Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/34

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fineness of silk. In manufacture it has been spun on various forms of textile machinery, also used in connection with cotton, wool, and silk, and can be employed as a substitute in certain forms of manufacture for all these textiles and for flax also, where elasticity is not essential. It likewise produces superior paper, the fineness and close texture of its pulp making it a most valuable bank-note paper. In England, France, Germany, Austria, and in our own country to an experimental extent, 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, bedspreads, 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 and brilliancy of silk. In China and Japan the fiber is extracted by hand labor; it is not only manufactured into cordage, fish lines, nets, and similar coarse manufactures, but woven into the finest and most beautiful of fabrics."

China is at present the source of supply of the raw product, and the world's demand is only about ten thousand tons, nine tenths of this quantity being absorbed in Oriental countries. The ramie situation in the United States at the present time may be briefly summarized as follows:

The plant can be grown successfully in (California and in the Gulf States, and will produce from two to four crops per year without replanting, giving from two hundred and fifty to eight hundred pounds of fiber per acre, dependent upon the number of cuttings, worth perhaps four cents per pound. The machines for preparing this fiber for market are hardly able at the present time to clean the product of one acre (single crop) in a day, and the fiber is quite inferior to the commercial China grass. A new French machine produces a quality of fiber which approaches the China grass of commerce, but its output per day is too small to make its use profitable in this country. All obstacles in chemical treatment of the fiber and in spinning and manufacture are overcome, and the world is waiting for the successful device which will economically prepare the raw material for market.

The part the United States Government is taking in the work is to co-operate in experiments, to issue publications giving all desired information regarding culture, the machine question, and the utilization of the fiber. It tests new decorticators and reports to the public upon their merits or demerits. It cautions farmers and capitalists, for the present, to go into the industry with their eyes open, for the professional promotor has seized upon this industry, above all others in the fiber interest, as one in which he can more readily gull