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The work of silk raising occupies from five to six weeks in the spring of the year, beginning upon the budding of the leaves and ending, almost everywhere in this country, before the 1st of July. The labor during the first three weeks of this time is light and it is only during the last age of the worm that the care required becomes constant and the toil fatiguing. An experienced woman, with food at hand in suitable quantities, can easily rear the product of one ounce of silk-worm eggs, with two or three children to pick leaves for her. As I have stated before, assistance might be required of the male portion of the family during the few days prior to the spinning, when the appetite of the worms becomes almost ravenous.

While the natural food of the silk-worm (the mulberry tree) has been planted in comparatively small quantities in the United States, it is a tree of rapid growth and in four years from the seed it can safely be denuded of its leaves without injury to its vitality. It may be planted along the fence lines and thus occupy ground that is so rarely utilized by American farmers. By inquiry I find that the nurserymen, particularly of the West, have large numbers of these trees in stock, which they hold at extremely low prices. In the meantime, while trees are growing, several of our States have an abundant supply of osage orange, the suitability of which to silk raising has long been acknowledged.

We have, then, an industry offered to us which should only be encouraged as one subordinate to the household duties of the women of our farming classes, and from which each should be able to derive a small addition to her annual income by work which lasts but little over a month and which is tedious during a period of not more than ten days. As a return for this labor a woman should harvest not less than 80 pounds of cocoons per ounce of eggs; cocoons which are now worth in the neighborhood of 35 cents per pound (fresh). While she could thus obtain nearly $30 for her otherwise unremunerated labor from the rearing of an ounce of eggs, this amount, by the application of more energy and the assistance of a larger family, might easily be doubled or even trebled by undertaking a larger crop and still without passing the bounds of possibility. This sum in itself may to some seem a small inducement for undertaking the work, but such is not the opinion of those who have become sufficiently expert to be justified in reaching a conclusion and who know the amount of labor involved. It is by its multiplication throughout the innumerable families which would be engaged in the industry, if we produced all of the reeled silk which we consume, that we should add immensely to the aggregate income of the farming classes of the United States.

In my report of a year ago I gave a summary of the total consumption of reeled silk in Europe and the United States, and showed that we were using about one fifth of that consumption in our own country. Our importations had been rapidly increasing in previous years, so that for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1889, we imported *unmanufactured silk” to the value of $19,333,229. The report of the Bureau of Statistics for the present year shows the remarkable increase in this importation of 25 per cent of the entries for 1889, the purchases for the year ending June 30, 1890, having reached $24,331,867.*

* Reeled silk, $23,285,099; waste, $951,910; cocoons, $88,522; silk-worm eggs, $6,336.


About 87 per cent of the value of reeled silk is the worth of the cocoons from which it is produced, and it therefore cost the reelers of the silk imported by us during the last year more than $20,000,000 for the cocoons consumed by them. These cocoons would have been purchased from the farmers, and this amount would have been added to our aggregate agricultural income, had we produced our raw silk instead of buying it of foreign nations.

While the introduction of silk culture into the United States would, like that of any other industry, necessarily be slow, the object to be attained is so great that we should look ahead a decade or two to fully understand its import. The importations of reoled silk into the United States have increased, since 1870, from 583,589 pounds to 5,913,360 pounds, or from a value of $3,017,958 to $23,285,099. This is an increase of more than 900 per cent in weight and 670 per cent in value. The growth has been steady, healthy, and I think I am safe in saying without precedent in any other industry. There is no reason to believe that that growth will not continue to be as phenomenal in the next ten years. I showed in my last report that the consumption of reeled silk by the Western world froin 1884 to 1888 increased but 18 per cent, while our own importations increased 60 per cent. If this continues we shall, before many years, be using as much reeled silk as Europe, and, unless our neighbors across the sea reduce their home consumption, our own manufacturers will need to seek new sources of supply. The average declared value of our imports of reeled silk in 1888-'89 was $3.48 per pound and in 1889-'90, $3.90, an increase of 12 per cent, due almost entirely to the short cocoon crop of 1889 in France and Italy. Such being the outlook it seems a penny-wise pound-foolish policy for silk manufacturers not to heartily favor instead of to oppose the

proposed bounties; and such persons as may assist, though hesitatingly, in their establishment, will, I feel convinced, find after a lapse of years that they builded better than they knew.

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During the season of 1890 there were distributed in forty-two States and Territories 800 ounces of eggs, divided into 2,250 lots, an increase of 979. The distribution was as follows:

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Arizona ..
District of Columbia.
Florida, .
Indian Territory

31 47

5 15 10 20 55 31 166 89 23 59 300 32


New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico.
New York.
North Carolina.
Rhode Island,
South Carolina.
South Dakota.
West Virginia

18. 4%-89


1 75 :20 47


2, 250

The distribution comprised the following varieties:

Deydier (Cevennes race)..

Ribaud l'Ange and Gorde (Lower Alps race).

100 Aubin (improved Var race)..

Forné (Pyrenees race).

Mercolini (Marches race)...

Pucci (Umbrian race)

100 Mari (Ascoli race, two varieties, B and P).

100 Of the Deydier (Cevennes) eggs we can say nothing favorable They were a failure in the hands of even the most careful raisers, and this year this house has been left out in placing our orders. The greater part of our eggs were placed in quarter ounces and in such small lots should have given at least 100 pounds of fresh cocoons per ounce. As a matter of fact there were many raisers who did much better than that, as shown by the following table, but I regret to be obliged to add that it also shows that the average for every race was far below that figure.

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As will be seen from this table the best lot of coccons raised from Umbrian eggs weighed 30 pounds and 6 ounces fresh, which means more than 120 pounds for the ounce of eggs. Such a result is not at all astonishing, and by reference to my report of a year ago it will be seen that it was not as good by 4 pounds to the quarter ounce as we then obtained in our own rearing. It is, however, too much to expect persons with ordinary rearing facilities to make as good a crop as is made in a rearing room that has been prepared with all due regard to ventilation, and where expense has not been spared to make it satisfactory from that point of view. But there is no reason why any silk raiser can not obtain a rendition of 80 pounds of fresh cocoons per ounce, if due care is exercised in following the necessary elementary rules of practical silk growing. Out of the eighty-seven raisers of one-quarter-ounce lots of Umbrian eggs from whom we have received reports, only eight raised more than 20 pounds of cocoons, and I do not scruple to say that insomuch as any raiser fell short of this amount in the total weight of his crop, to that same degree he failed to get the results which he and we had a right to expect from such eggs as were furnished him. What I have said of these Umbrian eggs is equally true of all the other eggs distributed, except the Cevennes.

As has been shown by the table on page 269, 2,250 lots of eggs were distributed last season. This was far in excess of the distribution of 1889 and more than double that of 1888, as shown in former reports. It is a fact much to be regretted that almost everyone of these applicants had never before applied to us for silk-worm eggs, and, judging from past experience, are not likely to again. Of the upwards of 1,000 raisers who were furnished with eggs in 1889, a little less than 10 per cent had also been applicants in 1888, and of the 2,200 who applied in 1890 but 62 had ever asked us for a similar provision in previous years. Twenty-two of those were supplied in all three of the seasons mentioned.

All of these persons were requested to make some sort of a report to the Department of the result of their work, and all were informed that the Department would purchase their cocoons at a reasonable price. Notwithstanding this, we have received lots from but about 30 per cent of those persons to whom we furnished one quarter of an ounce of eggs. Allowing for the sales to the Kansas State commissioner and other purchasers, it is safe to say that half of the raisers made such complete failures that they had nothing to report upon and nothing to sell.

An examination of the lots received from these small raisers shows us also the difliculty of teaching them the work by the distribution of printed matter. Our pamphlets have been prepared in accordance with the methods adopted by the best silk raisers of Europe, and whenever our experience has shown them to be deficient in certain points, we have upon the printing of a new edition endeavored to bring them more into accord with the needs of our people. One of the points we have called attention to with an especial emphasis is the necessity of feeding the worms liberally and regularly, and still, of the lots which we have received, many show unmistakable evidence of underfeeding and neglect. This is most distinctly emphasized when we receive a lot of cocoons from one raiser which will average as large as Fig. A, annexed, while another raiser, with no more experience and with eggs from the same lot, sends in others of the size indicated in Fig. B.

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To the more successful one we pay about 35 cents per pound of fresh cocoons, but the failure is well compensated at 20 cents per pound. It is scarcely necessary to point out the fact that poor quality and consequent low price are almost always the companions of light weight in the crop, so that side by side we have a person who realizes $10 from the cocoons produced from a quarter ounce of eggs, and another who realizes less than $1. In fact we have on several occasions paid less than 10 cents for the cocoons raised by such a grower. All of this emphasizes the fact that if silk culture is to be established in the United States it is absolutely necessary that means should be taken to come into actual contact with our people in order to teach them to raise silk-worms successfully. There seems to be no better way than by the establishment of such stations as are contemplated in the legislative measures that have already been discussed. Far more general good can be accomplished by the establishment of a few model rearing rooms, where silk-worms can be properly raised every season, in the full view of everybody who chooses to examine into the industry. Thus might be created several centers from which the industry could be spread over such portions of the country as are climatically adapted to it. At present far more harm is being accomplished by assisting would-be silk raisers to make inevitable failures and thus augmenting the number of persons who believe, beyond all power of persuasion, that silk culture is a delusion and a snare for the unwary agriculturalist.

It is not, however, to underfeeding that we must attribute all of the failures that I must report; nor always can it be laid to the door of that inexperience which, I hope, time will correct. All over the South the frosts of the early spring killed the already budding mulberry leaves and much loss has been reported from eggs prematurely hatched before the new growth appeared.

Disease has also made ravages among the silk-worms and much loss is due to this cause. Pébrine has practically been blotted out, and of it and muscardine, again common in Europe, we hear nothing here. The evil comes from flaccidity and, this year, grasserie above all, maladies which are generally attributable to carelessness in some step of the work, in the preparing or caring for the eggs or rearing the worms; but which too often come to the most careful, owing to bad meteorological conditions. Grasserie, which usually attacks but a few worms in a brood, and which, because it is generally unattended by other diseases, is welcomed by Europeans as a harbinger of a good crop, has this year carried off whole broods. This, too, was the case in this Department with the worms fed on osage orange in 1889. An examination of the reports of those who have informed us of the prevalence of this malady does not show that it was common among worms of any particular race, or due to the feeding of any particular food.


So far as we have been able to ascertain, the following quantities of fresh cocoons were produced in the different States and Territories and purchased at the stations mentioned. Six hundred and eighty-nine lots were purchased at Washington, averaging 16 pounds, and for them we paid an average of 29.6 cents per pound, fresh (about 89 cents per pound, dry).

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