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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/78

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62

��Popular Science Monthly

��class Is common over the entire Philippine archipelago. Due to this fact, practically all of the hemp used in the world for rope manufacture comes from Philippine ports. Silk and hemp are the two commonest cargoes carried by trans-Pacific ships when coming our way from the Far East. The British have always controlled the hemp growing industry of the Philippines. They controlled it in Spanish times, and they control it now. The natives raise it and the British buy and market it. Why this is so is a long story. Briefly, the situation may be traced to unsettled political policies.

���A small crop of hemp and the apparatus used by the natives for stripping the threads from the stalk

��American firms hesitate to invest capital in politically turbulent countries.

Hemp grows wild in the islands, but it is also cultivated to a large extent. Despite the supervision of the British and the stewardship of the Spanish, we found the Filipinos handling hemp in

��the very crudest way when we became over- lords. Stripping hemp by hand meant hard work. Much of the crop was wasted, too. For this reason prices were high.

Hemp threads are stripped from the trunk of the plant, a long green log, similar to an overgrown cornstalk. The strip, or bark, is drawn over a toothed knife, so that the pulp is torn away from the threads. Americans were quick to see that a machine could be applied to do this work, and to do it better and very much faster than by hand. So alluring were the fortunes to be made from such a machine and so great was the need for it economically, that several successful hemp-stripping machines appeared on the market at about the same time. These machines are doing good work, but the poorer natives have been slow to adopt them because of a lack of money and because a machine that will do the work of ten or twenty poor peasants is looked upon as an industrial enemy.

Hemp stripping by hand is healthful work. It develops rolls of hard muscles and afi^ords fresh air, as the operations are usually carried on in the field. Pull- ing the pulpy slabs across the toothed knife is muscularly like boat-rowing. Natives having a small crop, bale it up and carry it into town on their shoulders for sale to the nearest agent of the British exporters.

Native hand-made rope is too loosely woven together to have much commercial value outside the islands.

���Silk and hemp are the commonest cargoes from the Philippines. Hemp grows wild in the islands and is also cultivated by the natives to a great extent. The British control the trade

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