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next year's crop of flax.* In a letter recently received from Mr. John Orr Wallace, a Belfast authority, occurs this statement:

About the fiber being coarse if the seed is saved, this will not be the case if the flax straw is pulled before being too ripe and hard. In France and Belgium our spinners get the finest fiber, and the growers there save the seed.

Here is an extract from a recent number of the Irish Textile Journal, furnishing added proof that fiber and seed can be secured in the same plant. The italics are mine:

The crop must be grown with a view towards getting from the land the highest yield of straw that will produce the finest quality of fiber. The seed, which ought to be a large factor in profit, should be saved, etc.

In an article in the same journal, relating to experiments in flax culture in the south of Ireland, this statement occurs:

The measured acre of green flax, one week pulled, weighed 5 tons I cwt., and yielded 22 bushels of prime seed. From a careful sifting of evidence it would seem that it is easier

a to produce salable fiber and salable seed for the oil mill than to grow fine fiber, and at the same time secure seed that will produce equally fine fiber the second year. As there is a certain degree of seed deterioration, necessitating renewal by importation each season, the oil mill becomes an important factor in the enterprise, whatever form of fiber is grown.

Mr. Henry Stewart has stated in the Country Gentleman that "it is futile to expect that fiber and seed can be produced from the same crop.” Mr. Eugene Bosse, formerly a Belgian flax grower, but now a citizen of the United States, produced in 1889 a crop of flax pronounced by one of our manufacturers fit for fine linen. His fiber was sold at a good price in Boston, and the same crop yielded at the rate of 10 bushels of seed per acre, for which he received $1 per bushel. Mr. Bosse has produced a large crop of fine flax the present year, in Minnesota, though detailed statements regarding it have not yet been received. According to Mr. Stewart, not only seed and fiber, but fine flax can not be grown in America. Can it be possible that this writer does not know that just over the border, dividing Michigan from Canada, large areas of flax are annually grown, and that almost a score of flourishing mills have been in operation for years? Does he not know that the Canadians are seriously considering the growing of flax for export into Great Britain? What can be done in this section of Canada can be done in Michigan, Minnesota, and other States. Mr. Stewart is correct in his statement, however, that if the plant is left long on the ground the fiber loses its strength and firmness and becomes harsh, brittle, and

* The usual practice in Belgium, as I learned from Government experts while abroad last season, 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 Russian, and the seed product of this crop planted the second year, giving, it is claimed, a better quality of flax than the first year; but for the next year's sowing new seed is again secured.

+ My first effort was made in Michigan thirty years ago, after returning from a lengthened visit from Europe, during which I spent a few weeks in the north of Ireland, in the center of the flax-growing district, and later in Pennsylvania. In Ireland I witnessed the latter stages of the culture of this crop, and the preparation of this fiber for sale to the linen factories, several of which I visited. On my return I prepared a piece of land, and had it sown with flax by a man who came from this same district, and who seemed to be as sanguine as I was that we could grow fax in America. But every effort to grow fine fiber failed. A coarse fiber, fit for making grain bags, can be easily grown.

coarse, The plant should not be left "long" on the ground, but as Mr. Wallace suggests, should be pulled before it has become hard and overripe.

Having shown that it is possible to save the seed when flax is grown for fiber, I do not wish to be understood as saying that cul. ture for seed production and culture for fiber production are one and the same thing. When flax is grown for seed, and without regard to fiber, it is sown thin, at the rate of 2 to 3 pecks of seed per acre, in order that the plants shall branch and produce as large a crop as possible. And a large seed is also desirable. When the production of fine fiber is the object, a thicker sowing is necessary, that is, from 14 to 2 bushels (or even more) per acre are required. This prevents branching, the plants are shaded, and a crop of clean, slender, straight straw is the result. Referring to the original question: Can our farmers cultivate for seed, and also secure a fiber that can be made a marketable product ?

In the course of my investigations during the past year, valuable affirmative testimony has been secured from which the following deductions are made. It will be possible to grow flax for seed, i. e., for sale to the linseed oil manufacturer, and also to secure a fiber which will be applicable to many of the coarser uses for which flax is employed, though with some modification of the present (common) method of flax culture in this country. There must be a little better preparation of the seed-bed, making it smoother, so that the farmer will be enabled to run the reaper knives as near the roots as possible and get the full length of straw, and it may be better to sow a little more seed to the acre. He must discard the ruinous practice of tearing 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. Regarding the matter of scutching or cleaning the straw, when the better quality of straw is produced, there will be scutch mills if they are needed. In this connection it may be stated that the Department has in its collection some beautiful samples of well-cleaned Western flax, from straw grown for seed but kept straight, that were hackled direct from the breaker, without scutching.*

*A few extracts from the letter of Mr. John Ross, of Boston, which accompanied these samples, will be interesting in this connection. The long experience of Mr. Ross in handling flax fiber, as well as knowledge of the requirements of the industry from the manufacturer's standpoint, enables him to speak authoritatively. He makes statements as follows:

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 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 carried 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 fali, 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 yielding 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 fibre, and when applied to so short and weak a fiber as is produced in the West under the

*

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I am informed that these samples were produced from water-retted flax grown near Cedar Falls, Iowa, for seed purposes. They well illustrate the possibilities of this fiber when properly handled and grown as at present without additional expense or trouble to the farmer, except the keeping of the straw straight and the rippling of the seed.

Mr. A. R. Turner, jr., president of the Flax and Hemp Spinners and Growers' Association, in an important and lengthy communication to the Department, last February, made the following statements bearing directly upon this question:

At present we have a home demand for good flax fiber for yarns, thread, etc., 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 requires a strong flax, many grades of Aax 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. * 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.

Here is positive testimony from the manufacturer's standpoint, though Mr. Turner does not stop here, but urges the necessity for experiments in “the raising of long and strong flax from the best seed, the aim being to produce the best possible quality of fiber."

This brings us to the subject of fine flax culture, or that form of cultivation where good management and a certain amount of skill are essential to success and where seed is a secondary consideration.

In view of all that has been published during the past year regarding fine flax culture it would seem unnecessary to give any space in this report to the question, “Can we produce fine flax in the United States, There has been such opposition to the revival of this industry, however, chiefly from the American representatives of foreign interests, and so much has been published with the direct object to discourage all attempts toward flax production,* that a few 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 50 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 additional 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."

* I regret to state that not only have prominent commercial journals used their influence in this direction, but not a few of our leading agricultural papers have endeavored to teach farmers this false doctrine, editorially, even with the facts before them, or readily available, that would refute their misstatements. An extract from an editorial published in a leading newspaper of St. Paul, Minnesota, during the summer, comments upon this matter most pointedly: “ Either from ignorance or design there has been a general and persistent attempt to discourage the cultivation of tlax in this country with a view to utilizing the tiber. Our farmers were taught that a flax crop might be made to pay well if raised for seed alone; but they were given a whole host of reasons why the industry could not stand on the broader ground of a profit from both seed and fiber. This has been so generally the impression that even the ablest of the trade journals have fallen into line, and the public has assumed as a fixed fact that the manufacture of twine or textiles from flax grown in the United States is an imaginary industry.”

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statements showing the results of the Department's investigations upon this subject will serve a good purpose at this time.

It has been asserted over and over again that neither the soil nor climate of the United States was adapted to fine flax culture.

A perusal of the reports of the Department of Agriculture for a 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 the past. In the first half of the present century the flax wheel was as common in the household as is the sewing machine in our generation, while there is hardly a country boy of that early period, still living, who does not remember perfectly every operation related to culture, as well as the subsequent ones connected with the preparation of the fiber. The flax of New York and New England of sixty to seventy years ago is described as strong and flexible, though not always as clean as it should have been, and sometimes uneven in quality; and good flax was grown in New Jersey. 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 fax.

The decline of the industry is due, first, to the change from household manufacture to that of the central spinning mill, to the increasing use of cotton, to the war period, to the tariff revisions of 1872 when the flax industry had begun to revive, and latterly, as stated by Mr. Turner, to the fact that encouragement has not been given to the raising of flax because the supply of linens is principally imported and we have lost our position as manufacturers in the linen trade.

Were linen factories scattered over our country, and especially through the Northwestern States, a demand would be made for flax by the manufacturer which the American farmer, if he produces good fiber, can supply. The increase of duty on the dressed line fax from 2 to 3 cents per pound should certainly aid the farmer in his effort to fill this demand. It is urged, however, that farmers not only will never pull flax, but that when it comes to the retting (in pools, of course) no American farmer will ever take the trouble to learn the business. These are very broad statements, which hardly merit a reply. It may be said, however, that a common practice abroad is for the farmer to sell the crop standing in the field and frequently before it has completed its growth. As the purchaser attends to the pulling, retting, and scutching, the farmer's responsibility really ends when the weeding has been accomplished. Indications already point to the adoption of this course in America, for in those localities where the industry is beginning to revive the linen factory, scutch mills, and flax farms are component parts of a comt mon interest, and are but wheels in a single machine. Under present conditions and with a reduced foreign supply the American manufacturer will be able to pay a better price for his dressed flax, no matter who dresses it, and so, in connection with this encouragement, insure the paying of better prices to all who handle the product, right down to the farmer, whether he rets his crop himself or sells it standing.

To return to the question whether we have the proper soil and climate for flax culture, and can grow flax, I will say that good flax was grown last year in several States, samples of which were sent to the Department, one of them even coming from Texas, produced by a former Irish flax grower.

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A study of meteorological data obtained from the Weather Bureau in Washington reveals some interesting facts. In the discussion upon flax culture a great deal has been said about the hot, dry climate of the United States in comparison with the cool, moist climate of Ireland; but if the truth must be stated the best flax is not grown in Ireland, nor is the best flax spun by the Belfast manufacturer produced by Irish farmers, but by the growers of Belgium.

The best American flax I have seen was grown at Green Bay, Wisconsin, where the average temperature for the three growing months is 51° F., and with abundant rainfall. The average temperature of Belfast, Ireland, for the same period is 52.2° F., and for Brussels, Belgium, 55.9° F. The temperature for St. Paul, Minnesota, near which station superb flax was produced this season, is only a fraction of one degree higher.

Studying the figures for humidity we are enabled to make further interesting comparisons: For Brussels, Belgium, the average for the three growing months is 77.4 and the average annual 83. For Green Bay, Wisconsin, average for three months 72 and for the year 77.9.

For Cologne, Germany, the average for April, May, and June is but 67.1 and the annual but 74 (contrast with Green Bay), while for St. Paul, Minnesota, the averages are, respectively, 65.6 and 71. An effort was made to ascertain the humidity for Belfast, but persistent search through the records of the Weather Bureau, as well as all available publications running back forty years, was unsuccessful. On the authority of an expert linen weaver, formerly of Belfast, the average humidity for that station is stated to be 70 to 72.

For better comparison the following table is presented:

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By this table it is shown that the temperature of the leading flaxgrowing sections of this country and Europe is practically the same, the average for the four European stations being 54.3°, and for the four in the United States 56.3°, or a difference of but 2°. The humidity for the foreign stations given is slightly higher than for those of this country, though stations indicating greater humidity in the States named and near which fine flax can undoubtedly be produced, could have been used. The humidity of Washington, as indicated by the data from Spokane Falls, Olympia, etc., will be found almost as great as of any foreign stations reported, and there is no doubt but that good flax can be grown in this new State.

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