Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/99

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87
GROWTH OF THE BEET-SUGAR INDUSTRY.

acre, each ton yielding from one hundred and fifty to two hundred pounds of sugar, which gave him three times the profit that he had hitherto derived from the cultivation of wheat, rye, barley, and the staple crops, leaving the land better prepared to receive the annual plant in its rotation with the beet, he found the value of his farm increasing enormously, and his prosperity phenomenal, as the swarms of peasants—men, women, and children—flocked to his growing fields or followed the harvesting, while full employment was given to the general wage-earner and the artisan.

New employments and collateral industries increased in the same ratio; railroads were projected and built to transport the beet-root from the interior farms to the great factories scattered for hundreds of miles throughout Germany, long trains of platform-cars, often numbering fifty to sixty, piled full of white sugar-beets, met the eye of the traveler during the harvesting season, and speculation ran high with the fabulous profits of the sugar manufacturers.

Subsequently the attempt to manufacture beet-sugar in the Southern United States met with signal failure. Later, beet-sugar factories were started in the Northern States, in the latitude of Germany, where the soil and meteorological conditions were equal to the best of beet-growing sections on the Continent; to which was added the long Indian summer, which can not be approached by any country in its advantages for maturing the plant. To these factories, erected in different sections of the North, subsidies were granted and bounties were given by several of the States in which they were located, fostered and assisted by the Agricultural Bureau and experimental stations of the Government; yet they were overcome by the same difficulties that had for fifty years and more confronted their foreign pioneers, and they, one and all, came to grief in their attempts to manufacture sugar from the beet-root at a profit, for the metamorphosis of the plant and the sugar-beet process had not yet been developed.

But during the last decade great discoveries have been made in the cultivation of the root, as well as in the methods for the extraction of the solution of sugar by ingenious mechanical devices, and the sugar-beet of to-day bears no resemblance to that of the past century, either in its form or the minerals it contains; and the saccharine principle has been increased a thousand per cent above the extraction of one per cent secured by the early experiments of Archaud in the days of the first Napoleon. Forty years afterward the chemists found their experimentation had increased the product to six per cent only, and a quarter of a century later the highest attainable result proved that it required twelve and a half parts of beet-root to produce one part of grain sugar, about one eighth per cent of the whole, which was the