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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/331

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AN EXPERIMENT IN SILK-CULTURE.

AN EXPERIMENT IN SILK-CULTURE.
By MARGARETTE W. BROOKS.

IN an article on silk-culture, published in "Harper's Magazine" more than a quarter of a century ago, the following passage occurs: "We shall soon be ready to begin that which the next century will find us doing with all our might—commanding the silk as we now do the cotton markets of the world." When we consider how little has been accomplished since that time, it is to be feared that this prophecy will not be realized unless greater advances are made in the next twenty-five years than were made in the last. Repeated trials seem only to show that silk-raising in the United States is not as profitable an industry as it was formerly thought to be.

The culture of silk is so old that we can not tell when it was begun, or by whom it was first discovered. The Chinese claim that it was known to them as early as 2600 b. c. Almost all Roman and Greek authors mention it, but it was probably unknown in Europe until the sixth century after Christ, and not until the sixteenth century was it successfully started in France.

In the year 1714 the manufacture of silk was begun in England. James I tried to establish it in Virginia; and in Georgia in 1732 lands were granted on condition that on every ten acres of cleared land one hundred white mulberry-trees should be planted, and, on the seal of that State, silk-worms in various stages of their growth were represented. Two or three years later the first export, consisting of eight pounds of raw silk, was sent to England, and the silk manufactured from it was presented to the Queen. In the year 1759 ten thousand pounds were exported, but after the introduction of cotton the culture of silk declined, and the last exportation from Georgia was made in 1790.

In the year 1771 Pennsylvania and New Jersey began the culture of silk, and experiments were also tried in New York and other States. In an old newspaper, under the date of 1786, we read, "Late Philadelphia papers mention, as an extraordinary circumstance, that a family in Maryland have upward of two thousand silk-worms at work."

The Revolution put an end to silk-raising for a time, but in the early part of this century the culture of silk was again started in a number of States, among others in Louisiana and South Carolina, and even before this one of our New England States—Connecticut—began the culture of silk. In the year 1790 it was said that fifty families in New Haven were raising silk, and in a newspaper for the year 1787 we read that "a young miss in New Haven will soon wear a silk gown of her own make." In the same paragraph the hope is expressed that