He said, "1 could not detect in the whole process any cruelty, either intentional or accidental. With respect to the driving and killing. I, at least, have no recommendation to suggest for their improvement."
By the way, it is amusing to note that in the seal trade there is much eccentricity in nomenclature. It seems strange, for example, that a "bull" and a "cow" should occupy a "harem" on a "rookery," and bear a "pup," which, if a male, is a "bachelor" for the first four years of his life; and also that the business of killing and skinning these animals should be known as a "fishery."
The curing of sealskin has risen to a fine art, and the best curing is now done in London. The American dressers have used every effort to handle sealskin with success, and have had to assist them a protective tariff. Yet, with every possible handicap, the London trade still excels in this branch of industry. Experts believe that the quality of our air and water may give an advantage to English dressers. In fact, the United Kingdom scores in several directions. Those who know declare that the excellence of Guinness's stout is due to the curious nature of the waters of the River Liffey; and the superfine texture of the paper of which our Bank of England notes are made is said to owe its origin to the water of the River Test, near the Laverstoke mills, in Hampshire.
The process of dressing sealskin takes from one to three months, and the dyeing process is almost as intricate as the dressing. This latter seems to be the secret of success with our English seal furriers. They alone are able to dye the skins the deep, dark, rich brown which is now reckoned as a necessity. At the same time, no injury must be done to the skins, and the dye must be thoroughly fixed, and to accomplish all this means skilful work, great patience, and much scientific experience. Every hair of a seal is, in reality, a tube which contains a minute quantity of oil, and for this reason the utmost care must be taken in preparing the skins, also the garments made from them should be treated with many precautions. For instance, sealskin should never be exposed to too great heat, such as drying before a fire, or the use of a hot iron, as the lustre of the fine fur would be thereby damaged. And if sealskin has been rained upon, it should be shaken and lightly beaten with a small cane, or, if much mischief has been done, it should be sent to a first-rate furrier.
The actual process of dyeing sealskin is as follows: The skins are first limed, and then packed back to back, with a layer of brown paper over the fur holes, in order to prevent the dye from penetrating the pelt, and thus damaging the skin. A coat of dye is then applied cold, and trodden in, after which the" skins are dyed gradually. They have from nine to fourteen coats of colour brushed in, each coat drying before the next is applied. By a new process, a darker top is acquired by dipping the skin in the liquid, which in this case must be warm, and, as a result, not so many coats of colour are required.
Next comes the important matter of the making up of the skins into garments. This needs infinite care, because the skins must be matched in the most accurate manner.
The male seal when full-grown measures six feet or more in length, and weighs at least four hundred pounds. The female is smaller in size
The hair of sealskin varies in length not only in each skin, but in different parts of the same skin, and if there is but a fraction of an inch of difference in the length of the hairs, a ridge is at ence made which detracts much from the beauty of the garment. In a well-made coat, no seam must be perceptible. In fact, much skilled labour is required, and when to this is added the price of the skins, no one need wonder that the cost of sealskin soars steadily upwards.
A sealskin coat is a precious possession, and a woman who buys such an expensive article should inspect the skins, and make her own selection. Fine, close pile, and soft, pliable felt are of first importance; and it is also needful that all the skins should be uniform in size, colour, and quality. Sealskin is more easily imitated than sable, and a buyer should be well on her guard against dishonest practices. An expert has kindly given some useful information. He says that sealskin is less flat and much thicker and closer than either musquash or the so-called coney seal and electric seal. Here is one absolutely certain method of detecting frauds in sealskin:
The leather of sealskin is never dyed at all, only the fur, while musquash and its cheaper fellows are wholly dyed - the leather as well as the fur. Now. a would-be purchaser who has doubts should, if buying a made-up garment, undo a bit of the lining, by which means the fact of fraud can at once be ascertained.
All of us, however, cannot afford the cost of fine sealskin, and a useful substitute can now be procured. Musquash is a real skin, and by the removal of long hairs and other treatment, may be made to resemble seal so closely that a skilled furrier would at a short distance be unable to detect the difference. But there are not many shops where the "seal-finished," or "plucked." musquash can be found in such perfection that there is not a bluish sheen, instead of Untrue brown tint, in the undergrowth. Besides this, the leather is stiff and the edges weaker and poorer than those of sealskin; and musquash is a very small skin as compared with seal - 12 or 14 inches in length, as against 38 to 40 or 50 inches - and in looking even at the surface of a musquash coat, it is possible to perceive seams 8 or 10 inches apart, which, in a way, spoil its appearance.
Musquash, however, is cheap as compared with sealskin. A coat of the best fur would cost from £40 to £60, and it would look well, and wear fairly well, and must be reckoned as a sound investment.
The musquash is a sort of rat, a native of North America. In shape it resembles the common rat, and its body is covered with a short, downy, dark-brown fur, intermixed with lighter and coarser hairs. It feeds chiefly on vegetables, and is an aquatic creature that seldom goes far from lakes and rivers.
Coney seal and electric seal are cheap but useful substitutes. The former is made from the skins of Belgian rabbits, and the latter from those of French rabbits. Coney seal is best, and a coat of good quality can be secured for £15. After all, imitation has been described as the sincerest form of flattery.