Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/732

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MUCH in this world is neither upon first nor last analysis true to name. From the corner grocery we buy a pound of starch in a rectangular package highly decorated with lithograph and lettering, setting forth the excellences of the product. "superior to all others," and manufactured, with the utmost care, by Messrs. So-and-So. The fact is that the big seven-story establishment did not make a grain of the starch, and the best that can be claimed is a satisfactory method of bringing the product already formed into the present acceptable condition.

But it is not the purpose of this paper to decry the refineries, whether they be of starch, sugar, or this or that of a hundred natural products, but to direct attention to the source of that very common and, it may be safely said, indispensable substance known to the English-speaking people as starch.

It will be no new surprise to state, by way of introduction to the subject, that starch is the ordinary everyday product of ordinary everyday plants. So humble a vegetable as the potato has gained its way into all lands of the PSM V56 D0732 Starch granules of the potato.pngFig. 1.—Starch Granules of the Potato. more civilized peoples almost solely because it has a habit of storing away, in large underground stems, a vast amount of starch. Let this provident tendency disappear in this plant for a single season, and the crop growers would discard it from their list of remunerative plants, while millions of people would turn with dismay to some other source of a daily supply of starch. What this change in the nature of a single kind of plant would mean to the human race words can not describe. If the famine in Ireland of 1845 and some later years, induced by a rot in the potato, is any index, the misery would be