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men of raw silk, reeled on a silk-reel of my own construction, on the principle of the Piedmontire reel, differing in some measure from any I have seen
I described, but it worked extremely well. No. 2, is a few hanks of sewing silk, reeled as above and twisted on a common high wheel. No. 3, is a specimen of stocking-yarn, spun direct from the perforated and coarse cocoons. The management of these I conceive very important, as the perforated cocoons, (such as the miller has been allowed to cut through for the production of eggs,) have generally been considered of little use, and even accounted as waste. The cocoons, and floss with them, were put into a bag and placed in a kettle with water, and with one quart of soft soap to about six pounds of cocoons, and boiled four hours, then taken out and hung up until thoroughly drained, to eradicate the water which becomes colored by the skins of the chrysolite. They were then put again into the kettle, with the same quantity of water and soap, and boiled one hour, then well rinsed in clear water and hung out to drain. After draining they were spread to dry, but not wrung, as this would cause them to mat together. They were then spun into yarn on a common foot wheel, by holding the cocoon in the right hand and spinning from the perforated end. The yarn, or thread, was then wound into balls, twisted on a high wheel, and boiled out.
The worms which produced the silk herewith presented, were hatched on the
the twenty third, twenty fourth, and twenty-fifth of June last. The parent stock from whence these proceeded, were hatched on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of May, last year, 1839. They were of the variety called Mammoth Sulphur,' raised by myself, and the eggs preserved on papers where they were deposited by the miller, were folded up, put in a tin box, not made air tight, and kept in an upper room until March last, when they were placed in an ice cellar, in a temperature of 45 to 50 degrees, Fahrenheit. Three
days before they were exposed to hatch, they were placed in a cellar, in a temperature of about 55, where they began, the third day, to hatch, and the next morning came out in great numbers on the table, in a room where the temperature was 82, that of the common atmosphere at the time.
I mention these particulars, as great disasters have befallen the late broods of silkworms, in every portion of the Union, the present season, owing undoubtedly to the erroneous management of the eggs, particularly, in improperly retarding them for successive hatchings. These disasters seemed for a while to threaten to blast the prospects of the great cause of silk growing in the United States. But a remedy proposes itself in what is termed the “ theory,” which supposes that the eggs cannot be retarded a length of time beyond the natural season for hatching, or forced to premature hatching, without doing violence to the nature of this insect. The supposition is, that the silkworm, like many others, is an annual insect, taking just one year to complete the circle of all its changes and of its existence. All my experiments tend to aid in demonstrating the truth of this position. The parent worms from which my present stock was produced, hatched spontaneously in a common cellar, just about the completion of a year from the production of their parent worms, These worms were unusually healthy, only twenty out of ten thousand failing to produce each a cocoon, only 226 of which were required to make a pound. But their progeny, which I have fed the present season, it will be perceived, were retarded forty-five days from hatching, beyond the proper time, according to our new theory. These worms were apparently unhealthy, which could be perceived on their first hatching. They appeared dilatory, some died in infancy, and some survived to the fifth age and then died. Many at that time manifested a sluggishness, and although many good
cocoons were formed, yet I do not consider my experiment as successful.
Another lot of worms, whose proper time for hatching would have been on the 27th of July, but were forced to premature hatching by being exposed to the extreme hot weather, about the tenth of that month, seventeen days before their annual period, did somewhat better than the first brood, owing, as I conceive, to being hatched nearer their proper period.
From all I can collect on the subject, from the more accurate experiments of others as well as my own, I come to the conclusion that no difficulty exists as to keeping eggs for successive hatchings, as all producers of eggs can easily produce them at the different seasons required, marking on the papers on which they are deposited the date of their production. It has been found by all experiments promulgated, that a week or two variation from the proper time will make little or no difference as to the health of the worms.
Common sense will suggest all other precautions necessary in preserving silk worms' eggs, as every one knows that all kinds of eggs would be ruined by improper exposure after the germ has started.
The trees on which I contemplated raising my worms this season were the Morus Multicaulis, or “ Perotted” Mulberry. They were planted the last week in May. The leaves at the time I commenced feeding were somewhat larger than those of the native red mulberry, but I was reluctant to rob the tender branches of these young plants, having been planted so late, (one month later than they ought to have been.) I therefore fed from the native tree, (Morus Rubra) and from the white (Morus Alba.) I fed also occasionally from my nursery of Multicaulis, taking only the lower leaves. I found the worms to eat the latter much more greedily than either of the other kinds, leaving not a vestige of them. I conceive, however thus changing the food
of silkworms a great error, especially in the latter part of their existence as a worm, it being prejudicial to their health. All will perceive what gluttons they become in the last ten days before they begin to spin, and how ravenously they will devour any different kind of mulberry-leaf given them; which causes them, sometimes, even to burst.
My feeding shelves were constructed of strips of lath nailed together at the ends, forming a frame covered with paper pasted on them; the frames four feet long and two feet wide, resting on cleets so as to shove in and out at pleasure; these shelves are one foot apart, seven in a tier. My experience induces me to believe that fifty worms may well be accommodated to each square foot of shelf.
I have devised various methods to accommodate the worms in spinning their cocoons, such as bunches of straw tied in the middle and spread at the ends and set upright between the shelves; paper cells, crumpled paper, &c., but find nothing better, or so convenient as green oak branches with the leaves on, placed round the feeding shelves. The worms seem fond of climbing among these, and the cocoons are as easily gathered as from any I have seen. As to this however, I do not pretend that my apparatus is the best that could be contrived; nor am I about to form a manual for the guidance of others, but felt myself bound to give the committee my manner of conducting the experiment in the production of the silk I have exhibited. Let me here recommend to all who may wish to commence or pursue the cultivation of silk, to procure the Jourual of the American Silk Society, published at Baltimore monthly by Gideon B. Smith, Esq., Editor, and Secretary of the Society. Mr. Smith exhibits evidence of more actual experience in the silk culture than any other individual in the country. All back numbers for the two past years may be obtained for $2, and any one engaged in this business would, I think, find a single number worth to him the amount paid for a whole
year's publication. There are many manuals extant, but they cannot be depended upon for correctness.
My method of managing the silk after the cocoon was formed, I have given the committee in the application for a premium. The reeling and manufacturing was performed by my wife and the females of my family, as handling silk can best be done by female hands. Indeed, I consider nearly all the
I labor of raising silk, after gathering the leaves from the field, most appropriate for females. And here I would state my views, that one great advantage in the silk culture, is to be derived from the circumstance, that pursued as a collateral branch of agriculture, it will give profitable employment to the female part of the farmer's family; since the music of the spinning-wheel and the sound of the shuttle is no longer heard in our dwellings; and almost every farmer has more or less help that is inefficient at the more laborious parts of his business, such as infirm persons, females, and children; and who could cultivate and reel silk as well as more efficient hands. It would, moreover, form a delightful task for females and youths, whose inquiring minds would be thereby cultivated and enlarged by viewing the operations of nature in the formation and various changes of the silkworm. It may be out of place here for me to speak of the moral tendency of the silk culture, but I must' assure those who have never viewed the wonderful operations referred to, that if "an undevout astronomer is mad," an undevout silk grower, must be no less insane.
I am constrained to say, that I felt strong doubts as to the practicability of the silk culture here, before I attempted any experiments, and was carried along with the tide of opposition that seemed to set so strongly against this enterprize. But being determined to satisfy myself by actual experience, I commenced experiments on the first introduction of the improved varieties of the mulberry; and having watched with deep interest the progress of this cul