
costly, but conceived with great intelligence. It is rapid, economical in its manipu-
lation, and once established will last a long time.

From these and other statements it has been inferred that while the
machine trials of last year were not successful, that a combined
mechanical and chemical: process is under trial this season.

From private advices it is learned that Mr. Walter T. Forbes, of At-
lanta, Ga., a valued correspondent of the Department, and a gentleman
who has experimented in treating fibers for many years, is associated
with the Mexican company and will conduct the experiments in de-
cortication at Motzorongo. The process to be employed comprises,
first, a very simple hand-stripping machine, which operates upon
ten stalks at a time, the epidermis being removed. ‘The strips
then pass on to be degummed and finally bleached. I have no in-
formation as tothe details of construction of the machine referred to,
though it will doubtless be forthcoming in time. When in Paris, in 1889,
I met frequently at the ramie trials and elsewhere Don Pedro I. Senties,
a gentleman who has made a thorough study of the ramie question in
Europe. It is a matter of congratulation to those interested in the
Mexican enterprise that they will have the benefit of this gentleman’s
experience and knowledge of the subject to aid them in their efforts.

The Assistant Secretary, Hon. Edwin Willits, has just received from
General Sewell, formerly of Oakbourne plantation, Louisiana, an inter-
esting letter bearing on the more recent operations in Mexico, with this
fiber, Some extracts from which are presented herewith. Referring to
his past experience with decorticators, he says:

Just at the moment when I was most perplexed how to overcome, not only the
‘wood and epidermis evils and also how to obtain a more abundant fiber by the pre-
vailing system of decortication, I became acquainted with Mr. Walter T. Forbes, of
Atlanta, Ga., who desired me to examine his process that strips the ribbon from the
wood perfectly and smoothly, speedily followed by degumming and bleaching; all
accomplished within the short space of a few hours, and according to the size of the
machinery, it is not difficult to produce over a ton and a half of fiber in a condition
for the spinner to weave it.

The machinery is elaborate and costly, but so complex and convincing was what I
wituessed, that I readily put aside all decorticating machines, my own included, and
became a convert to the Forbes’ process.

T found out to my cost that many writers in ramie literature were disposed to ex-
aggerate the capacity of the decorticators, particularly if they invented one, and
never took into account the yielding capacity of the land, etc. It is to be regretted
that lovers of ramie culture and inventors of decorticating machines will, in their
writings on that subject deal in the marvellous and in their illusory statements mis-
lead well-disposed planters, and in the end materially create disappointment and
disinclination to pursue cultivation.

About the time that I relinquished ramie culture in Louisiana I was invited to

Mexico by high officials of the Mexican Government, commencing with Porfirio Dias,
RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE. ~ 9

President of the Republic, as well as Gen. Carlos Pacheco, Ministro de Fomento, to
engage myself with them to cultivate ramie in connection with the ‘ Gamparis
Agricola e Industrial del Ramie,” and was appointed general manager at the ha-
cienda Motzorongo, with full power, under the title of director and administrator.
It was under my management, being thus engaged, that I recommended the Forbes
process, and extensive works were consequently established at Motzorongo, a land
that yields five, I may say six, good crops yearly. The process was purchased from
Mr. Forbes conditionally that it could do all it professed, and the authorities made
a contract with Mr. Forbes that if the process was a success they would pay him for
the patent. “ * *

The factory was at once established under my administration and the crop
of Messrs. Forbes and Streuby. These two gentlemen performed most effectually all
they engaged to do, and consequently earned the full price agreed upon * * *
and a success that has placed Mr. Forbes, the inventor, in a position to claim the first
rank as an inventor of a process so long desired.

The factory in full blast was then placed under the strict inspection of commis-
sioners, when tests were made showing clearly and positively that the fiber, ready
_ for the spinner, could be produced at 123 cents by the minutest calculation, Mexican,
per kilo, which is equal to $0.0938 American, and as a kilo is equal to 2 pounds, Ameri-
can weight, at the present exchange, one pound of fiber reduced in Mexican would
only cost $0.0469, And taking into consideration the heavy products of the land,
say five or six crops yearly, it makes ramie cultivation exceedingly profitable in
Mexico. And although Louisiana can only yield two crops and occasionally three
crops yearly, the Forbes process would make it profitable to cultivate in Louisiana,
because the ramie stalks in that State grow taller and stouter, and each acre would
give a heavier yield than elsewhere.

I'he machinery of the present time, now erected at Motzorongo will yield over a
ton and a quarter of fiber fit for the spinner during an operation of 10 hours. The
test that was officially made 5 days ago, was presented to the board of directors and
afterwards to a full meeting of stockholders. The purchase was then approved and
the works are to be pursued vigorously.

I shall, as soon as possible, get the official report translated from Spanish into Eng-
lish and forward the same to you and to Mr. Charles Richards Dodge, and hope
that you will find it both instructive and interesting.

I may now say, after this severe test, supported and approved by the Government
of Mexico, that it leaves nothing to be desired in solving the problem of the ramie
question. Itisan acknowledged fact that ramie can be produced to meet a com-
mercial demand at a large profit, which it could not compass under the limited and
macerating process of decorticating machinery.

MACHINERY FOR DECORTICATION.

It has been a matter of regret to the Department that no opportunity
was presented last year to examine and test American ramie machines,
of which there are several that are said to do good work. As the
matter now stands nothing is known regarding these decorticators fur-
ther than has been put forth in claims of their inventors or by those
who are interested in their sale. If the manufacture of these machines
is regarded merely in the light of a commercial enterprise, aS the pro-
duction of something to be disposed of to the public in as large num-
bers as possible without regard to performance, a trial as to capacity
for the benefit of the public will hardly be desired by their manu-
facturers. On the other hand, if the aim is to construct a decorticator
10 RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE.

whieh will produce fiber in paying quince: and thus enable farm-
ers to go into ramie culture with a possibility of making it a money
crop with other agricultural staples, not only should there be careful
tests, under the eyes of experts, to learn the capacity of these machines,
but competitive trials, as are frequently conducted in France and other
countries where the effort is being made to produce a successful decor-
ticator.

The Department is in correspondence with the manufacturers of two
ramie decorticators who are anxious to present their machines for ex-
pert trial, and itis probable that they will be tested by the Department
during the early summer. ‘There are others, however, that the Depart-
ment has been ready to test fora year past, and it is earnestly hoped
that the opportunity may be presented before the close of the year. A
competitive trial of all American machines is desirable, and a competi-
tion of this description would be productive of such beneficial results
as would surely make an era of substantial progress in the ramie ma-
chine construction in the United States. The trials should be con-
tinued for a day of 10 hours, with careful weighings of stalks and of
the fiber produced. ‘The run should be continuous between given hours,
without allowance for stoppages caused by the fouling of the machine,
breakage, or other delays, and a number of points considered which in
total would influence the rating of the machine after its performance.
The Department holds that 10 minute tests upon a handful of stalks
are of little value, as it must be a poor machine that will not show a
good record under a 10-minute strain. It is not enough that a machine
sball produce good fiber, for good fiber can be produced with a mallet
upon a block of wood. It must produce fiber in paying quantity. It
must work continuously without fouling. The fiber must be delivered
straight, clean, and unbroken in its entire length. Bruised or snarled
fiber entails large waste in the after processes. The machine should be
portable, that the stalks may be cleaned in the field without necessi-
tating large expense in the handling and rehandling of so bulky a crop.
It must not be complicated. And lastly, it must be cheap enough to
be within the reach of farmers of moderate means. When such a ma-
chine has been presented that will stand the proper tests, there is not
_ the least doubt about the establishment of the cultural side of the in-
dustry, and manufacture will receive a stimulus by having a supply of
fiber to work upon, which is the main hindrance now to the production
of ramie goods in quantity.

Before leaving the machine question I wish to refer to the recent im-
provements in one of the French machines examined by me when in
Paris, and reported upon in the Ramie bulletin published last year.
The illustration represents Model A of the Favier machine, for green
decortication, regarding which the following statements are made by
the manufacturers.

The stalks stripped of leaves, and of any size or length, are intro-
RECENT FACIS REGARDING RAMIE. 11

\

duced into the machine, an operator being required at each end to feed
the stalks and remove the fiber. The ribbons are delivered free from
wood, parallel and unbroken, without waste. The number of stalks in-
troduced varies from 60 to 100 per minute. Six to eleven thousand
pounds of stalks may be passed through the machine in a working day,
dependent upon the deftness of the operator. One horse-power is re-
quired to drive the machine, the refuse of the stalks being used for fuel.
The machine is mounted upon wheels that it may be readily transported
from one location in the field to another. Its weight is about 1 ton, and
its cost is 2,000 frances, or about $400.
year is levied upon each machine sold during term of actual use by the
purehaser, but the company ‘“ La Ramie Frangaise” controlling the ma-
chines binds itself to purchase the decorticated product of the machines
and keep the decorticator in perfect repair. The company makes the
following claim as to performances:



Favier machine for green decortication (model A).

Calculating upon three cuttings a year, and an average crop of 3,000 kilogrammes
(6,600 pounds) of green stalks per hectare (23 acres), and the use of the machine for
6 weeks at each cutting, one machine will suffice for 6 hectares (about 15 acres).
Each hectare yields 1,500 kilogrammes of dry ribbons ata cutting, or 4,500 kilo-
grammes at three cuttings, worth from 40 to 45 franes per 100 kilogrammes, deliv-
ered at Marseilles. .

This means in round numbers 10,000 pounds per hectare, or 4,000
pounds per acre, worth practically $80 or $90 per ton at the company’s
prices. Models B and C are also manufactured for decorticating the
stalks in the dry state. They are considerably higher in price ($500

and $900), the capacity being relatively greater.
12 RECENT FACTS RFGARDING RAMIE.

MANUFACTURE IN EUROPH.

Some interesting statements regarding the recent progress of ramie
manufacture in Europe, by Dr. Karl Hassack, appeared in the Austrian
Monatssebrift fiir den Orient for January, 1891, which gave important
information especially regarding the state of manufacture in Germany.
Of the French manufactures more has been known, particularly re-
garding those of Feray & Cie., at Essones, A. Goulon, at Rouen, and
La Société de la Ramie Franéaise,* which has its headquarters in
Paris. The Department has also been in correspondence with the
company operating at Emmendingen, Baden, which is limited in its
production far below the capacity of its factory through inability to
secure raw material. An extract from Dr. Hassack’s article is here-
with presented :

The slowness of the introduction of ramie into our industry can be traced to two
causes: The scarcity of the raw material and the difficulty of obtaining a pure textile
fiber. Until within a few years China was our only source, and there the exporta-
tion was limited by the large home consumption. In 1888 there were exported from
China 108,095 piculs (about 6,800,000 kilogrammes), the larger part of which went to
Hong-Kong and Japan, and only a small portion arrived in Europe. Of late, how-
ever, nearly all tropical countries have experimented with ramie culture, and some
_ have reached very satisfactory results. At present ramie is raised in the Sunda Is-
lands, the East Indies (particularly near Lahore), Algeria, Egypt, Cape Colony, the
United States (in Louisiana), the West Indies, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil,
and the Sandwich Islands. Java, Cuba, and Algeria already export ramie in consid-
erable quantities. (According to a communication received from Mr. V. Seidlitz,
- Russian state consul, ramie is successfully grown in Transcaucasia.) Ramie is
grown in southern France, Italy, and Hungary, but the prospect of ramie culture
in Europe is discouraging, as the plant requires a warmer climate for a remunerative
crop. This general culture of the plant has lowered the price of raw fiber in the
European markets from 160 to 170 frances a few years ago to 100 to 125 francs per 100
kilogrammes.

The second cause aonine a general employment of ramie, the difficulty of rap-
idly and thoroughly separating the fiber from the other plant material, is still par-
tially in existence. A fine and workable fiber has been successfully prepared, but.
the methods are still too tedious and complicated, causing the price of ramie yarn to
be high and consequent inability of competition with other industrial fibers.

The ramie—( Urtica nivea) is a shrubby plant similar to our common nettle. It
sends up from a rhizome 10 to 15 shoots; these latter are from 1 to 2} metres long,
14 centimetres in diameter. The bark (i. ¢., the bast or inner layer) contains the long
fibers industrially used. The shoots are cutt close above the ground. In China
decortication is done exclusively by hand, but in Europe machines are used for this
purpose. The strips of bark thus obtained contain besides the fiber a large quantity
of other tissues, as well as mucilaginous and gummy substances the removal of which
is the task of the spinning mill. The dried stips of bark, or at best the raw strip of
bast obtained from these are the raw material that reaches the European markets ;
the cleansed fiber reaching this market is practically worthless. Numerous methods



* The Department has in its collection many beautiful examples of the fabrics man-
ufactured by this company.

t This cutting can, in tropical countries be done three or four, even six times an-
nually, so that ramie-culture must be considered highly remunerative. Special crop
investigations are given in the author’s monograph on “ Ramie.”
RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE. : 13

for cleansing and separating the pure fiber from the useless adherent matter have
been proposed; considerable prizes have been offered for the invention of suitable
apparatus. (A competitive prize was offered at the time of the Paris Exposition of
1890.) The Austrian ramie-spinning mill at Bregenz, which has been in operation
since June, 1890, uses the patented methods of its director, Th. Eg. Schiefner, as does
also the factory at Emmen dingen (Baden). By this process there is obtained a fiber
of pale, yellowish-white color and of silken luster. ‘This fiber is prepared in comb-
ing machines for spinning, and is finally spun to yarn. Yarns are sometimes found
in the market raw white (écru); they are generally, however, bleached or.colored or
“lust red” in the mills. The last operation imparts to the fiber its complete beauty
and silk luster, while raw yarn looks rough and dull on account of numerous project-
ing fiber ends.

The ramie factory at Bregenz (represented here by the firm M. Igler’s Nephew)
and that at Emmendingen spin in single, double, triple, etc., thread the Nos, 10, 12,
15, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 30, 36, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 (the prices varying according to fineness
from 1.90 to 5.40 florins per kilogramme). The numbering corresponds to that of
“Chappe” silk, the number accordingly expresses the number of 1,000 metres per
kilogramme (e.g., of No. 15 yarn 15,000 metres weigh 1 kilogramme). Remarkable
it is that the specific gravity of ramie yarn is less than that of linen yarn in the ratio of
6 to 10, sothat 1 kilogramme linen yarn No. 10 measures 6,000 metres, while the same
weight of ramie yarn measures 10,000 metres. This peculiarity lessens the apparent
difference in the price of the two yarns. On the other hand, ramie yarn is heavier
than cotton in the ratio of 6 to 5.

Ramie yarn is easily distinguishable from other yarns by its high luster and silky
appearance, in which it excels linen and cotton; ramie fibers are distinguished from
all other fibers by their great length, usually from 10 to 15 centimetres (often 25 to 40
centimetres and more), by a certain straightness and stiffness, and by the consider-
able breadth of from 0.04 to 0.06 millimetres (flax 0.016, cotton 0.014 to 0.024, silk 0.009
to 0.029). The strength of the fiber is quite extraordinary, being about double that
of hemp.

This last-named property of the ramie fiber brings it at once into prominence for
the manufacture of ropes, cables, twine, and thread; in fact, in China it has been
the common material for ropes and fishing nets for a long time, and the war depart-
ment of France a few years ago introduced ramie for the manufacture of cables for
war baloons and of powder sacks. Ramie is also being introduced as sewing thread.
This thread is sold by the ‘“‘Magasin de la Ramie & Paris” under the name of * Fil
Hanio.”

Ramie yarn has been used for various woven tissues, although many of these
attempts have to be regarded only as interesting experiments. But for certain pur-
poses ramie is most suitable; in the first place, for the manufacture of tissues that
formerly were made of flax. In this respect it is not to be regarded as a substitute
for flax, like the cheap and correspondingly poor cotton fiber, its high price preclud-
ing that at present. But ‘‘linens,” damask, etc., made of ramie excel tissues made
of flax, both in beauty of appearance and in strength and durability. This employ-
ment of ramie tissues is considerable in France, where several of the largest restau-
rants and hotels have introduced “table linen” made of ramie. The only disadvan-
tage of ramie goods compared with linen goods is the fact that the former acquire
after some use a certain roughness produced by fine, stiff, projecting fiber ends, and
this peculiarity interferes with their use as body garments. The greatest obstacle
to the general employment of ramie yarn for such purposes is the high price (20 per
cent higher than linen yarn). 7

In the wool and embroidery industry ramie is destined soon to find frequent em-
ployment with us, as it has already done in Berlin, Apolda, and Liengnitz; here
ramie may successfully be made to imitate even silk. This is true also for the use
of ramie for piano covers and table cloths, where it advantageously replaces the
14 | RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE.

tussah silk used for the ground of the design. Ramie will be used in the future for
making furniture plush. Products of this sort made in France are distinguished by
great brilliancy and softness. Finally, ramie is used in making Guipure curtains
(so-called English curtains). An Austrian factory has begun employing ramie yarn
for this purpose, and its manufactures bring out the brilliant luster of the material
in the most exquisite manner. The use of ramie yarn in France has assumed con-
siderable dimensions, especially in Les Vosges, Caudry, St. Pierre-lés-Calais, Rou-
baix, Lille, and Paris, and in Germany its employment is daily gaining ground.

Our (Austrian) home industry has, until recently, neglected this interesting sub-
' ject, and has, at most, made a few isolated experiments. It is to be hoped that the
recent introduction of the manufacture of ramie yarn within our own domain may
stimulate the friends of this beautiful and valuable fiber to renewed efforts to place
the manufacture of ramie tissues in the front rank of our textile industries, a place
which is amply deserved.

FACTS REGARDING THE RAMIE INDUSTRY IN CHINA.

So many conflicting statements have been made, published and other-
wise, regarding the methods of preparation of the raw fiber in China, as
well as relating to the supply of commercial fiber, or in other words the
raw fiber available for export, that in October last the Department
wrote officially to Hankow, the chief shipping port of this product, for
particulars upon these and other points. The reply is so full and inter-
esting that it is published entire. |

No. 27.] CONSULATE OF THE UNITED STATES,
Hankow, China, January 31, 1891.
Hon. J. M. RUSK,
Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your dispatch of 29th of October,
1890, to B. J. Franklin, who returned to the United States last May.

I have sent six samples of rhea grass to the consul-general in Shanghai with re-
quest to forward them to your Department, and the following is what I can gather
in regard to the local process of handling same:

Rhea, China grass, or ramie (all synonymous terms) is grown almost exclusively
in the basin of the Yangtse River, central China; Kiangsi, Hupeh and Szchuen, prov-
inces lying between 30° and 33° N. L. and 100° a 1159 E. L., are the principal dis-
tricts. Hankow aud Kiukiang are the shipping ports.

The soil on which it is grown is red clay with sand mixed in. The means of propa-
gation with the Chinese is to dig up the rootsin the fall, separate them in small
bunches, and replant. |

The plants are cut three times each year, in May, August, and October. The first
crop is longer in fiber and better in quality than the latter two. :

The preparing of the plant is all done by hand labor by the farmer. After cutting
it is put into water and rotted, same treatment as with hemp, then it is beaten with
a flail_and broken, the bark being carried off with water.

From this point there are two processes of working. The light colored grass (sam-
ples 4 and 5) are dried over a charcoal fire, the others are sun-dried.

Samples 1 and 2 are used for making fish. nets and cordage, No.3 for sewing twine,
and Nos. 4 and 5 for grass cloth. No.6 is raw state of third cutting merely dried with
the bark on.

The Hupeh province product is the best for cloth, and the export from here has
been confined to material like samples 2 and 5, No.4 being too high-priced.

Sample 1 is green rhea from Szchuen province, and the present market price here
is $130 to $135 (United States eed) per ton.
RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE. 15

Sample 2 is green rhea from Hupeh province, and the price is $170 to $175 (United
States gold) per ton.

Per ton.
Sample No. 3 1s Szehuen, price... 2.5 5.255. 3 ee ee $115 to $120
Sample No. 4 1s Shaws, pric@:... 22.2.2 625. 8. ec ee 190 to 200
Sample No.5 is Hupeh, price............ nets sSue eee en a oek a tO ee

To these prices inust be added packing, insurance, freight, etc., from here to port
of destination.

The amount to be had here for export is rather hard to determine. As soon as cut
and cured it comes to market and is sold, no stock being held here. :
The export from here yearly is now about 150,000 piculs, equal to about 10, 000 tous,

but this could be doubled if there was a sufficient demand.

The Chinese say the difference in color of the fiber is owing to the different locations
and soils in which it is grown. This, however, the foreigners here seem to doubt;
they lay it to the process of drying after the bark has been washed away, whether
dried with cnarcoal, asis the case of the light-colored, or sun-dried, as in the darker.

The yarn for weaving cloth is all prepared by hand, and they have no difficulty in
working it. 5

In England and France they are trying to work it by machinery, but so far have
been unsuccessful, as there is a gum in the fiber which makes it very difficult to work
by machinery. ~

The Chinese say this gum can be readily removed by soaking in hot water for a
short time before using.

England, France, and Germany are the countries to which the ‘‘ grass” is now sent,
hardly enough going to the United States to serve for experimental purposes.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,
HENRY W. ANDREWS,

United States Consul. .
CONCLUSIONS.

From this it will be seen that the statements regarding present avail-
able supplies, made by the Department over and over again, are fully
verified. The entire export to all countries is now placed at 10,000 tons,
‘though this could be doubled if there was a sufficient demand.” It
doubtless has been largely increased recently, as 2 yearsago the Depart-
ment was informed, upon reliable authority, that 400 tons, during the
last 5 years, would represent the maximum quantity brought to the
European market from China, while India and other ramie-producing
countries “have sent little more than sample lots and trial parcels.”
The reader is referred, however, to the statement of Dr. Hassack, on
page 12, that in 1888 there was exported from China less than 108,095
piculs (a little over 7,000 tons), ‘the larger part of which went to
Hong-Kong and Japan, and only a small portion arrived in Europe.”
This coincides with the statement of Messrs. Ide & Christie, the London
fiber brokers, made in the preceding paragraph, and suggests the pos:
sibility that a part of the 10,000 tons, yearly export, goes to other >
markets than the countries of Europe named. But we are only indi-
rectly interested in the Chinese culture. The American manufacturer
should be able to obtain his supply at home, and the farmers of the
South and of California should produce it, as they will be enabled to
do, with a practical decorticator.
16 RECENT FACTS REGARDING RAMIE.

The following is an extract from President Porfirio Diaz’s speech
delivered to the Mexican Congress, in relation to the Forbes and
Streuby Ramie process under the superintendence of Gen. L. Sewell,
General Director of the Compania Mexicana Agricola é Industrial del
Ramieé ; |

It is only a very short time since the Ramie experiment has taken place in the
fields at the Hacienda de Motzorongo. The results obtained by the Compafiia Mex-
-icana seem to be entirely satisfactory for in some regions of said company it will
yield as much as six crops per year. Besides it is ascertained and with reason that
the production will give good results in twenty-two States of the Republic.

Being helped efficaciously by Gen. Don Carlos Pacheco, Ministro de Fomento, the
Mexican Ramie Company has in its possession different kinds of machines for the de-
cortication of the fiber, but the apparatus and processes of Mr. Forbes, by its quick-
ness and economy in the production of the fiber will assure considerable profits to the
undertakers of this enterprise. Notwithstanding, there is plenty of hope to arrive
soon with this process at a still more economical way of proceeding so that the fiber
will compete most advantageously with the best products known up to this day.
The company has already sent the first fibers extracted by this process to several
factories in the country in order to make the study of their application in the weav-
ing and spinning separately or mixed with wool, silk, and other threads.

If the results of the recent experiments in Mexico are fully verified,
when the enterprise is fairly established on a commercial basis, we are
nearer a solution of the question of economical decortication than we
have dared to hope. —

The world’s progress towards the establishment of this industry has
been slow, but some progress has been made each year nevertheless,
and the Department is hopeful that full success will be attained ina
future not remote.

CHAS. RICHARDS DODGE,
Special Agent in Charge of Fiber Lnvestigations.

©
DEPARIMENI!] OF AGRICULIURE
DIVISION OF STATISTICS.

Fiper INVESTIGATIONS. Report No. 3.

A REPO R

ON

SISAL HEMP CULTURE

IN

EPH E, UNEP ED SPAtTrs.

WITH
STATEMENTS RELATING TO THE INDUSTRY IN YUCATAN AND THE
BAHAMA ISLANDS, AND BRIEF CONSIDERATIONS UPON THE
QUESTION OF MACHINERY FOR EXTRACTING THE FIBER.

BY

CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,
SPECIAL AGENT.

PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY OF THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE.

WASHINGTON :
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
1891.
&
:


LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL.

U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
OFFICE OF ASSISTANT SECRETARY,
Washington, D. C., May 16, 1891.

Sir: I hereby transmit with my approval a special report on Sisal
Hemp Cultivation in Florida, made under my direction by Mr. Chas.
Richards Dodge, special agent in charge of the fiber investigations of
this Department.

Inasmuch as considerable interest in this cultivation is being shown
in the State of Florida, and active efforts are being made to establish
the industry within our own borders, a knowledge of recent develop-
ments regarding the industry seems especially desirable at the present
time. I take pleasure, therefore, in recommendin g the early publication
of the accompanying report.

Very respectfully,
EDWIN WILLITS,
Assistant Secretary.

Hon. J. M. RUSK,
Secretary of ‘Agriculture.

LETTER OF SUBMITTAL.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
May 1, 1891.

Sir: I have the honor to submit herewith a report embodying the
results of my investigations during the past year into the Sisal hemp
industry, with a view to its establishment in southern Florida. My
soure:s of information are the extensive published records relating
to the subject, covering .a period of 50 years; the large correspond-
ence of the Department in the field of fiber investigations; and, lastly,
the information derived by a personal fiber survey of the entire coast
line of Florida, from Jupiter Inlet on the east coast, to Charlotte Har-
bor on the Gulf, including explorations on the Keys, occupying several
weeks in February and March of the present year. Necessarily, a great
many interesting details have been omitted, but I am sure that suffi-
cient information has been presented to answer, fully, the many in-
quiries on the subject that have been made to the Department in the
past year. : ee

I am, sir, respectfully yours,
OHAS. RICHARDS DODGE,
Special Agent in charge of Fiber Investigations.

Hon. EDWIN WILLITS,

Assistant Secretary.
Figure

oD me & wo ee

~1

co ©

10.
11.

12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20,
21.

Plate TI.
II.

III.

IV.

V.
Va

VAT.
VIII.

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

FIGURES IN THE TEXT.

. Leaf of Agave rigida, var. sisalana, from Boea Chica Bove eee
Scie same trom t OLt MEVOrs= i222. ooo. 22 tooo cs Jo SS ee
. Leaf of Agave rigida, var. longifolia from Boca Chica ce Coes oe
— wo spines trom thig leat, natural size... 50.2.2. eu soos eee
CA OL SONSCUUCTO COUUANACE. 2s eos oo Ses es eo ee ee
. Cross section of a leaf of sisal hemp, smooth variety, from Perrine

Grane See ee oe tec aie co ous Coe See ee Saat ee emcee ra

. Cross section of a leaf of sisal hemp, smooth variety, from Miami..
. Cross section of a leaf of sisal hemp, smooth variety, from Jupiter...
. Cross section of a leaf of sisal hemp, smooth variety, from Fort

Cross section of a leaf of ies hemp, smooth variety, from Upper

Metecombe Key 222522 cee eos ee ee ge ee ee
Cross section of leaf of sisal hemp, spined variety, from Perrine

GUAMb; sosceearss sco coee eee ca oe ook ee oes oc ee oe oe
dulatescraper ton, hand. cleanin O22 - see ee oa a oo
Diansular séraper tor land: cleanino. o222. 52 so. 5526 eo 5
he Bathuiwlo:nNaspadOn 2s. o.oo oe ae ee
Maya Indians cleanino-sisal leaves... .... 26.0205. 2 see
Tramway for transporting leaves to the mill ...............-...-...
he Death -cleanime machine = 2222 cus. . e e
Mie Barraclowohamachime= <2 2.22 2. sare ees oS 6
The Tropical fiber machine (Van Buren’s patent)........-.---.----
The-f. Albee: Smith: machinG: 222s... aso. c ee ee

PLATES.

Living plant of Agave rigida var. sisalana. Jupiter.
Living plant of Agave rigida, var. longifolia. Jupiter,
View of a Sisal hemp plantation in Yucatan.

Fig. 1. ‘‘Pole” plant from Boca Chica Key.

Fig. 2. “Pole” plant from the Bahamas.

Fig. 1. Sisal plant in ‘ pole” or flower.

Fig. 2. Side branch of ‘‘pole” showing small plants.
Appearance of sisal hemp plant 15 years old.

Group of Agave Mexicana growing on shell mound at Jupiter.
Fig. 1. Agave Mexicana, sent from nursery at Seven Oaks.
Fig. 2. Agave Mexicana, sent from Juno.

Page.
13
13
13
13
13

20
ad
27

29

29

29
ol
ol
oo
34
o4
3U
od
38
39
40
INTRODUCTION,

saa

The imports of sisal hemp fiber into this country from Yucatan for
the fiscal year ending June 30, 1890, amounted to 28,312 tons, in round
numbers, worth $4,330,300, and for the year previous the imports
amounted to over 35,000 tons. This does not take into account the
imported manufactures from sisal hemp, which are considerable, the
value of which can not be given. It is said that the United States pur-
chases over 80 per cent of the marketable fiber produced in Mexico.

The fact that the sisal-hemp plant can be grown in this eountry in
any quantity, as far as the mere question of cultivation is concerned,
was satisfactorily demonstrated many years ago. Over fifty years have
passed since the plant was introduced into Florida by Dr. Henry Per-
rine, and it is now growing wild in many portions of the State. With
all these facts before us, and in connection with the knowledge that
there is great interest in the cultivation of the plant at the present
time, is it not worth while to make a serious attempt to speedily estab-
lish the industry in our own country? ‘To the end of assisting in such
an endeavor the Department of Agriculture has made the matter a
subject of investigation, and the results of its work in this direction
are now placed on record. The investigations are far from completed,
as there is much yet to be learned concerning the growth of the plant
and the best means of extracting the fiber, though for the purpose of
giving early information to those who are seeking knowledge upon the
subject it has been thought best to publish without longer delay. |

The use of agave fiber on this continent goes so far back into the
past that there are no records to show when its use began. Among
the Aztecs maguey fiber and the fiber derived from palm leaves, known
as “icxotle” and “izhuate,” were woven into coarse cloths, the maguey
being known as “nequen,” the orthography of which is not greatly
different from the word “‘henequen,” which is to-day the Mexican name
of sisal hemp. We are further informed that the Aztecs prepared
these fibers for use in the same manner that flax is prepared in other
countries, the leaves being soaked in water, pounded, and the product
dried, after which the fiber was made into coarse clothing, cords, ropes,
‘and mats. In Mexico this and allied fiber is still used for many putr-
poses, aS cordage, twine, and hammocks, or woven into harness and

even coarse cloths. In our own country its use is chiefly in the manu-
| @
8

facture of ropes, binding twine, and similar cordage, and it is regarded
as one of the most valuable of commercial fibers.

In 1845 the export of fiber from Mexico amounted to a little over
$100,000, and in 1869, according to Squier, the imports into the United
States amounted to less than $34,000. It is only in very recent years
therefore, comparatively speaking, that this industry has become im-
portant.! At the present time not only is the fiber produced to an enor-
mous extentin Mexico, but Cuba and the Bahamas are interested in its
production, with a promise of practical results. An account of this in-
dustry as it relates to the Bahamas will be found in a report made to
the State Department by U.8. Consul McLain, and reproduced in Ap-
pendix B, at the end. of this report.

What can be done in the Bahamas, I have reason to believe, can be
accomplished in this country with intelligent effort and attention to
small details at the outset to avoid costly mistakes. We have the soil,
the climate, and the plants. The combination of capital and inventive
genius with these conditions must work out the problem, if indeed the
question is not already practically solved.

I wish before closing to make acknowledgments to the following
persons who, by their kind assistance at the time of my investigations
in Florida and by statements of personal experience at various times,
have added materially tothe value of this report. Lamindebted to Mr. J.
H. Kucehler, of Jacksonville; Mr. John W. Denny, of the Coast Line Canal
and Transportation Company, atSt. Augustine; Mr. Robert Ranson, Ti-
tusville ; Messrs. John H. Grant and John Cleminson, of Jupiter; Mr. A.
M. Fields, of Juno; Mr. I. S. Morse, J. W. Ewan, J. A. McCrary, and
William Brickell, jr., of Miami; Mr. Addison, of Cutler; Messrs. J. J.
Philbrick and George H. Bier, of Key West, and to Dr. L. D. Wash-
burn, director of the Tropical Sub-Experiment Station at Fort Myers.
And acknowledgments are specially due to Mr. Kirk Monroe, of Cocoa-
nut Grove, for the tender of his private yacht, by means of which it
‘was possible to visit the Perrine Grant and to explore those of the
Florida Keys, where the sisal hemp plant is found growing in greatest
perfection, and to the Brelsford Bros., of Palm Beach, for assistance in
securing photographs of living plants for illustration. Tio Mr. T. Albee
Smith, of Baltimore, | am under obligations for statements regarding
the industry in the Bahamas and for valuable illustrative material
relating to Yucatan.

1 Before 1854 it was exported after manufacture into hammocks, cordage, etc. The
whiteness and pliability of these attracted the attention of foreign dealers, and the
United States began to import the raw material. Yucatan producers were then
forced to make their products known to European markets; they succeeded so well
that the exportation of henequen which, in 1880, was estimated at 2,173,468 piastres
attained in 1887 to 1888 the sum of 6,641,255 piastres. (Irom a report on the Industries
of Mexico, published for distribution at the Paris Exposition of 1889.)
THE SISAL HEMP PLANT JIN FLORIDA.

The plant producing this fiber, which for so many years has been a
source of wealth to Yucatan and is becoming of commercial importance
to the Bahamas, grows in many portions of Florida, where its cultiva-
tion long ago passed the experimental stage. The literature of the sub-
ject as it relates to the culture of the plant in our own country is quite
extensive, enough having been published, even as far back as the
fifties, to prove the adaptability of both soil and climate of Florida to
successful cultivation.

The history of the introduction of the plant into Florida, by Dr. Henry
Perrine, between 50 and 60 years ago, is almost too well known to
repeat here, though a few brief statements may not be out of place.

Familiar with the account of Dr. Perrine’s efforts to obtain a grant
of land in southern Florida upon which to pursue his experiments in
the culture of this plant, as well as the story of the tragic ending of the
enterprise, it has been my good fortune to obtain from Mrs. Hester
Perrine Walker, of Fernandina, Fla.—a daughter of the doctor, and an ~
eyewitness to the Indian Key massacre—some interesting and more
detailed statements regarding the introduction of the plant by Dr.
Perrine, from which the following facts are gleaned :

Mrs. Walker informs me that the first introduction of the plant from
Yucatan occurred in the years 1836 and 1837, afew plants having been
sent to the royal botanical gardens of Cuba at the same time. Of the
plants brought to Florida, part were taken to Indian Key and the others
were planted upon “the Indian Hunting Ground,” on the borders of
Biscayne Bay. It is also stated that when these plants had multiplied
to some extent the officers at Fort Dallas, at the mouth of the Miami
River, 12 miles from this locality, were in the habit of gathering the
young ones to send to greenhouses in the North, and also to other posts
where they were grown as ornamental plants. One of the results of
this practice was to introduce the plant into many new localities in
Florida, where it soon obtained a foothold. The plants set out on In-
dian Key multiplied very fast, and a few years after the destruction of
the enterprise, and the death of Dr. Perrine at the time of the Indian
massacre, a schooner load of the young plants were gathered and taken

away, though it is not stated where they went.
9
10
Mrs. Walker writes further:

After my father’s death and our miraculous escape from the Indians Congress
passed a supplementary act, giving to my mother and her children the same rights
and privileges that were vested in him. In accordance with that act my mother
hired men to plant on every section of the Perrine grant. This supplemental act was
passed by the Congress of i840 and 1841; whether in the first or second session I can
not tell. The general planting of the Perrine grant occurred in 1846, by our agent,
Mr. Charles Howe. who took six men with him upon the land for the purpose. This
grant consisted of a township of 6 miles square, lying on Biscayne Bay, embracing
portions of three sections, as allowed by the Land Office. We secured, in 1846,
thirty-six families of Bahamians to go upon the grant to fulfill the condition of a set-
tler upon each section. The men came over to build their houses and plant their
gardens preparatory to bringing their families, when they were driven or frightened
away by the Indians and could not be induced to return. It was about this time
that the agave was planted upon each section.

Mrs. Walker also states that other agaves were introduced with the
sisalana, all of which were called “century plants.” Many other plants
were introduced, in all some two hundred varieties, which were grow-
ing in boxes on the premises of Dr, Perrine and Mr. Howe, Indian Key,
preparatory to the removal to the *“‘ grant” as soon as the war should
cease. These were nearly all burned or destroyed at the time of the
massacre, August 7, 1840.

From this first introduction of the Agave rigida into Florida the
plants spread rapidly, especially on the mainland, being commonly
transplanted to the gardens of the early settlers of south Florida
chiefly for the sake of ornament. In 1842 the armed occupation act was
passed by Congress, which gave a homestead of 160 acres to any per-
son who occupied a tract 5 years. Mr. Robert Ranson of Titusville,
Fla., makes statements in this connection as follows:

This resulted in a number of heads of families settling along the Indian River in
the neighborhood of Fort Capron, and on nearly every one of these old settlements
asmall patch of Sisal hemp may be found grown into a dense thicket, descended from
one or two parent plants set out over 45 years ago. These facts are considered
worthy of mention, as showing that while every other evidence of former cultivation

has long since disappeared, the sisal hemp, regardless of forest fires, weeds, and neg-
lect, still holds its own and spreads year by year.

_ Those desirous of studying the bibliography of this subject will find
a mass of valuable information, descriptions, etc., prepared by Dr.
Perrine, in Senate Document No. 300, bearing date March 12, 1838, be-
ing a report! to accompany Senate bill No. 241.

The report is a collection of documents, letters,-meterological data,
botanical considerations regarding fiber plants, list of officinal and other
economic plants, etc., making a printed volume of 142 pages and 24

1The introduction reads: The Committee on Agriculture, to whom was referred the
memorial of Dr. Henry Perrine, late American consul at Campeachy, praying for a
conditional grant of land in southern Florida to encourage the introduction and
promote the cultivation of tropical plants in the United States, have had the same
under consideration, and beg leave to submit to the consideration of the Senate the
following report;
11

page illustrations of various tropical plants from which fiber may be
extracted. The report has long been out of print and is difficult to
obtain.

The chief information regarding the botany of the Sisal hemp plant
is derived from two sources; the descriptions given by Dr. Perrine, from
a study of the different forms of henequen as growing in Yucatan, and
published in the Senate document referred to above (see pp. 35-40),
and a valuable contribution on the subject of the “* Jenequen,” prepared
by Dr. Schott, and published in the Annual Report of this Department
for 1869. In the transactions of the St. Louis Academy of Science,
Vol. 111, December, 1875, Dr. George Engelmann reviews the statements
and conclusions of these two observers, and as the matter is important
in defining sharply the botanical differences in the species, I have repro-
duced it entire (see Appendix A). 1 will also refer the reader to an
article on the subject of Sisal hemp in the Bulletin of the Royal Gar-
dens, Kew, for March, 1877.
Dr. Engelmann’s conclusions, also appears in the appendix at the end
of the present report.

The common names applied to the fiber are sisal hemp, Mexican grass,
grass hemp, Henequen or Jenequen, Sosquil, and Cabulla or Cabuya, the
latter being the Central American names. The native names of the
seven species or varieties of plants recognized in Yucatan as producing
henequen are enumerated by Dr. Schott as follows: (1) The chelem (or
tshelem), which grows spontaneously over the country, finding its fav-
orite range on the barren rocky districts of the northwest, with their
border of maritime sand flats, thought to be Agave angustifolia. (2) The
yaxct (or yaashki), with shorter leaf, of bright velvety green, produces
less fiber, but excelling in softness, fiexibility, and luster, and bring-
ing a higher price in the market. Its cultivation is limited to the more
genial soil and climate of the eastern and northern parts of the penin-
sula. (3) The sacci (saci or saqui), meaning white agave, which, while
- cultivated throughout Yucatan, appears to have its center of production
in the northwestern part, or the district of Merida. It produces a far
greater quantity of fiber than the preceding and furnishes the principal
bulk of that exported. These two forms may be said to produce the
sisal hemp of commerce. The leaves of the sacci are easily recognized
by the wax-like bloom with which they are covered. (4) The chucwmer
(or tshucumki), resembling No. 3, though yielding a harder, rougher, and
naturally inferior fiber, thrives best on the rocky flats and sandy regions
near the coast. (5) The babei (bahki or vavki), quite distinct from No,
3, of quicker growth, and producing twice as many leaves, but of smaller
- size, and therefore less profitable. (6) The citamci (or kitamki), with —
short narrow leaves, and producing poor fiber. This species is thought
to come nearest to the wild plant. (7) The cajun (or cahun), like the
first on the list, an indigenous species growing spontaneously along
12
the border of the mangrove region, can probably be referred to Furcrea
cubensis. Of this species Dr. Schott says :

It has large, thin, uniform leaves, of an agreeable green, 4 or 5 feet long, the mar-
gin armed with sharp, curved spikes like those of the Agaves, or the heavier armed
species of Bromelia. In order to obtain the fiber the leaves have to be collected near
the heart of the plant when they are cut, and parched over a light fire.

While Dr. Perrine recognizes the several forms, all of which in his
opinion ‘merit to be transplanted to Cape Florida,” and records at the
same time that ‘‘the yashqui species of henequen yields the best
quality of foliaceous fibers and the sacqui the greatest quantity,” he
nevertheless refers chiefly to the “yashqui” (yaxct) in his arguments in
favor of the introduction and cultivation of the henequen in Florida,
and Dr. Engelmann states that this is the form introduced into Florida.

It is a mistake, therefore, to confound the Florida form with that
which is grown so extensively in Yucatan for the production of fiber
for export. Indeed the difference is so apparent that no one would be
misled after seeing the two plants together. (See Plates I and I at the
end of thisreport). Outlines showing proportions of the leaves of the
two forms are figured on page 13. Fig. 1 is from a leaf of the Florida
form, grown on Boca Chica Key, near Key West, one of the broadest
leaves I have seen. Ifig. 2 is a leaf of the same variety, grown at Fort
Myers, on the Gulf coast. Tig. 3 is the spined or Yueatan variety, but
grown on Boca Chica. Fig. 4 shows the natural size of the spines on
the sides of the leaf. Fig. 5 is a leaf of Sanseviera.

Mr. T. Albee Smith, in a recent conversation, referred to the striking
difference between the two forms, and mentioned the fact of his having
seen a ‘ sisal hemp plant,” such as is cultivated in Yucatan, growing -
in a sisal field in the Bahamas that could be recognized almost as far
away as the plant could be seen.

I may mention, at this point, that a part of the original Perrine collec-
tion of fibers received by the Department from the Smithsonian Insti-
tution some 20 years ago is still in existence. -I regret, however, that
all but one of Dr. Perrine’s labels have been changed, new ones having
been substituted, and all record of the variety of the plant from which
the fiber was taken lost, as the new labels only record the general name
Agave sisalana. The one exception shows the sample of fiber it marks
to be the Sacqui variety. With the remains of this collection, there are
three rude implements of wood such as were used by the natives in
cleaning the fiber at the time of Dr. Perrine’s experiments. These are
figured on PI. If in the Senate document of 1838, before referred to.

In the remarks of Dr. Engelmann, in Appendix A, the “ Yaxci” form
\A gave rigida var. sisalana is so fully described that there can be no
doubt as to the plant that is meant. The late Dr. Parry, at one time
botanist of the Department of Agriculture, found it in fall bloom in

February, 1871, at Key West, and on the adjacent islands, and de-

scribes the leaves as “ pale-green but not glaucous, 4 to 6 feet long and
138



AuNtsrowsk’s ub.

Fig 1. Fig.2. Fig. Fig.5.
14.

4 to 6 inches wide, generally smooth-edged, but here and there having a
few unequal, sometimes very stout and shar p teeth.” This is the plant
introduced into Florida by Dr. Perrine, for fiber culture, and considered
by Dr. Engelmann to be “the most valuable of the fiber-producing
agaves.” 3
, Whis is the form that I found erowing along the entire southern coast
Y of FE Florida, on my recent. survey, from Cape Canaveral on the east side,
around to Charlotte Harbor on the west or Gulf coast, and including
many of the keys. Hundreds of plants were examined, and my own
observations perfectly accord with Parry’s made 20 years before, with
the one exception that I found no leaves wider than 54 inches, 5 inches
being the common measurement. I also notice what is remarked re-
garding the presence, occasionally, of a few sharp, stout teeth where
the other portions of plant showed only the smooth leaves. In some
cases the teeth were present all along the edges of the leaves, but so
abortive that it readily suggested a change by cultivation from the
sharply spined form as grown in Yucatan to that with spineless leaves,
save the terminal spine, which is always present.

Occasional plants of the stoutly spined form were met with, invari-
ably shorter leaved and stockier in appearance. They were so uncom-
mon, Lowever, that it was necessary to search for them, even in tracts
of considerable area. And it is remarkable that on Indian Key, where
the entire island is encircled by these agaves, only a few very young ©
plants of the spined form could be found, and these at a considerable
distance from each other. The details of my recent tour of investiga-
tion in southern Florida are not important here, though a few notes
regarding particular localities may prove interesting.

At Titusville, where I met Mr. Ranson, plants are growing thriftily,
though chiefly for ornament in the earlens, Over on Cape Canaveral,
- however, Mr. Ranson has a small plantation which is doing well, not-
withstanding the high latitude. There isno doubt that the plants will
grow from this point southward, although it is my opinion that to se-
cure the best results in culture plantations must be located south of
Jupiter. The most interesting tract visited along this portion of the
coast was found on the point perhaps a mile below the railroad station
and wharf at Jupiter. Here I found a thicket of these agaves, both the
smooth and spined varieties, many of the plants having shot up their
‘Spoles” or flower stalks, which were covered with blossoms and young —
plants. Mr. John Cerin has a small plantation not far from this —
tract, and a mile or two above J upiter I visited, with Mr. John H. Grant,
a nursey of small plants, which were in flourishing condition.

At Juno, about 10 miles farther south, at the head of Lake Worth, I
found another fine nursery of perhaps 100,000 plants, the property of
Mr. A. M. Fields, who is quite enthusiastic on the subject. Fully 50 —
per cent. of his plants are not Agave sisalana, however, but a species
which was subsequently met with at many points along the east and
15

west coast, as well as on the Keys, doubtless Agave Mexicana, to
which more extended reference will be made later on.

The Biscayne Bay region is undoubtedly the most favorable locality for
sisal hemp cultivation. Ifound the plant growing here and there alon g
the Miami River, in perfection, though only in scattered patches of a few
individuals. And from Miami down the coast to Cocoanut Grove they
appeared more or less abundantly. At Addison’s Landing, near Cutler,
I found myself on the Perrine grant, though Mr. Addison informed me
that the plants were chiefly growing on his own section. He estimates
the number of old piants at about 15,000, growing without cultivation,
and states that these have descended from the comparatively few plants
which were on the place 25 years ago when he first occupied the land.

The original planting, he states, was done by Mr. Charles Howe who
was associated with Dr. Perrine. He has both the spined and. the
smooth-leaved varieties, but makes the interesting statement that the
latter ‘‘ spreads ” much faster than the former. Asa matter of fact Il
found plants of the spined form, at this place, exceedingly few and far
between. Some fine living plants of both varieties were secured here,
and these are now growing well in the conservatories of the Department.

From this point I sailed southward, but found nothing of particular
interest until Upper Metecombe Key was reached, where some of the
most superb plants observed on the trip were seen. In one thicket, to
which it was almost impossible to obtain access save at the expense of
torn clothing and lacerated flesh, magnificent plants were seen where
the tips of the leaves were 2 feet above a man’s head.

Indian Key, where Dr. Perrine lost his life, lies just below and beyond
it is Lower Metecombe. Other keys of the group are Lignum Vite,
Shell Key, and some lesser ones, upon all of which the true sisal hemp
plants are found inabundance. A very rough estimate of the old plants
in this group of keys would be a hundred thousand, though in making _
the estimate I have relied largely upon the statements of the intelligent
Bahamians living upon them. Leaving this group of keys the agaves
grow scarcer, until they are found abundantly again on Key West,
Boca Chica Key, and Stock Island.

Other keys where they are growing are Knights, Umbrella, and Vac-
cus, and on the authority of Mr. Grant large quantities are to be found
on Cape Sable, the extreme southwest point of Florida. :

I did not visit Boca Chica, as Mr. George H. Bier, who has interests
on the island, was to meet me at Key West and supply information re-
garding this group. The plant grows to greatest perfection in this
locality, some of the largest and finest leaves I have seen coming from
Mr. Bier’s place on Boca Chica. Fig. 1, page 13, is one of these leaves.

My survey of the west coast was not as thorough as the east, but there
is no doubt that the plants are grown in greater or less abundance from
Cape Sable and Ten Thousand Islands up to Punta Gorda. Superb



1See Agave Mexicana, page 49.
16

plants were examined by me at Fort Myers on the Caloosahatchie
River and at other points, thou gh there were no such thickets as seen
on the keys.

SOIL, CLIMATE, AND CULTURE.

As to the northern limit of cultivation of the sisal plant it was Dr.
Perrine’s belief that it might eventually be acclimated as far north as
Virginia, taking its place “in the worn out cotton fields.” Time has
proved the incorrectness of this idea, for the frost line sharply marks
the limit of cultivation. Mr. Ranson, a valued correspondent who has
had long experience with the culture of the plant, draws the line from
latitude 28° 30’ commencing on the Atlantic coast, in a southwesterly
direction across the State of Florida, to the Gulf coast in latitude 27°
15’. He regards the cultivation safe south of this line, though he is
careful to state that in exceptionally cold winters the ends of the three
or four leaves last unfolded will be affected, causing a few inches of the
leaf, down from the point, to turn black and dry up. This of course
destroys the value of the leaf that has been so touched. Fully matured
leaves will stand one or two degrees of frost without injury. Mrs.
Walker speaks in one of her letters of some mature plants that were
set out in Fernandina, which were destroyed after 2 or 3 years in the
open air “‘ by an unusually heavy freeze.”

The majority of writers agree that arid, rocky land is suited to the
growth of the plant. As long ago as 1855 Mr. William C. Dennis, of
Key West, Fla., writing to the Commissioner of Patents,! stated that
such conditions, and especially where there was a superabundance of
lime, were more favorable to sisal cultivation. He says:

This is precisely the condition of the soil of these keys and of the extreme south-
erly part of the peninsula of Florida, where alone it could be cultivated in the ab-
sence of frost. It requires less culture than other products, but is much benefited by
’ keeping down the weeds; and though it grows best on lands which have the deepest
soil, yet it grows well where but little soil appears among the rocks, sending its long,
penetrating roots into the clefts and crevices in search of black, rich vegetable
mold. In fact, the lands on these keys, and much of it on the southern point of
the peninsula, are nearly worthless for every other agricultural purpose, so far as is
known.

In the article published in the Kew Bulletin, before referred to, we
are informed that the soil of Yucatan best suited to this culture is of
“a gravelly, stony, and in some places of a rocky character, the plants
thriving best and yielding the largest amount of fiber in comparatively
arid districts, only a few feet above the level of the sea.” On the other
hand, moist or rich land is considered unsuited because of the lesser
yield of the fiber which would result.

Our correspondent, Mr. Ranson, writes with positiveness upon this
point, as follows:

The fact of the plant itself flourishing better may be attributed to a combination
of conditions existing both in the soil and surrounding atmosphere, principal among
eee oe a es

* Patent Office (agricultural) report for 1855, p. 242.
17

7

which I notice the presence of salt making it retentive of moisture, and of lime
phosphates resultant from decaying shells. Land bordering on the Atlantic coast,
which is evidently alluvion to a comparatively recent date, is generally considered
too poor in the constituents necessary to plant life to make it worth while to attempt
any cultivation upon it, and whilst this may be true as regards a lack of decomposed
vegetable matter yet the shelly, saline sands will be found to suit such plants as
the yuccas, agaves, etc., both chemically and physically better than the rich, black
hummock lands. :

Mr. John Cleminson, who has a plantation near Jupiter, advocates
‘saw palmetto and scrub land—yellow subsoil,” and states that “any
old worn-out field is suitable.” As Mr. Cleminson’s plants were not as
thrifty as they should have been, I fear he has planted in soil not suited
to their growth. |

As far as my own observations go, while the plant will thrive in
rocky and comparatively arid situations, it will grow more luxuriantly
in the deeper and better soil. On the Perrine grant I found a hedge of
sisal plants growing on a stone wall 2 or 3 feet high, and noted, par-
ticularly, at one point where the wall was broken down and the plants
- were near the ground they were more thrifty and of better color than
where the wall was higher. And as an example of the other extreme
I-saw plants in rich garden soil at Fort Myers which were a third .
larger and the leaves longer, thicker, and heavier. But without an ac-
tual test of the yield of fiber from plants growing in different soils it
_would be hazardous to state whether the very thrifty plants in good
soil will be any more productive, as regards yield, than the plants grow-
ing in barren situations. The Department will make such tests at an
early date. The soil of the Indian River region and at Jupiter differs
materially from that of the Biscayne Bay region, and this somewhat
from the soil of the keys. In the former there is the absence of the
underlying homogeneous coral rock, resembling limestone, which pre-
vails all along the coast of the southern peninsula. The soil of the’
upper region is more sandy and less compact, with the absence of lime-
rock. The soil in which the plants are growing on the Perrine grant
resembles fine sand mixed with humus and other coarse semi-decayed
vegetable matter, and is dark in color, while that from Boca Chica is a
rich chocolate brown, of a more peaty nature, appearing like vegetable
mold but mixed with disintegrated lime-rock. The “rock” formation,
(foundation) of the keys seems more recent than that of the mainland,
the “ coral” origin being very distinctly marked, and the soil thinner.
Undoubtedly the pine barrens near the coast will give just the right
conditions when cleared up and the palmetto and other ‘“ scrub” grubbed
out. The hummock lands, of course, are richer.

Mr, Ewan, of Miami, thinks that “marl prairie” will give the best
results, but it must be drained; does not believe in the poor-land
theory. The soil, commencing at Miami and running along the entire
Biscayne Bay region, is a combination of shell, sand, and vegetable
matter, with coral rock cropping out here and there. He states that

28040—No. 2——2
18

on ‘‘marl prairie” the expense of clearing would be done away with.
Cutting off the “scrub” and grubbing the average lands, with plowing,
he thinks would cost $80 per acre. He suggests growing pineapples
and vegetables while the sisalis coming on. The Bahamian purchasers
offered him 7 cents per dozen for young plants, which was declined.
White labor costs, at Miami, $1 and $1.50 per day, or $15 per month
when boarded. A colored man gets about $1. Plants grown on hum-
mock land, fertilized by hogs and horses, he thinks will produce leaves
large enough to cut for fiber in 3 years.

The lands about Fort Myers are chiefly coral formation and disin-
tegrated shell. It is called a sandy loam, but is in reality about 25 per
cent. ef disintegrated shell and 8 per cent. of phosphate, the remainder
being sand and humus.

According to the report of Mr. Preston, special commissioner from
the Bahamas to investigate the sisal industry of Yucatan, the Bahama
growers employ ‘the old worked lands” in establishing a A Dee
He says:

No one need go farther than the ground of Fort Charlotte, along the road west of
Nassau, or look into the lots of each side of Shirley street leading to Fort Montague,
for the sort of land its cultivation requires. In fact, any land that is shallow, impov-

erished, and that will grow nothing else, suits it. Itis an air plant, requiring the
ground only to hold it up.

The soil in the Merida district of Yucatan is described as stony and
sterile and composed chiefly of disintegrated lime-rock. This region is
only a few feet above the sea level, and the whole sisal country ig de-
scribed as low and flat.

Mr. John I. Northrup, in his admirable article on the cal of
- the sisal in the Bahamas,! makes the following statements in regard to
the character of the land employed by the Bahamians:

In Andros, which, as above stated, is the largest of the group and where most of
the writer’s time was passed, the land is locally described by one of three terms: it
is either ‘‘coppet ” or ‘‘ swash ” or ‘‘pine-yard.” The coppet, which occupies, as a
rule, the more elevated parts of the island, is composed of small angiospermous trees,
bien only 2 or 3 inches in diameter and so close together as to make an almost im.
passable thicket. Back of the coppet, which is mostly a fringe along the eastern
coast, nearly the whole interior is one vast ‘‘ pine-yard,” made up of the Bahama pine
(Pinus bahamenss). The trees are generally small, and from 10 to 20 feet apart.
Under them is frequently a dense undergrowth of a tall brake, which is often 6 or 7
feet high, and is known by the natives as “ Maypole.”

Geach ” 18 a very expressive term to donate the low,swampy ground of which
there are thousands of acres on the west coast. Here the soil is soft and is composed
of comminuted calcareous particles; it supports no vegetation except innumerable
small mangroves (Lhizophora mangle), here and there small “‘buttonwoods” (Cono-
ce erectus), afew “‘salt-bushes” (Avicennia nitida), and in some places palmet-

oes
_ So far as sisal cultivation is concerned, the “ swash ” is utterly valueless, but the
‘* pine-yard ” and ‘‘coppet” are both available. In neither of these, however, is there

ee ee ee
‘Popular Science Monthly for March, 1891, p. 606.
—

19

what we recognize here as ‘‘soil;” and at first it was a source of wonder to the

- writer that anything at all could grow there, for the surface is very largely the bare

coral rock. However,it is rarely smooth, but is rough and jagged, with innumer-
able points and crevices, so as to resemble somewhat the appearance of a well-thawed

-tnass of snow-ice. In most places, also, there are numerous holes, from a few inches

to many feet in diameter, and it is in these holes, cracks, and crevices that what little
earth there is can be found; still this little seems sufficient to support the dense vege-
tation. Some of the other islands—Hleuthera, for instance—have considerable depth
of soil, but it is when growing on the bare rocky ground described above that the
sisal is said to produce fiber of the best quality.

Here is valuable testimony, also, from a very recent report on the
Bahamian fiber industry, made by James M. Rae to the governor, Sir
Ambrose Shea, which confirms my own observations in Florida:

T have both read and heard it broadly asserted that sisal will grow and flourish any-
where, no matter how sterile or impoverished the land may be. My observations, -
however, do not confirm this. I do not mean to convey the idea that really good rich

land is necessary for its successful cultivation, but merely to remove the impression,
if such there be, that the plant will thrive in dry arid sand or on rocky land void of

‘soil. Worn out ‘‘ provision” and pine-apple fields appear to be well suited to its

cultivation, while on broken, rocky surfaces containing innumerabie ‘‘ pot holes”

‘and crevices in which is deposited the ordinary black or red earth the plant luxu-

riates. Nowhere have I seen it appear more flourishing than on such lands. Cer-—
tain kinds-of white sandy land, found in large quantities at some islands, also suit it
admirably. One of these varieties, white on the surface from being bleached by the
sun, on being turned disclosed a dark colored mixture resembling salt and black pep-
per, and is known locally by the term ‘‘ salt and pepper land.”

Another still darker colored sandy soil is termed ‘‘ mixed” land. Yet another
kind which, although white on the surface, is found to be of a reddish color an inch or |
two below is very fine and close. These varieties doubtless possess some organic mat-
ter and are not to be confounded with the loose coarse sand found in scrubby
plains and bay ridges, productnz a natural growth of stunted palmettoes and low
brush and on which nothing else will grow. Persons who have seen sisal, cocoanuts,
and guinea corn growing on the white land that fringes the eastern shore of Andros,
and also on the white land of Abaco, Grand Bahama, and Harbour Island, will readily
understand the description of soil to which I have reference. The sisal plants grow-
ing opposite ‘* The Caves,” in the western part of New Providence, afford another

-ilustration.

In selecting such lands for planting the height of the indigenous growth will in
general afford sufficient indication of its adaptability to sisal. Where this attains to
10 or 15 feet the land is all right, but where there is only a dwarfed growth of 3 or 4
feet the soil is too poor to cultivate anything on. It is, however, gratifying to know
that there is but a small percentage of such land in the colony.

It is said that for this culture little or no soil preparation is needed
beyond clearing the land of trees, stumps, and roots to facilitate the
removal of weeds in the spring, as after the plants are well established
no other weeding will be necessary. ‘The plants are set out when about
18 inches high and will then come into maturity (that is, produce
leaves fit for fiber) in 3 years. While this would appear to be a very
Simple form of soil preparation, clearing the land will prove to be a

large item of expense in Florida in starting a sisal hemp plantation, °

Where large areas are to be cleared the work can undoubtedly be so
systematized and performed under contract that the usual cost, as the
20

clearing is now done in a small way, will be reduced perhaps one-half.
In the vicinity of Jupiter, as I was informed, the cost of grubbing out
the palmetto and other roots is $10 to $15 per acre, with $8 more
for plowing. Another estimate by a practical farmer, average for the
entire east coast of Florida, was stated at $50 to $80 per acre. While
at Miami I saw a piece of pine barren land which was being cleared
‘by contract for $30 an acre, though a gentleman with whom I had con-
siderable conversation at Miami was of the opinion that for the average
of land in the Biscayne Bay region it would cost $75 per acre. It
must be borne in mind that these are not contract prices, and that
they have been based on the experiences of ordinary farm practice,
where a few acres have been cleared as wanted for general cultivation -
of fruit and vegetables. Dr. Washburn, in charge of the tropical sub-
experiment station at Fort Myers, states the cost of grubbing out the
twenty cords of palmetto roots, which an acre of land produces, at $25.

In the Bahamian literature of the subject very little is said upon
this point that will apply to Fiorida. Mr. Northrup says of clearing
the land :

If it is pine-yard a fire is started, which burns off the May pole; the pines are then
cut down and either made into charcoal or laid in rows across the fields and allowed

to decay. If coppet, the trees and shrubs are cut down with axes or cutlasses,
according to their size, and the brush is then burned.

Nothing is said of grubbing out roots or of the question of expense.
As to the use of fire in getting rid of brush, ete., I am satisfied that
unless done when the ground is wet the soil itself, at least in many
localities I visited, would be burned out also and destroyed. And to
put out a plantation, even in pine barren land, without clearing, would
simply be to invite disaster, as the grass and palmetto are frequently
burned over. Fire is particularly destructive to growths of the
AZAVeS.

Edgar M. Bacon, writing in the American Agriculturist, makes in-
teresting statements upon the practice in the Bahamas as follows:

When the right spot has been found; when the selection of seeds or suckers, the
preliminary preparation has been accomplished; then the choice of season hastens
or retards the work of preparing the ground for the reception of plants. Of course
there is no winter; no frost or cold to contend with; no blizzard to calculate for.
But there are rainy and dry seasons. One must calculate so that the necessary burn-
ing of cut brush and trees will not occur when the fires are liable to be extinguished
by the violent down-pour of the “ winter” rains, nor the planting delayed until the
dry months interfere with the advance of the young plants.

All the ground is gone over first with the machete, a long heavy cutlass-like knife,
which the negro uses either as a tool or weapon. All trees and underbrush are cut
down except the very large ones, which require an axe. Then the stumps are grub-
bed up, so far as they are likely to interfere with the work. Next, fire is employed,
and quickly runs over the acres where the negroes have toiled in gangs with their
~cutlasses, In this work of clearing women are often found more satisfactory as labor-
ers than men, and they receive but 36 cents where the men get 50 cents. Few
laborers are paid by the day. Task work, i. ¢., so much for clearing a piece of land
21

of a given size, called a ‘task of land,” is the usual method. In clearing brush land
in the Bahamas one-fourth of an acre is a task. When at last all the clearing and
planting has been done, and thousands upon thousands of perfect plants in absolute
symmetry of arrangement, with unbroken ranks, their rich green showing no blemish,
stretch before the eye, the spectator (especially if he happens to have a financial in-
terest in the plantation) feels that there is a beauty apart from mere picturesqueness.

In a description of sisal culture, published about 35 years ago,! it is
stated that the plants should be set out when 38 feet high, which will
give leaves ready to cut in 2 years. There is no advantage in this prac-
tice, however.

Regarding the distances at which plants should be set there seems
to be the greatest difference of opinion. Mr. Cleminson, of Jupiter,
advocates setting in rows 5 feet apart and 3 feet in the row, which
is entirely too close in my opinion. In the Merida district of Yuca-
tan they are set in rows 94 feet apart and 6 feet in the rows.
According to the Bahamian Government report, made by Mr. Preston
several years ago, the distance in old fields is stated at 9 feet between
the rows and 4 feet in the row. Experience has shown however that
when planted too closely the leaves are injured by being beaten together
in high winds; consequently 11 by 6 and 12 by 6 was considered suf-
ficiently close, requiring from 600 to 650 plants per acre.

It will be seen that the difference between this plan of setting and
that advocated by Mr. Cleminson is the difference between 600 and
2,000 plants per acre. As to the danger of injury from winds, it is
claimed that Florida plantations are seldom swept by hurricanes, and
that there are no other objections to closer planting. - Regarding the
actual practice in the Bahamas let us again turn to Mr. Kae’s report, pub-
lished this year (1891), where the distances apart are stated as follows:

The system adopted by those who have engaged largely in planting varies. Some
have planted as near as 6 feet each way; others 7 by 7, 7 by 8, 7 by 9, 8 by9, and 9
by 9. The Monroe Company at Abaco plant three rows 8 feet apart with 7 feet interval
between the plants, and leave a space of 12 feet between every fourth row. The
‘Bahama Hemp Company, limited,” which is under the efficient supervision of Mr.
Abbott, plant four rows 8 by 8, leaving a distance of 12 feet between every fifth row.
Most planters, however, have found it advisable, owing to the rocky nature of the —
land, not to observe too strict regularity in planting, but while adhering as near as
practicable to it, to put plants in the most favorable spots. Most of the laboring
class who have engaged in planting have observed no method at all, but have put
the plants in the ground wherever a good ‘pot hole” or chink in the rock occurs,
and have planted much too thickly.

In Mexico, as far as I have been able to ascertain, the plantations
are set out with more regularity.

Plate 111 illustrates the appearance of a hemp plantation on the farm
Dr. Manuel Donde, near Merida, Yucatan, which is characteristic.

Many Bahamian growers utilize the spaces between plants with other
crops, such as pease, corn, or even cotton. The plan is strongly recom-
mended, provided the matter is not overdone. Not only are the sisal

es ee

1 Report of the exhibition of 1853, in New York.
22

plants shaded in their early growth, but crops of weeds are suppressed,
and the cost of keeping the land clear lessened. Sweet potatoes are in-
jurious, as they cover field and sisal plants alike, retarding their growth.

As to the time of planting, the rainy season is most favorable. Mr.
Cleminson’s plan is to apply to each plant a handful of cotton seed
meal, and, after two months’ growth, lime and salt are spread at the
rate of 20 bushels of the former and 5 of the latter to the acre. The
lime and salt are said to kill the weeds and attract moisture. I should
not recommend this without further experiment, however. After the
plants are of sufficient size to shade the ground there is little trouble
from weed-growth. The late Mr. Van Buren, of Jacksonville, made
statements in this connection as follows:

All the after culture needed is just enough to keep down the weeds until the plants
are large enough to shade the ground—say once or twice a year for the first two
years; grass does not injure the plant, but it should not be shaded by undergrowth.”

During my recent visit to Florida the bad effect of shade upon large
plants was noted in several marked instances, the plants being less
thrifty, and the leaves sometimes so spindling and thin as to have lost
their rigid habit and to be bent anddrooping. In several instances the
thorns of one leaf had injured other leaves with which it had come in

contact when the plant was swayed by winds. Dr. J. V. Harris, of
Villa Franca, Fla., a correspondent of the Department, takes an oppo-
site view of this question of little cultivation.

In a recent communication he says:

It is repeatedly’stated that sisal hemp will grow upon the very poorest lands, and
requires no cultivation, but willtake great care of itself and kill out all other vegeta-
tion. I donot know how it will grow upon poor land, as all that I have ever seen in
Florida was at Miamiand on Indian and Knight’s and other islands along the coast which
are allextremely fertile. As to cultivation not being needed, this is only true where the
land is so very rocky that it is impossible for enough vegetation to grow to interfere
with the plants. Ordinarily it is safe to calculate that it will take just as much
cultivation as any other plant, and that 4 years will have to be spent in every in-
stance before each crop can be harvested.

In the Mexican official publication distributed at Paris, before re-
ferred to, the statement is made that the henequen plants received
two dressings the first year and one every year afterward.

As to weeding, as before Stated, other vegetation should not be
allowed to interfere with the growth of the plants, especially while
young. The kinds of weeds which spring up in the Bahamas are
greedily eaten up by sheep, and in some localities the practice is to
allow these animals to keep the ground clean. Regarding the danger
of injury to plants by formation of suckers, the fact that young plants
will be in great demand for several years to come will obviate all trouble
from this source. As to the treatment of the young plants before set-
ting out Mr. Preston says in his report:

The roots of the young plants are treated in exactly the same manner as pine-apple

slips, and suckers are cleaned before they are planted. Pine-apple growers will quite
understand this,
29

Mr. Rae, however, in his recent report depreeates this practice.

Upon the subject of cultivation and care of the plantation, Mr. Edgar
Bacon makes suggestions as follows:

Experienced growers use 650 plants to the acre in rows 11 feet by 6 feet distant
from each other. This will give room for the laborers to walk between the rows with-
out being wounded by the terrible spurs, which like a cluster of keen spears make
each plant a menace to the unwary. Besides this the closer planting would result
in the piercing of innumerable leaves every time the wind blew, and the consequent
destruction of much fiber. Stabs and bruises mean discoloration, and the expense of
sorting damaged lots apart from the proportional loss would be an added and not
insignificant item jin the labor account of a plantation. Many people who have
caught the sisal fever are planting acre after acre expecting nothing less than that
the farms, when planted, will take care of themselves. To be successful in this
enterprise requires unceasing activity and care. One must be Argus-eyed. One
season of poor prices with the consequent discouragement which is apt to follow in
the case of nine small proprietors out of ten, in a country where the peasantry are
all negroes, will result in an overgrowth of suckers and the poling of mature plants
till nothing short of absolute clearing and starting anew will save the farms. There
is no cultivation where system and perseverance are more necessary to success.
The dropping of the seed from a single “ pole,” if not watched and attended to im-
mediately, will produce little spears enough to destroy a hundred plants, and I have
frequently seen a dogen suckers start up around and under the leaves of their parent.
After such crowding, the leaves would be worthless, even could they be reached ;
but no man, unless arrayed in metal armor strong and stout enough to withstand the
thrust of steel, would be so foolhardy as to attempt to penetrate such a growth. What
I want to impress is the fact that without that patient and systematic care which I
nowhere observed as characteristic of the unled negro, a field of sisal is as valueless
as a field of mullen.

It is desirable that the young plants be set out in perfectly straight
rows and upright, for if not, and they grow up at angles in all diree-
tions, there will be difficulty in getting between them when the leaves
are harvested. Regarding the suckers, there is no question but that
they should: be removed, for to allow them to remain will be a positive »
detriment to the parent plants. If they are not needed for the plant-
ing of new fields they should be thrown away. In setting out these
suckers in Yucatan the planting is said to be very simply accomplished :
a little hole is dug and the plant introduced, after which it is propped
up by a few stones and left to take care of itself until the time for tak-
ing off the first leaves. When cultivating suckers in the nursery, the
practice in Florida is to set them out 10 or 12 inches apart in rows,
where they remain until large enough to set out in the fields. Suckers
are not relied upon alone for the propagation of the plant. When the
old plant flowers it sends up a stalk, or “pole,” as it is called, to the
height of 15 or some times 20 feet. After the tulip-shaped blossoms
which appear have begun to wither there now starts forth from the
point of contact with the flower-staik a bud, which develops into a tiny
plant, which, when grown to the length of several inches, becomes
detached and falls to the ground. Such “pole plants” as come in con-
tact with the soil take root, and in a very short time are large enough
to transplant,
24

In the Bahamas these flower-stalk plants are largely utilized in es-
tablishing sisal fields, and with as good results aS where the suckers
alone are used. Precisely the same course must be pursued in Florida.

A single “pole” or “mast” produces from one to two thousand plants, _
while only a few suckers are formed at the base of each old plant. The
largest pole plants that I saw in Florida measured about 4 inches in
length. But among a lot received from Mr. Bier recently was one
which measured 10 inches, that had never been in soil. An illustra-
tion of this plant, reduced in size, is reproduced on Pl. Iv at the end
of this report. Fig. 2, Pl. 1v, isa pole plant broughtfrom the Bahamas
in November last, and now growing in the Department conservatory.

The manner of growth of these plants, on the flower stalks, is shown
in our illustration on Pl. v, with a view also of the entire plant in
blossom. As bearing upon the statements frequently made regarding
the wonderful hardiness of Agave sisalana where plants have been
kept out of the ground for a long time in transportation, or from
other causes, an experience with a lot of these pole plants is inter-
esting. In march, 1890, a portion of a flower head was sent from
Key West, together with a number of the newly formed plants. After
examination the box containing the specimens was put to one side and
not seen again until June. The plants were found alive and in good
condition. About the Ist of November the box was again examined ;
the plants had apparently grown a little, and eight of them were sent
to the greenhouse to be potted out. They began to freshen at once,
and are now in a thriving condition and will make good plants.

Mrs. Walker tells me of a large plant sent to her at Albany, New
York, some years ago, the roots of which had been cut off. It was kept —
as « curiosity for several weeks to show to friends who had never seena ~
sisal plant. It was then set up carelessly on one of the flower beds in
the garden, where it took root and grew, and was finally potted and
sent to the greenhouse of Mr. Erastus Corning, and was preserved by
him among his collection.

In regard to the flowering of the plants in the field, while some writ-
ers state that the appearance of the pole should be watched for, and
the stalk cut out to prevent blossoming, as the plant then withers,
others state that because this indicates old age and the end of the use-
fulness of the plant, there is no advantage in attempting to save its
life further.

In Florida the age of maturity in the wild state is about 6 or 7 years.
In Mr. Rae’s Bahamian report reference is made to a plantation of 500
“trees” that had been planted 6 years. They were fine healthy plants
and 60 of them ‘in short leaf,” that is, preparing to pole. A few had
already sent up the “mast.” Irom the experience of planters, several
eases being cited, the following deduction is made:

Not only does the cutting of the leaves retard the period of poling, but it also les-
sens the size and productiveness of the pole,
29

In Yucatan the period of usefulness lasts from six to eight years—
sometimes from fifteen to twenty years—and leaves may be cut until the
plant has attained the appearance shown upon Pl. vI. This plant was
15 years old when the illustration was made.

RATE OF GROWTH, HARVESTING, AND YIELD PER ACRE.

As has been stated, a plant set out at 18 inches high will produce
leaves fit for cutting in 3 years. The lower leaves, naturally, are the
most mature and are cut first; these should be at least 3 feet long.
‘Mr, Cleminson informs me that the average length of the leaf from
4-year old plants, as grown in Florida, is 3 feet 3 inches when cut, and
for 3 years afterwards 6 inches longer each year, He also states that
thrifty plants at 7 years will produce leaves 5 feet in length, and if the
flowering stalk is cut when it first makes its appearance, the plant will
continue to grow to profit for 25 years. Mr. Ranson gives his experi-
ence as follows:

In June, 1887, I set out plants around my house; these were from 6 to 8 inches
high. At the endof the first year small plants began to appear around the base,
which I used for propagation. At 2years the leaves of the large plants were 2 feet
8 inches long and at the same time the leaves were 3 feet 2 inches long and were fit
_ to commence cutting. The result of one plant here of 24 years’ growth is an average
of 17 young plants and 10 leaves sufficiently long to harvest. The same plant in its
fourth year will give a still larger result, increasing in usefulness each year until it
flowers in its eleventh to its thirteenth year, which ends the life of the plant.

As to my own experience, I saw plants in Southern Florida, with leaves
over 5 feet long, that were said to be only 4 years old. As the gentle-
man above quoted records experiences in the Indian River region, I am
inclined to the belief that the plants grow faster and mature earlier in
tropical Florida.

The leaves are cut close to the trunk, a sharp knife being used for
the purpose. In Yucatan the spines are removed from the edges of the
jeaf, together with its thorn-like point, after which 50 leaves are tied to-
gether to form a bundle. About 1,500 leaves, making just a cartload,
are considered a day’s work.!

1Tn an article relating to this industry, furnished tothe Farm Implement News by
a Chicago gentlaman who visited the Merida district a year Or 80 ago, the following
account of the method of harvesting appears:

‘‘Thisis done by the Indians, who are almost nude, with astroke of the knife, or
machete, at the rate of, for one hand, of 2,000 to 2,500 leaves perday. Following the
Indian who cuts off the leaves is an Indian woman, who, with a knife, cuts off the
spike or thorn-tipped end and the thorny side of the leaf, ready for the machine. One
foreman was understood to say that it costs about 38 cents per 1,000 leaves to cut, pre-
pare, and get the leaves to the cleaning machines. On all the large haciendas visited
were little railways into the fields, upon which on cars drawn by mules the henequen
was taken to the mill and the waste was taken away.” |

Regarding cost of labor: Thisis now greater than formerly. ‘‘ Mr. M—— said about
38 cents per day (their money is worth 80 cents on our dollar, or thereabouts); but
probably the expert feeders of machines (or skilled workmen) make considerable
26

Opinions vary as to the yield of leaves per acre, and also in regard
to the yield of fiber from these leaves. The late Mr. Van Buren stated
that the product of nine hundred plants to the acre in the third year,
allowing for two or three cuttings of five leaves each, equal to 13 or 15
pounds to the plant, would be 6 or 7 tons of green leaves to the acre,
worth at least $3 per ton. He estimated the yield for the following
year at 18 tons of leaves, from five or six cuttings, worth about $50 per
acre. In the report of Mr. Preston it is said that in Yucatan a leaf 4
feet long weighs 14% pounds, and measures in the widest part 32 inches
across from spine to spine and is one-fourth inch thick in the center of
the leaf, 2 feet from either end. A similar leaf from the Bahamas is
said to weigh 14 pounds and to measure 44 inches wide, and five-six-
teenths of an inch in thickness. |

Mr. T. Albee Smith, in a letter received last year, makes the following
interesting statement: |

Plants are set out in Yucatan at the rate varying from 96 to 140 plants per mecate
(one-tenth of an acre). The latter is thought to bring the best yield and longest
fiber—say 1,400 plants per acre. The producer pays a tax to the State of 3 cents
per arroba (25 pounds), which equals $2.40 per ton of 2,000 pounds. I have
seen 90 leaves cleaned in 5 minutes on one wheel with two feeders, but this speed
can not be continued. One thousand leaves of henequen weigh in the rainy season
160 to 200 arroba (25 pounds each); in the dry season 100 to 160 arrobas per 1,000
leaves. One thousand leaves average a yield of 55 pounds of fiber.

Regarding the size and weight of Florida sisal leaves, the following
tables, compiled from the weights and measurements of many leaveg
collected during my recent trip, will prove of interest:

EXPLANATION, TEXT PLATE, page 27.



Length] Width Weight











Fig. Variety. Locality. of leaf. | of leaf. | of leat.
Ft. In.| Inches. |Lbs, Oz.

GaleSmooth + cisceee-: Perrine;G rant: ce = re wae e Sa ere rae ee eee 48 Oe tee

7 AO vhs Sse cee Miamip las access etee cee ccees soo ee ee 4 10 44 An ea
Bleeds J upiter, aes See a eae sion cerca ee ee -4 2 43} 1 14





more, and much of the work is done by the thousand leaves, or by piecework. To
each hacienda a lot of peons, Indians, or rather mestchezoes, attach themselves, and
although not legally slaves, yet by the peculiarities of Mexican law and of their
own habits they are serfs, andin a transfer of title to the estate they go with the
land. They are mild, inoffensive and industrious, but the fact that they are not mi-
gratory or easily transferred, is a feature not to be lost sight of in calculating the
future possibilities of an Indian in the production of henequen. Just as much can be
done as the owner of the hacienda can do with the heip he has, and no more; hence
the value or labortsaving cleaning machinery. It will enable the hacienda ower ‘to
grow morehemp. Mr.M—— markets about 2,000 bales of hemp, and has 114 laborers;
another hacienda owned about 500 people and only about 140 laborers, the remainder
being children or women who could not do fieldwork. * * * The people are —
chiefly Maya Indians, the descendants of a race which in the remote past had attained
a higher degree of civilization than any of the other aboriginal Americans.”

@


Eig: 8 @
28

EXPLANATION, TEXT PLATE, page 29.















= Length| Width | Weight
Fig. Variety. Locality. of leaf. | of leaf. | of leaf,
| Ft. In.| Inches.| Los.

Ole SmMOOtNs sos eee SHOT NVC eee a oe alse ete sic ie elke min acy en 5. 04 43 2
10 SOO o es caches Upper Metecombe <.. 562-2205. 2.0 oe cnismen min ~ os 5 8 De cihas scene
11 ‘Spined Merete. PETIT: Guna by esr sees Gare ote enn tees are cre is 4 Od |e ee





Outline drawings, made from the freshly cut leaf, to illustrate the
thickness and shape of the leaf (cross-section), at base and center or
widest portion, are reproduced on pages27and29. It will be noted that.
with one exception these have been made from the smooth variety of
leaf. They may be taken as typical examples and fairly illustrate the
form and thickness of the leaf as grown in southern Florida. From this
‘it may be stated that the full-grown mature leaves of Florida plants
(var. sisalana), 5 feet in length, will weigh 13 to 2 pounds. Attention is
called to the Fort Myers example, Figs. 2 and 9, which were taken
from a leaf grown 1m garden.suil. The drawings of cross-sections were
made from tracings of the freshly cut leaves in the field.

Regarding yield, size of leaves, ete., in the Bahamas Mr. Rae, in his
recent report, makes the following statements:

The length of time required for the production of the first cutting of leaves may, I
think, safely be regarded as 4 years from the time of planting. A great deal depends
upon the size of the plant when transplanted, but if they be of a suitable size, say
from 12 to 15 inches, without doubt the leaves will attain a length of from 4 to 5 feet
and be fit to cut well within the period named. I have seen thousands of plants with
leaves from 2 to 3 feet long that had been growing only 2 years; I have also seen
plants that, I was told, were 3 years old, from which leaves had been already cut.

For the present the yield per acre with us can be only a matter of calculation, in
consequence of the industry having been so recently begun, but sufficient positive
experience has been derived to determine this point with approximate accuracy.
The number of leaves cut from many plants of 4 years’ growth and upwards has given
an average of 40 leaves per tree, with an average weight of 14 pounds per leaf and a
yield of 4 per cent. of cleaned fiber. With an average of 600 plants to the acre, and
40 leaves weighing 60 pounds to each plant, the yield would be 36,000 pounds of leaf
and 1,440 pounds of cleaned fiber. If the estimate be reduced to 35 leaves there
will be 31,500 pounds of leaf and 1,260 pounds of fiber, and this is certainly a very
modest estimate. To guard against all possible disappointment, however, the yield
per acre can be safely placed at half a ton.

The Department has not yet been able to make comparative tests in
regard to yield of fiber in Florida, but it is hoped machinery will be in
position on the Department grounds, before this report is through the
press, that will enable us to make such tests, when the records of
the experiment will be placed before the public. And I am sat-
isfied that the results of the experiment will net be in the least dis-
appointing. Upon this subject Mr. Bier, of Key West, writes in a let-
ter of recent date as follows:

I find that our fiber, although somewhat finer in texture, is longer and stronger
than that grown in Yucatan, and weight of fiber to the leaf is a fraction more in
weight. The average per leaf of Yucatan is 490 grains, while ours averages 520 grains
with less moisture,
29



Fig.
30

In the Kew Bulletin itis stated (on the authority of Mr. Stoddard, who
furnished to the government of Jamaica an account of the sisal-hemp
industry of Yucatan) that 30 to 35 leaves per annum may be estimated
for each plant, the return of hemp being at the rate of 1,000 to 1,200
pounds per acre, the net money return on a fiber plantation in Yucatan
being estimated at 4 to 5 pounds per acre, or $19.48 to $24.33 in United
States money. According to the Bahamian, report, 40 leaves may be
eut annually from a mature plant. At the average of 14 pounds to
the leaf, on the basis of 650 plants to the acre, this yield gives a total
of 39,000 pounds of leaves, or 194 tons. Mr. Preston calls it 19 tons,
and at the rate of $2.50 per ton, the value of the green leaves before
cleaning, we have $47.50 per acre, or almost double the value stated by
Mr. Stoddard. On one of the farms visited by Mr. Preston in Yucatan
48,000 leaves, or 72,000 pounds (36 tons) of crude material was cleaned
daily.
tle over 13 tons of fiber per acre from the 36 tons of leaves. Here is
Mr. Preston’s estimates based on figures of yield in Yucatan, with cost
of Jabor in the Bahamas: |

AS 000 leaves: (36 tons), at $2.50 Per tON ssec nc cesses seen ee cesses coece, oo ccc $90. 00
6 wheels, each two hands, at 48 cents.............-........ meee eerste. 5. 76
SVOVS SUPP lyIMe TeeUers, al 24 CONUS 2.2. o0. - 5. Soe ees ee 85S ee eee sat
3 women to remove and hang fiber, at 30 cents............--....--.-------- . 90
Bneinesdriver, at $e 52s. 255-535. - See Soar Serene oe eae isos ne ee eee 2. 00
Ruel Se eek oe oe ese cee es See es seco t es ceca Seieee Sosa sae ee eee 2. 00
GIGI Seer cen ce asec cee wccee: cate sc eee sels oe scer pees cic es tosses 2. 00

103. 38

This shows a yield of 3,600 pounds of fiber from 72,000 pounds of
leaves, at a cost of $103.38, making an average of $2.87, as the cost of
producing 100 pounds of Aber the product of 1 ton of leaves

Mr. John Grant, writing the Department from Jupiter, Florida, makes
the statement that plants grown in Dade County, Florida, will yield 7
pounds of commercial fiber to every 100 pounds of leaves, which is
equal to 140 pounds of fiber from a ton of the crude material. This
approximates closely the statement made in the report of the New
York exhibition of 1853, that “°75 ordinary leaves are estimated to
yield 7§ pounds of fiber.” At the rate given by Mr. Grant, 75 leaves
would give about 8 pounds of the cleaned product.

Mr. Bier has stated that the quality of fiber from Florida plants is
finer than that which comes to market from Yucatan. The small sam- —
ples in the Department collection bear out this statement, though I do
not wish to record it authoritatively until there has been opportunity to
examine fiber extracted in quantity by the Department from Florida
leaves of the proper variety.

In an official letter just received from Mr. Alfred Greenwood, tho pri-
vate secretary of the governor of the Bahamas, occurs this paragraph:

We do not approve of the fiber plants received from Florida. which are very inferior
in product both in quality and quantity to what we get from the indigenous plant.


ol

Before giving much weight to this opinion it would be well to know
precisely from what leaves this fiber was produced, with age, conditions
of growth of the plant, and methods or machinery employed in extract-
ing the fiber. Itis a fact that many schooner loads of plants, purchased
or “taken” from the Florida keys, or the mainland, were not sisal
plants at all, but the species previously referred to in this report as
probably Agave mexicana. Hiven if the fiber was obtained from the
true sisalana the statement suggests rather a deterioration of Florida
plants in Bahamian soil than actual inferiority. I
am glad to have this opinion, but in the absence of .
the details of information I do not consider that it
disparages in the least our attempts toward the estab-
lishment of a sisal hemp industry in Florida.

MACHINERY FOR EXTRACTING THE FIBER.

In Dr. Perrine’s day the question of machinery for
cleaning the leaves does not seem to have been con-
sidered so all important as at the present time. On
plate No. 2 of the Senate report of 1833, before re-
ferred to, there are drawings of two rude wooden
implements, which were used by the natives in ex-
tracting the fiber, as well as drawings of the leaf
-unseraped and scraped. Figures of the two imple-
ments are here reproduced, Figs.12 and13. The ex-
planatory matter which accompanies the original
plate gives a very good idea of the method of clean-
ing the leaves at this period.! The wooden scraper w
N is our Fig. 12, and Tis Fig. 13. Figd&e Fig1e





1 Here is the description:

‘Plate No. 2, Fig. Al, represents an entire green leaf of Agave sisalana, or sisal
hemp agave of Yucatan of the variety called Yashqui. Fig. A2; the fibers exposed
from AA to the point of the leaf, by means of the triangular wooden scraper T. The
unscraped buttend of the leaf is sustained by a board against the breast of the
laborer, who then uses the scraping stick as curriers do their shaving knives. Fig.
A3: the foliaceous fibers exposed by the notched wooden scraper N. The laborer
takes the butt end of the leafin one hand, and extends the remainder obliquely across
a pole which is supported at an angle of 45 degrees by apost or wall; with the notched
scraper in the other hand, one point of the notch is inserted through the leaf which
is then drawn backwards, and the operation is repeated until the leaf is slit into five
or six strips; each strip is then laid across the pole when the butt end of the leaf is
drawn backwards and the fibers of that strip are then exposed; and so on succes-
sively till the cuticle and the cellular substances of the other strips are separated
from the foliaceous fibers. By both figures it will be seen that these fibers are longi-
tudinal and parallel, and are not connected by transverse fibers. The butt end of A3
exhibits the injurious effects of rotting by its own juices; and any process of macera-
tion applicable to the dead, dried bark of common flax and hemp, preparatory to ex-
tracting their cortical fibers, is equally injurious to the color and strength of the
foliaceous fibers in living green leaves.”
32

In Squire’s “ Tropical Fibers,” published only 30 years ago, the same
laborious methods are described. Methods of fermenting the leaves in
water and mud, steeping them in an alkaline pickle or confining the
semi-crushed leaves in ‘¢an openwork wooden frame or box,” placed in
such manner that the ebb and flow of the tide should wash out the gum,
are mentioned and dilated upon with no hint of existing machinery.
Here is a brief extract from Squire’s introduction:

Isaw the native laborers at their work, slowly removing the pulpy and vascular
portions of the agaves or henequens, with a triangular scraper, or a blunted knife, leaf
by leaf, and ascertained that a few pounds of fibers, imperfectly cleaned, formed the
total reward of a long day’s toil. I turned away from the patient Indian laborer
with a smile, half of pity, half of contempt, and asked my friend, the American mer-
chant and planter, who had lived for many years in the country, ‘‘ Why don’t you
import proper machinery for doing this simple work, and thus make a fortune out of
tropical fibers ?” ‘‘ Because,” was his answer, ‘‘there is no such machinery to be had.
I long ago sent to the United States, to England, and France, and even to the Philip-
pine Islands, where ten million dollars’ worth of plantain fibers are extracted an-
nually, and found that no machinery suited to the purpose had yet been invented.
Everywhere, as far as] can learn, througbout tropical America, and the East Indies
as well, the process of extracting these kinds of fibers is substantially that which you
see practiced by yonder Indians.” I was incredulous as to my friend’s assertion, and
when I returned to the United States I inquired for myself, but only to find his state-
ment confirmed. Iascertained that although various machines had been devised for
the purpose of cleaning the fibers of the pineapple plants, the agaves, and plantains
economically and rapidly, none had succeeded in practice.

Until very recently the only machine in use in Yucatan was a clumsy
affair stated to be a native invention, called a ‘‘raspador.”! Rude as
this piece of mechanism is, itis said that a native will clean 20 leaves
a minute with it, though with quite a percentage of waste of fiber.
While the raspador is said to have been superseded on some planta-
_ tions, it is more or less generally used at the present time for extracting
the immense quantities of sisal hemp exported. The average work of
one machine is claimed to be 7,000 leaves per day with two feeders or
operatives.”

It will not be necessary in this report to go into detail regarding the
many machines that have been patented for cleaning sisal hemp during
the last 40 years, or to even mention those that have been given thorough

1 The following description of this machine, from a correspondent of the Syracuse
Herald, in Yucatan, is so concise that it is worthy of reproducing here:

‘It is simply a wheel, like a 4-foot pulley, 6-inch face, with pieces of brass an
inch square and 6 inches long running across the face about a foot apart. This wheel
runs in a heavy wooden case. When working well it makesabout 110 revolutions a
minute. The leafis put in through a small hole in the case, and being held by a
strong clamp, is allowed to whip downward as the wheel moves around. A heavy
block, like the brake of a car wheel, is, by lever, brought to bear on the leaf, pressing
jt against the revolving wheel. In a second the pulp is crushed and thrown into a
pit under the wheel and the fiber is drawn back, one-half of the leaf being cleaned

quicker than one can follow the motions. The leaf is reversed and the other end
cleaned in the same manner.”
Oo

trial on the Mexican henequen plantations and for one reason or an-
other abandoned. 2



Fic. 14.—Raspador or Patruillo Machine,

Briefly, the machines may be referred to two types, those which take
the leaf end wise (either passing it through at one operation, or revers-
ing it when half cleaned, making two operations)! or those which take a
continuous feed of leavessidewise. Theraspador belongs tothe first class,
the capacity of which must be limited, while to the second class belong
the largerand more complicated machines, among which may be named
the Stevens, the Prieto, and the Villamore, of larger capacity, costing
several thousand dollars, and requiring special buildings and other
machinery permanently located. In short, while the machines of one
class are to an extent portable, those of the other class are for the central
factory or mill and require a considerable plant and force of workmen.

I find in the United States Patent Office the records of an invention
for cleaning sisal hemp, dating back to 1851, though the Patruillo ma-
chine, which is called the first machine of any practical value for this
purpose, bears a date some 12 years later. As to the early cleaning
wheels, there is little of interest to place on record in the present report.
I may state, however, that one of these early machines has been de-
scribed to me as constructed of wood, with a hub, spokes, and rim
like a wagon wheel, having an iron tire shrunk on. Upon its periphery
were bolted angle-pieces of iron for scrapers, and a block was arranged
in front of the wheel, over which the leaf or fiber was bent, to hold it
while being scraped. This rude machine is claimed to be the invention



1On another page is reproduced a drawing (Fig. 15) illustrating a gang of these
rude wheels with Maya Indian attendants, on the farm of Edward Belio, near Merida,
Yucatan. Fig. 16 shows thy portable tramway used to transport the bundles of leaves
to the mill.

98040. No. 3
> iP &;
ys he i VE i ; iy I

« PACER ANAS Bena) HD EE
i ANCE AU a liticine
BS ik) SNe AAAI! (i RSS OU EES aso?
AA NSA LA PU ee
Moonen b Al (A WON os e
VNR HR (ES Se
uae : aoe Sh

pe

SN PL os ma ee

AM!

me Mi
CLV clG MAY
Pan

if
HGS Rt DRY
Hay \ } ‘ VM Hy V -
WS A fs E
TAY aR Mg y 2 Se

x “7 os ~s,
YW) fp IN
i it (, )
Veo

j
Y

: Nain

es

Se
Sih

a

“





Fic. 16, Tramway used in transporting leaves to the mill.
30

of a Maya Indian, and doubtless suggested the principle of the raspador
and all subsequent wheels of its class. .

In Mr. Preston’s report, which appeared two or three years ago, men-
tion is made that on one farm visited he found six machines in opera-
tion of the * Death” pattern, driven by a 10 horse-power engine. The
wheels are described as 50 inches in diameter with 8-inch face, and eight
knives or scrapers, a 10. horse-power engine being required to drive
them. The capacity of each wheel is claimed to be 8,000 leaves per
day, or about 20 per minute. ‘wo men are required at each wheel: to
stand between the wheel and rack containing the leaves, feeding them
in as fast as their hands can move. One boy is required to a pair of
wheels for supplying the feeders, and three boys carry the fiber to the
drying ground. 7

Mr. Preston refers to this machine as the most simple thing possible,
requiring no skilled labor. No water is used either for soaking the
leaves or washing the fiber, and after exposure to the sun for two hours
it is fit for baling! =

There are two machines patented by Mr. W. BK. Death, one bearing
date July 13, 1885 (American patent February 16, 1883), the other July
2, 1886 (American patent June 26, 1888). In both machines, however,
water is used to assist in the cleaning of the fiber, while the inference







= = | =
SS SS Es f=
Jose SSeS Ea SS















Vic. 17.—The Death cleaning machine.





‘In a letter received from the Death’s Fiber Machine Company, since the above
was written, the explanetion is made that the old Death and Ellwood machine works
without water. ‘The director says: |

‘We wish you particularly to note that the Death machine in use in Yucatan is
the old Death & Ellwood scutcher and very much inferior to the new W. E. Death ma-
chine. The old Death & Ellwood machine works without water and causes a great
waste of fiber; the new W. E. Death patent machine (of which we are the proprietors)
works witk water which cleanses the fiber from all acids and impurities, and delivers
the fiber in a pure, white, and glossy state and practically without any waste. The
difference between the machine patented July 13, 1885, and that of July 2, 1886, is

this: The first named is — machine and the latter is fhe feed motion for supplying
the leaves.”




36

would be that no water is required in the machine referred to by Mr.
Preston. The machine patented in 1885 is the simpler of the two.
The latter machine was figured and described on page 26 of Fiber Bul-
letin No. 1,issued April, 1890, from information furnished by the Death
Fiber Machine Company, Leadenhall street, London, last January (1890).

The illustration of this machine is reproduced above and the sub-
stance of the description given in the accompanying foot-note.!

A valued correspondent of the Department states that the improved
machine did not come up to expectations in Yucatan, and that a previous
machine was sold under the name of the Death machine, which was in
reality the same thing as the Mexican raspador. I can not learn that the
improved Death machine is now used in either Yucatan or the Bahamas,
although they are in use by the Cuban Fiber Company, of London.

The manufacturers of this machine imform me that Cuban sisal fiber
cleaned by it brought in the London market this year £50 per ton,
while ordinary sisal, cleaned on the ‘old Death & Ellwood,” brought
but £28 per ton. It is said that new machines are being sent to Cuba
the present year.

I give an illustration on another page of the machine built by T. Bar-
raclough & Co., Manchester, England, which is described as follows:

This machine consists mainly of an iron cylinder, placed between two iron side
frames; over the cylinder there is a cover. The cylinder is accurately turned and is
fitted at regular intervals round its periphery with from eight to ten brass scrapers
or scutching knives. In some cases brass spreaders are placed between these scrap-
ers, their functions being to neutralize the tendency of the fiber to collect in streaks;

1 This machine, for general fiber decortication, has attracted more or less attention
for some years past, and a notice of it will not be ont of place. It is the invention
of W. E. Death, of Brixton, England, popularly known as the Death & Ellwood |
machine, patent bearing date July 13, 1885, improvements having been added. It
claims to work well on all fibrous plants, from flax straw and hemp and ramie stalks
to fleshy-leaved plants like the agaves. It is a single-drum machine, involving the
beater principle, the breakers operating upon the fiber in conjunction with a stream
of water, which washes out the refuse. The feed motion is worked as follows:

The upright handle C is for the self-acting motion to carry the leaves to or from
the machine. By simply moving it backwards or forwards it puts friction wheels
into gear which take the table to or from the machine. In working the holder F the
levers are lifted by means of a knob at the end, and as many leaves or stems (as the
case may be) as the machine will take are put across the part of the holder V and
placed so that the grip on the holder may be taken near the ends of them. After
securing the stems or leaves to be cleaned the clip is put on and the lever pressed
down by the knobs, and the material fed into the machine by pushing the upright
handle. When the holder has traveled as far as possible into the mouth-piece the
handle is reversed for drawing the cleaned fiber out. The stems are then reversed
in the holder and the fiber gripped in it and the ends sent forward for cleaning, as
before. The wheel E is for working by hand, if desired. , .

The machine requires a 3 horse-power engine to drive it, the velocity being 400
revolutions per minute. From 300 to 400 gallons of water per machine per hour are
necessary, and this it is reckoned is attainable by a 7-foot fall through a three-fourths

service pipe. The capacity of the machine is placed at 2 ewt. of dry fiber per day of
10 hours, .
37

they therefore spread it out and present it more evenly to the action of the scrapers.
In front of the machine is placed a movable guide or scraping block, which is curved
to the periphery of the main cylinder underneath. This scraping block is made of
jron, faced with hard wood, so that whilst the leaf is being scraped it rests on the
wood block. By means of suitable mechanism the distance of the scraping block
from the action of the scrapers is regulated according to the varying thickness of
the leaves, so as to insure the effective action of the scrapers and at the same time
not to damage the fiber.

In front of the machine there is also an apparatus by means of which that portion
of the leaf not under treatment is prevented from slipping into the machine. The
machines are supplied with fast and loose driving pulleys, usually 26 inches diameter
and 5 inches wide.

This is practically the raspador as now used in Yucatan, that is, in
so far as it concerns the ‘‘raspar” or scutch wheel A, the block, B, the
lever, C, for raising the block to the wheel when pressing the leaf to











—
lf

Hic. 18.—The Barraclough cleaning machine.

scrape it, the stud, D, which is used to wrap the fiber of the cleaned end
of the leaf around while the last end is being scraped, and the clamp or
grip, E, which is used to hold the leaf while the first end 1s being
cleaned. I am informed by a mechanical engineer who is thoroughly
posted regarding the industry of Yucatan that these five elements are
found in all the machines used in Yucatan, of which there are almost
3,000. oe

In June, 1890, I saw in practical operation in J acksonville the inven-
tion of the late E. R. Van Buren, called the tropical fiber machine.
It is quite simple in construction and effective in operation, turning out
remarkably clean fiber, though its capacity is limited on account of the
necessity of withdrawing the half cleaned leaf and presenting the un-
cleaned end, making two operations, on the old raspador principle.
38

In operating this machine the material to be decorticated, a leaf
of sisal hemp (benequen), or any other fibrous plant of similar growth,
is passed over the top of the block and is drawn in between the block
and cylinder by the motion of the latter, and is macerated by the strik-
ing of the beaters; the leaf is then withdrawn, and by so doing the
loosened vegetable matter is scraped off by the combs and nothing
remains but fiber contained in the leaf. This is exposed to the sun,
bleached and dried, and is then ready for market. By changing the
roller combs from coarse to finer ones the same machine can be adapted
to a finer texture of fiber. ,

The device is deseribed as follows: Two disks on circular plates of
iron are fitted to a shaft about 8 inches apart (this shait passes through
the center of the disks); between them is a series of beaters which are
in pairs and are journaled into each disk and work loosely; between
each pair of beaters is a grooved roller, which serves as a comb; these
parts when put together are mounted on a frame of wood or iron; on
the same frame and front of the machine as described above is a
wooden block, which is ajustable by means of screws either towards
or from the machine; the face of this block is hollowed out to fit the
circumference of the disks. A rapid revolving motion is given to above
described cylinder by means of a belt pulley.









y |||

2 © nin De



A









5 hy ( Ne Mi

a il



NIT Lia
= = LEO HP
H

STU rR a

meer
iN ayy

Us 4
my

Popes,



OL



















Wy )

7



ie Whe



A \

i
c~<

rl l

Higa. 19.—The tropical fiber machine.

In a letter received from Mr. Van Buren last fall it was stated—

All that remains to be done with this machine is to perfect some mechanism for
feeding it, and thus increase its capacity, which is now about 200 pounds of cleaned |
and dry fiber per day of 10 hours, :
3”

[ present herewith an illustration of the T. Albee Smith fiber-cleaning
machine, which has been seen by me in operation. This may be de-
scribed as a device composed of two cleaning wheels, each armed with
serapers around their periphery, in connection with an automatic feed-
ing attachment, by means of which a continuous line of leaves are fed
sidewise to the wheels. The first wheel cleans the spine end of the leaf
for two-thirds of its length. Theleaf then passes through to the second
wheel, the point of grip being automatically changed in order that all
of the uncleaned portion may be presented to the second wheel for
cleaning. The fiber when wholly cleaned is then discharged, as shown
in the cut, the point of discharge being on the opposite side of the ma-
chine to that shown. The short leaves entering the machine, in the
illustration, are those of the Ixtle, Agave heterocantha.

Mr. Smith makes statements regarding the machine as follows:

Three automatic machines have been constructed—two for use in Mexico by the |
Mexicain Machine Company, in the State of Coahuila, for cleaning ixtle, one for use ~

in the Bahama Islands in cleaning henequen fiber. Seventy-five machines of a

different design have been previously used by the Mexican Machine Company, and
are now being displaced by the autematie.








=














i is
Hi

eet Se Moar
|
HH

Roa ese = : mT : : ro ii
| ite H \}i.
Y Zig pea Ai
iy
Alii




oa
as i














Aa ee _|
Ba

WaT i It
iH =
Hu














ce 7
i We

tl

‘\
AN

‘iit






a oe)

























Fic. 20.—The T. Albee Smith machine.

The capacity of the henequen machine is 50,000 leaves per day. The services of 3
‘men are required at the machine, which weighs 6,000 pounds, and eight horse-power
is required to drive it. The machine for cleaning ixtle weighs 1,500 pounds. Its
capacity is 150,000 to 200,000 leaves per day, requires the services of 3.men at the
machine, and five horse-power-to drive it. 2

The machine is thoroughly automatic. The leaves being placed upon the feed
table, are carried forward and into the machine and the fiber is delivered at the op-
posite side in a uniform and finished condition, drying only being necessary to ren-
40

der the fiber ready for baling. These machines are leased and a percentage of the
fiber taken as a royalty. The repairs made necessary by the natural wear and tear
are furnished without charge. These terms are considered a sufficient guarantee of
their capacity and efficiency.

The Department has knowledge of another machine, not yet brought
to the notice of the public, which promises good results, although
nothing is known of its capacity save what is put forth in the claims of
its inventors. While an end feeding machine, the fact that it will take
several leaves at a time, and that its operation 18 continuous, are points
in its favor. What it will demonstrate when completed and put into
the field, in actual test, remains to be shown.

There are other machines already before the public which are claimed
to work satisfactorily. Just what principles of construction are em-
bodied in them, or how far the claims have been substantiated by actual
performance, the Department has not been able to learn, though the
endeavor has been made to secure such information. They are there-
fore omitted from the present report. ae









































Fiac. 21.—Method of drying fiber in Yucatan.

There is not the least doubt that the success of the industry in Florida
depends more upon the question of machinery than upon any other
factor. At the outset I give it as my opinion that we can not conduct
this industry in Florida upon the same lines of practice as followed in
Yucatan, and make it pay. As [ have shown in my reports which deal
with the flax industry in the Northwest, we must develop an “ Ameri-_
can practice ” that will serve to equalize existing differences in cost of
labor, by the use of the highest grades of improved machinery. The
same may be said of the sisal industry.
ous-feed machine, of good capacity, and that can be supplied at a com-
paratively low cost, is a desideratum.
Al

A word in regard to drying the fiber may not be out of place before —
leaving this part of the subject. While any sort of a structure over
which the fiber may be hung will suffice, such as a line of poles elevated
from the ground, or a line of galvanized wire, the old method followed
in Yucatan has been to dry upon posts 4 or 5 feet high, having a single
cross-arm nailed on near the top, like the arms of a telegraph pole.
Such a pole is shown in the accompanying illustration from a photo-
graph of a dry-yard on a plantation near Merida, Yucatan.

THE INDUSTRY IN FLORIDA. -

At present there is little more to record in relation to the establisn-
ment of the industry in our own country than a lively interest in the
subject and the formation of two companies which begin operations this
season. One of these companies, formed by Jacksonville (Florida) capi-
talists, has located at New River, about midway between Lake Worth
and the Miami River, and the other, a New York company, proposes to
plant large tracts of the original Perrine grant, both locations being
on the east coast of the peninsula. I aminformed that the company at
New River has already made a beginning. Buildings have been erected
on its lands, and a number of men employed to make clearings of ground
for planting. One of the keys, where the plants are growing in abun-
dance, has been leased, with privilege to remove the plants, and it is
expected that some 50 acres will be put out at once. |

Regarding individual efforts I have referred on previous pages to the
small nursery plantations at Cape Canaveral, at Jupiter, at Juno, and
to the plantation of both old and young plants on Boea Chica Key. |
Beyond these plantations I do not know of any tracis of sisal hemp
plants not growing in a state of nature and composed of small thickets,
or of groups of more or less scattered plants.

These wild growths are very valuable to us, however, as furnishing
a certain supply of young plants for future commercial plantations, and
the promoters of the new industry should be able to draw from them a _
considerable quantity of nursery stock, or young plants. To make
the most of the available stock of young plants the times of “ poling,” or
blossoming, should be closely watched, and the offspring carefully col-
lected when in their prime, that none may be lost. Arrangements may
be made with the owners of the different keys, or islands, when the
plants are found in numbers, or with the owners of mainland tracts,
and by cruising back and forth during a couple of months in the early
part of the year, when the old plants are poling in greatest numbers, a
large supply of young plants may be secured. Asis shown on other —
pages, from one to two thousand of these plants may be secured from
a single mast, 100 old plants supplying at least 150,000 of the pole
plants without counting the suckers also obtainable. Thus a single
42

a

hundred old plants in bloom would furnish a supply sufficient to plant
at least 200 acres. S

As to the cost of young plants Mr. Bier tells me the price in his vi-
cinity is a cent apiece, though the Bahamans paid as a rule something
less, the lowest price being 7 cents a dozen; and some were taken with-
outany payment. Both the Mexican and Bahamian governments have
very stringent prohibitory laws against the exportation of these fiber
plants, old or young. The State of Florida should certainly profit by this
example, and place upon the statute books of the State, without delay,
such an enactment as will preserve to the future use of the State all its
available resources in this direction. The attention of the State au-
thorities has been called to the matter, and as the aid of the Federal
Government has been invoked in the establishing of this culture, the
State of Florida should do all in its power to preserve existing supplies
of plants, with which to build up an meus worth millions of dollars”
to its people.

The prohibitory regulations of other countries, from which supplies
might be obtained, make it obligatory upon the people of Florida to
protect themselves. In a letter from Mr. Van Buren upon this subject
received last fall he says:
The regulations of the Bahamas make it impossible for us to get the plants, except :
at a large cost, $40 per 1000, and a risk of fine and imprisonment besides. I have
also a letter recently from the United States consul at Honduras, stating the same
facts, and that the price there would be $50 per 1000, the government having im-
posed heavy duties to prevent their exportation. In view of these facts I would

respectfully suggest that our Government should take steps to prevent plants being
exportcd from our country.

It is a matter of regret that the aaey of $15 per ‘ton on sisal hemp
could not have remained operative. However, when the time comes,
and plantations have been established, and we know something definite:
as to the cost of producing the fiber for market in Florida, it might be
advantageous to allow a similar bounty on the fiber produced as that
offered by the Bahamian government, namely, 1 cent per pound. I
would favor the granting of such bounty for a period of 5 years, upon
evidence that it was needed by the growers to enable them to establish
the industry on a remunerative basis.

In establishing sisal hemp plantations, it should be understood at the
outset that small plantations, put out by individuals, isolated from each
other, will not pay. A large tract is necessary for economical production
of fiber, that the work of cutting the leaves and shipping the fiber may
be systematically continued, for the most part, through the year. This
is the system in vogue in Yucatan and the Bahamas, and we must fol-
low it in Florida. Mr. Cleminson, writing upon this point, says:

.With regard to my own experience in Florida, it is certainly experimental, as I
have had no returns. I have 50,000 plants one year old in nursery form, and 10
acres planted out with 2-year old plants. So far as the growth is considered it is

satisfactory, but it requires about 500 acres to pu ceoeetuy enable one to operate
machinery economically.
43

“ In the case of individual growers, in a community, the desired result
| may be attained by cooperation, and particularly when the plantations
are reasonably contiguous. This will enable securing the fiber without
undue expense for transportation of the raw material to the machine.
A word regarding past efforts in this direction: Published record
shows that at various times during the last 40 years individuals have
been interested in the growth of sisal hemp in Florida, though these
efforts have gone no further than preparing small experimental lots of
fiber, to demonstrate the possibility of establishing the industry.

Mr. J. J. Philbrick, a prominent citizen of Key West, informs me
that about 1870 sisal hemp production was attempted at Key West,
the leaves being grown on Key West at what is called the Salt Pond
tract. Fifty tons of fiber were gotten out bya home machine and shipped
~ to New York, the cost of production of the fiber being 124 cents per
' pound, The machine was invented, I think, by John H. Null. The sup-

ply of leaves was derived from the plants growing wild in thickets. In

this experiment it was demonstrated that 16 pounds of leaves would
produce one pound of fiber.

In conelusion J must emphasize the importance of familiarizing our-
selves with every phase of this culture as it relates to Florida, that the
industry may be built up upon practical experience and a perfect know!-
edge of existing conditions in the localities where the home fiber is to
be produced. The experience of the Yucatan and Bahama growers is
valuable, but we must not rely upon it alone. It will be the aim of the
Department, therefore, through its investigations, to record and dis-
« seminate all available information on the subject and to conduct experi-
ments, and aid the industry in other ways as far as the limit of its
power and means. And to this end the cooperation of all persons in-
- terested in the subject is earnestly desired. »

OTHER LEAF FIBERS.

While in Fiorida several other plants furnishing foliaceous fibers
were observed, regarding which a few statements should be made in
this report, as they were subjects of investigation in connection with
my studies of the Agave sisalana. On previous pages reference has
been made to a plant frequently met with in Florida, which had been.
mistaken for the true sisal hemp plant, and which I was not able to
identify, botanically speaking, as none of the plants were in bloom at the
time of my visit. Some plants about to flower, however, were marked,
and correspondents of the Department residing in their neighborhood
will, at the proper time, forward flowers and leaves. The plants so
closely resemble species of Furcrwa that at one time I thought they
must be referred to this genus. Recently, however, Mr. William R, |
Smith, superintendent of the U.S. Botanical Gardens, has identified
the plant as Agave Mexicana, as there are a number of the plants grow-
ing at the Botanic Gardens. A photograph of a mass of these plants,
A4

growing on a shell mound near Jupiter, is reproduced in Plate VIt.°
Although not distinctly shown in the photograph, each of these mature
plants had developed a foot-stalk several feet in length, clothed with
the dead and dried old leaves. In Plate vit will be seen two of these
plants from the Department collection, the larger one from the Gulf
coast, the smaller from the Lake Worth region. .As this form of Agave
comes nearest to the genus Furcrea in point of general resemblance,
short descriptions of two species of Murcrea will not be out of place.

Furerea gigantea.—Giant lily. This is also the Cabouya, or Cabwa,
of the West Indies and South America. The plant is closely allied to
the agaves, and is found throughout tropical America. It grows in
Algeria and Natal, and is cultivated in St. Helenaand Mauritius. It has
also been introduced into Madras and in Australia. Itis of moderately
quick growth and attains great perfection. Like the agaves, these
plants have long-lived massive stems, immense fleshy leaves, and pro-
duce their flowers after many years upon tall central stems, in pyra-
midal, candelabra-like form.

The fiber is very similar to that of the agaves, and indeed is some.
times called pita,’ particularly in South America. In Brazil it is called
peteria, and is described as “a white fiber of a silken luster, but of
little tenacity.” In Venezuela it is called cocuisa. Dr. Harnest, in the
catalogue of the Venezuelan department (Exhibition, 1876), states that
the fiber is very strong, and is used for cordage and gunny bags. Itis
prepared in the same manner as sisal hemp. Samples of the Venezue-
lan specimens are dyed in aniline, to show that it will take color.

The plant is grown largely for fiber at St. Helena and Mauritius, and
in the London market the product is known as Mauritius hemp. In the
Kew Bulletin for March, 1887, the plant grown in Africa is described as ©
having leaves 4 to 7 feet long; 4 to 6 inches broad at the middle, un-
armed, light green in color, channeled down the face. The leaves of
the plant I refer to in Florida are heavily armed.

Furerea cubensis.—In this species the leaves are generally armed
with long spines. It is sometimes known as silk grass, and is common |
in tropical America. Dr. Parry found the plant growing common in
Santo Domingo in 1871, and brought back with him to the Department
samples of the fiber. Neference has been made to this species on page
12 of this report, where the form of leaf is described. Dr. Morris, of

1The term ‘‘ pita” has been given to the fiber of several distinct species of fleshy
leaved plants, and is on this account confusing as a name to distinguish any par-
ticular kind of fiber. In fact its meaning is ‘ fiber,” and its use is frequently con-.
founded with other words, as for example, ‘‘pita de corojo,” meaning simply the fiber
of the corojo palm. Ont of the many instances where the term ‘ pita” is used alone
to designate a particular kind of fiber I can recall three which are noteworthy, as
follows: The fiber of Agave Americana, of Furcrea gigantea (as above), and Bro-
melia sylvestris. I think the name should either be abandoned altogether or used
exclusively to designate the fiber of dgave Americana, to which it has been most com-
monly applied. |
45

the Royal Gardens at Kew, states that the plant is common in J amaica,
where it could be readily cultivated if desired. He describes the fiber
as white, strong, and bright looking, and that it yields at the rate of
2.05 to 3.15 per cent by weight of green leaves. The value of the fiber
in the London market is stated to be about £28 per ton.

In Dr. Schott’s article in the Annual Report of this Department for
1868, the ‘‘ cajun” or Furcrea cubensis is figured opposite to page 259.
This shows that the plant produces a vast number of narrow leaves, a
peculiarity I noted in the plants mistaken for sisal in Florida, and at
the time of my visit I believed that it was growing abundantly in |
Florida, and was the species mistaken for the true sisal hemp both by
Bahama and Florida cultivators. (See Plates vit and VIII.) |

Agave Americana.—This is the century plant or American aloe, which
is now found growing in many parts of the world. It gives a brilliant
fiber of considerable strength, which is useful for many purposes. The
Indians of Mexico and Arizona use it for saddlecloths and cordage.
The “saddlecloths” are not woven, but are merely masses of fiber of
regular thickness, tacked with thread at regular distances, in the same
manner that mattresses are secured and their hair keptin place. Inthe
West Indies it 1s employed by the negroes for making cordage, ham-
- mocks, and fishing-lines, and in Mexico is utilized in the manufacture of
ropes for use in the mines, and in some cases for the rigging of ships.
In South America it has even been used for large cables. Humboldt
mentions a bridge in Quito with a span of 130 feet constructed of ropes
_ of agave fiber, some of them 4 inches in diameter.

Among other uses of this agave it is employed in portions of southern

Europe as a hedge plant, the spiny leaves particularly adapting it for
the purpose. Soap is also manufactured from the juice, and the fresh
' leaves cut in slices are occasionally used for food for cattle. The most
‘important product, however, is the sap, which forms an intoxicating
liquor known as pulque, from which a kind of brandy is manufactured,
as a further product, known as aguardiente de maguay. (See further
remarks on this subject under Agave Mewicana.)
The plant is so well known from the examples to be met with in our
conservatories that a description seems hardly necessary ; however, the
- leaves are from 3 to 6 feet in length, are thick and fleshy, and formed
of hard, pulpy matter intermixed with the fibers; they are armed with
Sharp spines, both at the point of the leaf and along the margins.

This well-known form of agave is growing in portions of Florida, to-
gether with quite a number of unidentified species, some of which are
doubtless derived from plants introduced by Dr. Perrine. They are
all interesting, but it will not be possible to consider them in this pres-
ent report. The foliaceous fiber plants will, however, be treated in a
separate bulletin, to follow the sisal hemp report, which will be issued
before the close of the year.

Agave Mexicana.—There appears to be great confusion in the state-
46

ments of botanical authorities and industrial writers regarding this
species, some claiming that it is the chief plant from which the liquors
known as pulque and mescall are derived, while others state that Agave
Americana is the species usually meant. I have reason to believe that
A. Americana is the pulque plant, and that a variety of this species has
been called erroneously A. Mexicana. In Perrine’s report, published in
1838, this writer says: ‘‘ The botanical errors of the notorious Humboldt,
under the head of Agave Americana alone, have occasioned incalculable
damage to the world in general, and to the United States in particular.”
But I think Perrine is himself in error in regard to Agave Mexicana.
On Plate II of the report of 1838 (Senate Document 300, Twenty-fifth
~ Congress), this species is figured as “the pulque plant.” In the illus-
tration the width of the leaf is shown to be one-fifth the entire length,
making a leaf 24 feet long, 6 inches broad—a very good illustration of
leaves of Americana that I have seen recently. In Baker’s monograph
of the Agaves, the leaf of Mexicana is described as much narrower.
There is no more variable species of Agave than Americana, and it is
probable that Perrine figured a variety of this species as Mexicana. In
a communication received from Mr. T. Albee Smith some months ago,
this statement occurs :

‘¢ There is no doubt but that the fiber I have here is from the leaves
of the Agave Americana, American Aloe, Century Plant, Maguey, which
is the plant from which the Agua miel is taken, and when fermented is
pulque, the Mexican drink. The error seems to be in calling the Amer-
icana by the name Mexicana, and vice versa.”

Dr. Palmer tells me that pulque is made from several species of
Agaves—any species, in fact, with a crown sufficiently large to be
scooped out to form a receiving reservoir for the liquor as it exudes.
He also informs me that the crown of Mexicana is eaten roasted, a
statement that has been made before. The matter will be made the
subject of early investigation, and by the time my next bulletin on leaf _
fiber plants is ready, I hope to be able to make authoritative statements
regarding the two species.

Within afew days living plants of the false sisal (so-called) were
submitted to Mr. Wiliam R. Smith, who identified them with plants
growing at the United States Botanic Gardens, and unhesitatingly pro-
nounced them A. Mexicana. Mr. Smith’s plants resemble in every par-
ticular the plants I found in Florida, two of which were photographed
for the illustration on Plate VIII. Fig. 2 is the typical form.

In Mr. Edgar Bacon’s article, previously referred to, I find a state-
ment that a gentleman in Jamaica with 500 acres prepared for hemp
planting, showed him the plants which he proposed to use, and which
were imagined to be good sisal plants. ‘These were the valueless Ke-
ratto.” Iam not acquainted with the plant referred to as Keratto, but
in Hensley’s Biologia Centrali-Americana I find Agave keratto given as
a synonym of A. Mexicana.
Al

As soon as our fiber-cleaning machine is in position on the grounds
of the Department, we shall prepare the fiber from some of these leaves
for examination. In the Kew bulletin for 1887, p. 10, the fiber of Ke-
yatto is described as follows: * Little strength: not an even (but a
curly) fiber: towy: value, £12 to £14 per ton.” In other words, a
worthless fiber. :

This is aS much as can be said concerning this so-called false sisal
plant of Florida until the matter has been further investigated. The
illusteations, Plates vit and vitt, will show the form of plant that is |
meant and the manner of growing in the wild state. I have begun a
collection of living fiber plants, particularly those producing the leaf:
fibers, and hope in time to be able to show all the species of commer-
cial importance; and I have no doubt it will be found that the name
Mexicana has been loosely applied to several Sees oF the agaves by
industrial writers and others.

Sanseviera zeylanica.—l have found this plant growing in several
localities in southern Florida. There are three principal species of San-
seviera which produce good fiber, 8. guineensis furnishing the famous
African or bow-string hemp. Samples of the latter species, recently
secured from Trinidad, are nearly 6 feet long, very strong, white, and
lustrous, and considerably finer and superior to sisal hemp. Samples
of fiber obtained from the Florida species have been received and com-
pared favorably with the Trinidad samples. Leaves of 8. zeylanica
sent to the Department from Boca Chica Key measured 6 feet in length,
though botanical authorities state that the normal length of leaf is from
2 to 3 feet. The plants grow rapidly, in masses, and when mature can
be cut with a scythe as one would mow grass, and it is said will grow
up again in 18 months.
page 13 of this report.

APPENDIX A.

NOTES ON THE AGAVE RIGIDA, VAR. SISALANA.

In Dr. Engelmann’s notes on the different species of agave, pub-
lished in his memoirs (pp. 312-313), the following botanical considera-
tions, relating particularly to the variety of plant introduced into Flor-
ida by Dr. Perrine, are set forth. The notes are of sufficient general
interest to be republished entire:

The original plant was, according to Miller, brought from Vera Cruz; my speci-
mens, on which the above diagnosis is based, were collected in Yucatan by Dr.
Schott. Dr. Perrine forty, and Dr. Schott ten, years ago! studied in Yucatan this
interesting plant, its various forms and economical uses, and left us accounts of it,
the former in Senate Doc. 300, Washington, Mar. 12, 1838; the latter in the report of
the Agricultural Department at Washington for 1869. Both agree that there is a
common native species in Yucatan called chelem by the aboriginal inhabitants; but
from time immemorial a number of varieties, all characterized by much longer leaves,
and one also by the absence of marginal spines, and differing among themselves in
the quantity and quality of their fiber, have been cultivated by the natives of Yuca-
tan, and are a staple product of that country to this day, furnishing the well-known
sisalhemp. The people know them as Jenequen (Schott) or Henequen (Perrine), and
distinguish, as [317 (29)] Dr. Schott reports, the yaxci (yashki) as furnishing the
best quality and the sacci (sacqui) with the largest quantity of fiber; chucwmei,
larger than the last, produces coarser fiber; babci has fine fiber but in smaller quan-
tity; citamci, with small narrow leaves and poor fiber, stands probably nearest to
the wild plant. Dr. Perrine mentions another variety, istle, evidently the iwili of
Karwinski, as furnishing a fine fiber called pita. These plants yield a return of
leaves when 4 or 5 years old, and may last 50 or 60 years under proper management;
the flowering scape is cut off as soon as 4 feet high, when, evidently, . axillary
branches continue the growth of the plant, which is thus kept so long alive by being
prevented from flowering. es

The trunk of the wild plant of Yucatan—which Irefer with little doubt to Miller’s
old A. rigida—is 1 to 2 foot high, leaves 14 to 2 feet long, and as many inches wide,
contracted above the broader base and widest about the middle; lateral teeth three-
fourths or even 1 inch apart, mostly straight, from a broad base 1 to 2 lines long,
rather unequal, with smaller ones interspersed dark brown; terminal spine 1 inch
long, 12 lines in diameter, straight or often somewhat twisted, terete, scooped out at
base but not channeled, dark red-brown, a dark corneous margin extending down
the leaf edge for several inches and bearing the uppermost teeth. Scape 12 to 15 feet
high; flowers pale yellowish-green, 24 to 24 inches long, perigone 16, tube 6 to 7,
lobes 9 to 10 lines long; stamens inserted about the middle of the tube, ‘‘ blood-red.
upwards,” 1 inch longer than the perigone; anthers 10 to 104 lines long; styles at
last as long as stamens. 3



'This paper originally appeared in the Trans. St. Louis Acad. Sci. for Dec. 1875.
28040—No. 2 4, 49


20

A, Ixtli, which in 1872 flowered in the gardens of the late Mr. Thuret, at Antibes,
is entirely similar, flowers of the same dimensions, anthers a little larger (114 lines
long); capsules, which grow with the bulbs on the same panicle, oval, over 2 inches
long, 14 wide, very short, stipitate; seeds uncommonly large, 44 lines high, with a
ventral hilum (in many other agaves I find the hilum more basal, a character which
may be of some value). I believe this is the first time that the flowers of the Ixtli
have been described; they identify the plant with the old A. rigida, or at least the
above-described Sree A, Karwinskii, Zucc., is probably the same thing.

With the name of longifolia I designate the variety known as Sacci, and Seiensieoe
cultivated in [318(30)] Yueatan. It is principally distinguished by its much longer.
spiny leaves, 4 to 54 feet long, 34 to 4 inches wide; flowers very similar to those of
the wild plant, but filaments greenish. 4. fourcroides, Jacobi, Ag. 107, probably be-
longs here, and A. elongata, Jacobi, 108, I would also refer to this form if the descrip-
tion did not expressly mention a channeled terminal spine.

Agave sisalana is the name that Dr. Perrine gave to the plant known to the natives
of Yucatan as Yaxci, the most valuable of the fiber-producing agaves, and which
was introduced by him into south Florida some 35 or 40 years ago, during his
efforts to acclimatize commercially valuable tropical plants in that almost tropical
portion of our territory, efforts which were aided by Congress by a large grant of
land, but which were destroyed, together with his own life, during the subsequent
Indian wars. With this agaye, however, he has been successful, as it is now fully
naturalized and is quite abundant at Key West and the adjacent coast. Dr. Parry
found it there in full bloom in February, 1871, and gives the following description of
it: Trunk short, leaves pale green but not glaucous, 4 to 6 feet long and 4 to 6 inches
wide, generally smooth-edged, but here and there bearing a few unequal, sometimes
very stout and sharp teeth; termina] spine stout, often twisted, purplish-black ;
scape 20 to 25 feet high, panicle 8 feet long and half as wide. One of the largest
plants examined had 35 branches in the panicle, the largest (near the middle)
2 feet long, upper and lower onesshorter. The flowers are slightly larger than those
described, with a shorter, thicker ovary, stamens inserted a little higher up in the
tube. The plants bore no fruit, but produced an abundance of buds, by which they
propagate themselves and from which this interesting form has been multiplied in
this country and in Europe.

If this plant is, as is most probable, only a cultivated variety of A. rigida, it is of
the greatest importance,for the study and the understanding of the agaves, indicat-
ing, as it does, the extent of variation which they may undergo. 1t shows that the
size of leaf and scape and color of leaf are of no great specific value, and also that
the presence or absence of spiny teeth on the margin is not an unalterable character,
not any more than the [319 (31)] cartilaginous margin decurrent from the terminal
spine. The presence of a trunk, the proportions of the leaf (in A. rigida and all its
varieties the length equals 12 to 14 times the width), probably the form of the terminal
spine, the character of the inflorescence, and, above all, the form and proportions of.
the flower and its parts, remain constant, and perhaps also the proliferous character
of the inflorescence of some species.

The following extract, with further considerations upon the same
subject, is taken from the Kew Bulletin for March, 1887:

Under this term (sisal hemp) are included fibers derived from probably more than
one species of agave, and it is probable also that one species of Furcrewa is used.
According to the locality where the industry is carried on or the port of shipment 7
the fiber produced in Yucatan is called sisal hemp, whidh is the recognized name in
the English market ; or Jenequen or Henequen hemp, which would appear to be the
term more commonly used in the United States. Pita is another Central American |
_ fiber, but whether the produce of an agave (A. americana) or of a Bromeliad (Karatas —
plumiert) is not quite clear. Probably it is loosely applied to both.
ol

- As regards the species of agave yielding sisal hemp, Miller first described A. rigida
(Dict. Ed. 8, 1768) in the following words: ‘Long, narrow, stiff leaves, entire, and
terminated by a stiff black spine. These leaves are seldom more than 2 feet long,
little more than an inch broad, being of a glaucous color. The side leaves stand
almost horizontally, but the center leaves are folded over each other and inclose the
flower-bud.”

This may be accepted in a large sense as the representative species, of which there
are several subspecies and varieties cultivated by the natives of Yucatan from time
immemorial.

According to Dr. Engelmann (see the preceding), a common native species in Yu-
catan called chelem by the aboriginal inhabitants is identical with Agave rigida of
Miller, but a number of varieties, characterized by longer leaves or the absence of
spines, have been recognized, to which names more or less distinct are now applied.

Mr. Baker has given a synopsis of the genus agave in the Gardener’s Chronicle
(Vols. vit and VIII, new series, 1877). The plants mentioned below are included
under the group Rigidw, having the edge of the thin horny leaf without any distinct
border and the teeth (when present) small but distinct and deltoid. He remarks
that this is a considerable group, of which 4. lurida and A. rigida may be regarded
as the types intermediate between the groups Americane and Aloidee.

From a study of plants at Kew, Mr. Baker was inclined to look upon 4. Jvxtli, Karw.,
as the type, and A. rigida, Mill., A. elongata, Jacobi, and A. sisalana, Perrine, as
synonyms or varieties. But as in the first place A. rigida, Mill., has the priority in
point of time, and (if we follow Dr. Engelmann) also represents the old aboriginal
fiber plant of Yucatan (the chelem), it would be better to retain this as the aggre-
gate species, and place the others among the varieties which have arisen in course of
long cultivation in different parts of the peninsula of Yucatan. We have then,

A. Riegipa, Mill. :
var. 1. A Ivtli, Karw.; A. ixtlioides; H. K. leaves 1} feet long, teeth distant.
2, A. elongata, Jacobi; leaves 4 to 5 feet., glaucescent and toothed.
3. d. sisalana, Perrine; leaves 4 to 6 feet long, pale green, not glaucous,
generally without teeth.
APPENDIX B.

THE SISAL HEMP INDUSTRY IN THE BAHAMAS,

The following official report regarding the condition of the sisal hemp
industry of the Bahamas was made to the State Department in Jan-
uary, 1890, by Consul Thos. J. McLain. The report is so interesting
and valuable that it is reproduced entire:

One year ago I made a report to the Department upon the culture of sisal hemp in
this colony, calling attention to it as a new industry just being introduced, and
which promised to bring substantial prosperity to these isiands in the near future.

During the year, and especially within the last few months, so many letters have
been received at this consulate from various parts of the United States, making in-
quiries upon the subject, that I am satisfied a statement touching the present condi-
tion of the industry would interest many of our people, and I therefore submit the
following: |

The progress made in the development of sisal culture in the Bahamas during the
past 12 months is marvelous. One year ago there was scarcely a dollar of foreign
capital, and very little local, investedin this businessin the colony, while to-day
parties from Great Britain, Canada, and Newfoundland, representing large resources,
are interested in sisal, have bought tens of thousands of acres of Government land,
and are industriously engaged in clearing and planting the same to the full measure
of their ability to procure the material. A local stock company styled the Bahama
Hemp Company, organized and managed by Nassau capitalists exclusively, has also
purchased a large tract of land and is developing thesame, whilst thousands of acres
are being planted in every direction by individual owners of small pieces. American
capital up to this date, I regret to say, for it is to its own disadvantage, has been
conspicuous by its absence. One company, however, styled the Inagua Hemp Com- -
pany, organized under the laws of the State of New Jersey, with D. D. Sargent, United
States consular agent at Inagua, as manager, has lately procured about 1,200 acres at
Inagua and has begun operations. |

Messrs. Munroe & Co., of St. John’s, Newfoundland, have obtained a grant of
18,000 acres of crown land at Abaco, and are planting the same. Another tract of
20,000 acres has been allotted to a London company on the same island. Mr. Alex.
Keith, of Edinburgh, Scotland, has taken 2,000 acres on Andros Island, and is work-
ing upon it. But the largest demand has been lately made by two London com-
panies, who are said to be applying for not less than 200,000 acres between them.
Many applications for land have not been reached at all as yet on the files, the
surveyor-general’s department being hard pushed in the matter of surveys and loca-
tions, whilst new applications are being constantly received and have to await their
turn for consideration. So much land has been taken up that the governor, a short
time ago, advanced the price of crown land from $1.25 per acre, the ordinary price,
to $4 per acre, withholding also the benefit of the bounty. And lately it has been
decided to seli no more large allotments of crown land at present, the quantity

o2
53

already allotted with a view to cultivation being as great as the condition of labor in
the colony will justify. The number of acres of crown land already disposed of is
about 120,000 acres, whilst pending applications on file and not yet reached will
amount to at least 200,000 more.

This substantial withdrawal of crown land is creating some movement i in real es-
tate-—as is natural under the circumstances—between private parties, some old prop-
erties changing hands at prices duuble and treble their supposed value 2 years ago.
Persons buying private lands and cultivating them will share in the bounty of 1 cent
per pound provided by law on all fiber raised and exported. Private lands in New
Providence can be bought, unimproved, for from $8 to $12 per acre, and for less on the
out islands.

The employment given to laborers in clearing land and in setting out plants has
already put considerable money into circulation, the beneficial! effects of which are
being felt in various quarters. There has been no special advance in the price of
labor, field hands commanding from 40 to 60 cents per day, and finding themselves.
Each month, however, witnesses a large increase in the number of those who find
remunerative employment, and pleasant relations obtained between employers and
employed.

The labor question has been and is one that here, as elsewhere, requires delicate
treatment; but it has been skillfully met by Sir Ambrose Shea, the governor, who, long
ago perceiving that to permit investors to locate upon adjoining lands would induce
sharp competition in wages in thinly settled districts, adopted the plan of scattering
the allotments about the different islands, or in localities remote from each other on
the same island, so that each settlement should have its share of the benefits of the
new industry by obtaining, at fair wages, employment for its local labor. In this
way, also, a surplus of labor at one point and a scarcity at some other has been
avoided. When the entire laboring population becomes employed, as will happen
before long at the present rate of development, a new phase of the labor question
will arise; but that time is yet in the future, and the remedy can be applied when
the situation demands it.

Small shipments of fiber continue to be made by nearly every steamer, a few old
plantings furnishing the material. It is not likely that shipments in any quantity
will be possible under 2 years, but after that time an enormous increase may begin
to be looked for, increasing steadily as new fields come into bearing, until the an-
nual exports of the colony, which now average about $600,000, will leap well into —
the millious, as amoment’s reflection will show. It is a very low estimate to expect
half a ton of fiber per acre, and a very low estimate to call it worth $100 per ton, for
it is worth over $200 per ton in the world’s market to-day. When even the present
quantity of land sold and applied for, to wit, 300,000 acres, is bearing, which ought
to happen within 5 or 6 years, it will produce 150,000 tons a year, worth $15,000,000,
an increase of prosperity that sounds more like a fairy tale than a strong probability
deduced from reasonable figures. And yet 300,000 acres is but a small portion of the
uncultivated lands within the limits of the Bahamas.

It is estimated that about 6,000 acres of land have already been planted in sisal
(a plantation once started needs no replanting for many years), and that many ad-
ditional ones have been made and cleared and made ready for the plants, the obtain-
ing of which has been almost impossible, the industry being seriously retarded
thereby. The price paid for plants has risen from 6 cents per dozen to 36 cents, 80
ereat has been the demand; but the price will now decline rapidly, since the supply
of plants is developing enormously, about 2,000,000 being now available for plant-
ing, and others coming on speedily. The pita plant is being found on all the islands
- growing wild, and the stock of old plants is very great. From the center of the old
plant rises a pole about 16 feet in length, on the branches of which small plants grow,
averaging a thousand to each pole, and from these poles a vast supply is coming into
market, creating a profitable business; for what were 2 years ago only noxious weeds
54

have all at once become worth $20 a piece for pole plants alone. Quantities of old
plants have lately been discovered growing on the cays along the Florida coast, and
small schooners are already buying these up and bringing them here for sale. This
fact suggests the question whether this new hemp industry, which is about to revo-
lutionize the condition of the Bahamas, may not be also developed in the southern
portion of Florida. The plants are there found growing wild just as they are in
these islands, and they flourish best in dry, sandy soil, fit for little else. I would
earnestly call the attention of the Department of Agriculture to this matter, and sug-
gest the propriety of lodking-into it, and of calling the notice of the people of Flor-
‘ida to this possible source of wealth and prosperity. The conditions of soil, climate,
ete., which makeits culture a success here may not obtain there, but the simple fact
that the plant is found growing wild in Florida is of itself a consideration that
should warrant an investigation at the hands of the Department.

The unexampled success of sisal industry in so brief a period in this colony is
entirely attributable to the business-like, systematic manner in which it has been
managed by the present governor, Sir Ambrose Shea, who has all along taken a most
earnest interest in the matter. He is a man of large experience in affairs and had
practical knowledge of the proper way to manage industrial enterpriscs. From the
start he realized that this industry would be the salvation of the Bahamas, and, set-
ting his heart upon it, he pushed it forward with great energy and prudence, over-
coming numerous difficulties, surmounting obstacles, encouraging the faint-hearted,
until now the people are touched with his own enthusiasm, and the industry is fairly
afloat. He visited England, and by personal effort enlisted capitalists and procured
large investments. To Sir Ambrose Shea the colonists owe a large debt of gratitude ;
and when the signal prosperty, whichis already hanging over the island, shall have
been developed to its full measure, they will more perfectly realize how, not only
their individual interests, but those of outside investors, have been wisely and pru-
dently promoted and guarded, from the very inception of the industry, by the prac-
tical, discreet, and conservative action of the governor.

There can be no doubt or question as to the success of sisal culture in this colony.
It has passed far beyond the experimental stage, and is giving daily evidence that it
will become a source of wealth to all concerned. The combined conditions of soil
and climate especially adapted to the growth of first-class fiber give this colony a
marked advantage over other West Indian islands, where the plants may grow lux-
uriantly enough, but will be found deficient in good, strong fiber. The poorer and
more sterile the soil the better the result, and here the plant flourishes where ordi-
nary vegetation seems almost impossible. It is a plantof unfailing growth; it will
live without rain to moisten the soil; you can scarcely exterminate it if you try; it
requires but little cultivation, and at the expense below that of almost any euler
agricultural product; and its value is substantial.

As two-thirds of the trade of the Bahamas is now with the United States; as their
only steam communication with the outside world is by a subsidized line of American
steam-ships running between Nassau and New York; as their increased wealth and
prosperity means a larger and more profitable commercial intercourse with our own
country, we should view this coming development of their material interests with
pleasure, and with the warmest wishes for its complete success.

In conclusion I would add that I have sent by this mail four samples of fe Bahama
fiber for the information and satisfaction of the State Department, believing that the
same wouid be of sufficient interest to justify me in so doing. These specimens are
not specially selected but are only fair samples of the average fiber which is now
being grown and shipped from the colony. Two of them have still attached a stub,
or portion of the butt end of the leaf, which was purposely not passed through the
machine, showing the character of the sisal plant whence extracted.
5D

I append a tabulated statement, showing the present extent of sisal
cultivation throughout the Bahamian colony, from Mr. Rae’s report,
January, 1891.



Young plants
(estimated) ouckore oy
to Hepros |e ae he ©
Acres Plants Plants | cured during Ae EG ur-
Name of island. planted | planted in | growing in| the ensuing ing A Soatin
with sisal. | fields. nurseries. | 6months |/78 0 montis

from plants

{rom plants that are now

thatare now

in pole. Blows:
PAID AGO; a cies nee eee cect scan om care aie 1,977 | 1, 228, 000 708, 000 362, 000 395, 000
ANGTOS 2200s sa es Se otis pees wie eae 214 | 124, 000 31, 000 - 10, 000 45, 000
Cateislants s. asccesce ese w eee sce 130 116, 000 7, 000 40, 000 60, 000
Crooked Island ..22. 2... c.05. 2-2. Joe. - 65 50002 enc eesacewe| eae un seas come 2, 500
Hortine [sland s22 soo ea cece 5 510007 |- 5282. ec Slower cee eee 2, 000
Mleutherassseess see eee cee 15 12, 000 5008 sree ee 7, 000
SERA seen eee eeuien seas ese cic 45 29, 000 31, 000 65, 000 17, 000
Grand’ Banamasccscs cone ncce scales vs 10 7, 000 50, 000 50, 000 5, 000
HanporeEslandsconees cuewcece ccc ses 109 135, 000 88, 000 88, 000 90, 000
PRAGU Ds oslo an cies Rule Gaeta eis oats 160 103, 500 20, 000 3, 000 20, 000
WoneslslanQise ce cocci oetasee ses see as 67 43, 000 46, 000 75, 000 25, 000
New Providence <..ccecewscccce sce: 1, 300 730, 000 300, 000 200, 000 250, 000
aroun lsland sconce onc eee ce a cias 5 2, 500 1, 000 500 1, 000
MMO Vise eee eee re lee sia as sete 153 90, 500 50, 000 39, 000 40, 000
San Salvador, or Watling’s.......... 4 2,000 sec oueccm eas 5, 000 1, 000

in a | a es ni | en et rs | | TS

4,199 | 2,633,000 | 1, 332, 500 937,560 | —-960, 500

———

INDEX

A,
Page
Acknowledoments ssssies sees cole oe ee ee es oe en ee ee 8
(Noave. Mexicana yos0o. s. 6025 ee. 5 2 5 SS ee a ee 15, 45
agave rigida, botanical considerations=..2...-22...- 22) 2-23) ee 49-51
A ClONG OLA ee oe ea eee es eo a ee 51.
At ACO oe Pree os See ee tae ee ae ee ee ee ee 50, 51
A AMONGUf OUD resi e ce Sale Se ON I ge Be ee 51
A BUSHLAND Ses e ae ee ae POOR SS Ee aS ee eee 49, 51
Agave rigida var. sisalana, description and outline of leaf. ..........--...... 12,13
Comparison of the smooth and spined forms .-.--.....-..----..-------.-- 12
Aoe Of usefulness of @ sisal plant: 22.2.0 co ee ee 25
Ancientauses Of Agave fberso22o 0-2 Se ee 7
B.
PeBabCi OM GL AOA Gccc. a0 os ceca ee es. ee eee ee Koen cee ee 11
Bacon, Hdear M., statements Of >. 2. 222s cose eee 20, 23
Blossominge: of old plants, time Of.-22. 2222-2: 3 23, 24
Botanical considerations ...:-.:---...-.....- Powe Loe oe ae meee 11, 49, 50
OF :
eC abu War ome aoc csi oo ee eee ee ec ee ere 11
“Cajun? or ““Cahun 22: NS a ee Oe ae Ae ce 11
@helem 7 form of Avavess. 222-1. 622 ee i
“Chucumel form of Avaves20.-.52 2225.66 ee 11
a Citamci?” form ok Agave 22.0 6 23 es ee Se ee 11
Cleaning the fiber 202 228s. ee Goo es ee a ee eee 31-40
Barraclough cleaning machine... 222.2. 22..22-5..6 2 =<: Pe ie ee 3
Death's cleanine machinors. sins cies oe oe ee 30
Raspadorn “De 23: 25.6 sone eee te ee ee ee 32, 33, 34
Rude native methods 220: 2 ee ecueeee S 31, 32
Smith: GP Albee) machine ses2c2. ss oes eee se ee eee : 39
Tropical fiber machine (EK. R. Van Buren’s patent)....------ Ao eee aes 37
Other machines 222s o 12a ee ee ee 33
Clearine: land, method in the Bahamas 4. -4.5..25- 3 20
cost of,in Florida......- Kel AG ee SO Oe Sn re te 20
Cost of production, table of...-.....-.. ES A ee 30
Culture, soiltand climaters: 222 25 92522, ee is Ee Bae eee eee 16-23
frost line, limits of sate cultivation :: 22.2.5 2.0.25 2-7 16
NOCOSSILY: LOL es hess So eee ee cies Oe oi» See ee ee cre 22, 25
weeding and care atter planting. 2. 222-2. 2-252 2-. =. =--. 22
D.
Drying the fiber. ces <-c.e. 0222p ese ee ee 40,41
E.
Page
Engelmann, Dr. George, review and conclusions .......-.-...-----.-..----- 11, 49
Extracting the tibor 66. ee ee ees 31, 40
F,
False sisal (so called) ......-..- Bean See eee se eh ae oe es Seas 46
Hiresplants injured Dy.2. see se ee 20
WlOwer stalk or pole. a ee 93
ETOSt, plants IMyjUned: Dysses.. Soles cs te ee Ce eee 16
HAUNCE@O CULERNIS 25. oe Be ee sae nein eo ceeoe ne tia ee ee en ie 12,44
OG ONC eee ee es ss ee ee Ss 44
: H. :
itardiness*of the sisal plant: 2.2222 a es 24
REA INV-OS LINO Rese Stee Eee ee ee ee a eee ee een ore 25-30
LM NIC Abate oe eee se ee eee eee es 20
En eQUen Stet es <2 2e Seco oe a ee a ee ie 11
MIStOLi Cal BtatemMments cos. ses. Sas ee ee eee 7,9
3 I. : :
Industry in the Bahamas, extracts........----..----+/ ee 18, 20, 21, 23, 28
Report of Consul T. J. MeLain....... eS eee - 52.
Tabular statement showing area under culture -.. DO
in Florida, early attempts to establish .-..2-.. 522 ...5--. .----2---- 43
Peneral CONSIGCTAMONS:. 2250655: 5-22 eee ee 15
Indian Key, and other keys where plants are growing wild. ..-...---..----- 15
Introduction of sisal hemp into Florida.................-..------- Fess 9g
J.
PONCQUOCH sees soos sa oe Soe ee ee te eee eos ees pecwecea ee Cope ves 11
. M.

‘Machinery tor extracting, the fbersccss.- 5-2. sséor ies eg ese ee --- od1-40
Maturity of the leaves for cutting; time of: -.2 2.5 = 2-2 =. 2 22 toes see. 20
N.

Names, common or native, of sisal hemp...---..--.... oss Mae opine to oe ens 11
Nomenclature of the sisal henip Agaves..-.2-2- ..22-. ..22 25.2 eee ee 11, 49, 52
Northrup, John I., statements of.........-...-...----- De ee See oo 18

. O.
Other leaker plants<-...s.20225.0 oe ee ee 43
Oldeplante time Of Mow ering 222 a ee 24
appearance at the age of 15 years 2222-92. 4.262 ese. 2 ae ee 25
=P.

Parry, Dr. ©; C-, statements Of 2. 2252.60. Seer oe 19
Perrine, Dr. Henry, report to the Senate.........-- GT ee ae -10
reference to collection made Dy :...-< --- 2... .-. 222 2.. 12

Plantations of sisal hemp in Florida at—

Addison’s Landing, Captain Addison <2: 222. 22425252056 se tes 15
Boca. Chica-Key, George TH: Bier nese coos. see ee ee ee 15
Cape Canaveral, Robert Ranson. - 2.442) 3222 ee 14

Juno, AvM. Biclds 30205 eee ee Bere G See eee eee eae ee 14
59

Plantations of sisal hemp in Florida at—Continued. a
Jupiter, John H. Grant, John Cleminson, and others. .................. 14
New River, Florida Hiber Company = --25-- 22-2. 2.25.- 22) 41

Planting, distances at which plants should be set .......... Eee are 21

rainy season favorable for 3222 2..c62 es ee 22

suckers in the nursety....-...--.-- RE Cae Sn ee en Oe 23
eeole;-plants; how formed ::—.2 sco os Soe es = a3
rate Of reproduction oss Sos ee eee | Al

Prohibitory regulations for protection of the industry Seen e Be eee eee 49
In the Bahamas and elsewhere ........---- s«-------- Ge eee 42
Necessity tor, in Mlorida 3... 2 2 ose Ss a ee 42

PROD AL AUIONN so occ ower ees ce ee ene ooo e soe wae nes ie eee 23, 24, 41

Rae, James M,, statements Ob..0200..022 422820 2s oes ee 19, 21, 28

ate ol prOWth...2. os ccs cee cee Sass eed boo eee es cae ee ere eee eee 25-28

Reports on the sisal industry, extracts from—

Perrine, Dr. Henry, 1838 ....-... obese oSecec hie es scone Coreen ee wees 10
Rae, James M.. 189l2. ooo 22 ooo. be oc ck ee ee 19, 21, 28
MeKain, Consulai sy, 1800). o-- sce. Se ee 52
S.
“Sacci” or ‘é SAO form of A Cave 2o.20 6. ace eee e. oe es Se ere 11
—Schott, Dr., reference to contribution on the Jenequen.........-...---- oe 11
made, DAC: CMCC OL 2n.. Sco ccs cose os bce sete ee te ee ee es ee 22
Soil, statements in general:
cost of clearing land... 22 ios. cee. eee ees See Tee re eee es 18, 20 -
of the: Bahamas 2-22. oo. 3 sce. eS Gene aca Slee ee eee gente nc 18, 19
BisGayne-Bay: rO@ion ooo ee ee ee 17
Indian sRiver: reolon 2532.4 See oh ee ee 7
KGYySe ieee oS ee pee ioe oes oa cee eces Cee ee es eee ee 16,17
eV UCR GAIN Sic ats oa oe re lara a rae aes oe tens naa ee ea . 16
preparations: - 25.5.2... e- SRD Sealers SoCs ae es ee eas 19
PS OSQ Ul rear oe ck te eee ee On ee nese one eee ee ee 11
V.
Value of imports into the United States.--2-. 22:22. 2. 5.0.3 2: 7
MG@xX1CAl GX POLLS. 22 22. cuca ce eee. locus oes oe re cy cee 8
W.

Walker, Mrs. Hester Perrine, statements of...... ...-.--+.-.2--:-.--+.------ 10
Weicht and-size-of leaves «it oso ccse cess cosas coe ee 25-30
XN:
oe Vaxcl 2 Or: Yashqul form, Of APAaVe --2-0) 022 ue oe ol es ee 11
Yield per-annum perplant=: 22022. 3.2. ee 30

peneralstatements Tegvardine 225225 foe cee ee ee ==. 20-30)

Report No. 3, Fiber Investigations, Department of Agriculture.

|
cr
>
z
-{
©
7
P
>
<
au
2
©
0
‘>
[<
LP
ae)
@
wm
>
Te
>
z
| >
|
mh
Es
©
5

"21018 NT



oe

‘QInjeN uloIj—VITOAIDNOT “8vA ‘YGIDIN SAVOY JO LNVdd

Report No. 3, Fiber Investigations. Department of Agriculture.

PLATE Il.



‘O1N1G N UWLO0aJ—NVLVONA NI NOILVLNV1d dN3H IvVSI§ V SO M3lA

Report No. 3, Fiber Investigations, Department

of Agriculture.

PLATE Ill.



PLATE: IV:

Sete

An.

“ POLE’ PLANT FROM THE BAHAMAS.

Department of Agriculture.

gations,

r Invest

be

Fi

3,

“POLE ’’ PLANT FROM FLORIDA.

Report No



‘Y3MO14 YO ,,310d,, NI LNVId ISIS

‘3710d., JO HONVHG 3aIS

“OINIBGN WOIJ—SLNVYId TIVINNS SNIMOHS ,,

Fiber Investigations, Department of Agriculture.

Npnaaoadnas dos soentarsssasnansysnsreniroosvvwvoed

PLATE V,



PLATE Vi.

Report No. 3, Fiber Investigations, Department of Agriculture.





So eS
Dee Seale eee

4 Sie SSS
a

2
T 15 VEARS OLD.

E OF A YUCATAN SISAL PLAN

APPEARANG

Report No. 3, Fiber Investigations. Department of Agriculture DATE VI:

G)
UU
Oo
Cc
U
O
a
>
a
=
M
Ww
Cc
Uv
U
O
wm
m
0
a
O
wo
m
>
©)
>
<
m
<=
7
es
Q
>
z
ee
ie)
aD
O
=
z
QO
O
z
wW

‘OINJBN UlOd


A
a

Hts 3

ene re pier
2 spre re Re tern


PLATE VIII.

Iture.

cu

epartment of Agr

tions, D

iga

. Fiber Invest

oh

Report No

Mex

d

Cc

FALSE SISAL

3

SO CALLED

fi
ana from Seven Oaks. 2. The same fr

Or

i

N

atm

e

2

om Juno

3

Field’

Ss

Plant

ation



U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.





FIBER Se | Report No. 4.
x Bae Oly i
FLAX CULTURE FOR FIBER.

THE UNITED STATES,

INCLUDING

SPECIAL REPORTS ON FLAX CULTURE IN IRELAND, IN
BELGIUM, AND IN AUSTRIA, WITH STATEMENTS
RELATIVE TO THE INDUSTRY IN RUSSIA. |

BY

CHARLES RICHARDS DODGE,
SPECIAL AGENT.



PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY OF THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE.



WASHINGTON:
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE,
1892,

TABLE OF CONTENTS,

Page

Hep TTOR: OF CRANSMITRAL. 2205 Sos ee ee Se ee ee 5
IHOTBR OF SUBMITTAL <3 225655 ee 7
PAX, CULTURE TOR: PBR ore ae ee ee 9
Hieldvexperiments 1m 189: so. ae Se ee ee 10
Results: of: thevexperments::- 2.02. S22 ee ee 12
Methods of culture soos. 5 eo aes ee 7
Soil:selection Ss sso os ee nk ae St ra 18
Preparation of the soil ....-:-.--..-.---.--=--------.--.--.--- El vecvaee 20
Rotation of crops..---. miata Sa eae chotcla’ Slava le ei cue he ran ey Nets emo epee op pe eee 23
Quantiby: Ob Seed: SOWM. 22.25. te a ee 25
Sowing: the:seed <2". o.- eee ee ee 26
Wie CdS os Ss ee es Ss ree ape eee ee ne 27
Harvesting the Crop -:2.- 6 2 al. es ee oe See 28
Senson-Obcrowth<.. c 2s. eee eae ee ee 30
Saving thie:seed:. 20-2. sees ee ee ee ee 31
Retting and cleaning 2.222. scenes co ee ee ee 32
Special meeds of the industry. 2.-. ssc e222 ee 33
SumMaly OP TOSULUS: ovis. Soe Se a Sai re ee 35
Hlax eulbure im Vaireinia ooo ost ees oe se se see 37
@onchiSiONs: 6-302 2.2 ss Seo a a Pa ee ee ee 38
Rix: CULTURE IN Die NORTHWEST 2.28255 55 50s. Se ee 40
Flax culture in Wisconsin and Minnesota....--........-.... 22... 43
HeAx: CULTURE IN: TRELAND AND. BREEGIOM (225 57-5 20 ee AT
Waxcino ireland? Sa eee oe ee eS ee AT
Selections Of the SOM see a ee ee ee AS
Preparavtonsor tiie Sil se is ie ee ee 48

DOCU ees ee OE oe, OY ieee ee ee ge eee 49

Cost Of production 22235) 02 sis hee eo ee ee ee 50

Hlaxe me elowumies 222 soo cs ee ee oe 52
FLAx CULTURE IN AUSTRIA-HUNGARY .........--- er Se ee ee 55
DOLL? cs Sea Se ee Ree a 56
SUCCESSION: Of CLOPS®ses= ee ee: Se ee 56
Preparationsor thetand: 22.22 ee ee 56
MGIUEM eS re ee ee es ee 59
laxs eed: 22223 2. Sos ee ee ee ee 60
SOWAMO a0 oe oo oe ee ae 62
TOOIN Soe ee eae ee es 64
Diseases Of the tax 2 ss ee e ae e ee 64
Manvesting: 20525 se eee ee Pe 65
Treatment after harvesting. = 22.2222 225. eee 66
ROtUNO i. ao eee ee a ee ee ee 67
Bleaching. see ees ee 69
Breaking-and scutehine. 20.2.2 .22er 2 2 eo 70
Results of flax cultivation ...2.-2.2.2..- 222. 2S Ss eee eee 72
APPUNDIX A.=—-FEAxX CULTURE IN RUSSIA-1-2- 3.0252) 15
APPENDIX B.—STATISTICS OF FLAX CULTURE IN THE UNITED STATES......- $3
3
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
PLATES.

PLATE I. View of field of flax, showing method of forming stooks -.......---
II, View showing method of stacking flax.......-.-...--...----.------

FIGURES.
Hie the CaCkemlOWs = <5 as Se oe eas
2 he: Pracner plow. 22.2 22S. Sa ON IN Foe Se I ee eas
Pee PN 6 Mtl a bOLo Se see es ee Sn ee ee
fe ENO Z1 OZ OA aTEO Wie ee ee eee ee Si ee ee eee
hevbhio SChol plow = Sse ee ee ee ee
GseRollertormcrupnedscOlle< ees as ee: es
7, A Frieur flax-cleaning machine... -2.2--22 22.2222: Sone Se
8. Hammer for thrashing flax ........... ee ee ee
Oeste COMM D eo ee Se ee
OH axe Dred lee es se as eee
lt ive=Warnecksbrealein oomachineéis: esos ee ee
Sees CHbClIMNO sb O anders ose oo Bee ae ee eee ees ee een ue

57
oT
Sy
58
58
D8
60
66
66
70
71
72
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL,

U. 8. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY,
Washington, D. C., June 1, 1892.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, for your approval, the
report on flax culture for fiber in the United States, which has been
prepared under my direction by Mr. Charles Richards Dodge, special
agent in charge of the fiber investigations of this Department... In
view of the widespread interest in this industry, as evidenced by the
numerous inquiries received, I take pleasure in recommending its early
publication.
Very respectfully,
EDWIN WILLITS,
Assistant Secretary.

Hon. J. M. RUSK,

Secretary of Agriculture.

LETTER OF SUBMITTAL.

U. 8. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
Washington, D. C., May 31, 1892.

Str: I have the honor to submit herewith the manuseript of Bulletin
No. 4 of the Fiber Investigation series, referring to flax culture. The
bulletin includes my own report on the flax cultural experiments and
investigations directed by the Department last season, with some inter-
esting statements relative to household flax manufacture in Virginia.
It is supplemented by a special report submitted by Mr. Eugene Bosse,
of St. Paul Park, Minn., who was appointed a special agent last season
for a period of ten weeks, to visit flax-growing localities in the North-
west, and to instruct farmers as to the proper practice in the cultivation
of flax for fiber. The report also includes a special report upon the flax
culture of Ireland and Belgium by Mr. Henry Wallace, of Des Moines,
Iowa, who was commissioned by the Department last season to visit
the countries named in the interest of the flax industry. Another val-
uable special report, which has been prepared by United States Consul
Hawes, of~Reichenberg, Austria, relates to the flax culture of that
country. ge. :

In order to supplement the literature of the subject relating to
European culture, as embodied in this and former fiber investigation
reports, I have given in the form of an appendix a few facts regarding
the industry in Russia, chiefly compiled from a report of Consul-General
Crawford, of St. Petersburg, and made to the State Department last
year. I have also appended some interesting statements with tables of
acreage and production of flax products from the recently published
Census Bulletin on Flax and Hemp, prepared by Mr. John Hyde, in
charge of the Statistics of Agriculture, Eleventh Census.

I am, sir, respectfully yours,
CHAS. RICHARDS DODGE,
Special Agent in charge of Fiber Investigations.

Hon. EDWIN WILLITS,
Assistant Secretary.
ewer en

Bory

i

=

Bebe

i
e


PLAX CULTURE FOR FIBER.

At the time the first flax report was issued from the office of the
Fiber Investigations in April, 1890, considerable doubt was expressed
in many quarters as to the possibility or practicability of reviving in
the United States the long-neglected flax fiber industry. At that time
some trade journals, the importers, and, I regret to say, not a few editors
of the agricultural press Hast and West asserted most positively that
flax could not be grown for fiber in the United States owing to unfa-
vorable conditions of soil and climate, and that the production of seed
and fiber in the same plant was an impossibility. These misstatements,
made partly for political effect, partly through ignorance, and, in some
cases, in the interest of foreign commercial houses, were challenged at
the time and abundant evidence produced to prove their falsity. At.
the same time the results of the operations of the season of 1891 were
looked forward to with considerable interest, as demonstrating how far
flax culture might be carried on within our borders, and giving hints as
to the methods of culture essential to the establishment of a practice
suited to the requirements of our times.

As is well known, flax was grown for household manufacture fifty
years ago in nearly every State in the Union. Only recently I secured
samples of flax grown twenty years ago, almost, among the mountains
of New Hampshire, and fine flax, too. And inthe Virginias, household
linen is manufactured in small quantities even at the present day, and
by old methods, as is shown on other pages of this report.

If fine flax could be produced by the American farmers of fifty years
ago there is no reason why the farmers of to-day can not do the same
thing as far as soil and climate are concerned, though not by the old
methods of cultivation. In the march of progress it was natural that
the industry as conducted half a century ago should decline, and that
flax-erowing for fiber should become a lost art. And it will hardly be
possible to revive it again on a Substantial basis in a single year, or two
or three years, as, under changed conditions, from the very nature of
things, it must be built up like a new and untried industry upon the
foundation of experience.

A great deal has been accomplished in the past two years, however,
in spite of the fact that but little flax has been grown for fiber. Some
things have been satisfactorily demonstrated which two or three years

ago were considered more or less matters of speculation, and some
: 9
10

experience has been gained. Capital has become interested, and sev-
eral new manufacturing concerns have been established.

Inventors are studying the needs of the industry in the line of
labor-saving devices for economically harvesting and saving the fiber,
and the farmers themselves are interested, though hesitating to embark
in this culture until better acquainted with existing conditions and the
requirements of the culture. And it should be stated that a market
which can be relied upon is essential. The time is propitious, as flax
culture in the old countries is steadily declining, because under the
antiquated and laborious methods of culture there in vogue, with the
enormous rentals demanded for the land, flax culture no longer pays
save in favored localities. With our cheap and naturally fertile lands,
with the use of labor-saving machinery in all branches of the industry,
and with a demand for the raw material from both the New and Old
World, it is possible for the American farmer to supply a portion of this
demand, and in the near future, with profit to himself. I have carefully
studied the special needs of the industry during the past year, and
these will be fully considered in their appropriate place on other pages
of this report.

FIELD EXPERIMENTS IN 1891.

During the past season a series of interesting experiments in flax cul-
ture were conducted in various parts of the country, under the auspices
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to determine to what extent
flax culture for fiber was possible in the United States, as well as to
learn something of the particular conditions, favorable or otherwise,
existing in the different sections. ‘Three varieties of flax were imported
from Europe and distributed over a territory representing all possible
flax-erowing localities, and embracing the entire range of Northern
States from Massachusetts to the Dakotas, including also Maryland,
Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Oregon and California on the Pacific
coast. The distribution was made to the directors of agricultural exper-
iment stations, to farmers known to be successful growers of flax for
fiber, and to flax manufacturers especially interested in the establish-
ment of the flax-fiber industry. ‘The three varieties were as follows:
Pure Riga, or Russian, White Blossom Dutch, and a variety called Bel-
gian, the seed of which was produced from Riga seed grown one year
in Belgian soil. This seed was distributed in 2 to 4 bushel lots, allow-
ing the cultivation of half as many acres, and about sixty such lots were
sent out in all. Up to the Ist of January forty replies had been re-
ceived from the following States: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New
York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Ili-
nois, Missouri, lowa, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ne-
braska, North and South Dakota, California, and Oregon.

One-fourth of the total number of replies were received from Minne-
sota, which State has taken the initiative in the reéstablishment of flax
11
culture in the Northwest, and which may be fairly termed the center of

the new flax industry. The questions to which replies were desired are
here reproduced:

FLAX-CULTURE INDUSTRY.

Q. 1. What varieties of flaxseed were experimented with?
(In naming these number them 1, 2, 3, etc.)

Q. 2. In what kind of soil was the crop grown?

Q. 3. What soil preparation was given?

Q.. 4. What fertilizers were used and in what quantities?

Q. 5. What quantity of seed was sown to the acre? (If different quantities were
sown and samples of the product are submitted, refer to each by label num-

: ber. )

Q. 6. How was seed sown? If machine broadcaster was used, please name the

: make.

Q. 7. At what date did the sowings commence?

Q. 8. Was any attempt made to control weeds, and what principal weeds affected
the crop?

Q. 9. At what stage in the development of the plant was the crop harvested?

Q. 10. How was the crop harvested and cured?

Q. 11. What was the date of the harvest?

Q. 12. Was the seed saved, and if so, how separated? What quantity of seed (esti-
mated) was obtained per acre? |

Q. 13. If an attempt was made to ret any portion of the straw, please state the

method followed, with a showing of the results, accompanied by a sample
of the retted straw. -

Q. 14. From a study of the season’s operations what have you to say favoring or in
discouragement of the success of the industry ?

(To manufacturers. )

Q. 15. If the retted straw was cleaned for fiber, please state how broken and scutched,
submitting samples of same. (Name make of machines. )

Q. 16. Was any part of the product dressed for manufacture and spun or otherwise
used in manufacture? If such was the case, or if it is the intention to pre-
pare and manufacture such fiber, please submit samples at the proper time,
duly labeled, and if possible showing the variety of flax straw from which
the fiber was prepared. In closing please state your opinions regarding
the different kinds of flax experimented upon for purposes of manufacture.

At the same time a request was made for samples of the straw, in full
length, blank labels having been inclosed for necessary data regarding
the samples, to be numbered to correspond with the number of the
varieties reported in the returns. In nearly every instance the reports
were accompanied by specimens of the product in sufficient quantity for
careful examination and comparison. The larger number of the sam-
ples showed a well-grown straw capable of producing a good quality of
fiber, and in some cases the straw was so fine and long that with proper
after-treatment I have no hesitancy in saying that it would make fiber
fit for fine linen. In a few instances samples of fiber were also sent,
but these were exceptional, as the great number of reports secured
treated chiefly of matters of culture, the first fourteen questions only —
being answered. The replies to questions 15 and 16, relating to manu-
facture, were not expected until the flax had been spun and woven, and
at this date none of these have yet been received. |
12

RESULTS OF THE EXPERIMENTS.

In the limits of this bulletin it will be impossible to give detailed |
statements regarding each experiment, or number of experiments, in a
given State. Insome few instances positive failures were reported, the
special causes being very-dry weather, with late planting of the seed,
the selection of soil unsuited to the culture, or a soil full of the seeds of
weeds. These failures were exceptional, however, and with more care-
ful management the majority of them would have been averted. The
general results, given in epitome, by States, are here reported.

Massachusetts —The season’s experiments with the three varieties
demonstrated that flax of fine quality can be raised in the State, but
that it will not pay considering that the labor of this section is very
high, the land valuable, and that there are so many money crops which
bring in returns larger than a crop of flax grown under the most favor-
able conditions, such as fruits, onions, tobacco. No fiber was obtained,
as the straw was overretted and destroyed, owing to the very warm
weather which prevailed at the time. ASfar as mere matters of culture
were concerned the experiment was successful, all operations having
been conducted ina thoroughly systematicmanner. The seed was saved.

Connecticut (Storrs Agricultural School)—The seed having been
received quite late in the season the best land for the experiment had
been planted to other crops. The agriculturist claimed to have little
knowledge of flax culture beyond that obtained from books. I visited
this field in August, finding the straw overripe for the saving of both
seed and fiber. The straw was short, though it would have given a flax
sufficiently long for spinning purposes, and some of it was quite fine.
If the seed had been sown upon better land the experiment, undoubt- —
edly, would have given more favorable results. No attempt was made
to save seed or to ret the product. The same drawbacks to the employ-
ment of flax as a crop in Massachusetts exist in this State. The expense
of labor which can be more profitably employed in growing more pay-
ing crops, and the difficulty of finding clean land are particularly
mentioned. The results of the season’s operations were so encouraging
that the experiments will be continued this season, and will be more
carefully conducted. 3

New York.—While fair success was attained in the two experiments
conducted in this State, the cultivation of flax for fiber can not now be
considered a paying crop. The special reasons for such a statement
are given in the summary of the season’s work on another page.

New Jersey.—No special report was sent in from this State, though a
quantity of well-grown flax straw, representing the three varieties of
seed distributed, was secured from the Shrewsbury Mills, at Kearney,
in this State. The straw was so good it is to be regretted that some
account of the special methods of culture was not submitted in time
to use in this report. New Jersey formerly grew fine flax, and in con-
siderable quantity.




13

Maryland (Agricultural Haperiment Station)—The seed was sown
May 4, which was certainly too late for this section, and the soil was a
heavy clay loam, ‘‘ poor in quality, but fertilized with barnyard manure
and dried fish.” The crop was not harvested until overripe, and was
cut with a scythe. Naturally the conditions were not favorable to a
satisfactory crop, as the results proved.

Virginia.—The season was so far advanced when the seed was sent out
that good results could not be expected, and the experiments will be
continued another year.

Ktentucky.—This is an old flax-growing State, and some fine flax straw
was expected. The season was so late, however, and the weather so
warm that poor results were obtained at the experiment station, the straw
being short, uneven, and woody, with some tendency to branching.
The flax lay in the ground for about a week, and was doubtless injured,
as the straw 1s very dark, the fiber showing little strength.
report comes from the German Southern Land and Colonization Com-
pany, a corporation interested in settling people from Europe. Mr.
Henry Lemecke, of Simpson County, says that the experiment was not
successful in its entirety, owing largely to the lateness of the season
when the seed was received. Mr. Lemcke says, however: : e

This flaxseed, which was grown in red, loamy soil (limestone formation) without
fertilizer, and only once plowed in the spring, was of splendid quality and quantity,
so that, in my opinion, the culture of the product in the limestone regions of Ken-
tucky must have a brilliant success. I will make full experiments another year and
I hope to send you a very satisfactory report. 3

Ohio (Agricultural Hxperiment Station).—The straw submitted was
well grown, though somewhat uneven. With proper treatment would
have produced a fair quality of fiber. Was pulled when not quite fully
matured. The agriculturist gives the opinion that. the land will pro-
duce a fair yield of flax, ** but quantity is not a success if the quality
is not good.” On this latter point doubt is expressed. Quality was
medium.

Indiana (Agricultural Haeperiment Station).—The following report.
explains the reason of failure of the experiment at La Fayette:

Ihave to report to you that the samples of flax sent to this station for testing
were duly planted and cared for. However, it was found that nothing could be
done with the product for the reason that the plants grew only to a height of 10 or
12 inches or thereabouts, and were altogether too small to be used in fiber produc-
tion. This is not due to the character of our soil so much as to the excessively dry
weather which occurred during the growth of the crop.

A series of plats grown to flax treated with different forms of fertilizer was also
planted, but results were entirely unsatisfactory in this case.

A similar report was received from Muncie, in the same State.

From Peru, Ind., comes the report that the experiment was quite suc-
cessful, there being “no unfavorable or discouraging results.” The
straw was retted and fiber secured, though samples have not yet been
received. | ;

IWinois (Agricultural Experiment Station).—The director reports that
14

the growth was affected by the close proximity of young apple trees,
and more by an unusual drought, giving a light-yield. The samples
submitted showed a tolerably well-grown, fine, and even straw, but
overripe and deficient in fiber. The report closes with the statement
that there is no reason why good crops in quantity may not be grown
in this State. ;

The Empire Cordage Company’s experiment was a total failure, owing
to the near proximity of the field to the low chimneys of a tile factory.
The fumes from the kilns destroyed the plants.

Missouri (College of Agriculture) —The samples of straw submitted
were of even fineness and good quality, though under length. The
White Blossom Dutch was very good, the Riga being second best. The
Belgian showed a tendency to branch. Of this experiment the agrti-
culturist in charge says:

Our experience has been of such a character that we withhold suggestions or re-
marks until a trial can be made under more favorable conditions. The result of our
present season’s work has been unsatisfactory, as was anticipated at the outset, since
at the time of the arrival of the seed our most suitable soil had been taken for other
lines of work. Again, sufficient time was not allowed for the thorough preparation
’ of the soil deemed necessary to keep down the weeds and insure a satisfactory growth
of the flax.

Towa (Paulina Flax Mill).—Three varieties planted made a beautiful
stand and promised well, but a severe storm in June and another in
July totally destroyed the crop. So far as noticed the Riga seed made -
the strongest growth. The failure of this experiment is to be regret-
ted, as the manager of the mill desired to carry the experiment through
to the finished fiber. There is no doubt that good flax fiber may be
srown in this State. Another report, from Forest City, regarding the.
culture with native seed, was fully successful as far as the growth of
the straw was concerned. Samples were not submitted. The reporter
states that when the fiber can be marketed it will be one of the most
profitable crops that can be grown in his section of the State.

Kansas (Grosvenor Park).—The results of this experiment are summed
up in a few words: ‘The entire flax crop failed this season because of
excessive wet weather.”

Michigan (Agricultural Haperiment Station).—The experiment was
claimed to be successful, though no sample of the products were
received by the Department. The report ends with the statement that
after the tarmers and the capitalists learn that the vrop can be profit-
ably grown here the farmer will raise it and the necessary factories will
be started. 7 |

The results of the tests of James Livingston & Co., Yale, Mich., are
as follows:

From the study of the season’s operations so far we must say the prospects are not
very encouraging. At our mills at Yale and Fargo we have a fair average crop of
flax straw, but owing to the cold, dry spring, it is poor in quality, the straw being
thinly coated with fiber and very towey. ,
15

The straw submitted was well grown, of good length, and even fine-
ness, the fiber showing good strength, though deficient in quantity, as
stated above.

Wisconsin (Agricultural Haperiment Sinton) Cac, so much injured
by drought, owing partly to late planting, the results were unsatis-
factory, and the experiment will be continued the present year.

Minnesota.—In the ten reports received there were several failures,
attributed to various causes, as wet weather, soil filled with weed seeds,
and, lastly, a lack of knowledge regarding the crop, which in some of
the experiments led to unfortunate mistakes, resulting in poor crops.
Enough is shown, however, to prove that with knowledge of all the re-
quirements of the culture good results can be obtained. Some very fair
_ samples of straw were submitted, of good length, some of it being very
long and capable of producing an average fiber. The Experiment
Station plats were visited by me in the latter part of June, and while
the growing stalks were found to be short and quite uneven both as to
length and fineness of straw, some very good samples have been
received, which prove beyond doubt that flax can be successfully grown
in this State. The results as a whole are favorable. The details of
culture, with methods employed, etc., will appear in their appropriate
place in another portion of the report.

The following are some individual opinions regarding the possibil-
ities of flax culture in this State. Mr. A. Van Hemert thinks that the
flax-fiber industry is to be one of the largest industries of the south-
western part of Minnesota. His experiment was successful.

McMillan and Hastings, at Oakland: For our land it is unquestion-
ably a profitable oor We hope to put in from 300 to 500 acres another
season.

Mr. Kugene Bosse states that there is no doubt about the success of
flax culture in Minnesota, though capital must become interested to the
extent of establishing cleaning mills.

Zettle Brothers, Jordan: Had we sown our flax earlier, when there
was moisture in the ground, we should have gained a splendid crop.
The Belgian and White Blossom Dutch are the best varieties for this
locality, as they seem to stand the drought better than others.

Mr. Ingraham, of the Sioux Falls Linen Mills, has no doubt as to
the success of the industry. His samples were well grown, the straw
fine, though somewhat dene ie in fiber, nevertheless it would work up
for coarse uses.

Mr. Ridgway, of the Minnesota Linen Mills, thinks the culture of
flax can be made very profitable when proper machinery is to be had
to pull the flax and scutch the prepared straw. There is no doubt as
to cultivation.

Nebraska (Agricultural Experiment Station).—The results were fairly
successful. The agriculturist in charge of the experiments thinksthere
is a future for the industry in this State, though the hemp industry at
present is creating more interest. oe
16

California (Agricultural Hxperiment Station)—The experiment was
in every way successful, and an exceedingly interesting report was sub-
mitted with samples of the straw. These were generally good, of —
superb color, somewhat uneven as to fineness of straw, but giving an
abundance of fiber, which was strong and fine. If river retted, this
flax would undoubtedly produce-a superior fiber, fit for fine linen: The
samples were considerably above the average.

Oregon (Agricultural Haperiment Station).—A. careful report was also
received from this State, with a lot of admirable samples, closely resem-
bling the preceding. These were of good length, some of the straw
quite coarse but well grown and cured, and giving an abundance of clean.
silky fiber of superb strength. Well prepared it would make a supe-
rior fiber, fit for fine linen, This comes nearest to the Courtrai straw, in
appearance, of any examined from the United States; among the best
and strongest received: The agriculturist reports as follows:

From the results this year and last, I am of the opinion that flax can be profitably
grown in this valley for the seed alone, and the indications are that the fiber produc-
tion would be of no small moment. The natural fertility of the soil throughout a
large portion of the valley would enable the farmer to grow the crop without the aid
of commercial fertilizers.

A summary of results makes a very interesting showing regarding
the possibilities of this industry. The few failures, attributable to
natural causes, indicate that in Some few sections, in certain years, the
crop may be injured by extremes of drought or excessive moisture, but
the same may be said of any other staple crop grown in the United
States over a wide extent of territory. It should be noted also that
some of these failures might doubtless have been averted by earlier
seeding, which would have enabled the young plants to get a good
start before the moisture had dried out of the soil.

It is worthy of note that, as arule, where the experimenters were per-
fectly familiar with all the details of successful flax culture good results
were secured and a quality of straw produced which could be worked into
merchantable fiber. In many instances those receiving the seed declared
at the outset that all knowledge of the culture had been derived from
the published literature of the subject, mainly the flax reports issued
by the Department, and not from practical experience. Yet, average
results have been attained; good straw was produced even in New
England, and better straw could have been produced if the seed had
been sown upon a more carefully seiected and richer soil.

The selection of the soil has so much to do with both quality and
quantity of fiber that an absolute knowledge of the requirement of the
plant must be thoroughly understood to give the best results. I am
convinced, by examining the samples of straw submitted, that in too-
many instances the different operations from the plowing of the land to
the harvesting have not been done with sufficient care to demonstrate
all the possibilities of the culture in the section where the experiment
was conducted, This illustrates the importance of continuing the ex-
17

periments from year to year as a full knowledge of all the require-
ments of successful flax culture can only be gained by observation and
experience.

Regarding the Pacific coast samples, I can only say, judging from the
straw submitted, in comparison with the samples grown east of the
Rocky Mountains, that they are remarkably fine; and if such flax straw
can be produced economically we need not be troubled concerning
future supplies of fiber for the manufacture of fine linen should there
be a demand in this country for the higher grades. The Oregon sam-
ples are of such superb color that, if river retted, to preserve the color,
- the fiber would resemble the flax of Courtrai. There is a far less per-
centage of woody matter, or shive, which breaks out readily when
drawn through the fingers, leaving a clean ribbon, or filasse, that is’
soft, glossy, and very strong. In my report on vegetable fibers, issued
by this Department over twelve years ago, Oregon was especially
nained as a most desirable State for the growing of fine flax. The re-
sult of last season’s experiments proves that the matter was not over-
stated.

Another point is suggested by these experiments: As in the little
country of Belgium three distinct kinds of flax are grown in aS many
districts in a country as large as ours, it will hardly be possible that
the same kind or quality of flax will be grown in the different sections.
Local conditions will, in a measure, affect and give direction to theforms.
of culture and methods of handling the product. And in time, when
experiment shall have determined which is the best practice for a given
section, it will be followed, naturally, and a standard form of flax for
this section will be the result, which will be recognized by the flax-
buyers, and which will take its legitimate position among commercial
products.

METHODS OF CULTURE.

As has been stated over and over again in the reports of this Depart-
ment, success in flax culture for fiber depends upon thoroughness and
attention to the little details of practice. Three things are essential:
A most careful selection of the soil with a thorough soil preparation and
fertilizing; the use of the best seed that can be purchased; and, lastly,
careful and intelligent handling and manipulation of the crop from the
time the flax is pulled until the straw is ready for the operation of.
cleaning or scutching. The first two considerations only interest the
farmer, the third consideration belonging properly to the manufactur-
ing side of the industry, although some foreign flax farmers do pe and
ret their crops.

In the present experiments the practice has been so varied, and in a
majority of cases so purely experimental, in the absence of practical
knowledge of the situation, that it would be unfair to the experiment-
ers, and misleading to those who are seeking information, to touch,

25731—No. 4—2
18

even briefly, upon the methods pursued by eachexperimenter. I shall |
confine my statements, therefore, to those experiments where positive
results have been secured, and where the line of practi