The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Flowers, Artificial

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FLOWERS, Artificial, flowers made from various materials to imitate natural blossoms. These are not a modern invention. The famous floral wreaths made by the ancient Egyptians were formed from thin plates of horn stained in different colors, sometimes also of leaves of copper, gilt or silvered over. The Romans excelled in the art of imitating flowers in wax and in this branch of the art attained a degree of perfection which has not been approached in modern times. Crassus, renowned for his wealth, gave to the victors in the games he celebrated at Rome crowns of artificial leaves made of gold and silver. In modern times the Italians were the first to acquire celebrity for the skill and taste they displayed in this manufacture, but they are now far surpassed by English, American and French manufactures, more especially by the last-named. The Chinese and Japanese show great dexterity in this work.

The first artificial flowers made in modern times in civilized countries were manufactured out of many-colored ribbons which were twisted together and attached to small pieces of wire. But these first attempts were decidedly crude. In course of time feathers were substituted for ribbons, a more delicate material, but one to which it was not so easy to give the requisite shades of color. The plumage of the birds of South America is admirably adapted for artificial flowers on account of the brilliancy and permanence of the tints and the natives of that continent have long practised with success the making of feather flowers. The Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park, London, contains a magnificent collection of artificial flowers made out of the feathers of humming-birds. In South America artificial flowers are also composed of the wing cases and other parts of some brilliant specimens of beetles. In Italy the cocoons of silkworms are frequently used for the purpose, as these take on a brilliant color and have a velvety appearance. Among the other materials used in this manufacture are cambric, muslin, satin, velvet and other woven fabrics, blown glass, mother of pearl, brass, thin layers of whalebone, etc., besides the various vegetable and mineral coloring matters. Flowers were at one time made of porcelain and were perfumed. Great skill has been attained in the making of glass flowers and a remarkable collection of this kind is owned by Harvard University. The art of artificial flower making was introduced in the United States by French immigrants, whose workmanship successfully imitated the form and hue of natural flowers. In 1909 there were 225 artificial flower establishments in the United States employing 4,835 persons and products of a value of $9,041,447. Consult Van Kleeck, M., ‘Artificial Flower Makers’ (New York 1913).