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REPORT OF THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE DOCUMENT
AND FOLDING ROOM.
SIR: I have the honor to submit herewith my report of the work of the Document and Folding Room during the past year.
Upon this Division devolves the important work of preparing and keeping in order the mailing lists of the Department and of distributing the reports and bulletins emanating from its several Divisions. In addition to this work there must be written a large number of franks and envelopes for the dispatch of circulars and other documents for the press prepared in the Division of Records and Editing, besides the mailing of envelopes and paper to correspondents, return envelopes, etc., aggregating a great many thousands. In last year's report I pointed out in some detail the large increase of work which had devolved upon this Division and which I was compelled to perform with little or no increase in the clerical force. "I gratefully acknowledge an increase in the force during the present year by the addition of two folding clerks and one laborer ; at the same time I may be permitted to point out that the increase of the work this year by comparison with the last has been quite out of proportion to the increased force assigned to me. It can be readily understood that as the work of the Department develops and new divisions are created additional work is immediately and unavoidably imposed upon this Division. This is so obvious that I shall not attempt to elucidate this matter in detail, but will merely call your attention to the fact that whereas the total publications of the Department for the previous twelve months aggregated 566,000 copies, the total number of copies of the publications for the twelve months just expired aggregated 1,133,000, a trifle more than twice as many copies, the care and distribution of which devolved upon this Division.
It will be unnecessary for me in this report to include a detailed statement of these publications, as an extended list of the same will, I have reason to believe, be included in the report of the Division of Records and Editing. It has only been, then, by unremitting efforts, in which I wish to say I have been cordially aided by my assistants, that I have been able to dispose of the enormous amount of work involved by this great increase both in the number of publications and the number of copies.
In this connection I desire to suggest that the method of keeping the lists calls for some modification looking to improvement in two respects, first, promptness, and secondly, economy in distribution. Some of the Divisions at present write their own franks. As these are occasionally delayed on account of press of other work, corresponding delay in the distribution is inevitable. The force of this Division should in my opinion be so enlarged as to permit of the AG 90-29
keeping of all lists and the writing of all franks under my own supervision. This would enable us furthermore to adopt a system by which any possibility of duplication in the distribution of bulletins or reports would be certainly avoided.
I beg leave to call your attention here to the gratifying evidence, of which the work of this Division affords the most ample testimony, of a rapidly increasing demand for the publications of this Department. It is but a few years ago that little if any interest seemed to be manifested by a majority of the farmers of the country in the publications of the Department even on subjects of vital interest to themselves. All this has now changed, and the mere appearance of a notice of a forthcoming bulletin brings us hundreds and thousands of applications, which continue to be received after the bulletin or report has appeared, until to-day I am constantly obliged to call attention to the rapidly diminishing supply of the several bulletins on hand.
This leads me to suggest the propriety of enlarging the editions if possible, while at the same time it might doubtless be possible to be a little more conservative in our methods of distribution. In many cases, as I have said, thousands of applications are received under the present system even before the bulletin itself has been received from the Public Printer, and as the appearance of the bulletin in print is apt to stimulate the demand, we find ourselves constantly threatened with an exhaustion of the supply on hand. I regret to say that this is the case with the first report of the Secretary of Agriculture, of which only 25,000 copies were assigned to this Department, and of which, in my opinion, judging by the repeated calls, 50,000 copies would not have been an excessive number for our use.
Inasmuch as the work of this Division represents one of the channels through which all the work done in the various Divisions of the Department must pass before reaching the public, and inasmuch, furthermore, as all the work done by us brings the Department in direct contact with that portion of the public for whose benefit it is especially designed, I think the importance of its efficient equipment with a staff of capable clerks, adequately remunerated, the thorough systematizing of its work, and sufficient and suitable accommodation for its prompt and efficient performance can not be overestimated. Respectfully,
A. T. LONGLEY, Superintendent of Document and Folding Room. Hon. J. M. RUSK,
REPORT OF THE SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE OF FIBER
SIR: I have the honor to present herewith a report upon the investigations of the Department, during the past year, into fiber cultivation in the United States. As the culture of flax and hemp are important recognized industries in which the greatest interest exists at the present time, while the production of ramie, sisal hemp, etc., can hardly claim recognition as established industries, I have de voted the principal part of the report to the consideration of the first-named fibers, confining myself chiefly to matters of culture, or those which directly interest the American farmer.
Upon my return from Europe in November, 1889, where, in pursuance with your instructions a study was made of the flax, hemp, and ramie interests, a line of investigation into American fiber industries was at once entered upon. This has been persistently pushed and the progress of the year, as far as practical results are concerned, has been especially marked in regard to the flax and hemp industries and, in a partial degree, as to those of ramie and sisal hemp. Early in the season the outlook was very promising for success with two or three new forms of fiber material that might be used as jute substitutes in cotton bagging, such as okra and the bast of the ordinary cotton stalk, but no practical results have been secured so far as the Department has been able to learn, and in two or three instances the experiment has been marked with positive failure. I should state that the manufacture of bagging from the fiber derived from pine straw or pine needles is not included in this category, as the present year's operations, with this material, have been quite large.
In considering the fiber interests of our country flax should undoubtedly be given the first place. At the outset of these investigations it was ascertained that flax was grown by our farmers almost wholly for seed, the straw, of inferior quality, when used at all, going to the tow mills or the paper mills, and selling for from $1 to $8 a ton, the average in the different sections being not more than $2.50 to $4, while by far the larger quantity, that which is wasted or burned, represented no money value whatever. While in the older States the area under cultivation was found to be small and steadily decreasing, in the newer States, or States where agriculture
is being pushed steadily westward from year to year, the area under cultivation seemed to be fairly holding its own, and can be stated in round numbers at about one million acres.
As to the method of culture it was learned that in the newer States it is the general practice to grow on "first breaking,” or land plowed from the prairie sod, manures being 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 for a wheat crop, barnyard 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 fine mellow soil is necessary for the success of the crop, even when grown only for seed, and 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, or is imported, some Russian seed being sown in the new States. It is either drilled or sown broadcast, the latter being the almost universal custom. Little or no cultivation is 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 leaves it a broken and tangled mass, the coarse fiber it contains being rendered valueless for almost any purpose save upholstery tow. When it is not used for fiber, and not burned or otherwise wasted, it is sometimes employed for thatching, as bedding for stock, or packing for ice, and sometimes as a fertilizer. By many it is fed to sheep and cattle, though its use for this purpose, despite the wide advocacy of the practice by some agricultural writers, can not be condemned too strongly on account of the danger to the animal from eating the fiber in quantity.
At present the area for seed production seems to be increasing, and with the agitation of the present year looking toward the reëstablishment of the flax industry has come the inquiry, oft repeated, whether it will be possible to grow for seed and save the fiber also. To what extent our farmers may grow both for seed and fiber in the same plant is a problem in the solution of which Western agricultural experiment stations can do important work. Or, stated differently, careful experiment can only determine the precise value of a fiber produced without sacrificing the quality of the seed. Many old writers affirm that good seed and salable fiber can not be produced from the same plant, and the statement has been reiterated time and again during the past season. There are two sides to this question, though in the limits of the present report it will be impossible to properly discuss them. Undoubtedly when the flax fiber industry is fairly established in the United States there will be three distinct forms of flax culture. First, the culture for seed only, by present careless methods; secondly, a more careful culture with a view to getting a full crop of seed, while producing a tolerable fiber that will be marketable for certain kinds of manufacture, and lastly, a careful, skillful culture for the production of fine fiber, the seed product being a secondary consideration. We have nothing to do with the first form of culture, so but two forms are to be considered.
The finest flax produced in Europe is grown in Belgium, where the seed not only is saved but is used in some cases to produce the