Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/624

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
606
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Human history does not confirm this. On the other hand, it supports the assertion that if the enforcement is strong and continuous, the probability is that the enforced one's opinion will eventually coincide with it. With several volumes of standard reference books close at hand, I calmly await the vehement chorus of dissent from this proposition.

 

CULTIVATION OF SISAL IN THE BAHAMAS.
By JOHN I. NORTHROP,

OF COLUMBIA COLLEGE.

"ARE you interested in sisal? What do you think of it?" These were the questions addressed to the writer almost before he had landed in the Bahamas. The object of the writer's visit to the "land of the pink pearl" was to make a collection of its plants and animals; but, during the pleasant six months occupied in so doing, he had many opportunities of observing the cultivation of the "sisal hemp." This industry is now in its infancy in the Bahamas, but, if the present prospects are realized, it will before long bring to the islands both wealth and prosperity. Since his return the writer has found that most of those to whom he has spoken of sisal had at best but a vague idea of the fiber or of the plant that produces it, so it was thought that some notes on the subject might prove of interest.

The group of coral islands known as the Bahamas lies east of southern Florida and north of Cuba. One of the islands, New Providence, is well known to those who, in search of health or recreation, have been to Nassau and enjoyed its lovely winter climate. But the "out islands," as the remaining ones are locally termed, are seldom visited, even by those who live in Nassau. The largest of these "out islands" is Andros, which is about the size of Long Island, New York; there, as in all the others of the group, except New Providence, the population is almost entirely composed of negroes, only seven white men living on the island; and of these, four are interested in the production of the fiber known as sisal hemp.

The term "fiber" is used commercially to designate the material obtained from the leaves or stems of many different plants. Hemp, on the contrary, refers to the product of a single plant, known botanically as Cannabis sativa, and belonging to the same order as our hop. But in speaking of fibers the word "hemp" is often added, and thus we hear of "sisal hemp" or, as it is sometimes called, "sisal grass," or even manila. The latter term, however, is properly restricted to the fiber obtained from a species