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P.S. DU PONCEAU-FLAG OF AMERICAN SILK.
DECEMBER 21, 1830.
Mr. SPENCER, of New York, from the Committee on Agriculture, to which
was referred the letter of Peter S. Du Ponceau, Esq., presenting to the House a flag of American silk and manufacture, made the following
The Committee on Agriculture, to which was referred the letter of Peter
S. Du Ponceau to the Speaker of the House, announcing his presentation to the House of a silken flag bearing the colors of the United States, made of American silk, reeled from cocoons, and prepared and woven by John D' Homergue, silk manufacturer, the entire process in the manufacture of the same having been performed in the city of Philadelphia, report:
That they consider this specimen of American industry, applied, for the first time, to the production of a fabric in such general use in the United States, in the purchase of which, in foreign countries, several millions of dollars are annually drawn from this country, as highly auspicious to the agriculture and arts of the United States; and that Mr. Du Ponceau, for his patriotic exertions in promoting the culture of silk, and in his efforts to excite the attention of the people of the United States to that important branch of industry, deserves the commendation of his country. The committee have received a communication from Mr. Du Ponceau, detailing various important facts and remarks in reference to the bill entitled "An act for promoting the growth and manufacture of silk,” which they have appended to this report for the information of the House; and the committee report a resolution, and recommend its adoption by the House.
Resolved, That the flag bearing the colors of the United States, presented to this House by Peier S. Du Ponceau, of Philadelphia, made of American silk, and prepared and woven by John D’Homergue, silk manufacturer, in the city of Philadelphia, be accepted by this House, and that it be displayed, under the direction of the Speaker, in some conspicuous part of the hall of sittings of this House.
PHILADELPHIA, 7th December, 1830.
Sir: You will receive with this letter a silken flag, bearing the colors of the United States. This flag is made entirely of American silk, reeled from the cocoons, prepared and woven by Mr. J. D’Homergue, silk manufacturer. The coloring has been done by the best artist he could procure in the city of Philadelphia, he himself not professing to be a dyer.
The staff of this flag, with the eagle, measures about fifteen feet; the flag itself is twelve feet and a half long, and six feet wide. It is woven all in one piece, without a seam.
I beg, Sir, you will be so good as to present this flag most respectfully, in my name, to the honorable House over which you preside, as a sample of American industry, thus applied for the first time to the most valuable of American productions, and as a result of the efforts they have made during the last five years for the promotion of the important branch of agriculture to which we owe the rich material of which this flag is composed,
I have the honor to be,
PÉTER S. DU PONCEAU. Hon. ANDREW STEVENSON,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
PHILADELPHIA, December 13, 1830. Sir: The bill for promoting the growth and manufacture of silk, which was reported by you, in the name of the Committee on Agriculture, to the House of Representatives of the United States, at their last session, having been unavoidably postponed, in consequence of the pressure of other business, I have availed myself of the opportunity of the recess to cause experiments to be made, and collect as many facts as has been in my power, in order to throw as much additional light as possible on a subject which may be considered, in a great degree, as new in this country, and on which, at least, very little practical experience has been yet obtained.
I thought it my duty so to do, in order to justify the confidence with which the committee were pleased to honor me, by giving implicit credit to the statement of facts which I laid before them, and by adopting and recommending to Congress the plan which, at their request, I submitted as the best calculated to promote the important object which they had in view. In many respects I rejoiced that that opportunity was given me by the postponement of the bill. I have proceeded at my own risk, as if the bill had been actually passed, and one year has been gained of the three years which its enactments required.
I began with causing to be printed in a pamphlet form two hundred copies (one hundred in the English, and as many in the French language) of the report, in part of the Committee on Agriculture of the 12th of March last, with mỹ letter to you annexed, which I transmitted to my correspondents in different parts of Europe, in order to elicit opinions and obtain every possible information. They made their way as far as Vienna, in Austria, whence I have lately received a valuable treatise on the culture and manufacture of silk. What effects they produced elsewhere will be mentioned in the course of this letter,
I then went with M. D'Homergue to the State of Connecticut, where the culture of silk has been pursued for the last seventy years. We remained five days in the town of Mansfield, where the greatest quantity of cocoons are raised, which they make into sewing silk. There we were much sure . prised to find the country poor in the midst of riches. It abounds in mulberry trees of the best species, which might feed, according to M D’Homergue, a much greater quantity of silk worms than are raised there. The soil is excellent for the production of that tree, and silk worms prosper there; though they are raised without any extraordinary degree of care. The cocoons are very fine, and their silk excellent; yet the people of that district are far from being rich, and money is very scarce among them. The chief advantage that they appear to derive from their sewing silk, is, that it serves them as a kind of circulating medium-skeins of silk of a size regulated by their acts of Assembly supplying the place of coin and bank notes, through a pretty large extent of country. If they knew how to prepare their silk for exportation, or for the manufacture of those light stuffs that are so much in use through the United States, their condition, I think, would be much improved by more profitable sources of gain and a greater influx of money. I found in that State a disposition to extend the culture of silk; and large orders have even been sent from thence to this city for the purchase of mulberry plants.
On my return home, I caused ten reels to be made, on an improved plan of M. D’Homergue's, much simplified from that of Piedmont, and which were found to work extremely well. I also caused a convenient shed to be erected for the filature, under which the reels were placed, with their furnaces and other necessary apparatus.
On my leaving Connecticut, I had left orders to an agent to purchase a large quantity of cocoons. From some misunderstanding, it happened that that order was not executed in time, so that I obtained from thence a much lesser quantity than I expected.
By means of advertisements in the newspapers, inserted, however, too late in the season, and not extensively enough, I obtained cocoons, in various quantities, from the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Delaware, Virginia, and North Carolina; a few were even sent to me from the States of Mississippi and Louisiana; from the last of those States, and from South Carolina, I would have received some considerable quantities, if the rivers had been navigable in the interior. On the whole, I could only collect, during the last season, about 420 pounds of various qualities; but I have no doubt that next year, by taking proper measures in due time, a sufficient quantity may be obtained for any reasonable purpose,and that quantity will be increasing every year; although the reeling season is over, I am still receiving some from different parts of the Union. The last I have purchased came from the vicinity of Richmond, in Virginia, and I expect every day six bushels from South Carolina. I found no difficulty in procuring women to work at my experimental filature: they offered themselves in abundance, and those whom I employed were well pleased with the business: they like it much better than
working in the cotton factories, because the labor is lighter, and they have the advantage of the open air; for silk cannot be reeled to advantage in a close room. That work must be done under a shed into which the air has full and free access on all sides, except where the sun shines with too much power; and that is provided against by curtains or sliders.
I employed, at first six and gradually afterwards so many as twenty women at the reels, who have acquired more or less skill in the art of winding silk from the cocoons, and in general did very well under direction. M. D’Homergue praises very highly the adroitness and intelligence of the females of this country, and has no doubt but that they will in time make excellent reelers.
With the aid of these women, M. D’Homergue made, in the course of the season, about fifty pounds of fine raw silk. When we consider the small quantity of cocoons out of which this was made, that a large portion of them were bad ones, and the considerable waste that must have resulted from the want of skill of women just initiated in the art, it will be seen that the superiority ascribed to American silk is not imaginary, but has a real and solid foundation.
While these operations were going on, every decent person who wished it was admitted to see the filature, and the manner in which the women were proceeding in their work. Nothing was done in secret: it was, on the contrary, the wish of M. D'Homergue, and my own, that every thing should be open to the public eye. Nor were our women bound by any kind of engagement to make a secret of the knowledge they acquired, or not to hire themselves to others if they thought proper. They were left perfectly free, and are so still, now that the season is at an end, and that they are no longer in our employ At the same time, Sir, it is but fair to say, that they have not yet reached that proficiency in the art which would enable them to profit by their labor without being under the direction of a person skilled in the business. The time will come when they will be able to set up for themselves small domestic filatures: larger ones must always be carried on under the inspection of men; otherwise, they will ruin those who undertake them. It is in large filatures that women are to be instructed, so as to spread the art in the required degree of perfection through the land.
It had been my wish to have made at least one hundred and fifty pounds of raw silk, in order to make a fair trial of the respective markets of England, France, and Mexico; but I soon discovered that it would be impossible in the first season, and therefore I determined to put the silk to another test. It was evident that, if it could be manufactured here into fine stuffs, to an equal or nearly equal degree of perfection with those imported from Europe, it might be also manufactured elsewhere, and therefore there could be no defect in the mode of reeling it. I therefore engaged M. D’Homergue to weave several tissues out of part of the silk that he had reeled, and the result was perfectly satisfactory. As a sample of that result, I have had the honor of presenta ing the flag of the United States to the honorable House of Representatives; as it will be no doubt accessible to the public eye, it does not belong to me to pass judgment upon its workmanship. Part of the machinery with which it was wove was made on a model imported by me from Europe for the purpose.
Thus, Sir, while I only meant to show to the nation the importance of the art of reeling, and the ability of M. D’Homergue in that branch of the silk business, circumstances, which I had not foreseen, have led me to demonstrate also the possibility, nay, the facility, of introducing among us the manufacture of those fine stuffs for which we pay so large a tribute annually to Europe; so that our citizens will have the choice of exporting or manufaeturing their raw silk, as experience shall show to them the advantage of either.
Nothing proves better the excellence of American silk, than that the various webs which M. D’Homergue has woven out of it have not undergone the operation which is called throwing or throwsling, and yet that their texture possesses the necessary evenness and strength. To understand this fully, some esplanation is necessary; and I beg to be excused for briefly stating the different processes which silk undergoes in Europe, from the cocoon to the web.
1. The first and most essential operation is that of reeling. It is performed by women, either by themselves in their domestic filatures, or in large filatures under the inspection of men capable of directing them. The men never reel, but merely superintend the work of the women, to make them produce in their highest perfection the various qualities of raw silk required for the different manufactures.
2. From the filature the silk goes to the silk throwster, to be thrown, as it is called. The throwster, partly by the aid of women, and partly of men or boys, winds, cleans, doubles, or unites more than two threads together into one. These operations are performed by means of a complicated machinery called a throwsling mill, to which are added, as parts of its neces. sary apparatus, winding, cleaning, and doubling or tramming engines. Silk thus prepared is called throwing silk. If the silk has been badly reeled, the greatest part of it goes to waste in the operation of throwing; for the twisting machine operating with the same degree of force though the whole length of the threads, if they are unequal (which is the common defect of silk unskilfully reeled) the same force which only twists the strong parts, breaks the weak ones, and thus the silk is wasted, and great loss follows. By these operations the silk acquires consistency and strength, and becomes fit for weaving after being dyed.
3. From the throwster the silk goes to the dyer, to reccive the impression of colors. The dyer begins with boiling the thrown silk, in order to free it from a quantity of gum which still adheres to it; that done, he plunges it into his vats or kettles to give it coloring. From the dyer it is sent to the weaver, who manufactures it into different stuffs.
No silk in Europe, as I am informed, is boiled or dyed, without being first thrown; otherwise, it is said, it would become furzy,and unfit for weaving.
The silk manufactured by M. D’Homergue has been boiled, dyed, and woven, without being thrown; and it does not appear at all deficient in evenness or regularity of the threads. I do not mean to say, however, that American silk will not be improved by passing through the hands of the throwster; still it is a remarkable quality that it posseses, that it can without it produce such stuffs as M. D’Homergue has exibited. It proceeds from the strength and nerve of the material, which are the great characteristics of the silk of this country.
For all the operations above mentioned, except that of reeling, there is no danger of competent workmen being at any time wanting in the United States. A number of silk manufacturers, such as throwsters, dyers, wea