« PreviousContinue »
COMPARISON OF EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN MANUFAC
COMPARISON OF EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN MANUFACTURES-ANTIQUITY OF FABRI
CATION IN ECROPE-CONSUMPTION OF THE WORLD-RELATIVE COST OF PRODUCTION IN THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE-FRENCH WOOLLEN FABRICS AT THE EXPOSITOR-CULTURE OF TASTE IN FRANCE-PROGRESS OF THE ART OF DYEING IX FRANCE-CHARACTERISTIC CENTRES IN FRANCE-BELGIUM, GERMANY AND AL's. TRIA-GREAT BRITAIN-DUTIES OF AMERICAN MANUFACTURERS.
The American observer, astonished at the marvellous display of fabrics of woollen of such infinite variety and beauty at the Exposition, nearly all the products of European looms, might have been mortified at the meagre display from his own country, if he had not reflected that the woollen manufacture has hardly existed in this country more than half a century, and that even during its short existence it has been subject to a system of legislation which has been constant only in its instability. In Europe the woollen manufacture was the first art which revived after the dark ages. As early as 1395, the stuffs of Rheims sent to Bajazet II, for the ransom of French captives were regarded as the richest and most curious gift which France could offer. Both in France and England this industry received every favor which the state could render, and in the latter country its prosperity is the result of a persistent national care from the time of Edward III, unexampled in the history of industry. It could not be expected that the products of our brief experience should bear any comparison with the results of the traditions and inherited experience of centuries. The comparison of our fabrics as they were known to exist here, rather than as they were exhibited-for the display of our goods was very far from being an adequate representation of the real condition of our industry-was far from discouraging, while the recent progress in the most advanced nations gave the best assurance that we also might attain success in the boundless field upon whose borders we had entered.
The emotion most vividly excited by a general survey of the department under consideration was admiration of the wonderful qualities of the fibre, which is capable of producing objects and fabrics infinitely surpassing in variety of appearance as well as of application those produced from any other material, thus showing itself to be, of all fibrous materials, that of the first necessity to man. This fibre, we observe, is made more perfect than any other by the chemical elaborations of an animal of high organization, thus surpassing silk which is derived from an animal of a lower organic structure. Its specific gravity being the least
of all fibrous substances, its tissues are the lightest, warmest, and most healthful. This material, provided in some varieties with a structure which admits the fibres to be interlaced and intermingled by the process of fulling into fabrics distinguished for their warmth and softness, in other varieties has a lustre which assimilates its tissues to those of silk, and like silk and unlike cotton and flax it receives and permanently retains every tincture and every tone and hue which the art of the dyer can produce.
“Such," as has been said by a recent writer, " are the qualities of fibre which have led every industrious nation to the culture of flocks as the first necessity of its people; which have caused, in every manufacturing nation, the demand to constantly exceed the supply; which have transplanted colonies from the Cape of Good Hope to Australia, and have carried the shepherd emigrant to the steppes of Russia and the plains of La Plata; and which have brought the present production to such enormous figures as are given by recent German estimates, giving to Great Britain an annual production of 260,000,000 pounds of wool; to Germany, 200,000,000; France, 123,000,000; Spain, Italy, and Portugal, 119,000,000; European Russia, 125,000,000; making, in all Europe, 827,000,000; in Australia, South America, and South Africa, 157,000,000; the United States, 95,000,000; the British North American Provinces, 12,000,000; Asia, at a very general estimate, 470,000,000; northern Africa, 49,000,000; the aggregate production of wool in the whole globe amounting, by these estimates, to 1,610,000,000, or a pound and a quarter to each inhabitant, reckoned at twelve hundred and eighty-five million people.”
The observer contemplating the woollen products at the Exposition as a whole would conceive that human ingenuity and imagination had been exhausted in the variety of form and application of this material ; but upon comparison of the present fabrics with those which can be recalled by one of middle age it will be observed that nearly everything now seen is the product of modern times and was almost unknown in the past, the very variety or fantasy of stuffs being an idea of the present age, a variety not only due to the infinite combinations which are effected by modern looms, but by an alliance of woolly fibre with other materials, cotton, silk, flax, and the hair of the goat and vignone and alpaca, and by new dyes which modern chemistry has discovered. Seeing this, no one could fail to be impressed with the thought that of the great industries there is no one offering so wide a field for invention and imagination, and consequently no one whose pursuit is more identified with national progress in intelligence and taste. Looking more closely, but still somewhat generally, at the goods exhibited by the different nations, there might be observed a certain national character in each, which could be felt, but not easily described. It was an individuality like that which enables one to recognize the birthplace or race of a stranger by something of air or tone so slight that it can be hardly defined.
The products of the eastern nations were more marked; the carpets and rugs of Turkey showing a product from the broad-tailed sheep of Asia, the most ancient of the present races, and the fabric unlike anything made on our own looms, probably as old as the Crusades. The shawls of India, the most wonderful of all the monuments of textile labor, exhibit in the palm pattern a design which has probably been preserved for thousands of years, and a fabric called espouline, known from specimens still preserved to have existed as early as the year 835.
Coming to the European nations, and passing over France, for a more detailed notice hereafter, we observe in the cloths of the west of Eng. land, solid and strong as its oak, rather than soft and lustrous, the qualities which were given by the sturdy honesty of former times. In durability these cloths are unsurpassed by the fabrics of any nation. Their production is, however, an exceptional one, the tendency of the English being to manufacture for the utmost possible consumption of the masses without regard to wearing qualities. This is shown by the skill displayed by them in the adulteration of wool, by the substitution of cheap material such as cotton and shoddy in the filling, and by making warps wholly of cotton. In cheap or adulterated goods of admirable finish and appearance the English are unsurpassed. The introduction of shoddy as a manufacture was made by them, and they have consumed in a single year 65,000,000 pounds of this material, more than our whole clip of wool in 1860. In the use of new auxiliary materials in the woollen manufacture, such as the hair of the goat and alpaca, and even cow's hair, in the combination of wool with cotton warps in all the coarser fabrics from her own combing wool, and in the substitution of power for hand labor, the English surpass all manufacturing nations.
Belgium, although provided with little wool of native production, is noticeable for the excellence of its broadcloths, cassimeres, and doeskins, as well as for their cheapness, resulting from the exceedingly low cost of labor. In its combed wool fabrics it is distinguished for the facility with which it copies and appropriates and transforms into cheaper tissnes the original designs of Roubaix and Paris.
Rhenish Prussia, having the command and the first selection of the incomparable wools of Germany, has preserved the reputation which it acquired in the 13th century and exhibits card-wool products, particularly the black-faced goods, which in excellence of manufacture, general utility, and cheapness, surpass those of any other nation.
Austria, with its leading manufacturing city, Brunn, in the very heart of the pastoral province of Moravia, is eminent for the originality of its card-wool fabrics, particularly those for women's wear, their showy and unique patterns, and for the vividness of its dyes. Nothing can equal the purity of the white cloths which form the uniform of the Austrian troops.
Russia exhibits a condition of manufacture similar but inferior to our
own, that of a young country of great enterprise and activity, but whose triumphs in the textile arts are still to be won.
The manufactures of the leading nations in card-wool fabrics may with propriety be ranked as follows:
Rhenish Prussia, first for men's wear; France, first for women's wear; Austria, second for women's wear; France, second for men's wear; Belgium, third for men and women's wear; Prussia, fourth for men and women's wear; England, fifth for men and women's wear; the United States, sixth for men and women's wear; Russia, seventh for men and women's wear.
In combing wool fabrics for women's wear France is first and England second, the other European nations showing nothing to particularly distinguish them from each other.
The districts in Europe distinguished for their excellence in cardwool fabrics were marked by the awards of gold medals, no medals of this class having been awarded to individuals. Gold medals were awarded to the Chamber of Commerce of Elbeuf, France, for the towns of Elbeuf and Louviers; the town of Sedan; the south of Scotland, comprising the towns of Dumfries, Galashiels, Hawick, Innerleithen, Langolm and Selkirk; the west of England, comprising Gloucestershire and Wiltshire; the province of the Rhine, Prussia; the province of Silesia, Prussia; the Chamber of Commerce of Brunn, Austria; the arrondissement of Virviers, Belgium; the arrondissement of the Riga, Russia.
The incompleteness of our exhibits very properly excluded this country from an award of the highest rank in this department.
It will be convenient in this connection to make a more minute comparison of our fabrics with those of European nations, having particularly in view our fabrics as they are known to be produced here. We cannot be said to occupy a national position in the woollen manufacture except in card or clothing wool fabrics, our success in other departments being exceptional. Our work has been in the direction demanded by the prime necessities of our people and the peculiar character induced by the nature of our raw material. Our peculiarly national wool manufacture is comprised in the production of all the varieties of card-wool tissues from flannels inclusive to the finest-faced broadcloths, which are only exceptionally included. Within this range, comprising plain, fancy, domet, and opera flannels, blankets, woollen shawls, satinets, the infinite variety of fancy and silk
mixed cassimeres, sackings, repellants, tricots, beavers Esquimaux, escredons, cloakings, our success has been complete and our progress within the last five years truly astonishing. In nearly all these productions we can vie with any nation in excellence, soundness, and taste of manufacture, and in some of them in cheapness. These goods it must be remembered furnish all the absolutely necessary card wool-clothing for our population, and all that the great majority of our people are inclined to wear at any time, a very small part of the population of the cities wearing occasionally, only, the fine and high-priced black
cloths. A small part of our population, it is true, prefer to purchase cloths of foreign make to distinguish themselves from the masses, but they are of the same class who in France, under the empire, when cotton stockings were prohibited, preferred smuggled cotton stockings to silk, because they could be only obtained at double the cost of the latter. Fashion all over the world demands the use for common wear of the medium mixed and fancy cloths in place of those of high finish. These we can produce from the admirable medium wools grown upon our own soil, and thus the American clothing-wool manufacturers and woolgrowers are able to perform their part in one of the first duties of a nation, that of clothing its own people. In the class of goods referred to there is no need whatever of foreign supply, and none would be sought abroad if there were among us that national sentiment in favor of home production which prevails among the nations of Europe. Notwithstanding the freedom of exchange among European nations, the national sentiment is found to be the most efficient encouragement of domestic production. The lustrous German cloths so freely sold here find no sale in England. The London tailors who visited the Exposition reported that there was nothing on exhibition which would compare with the cloths of England. How different is the practice with the tailors and retail dealers in this country who persistently foster the unpatriotic prejudice in favor of foreign goods, because they can obtain larger profits on the foreign article than on the domestic, as the cost and quality of the former are less generally known than of the latter.
To specify more minutely the comparative qualities of American goods: In the whole range of fancy cassimeres, including the mixed goods of silks and wool, in style, taste, perfection of manufacture, and strength of material, we excel the English, and nearly approach the manufactures of France. The same may be said of the whole range of flannels, colored and plain, and of the Esquimaux and Moscow beavers, which we have imitated from the Germans. In the low cost pilots, used as substitutes for the beavers, sightly to the buyer but trashy in wear, it must be admitted that we can hold no comparison with the English. In all the grades of woollen shawls which can be fabricated of American wool we successfully vie in fabric and cheapness of price with the Scotch, who are confessedly at the head of this branch of manufacture. In the class of all-wool goods of light weight, made in all varieties of colors, denominated sackings and cloakings, and largely sold for women's wear, the fabrics are now sold in this country, at prices reduced to a gold standard, cheaper than any similar fabrics are sold in Europe. Goods of this character, displayed in the American quarter of the Exposition, and marked at their net gold prices, attracted great attention for their cheapness, and constant applications were made for their purchase.
In some other branches of the woollen industry, besides that of card wool, especially those where we have equal facilities with the European manufacturer in obtaining raw material, our productions bear a favora