This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The high price of sugar has had much to do with the present state of prosperity, as it is called, which induces extravagance and absurd luxury, evidenced by such things as the sale of fans ornamented with original paintings and jewels, at six and seven hundred dollars each. We were assured that half a million of dollars had been made, the past season, by some extensive sugar growers, and that those who made sixty and seventy thousand could be counted by hundreds. The whole profits of the island, this year, from sugar, were estimated by those who onght to be able to form a judgment, at fifteen millions of our money. It was a season of drought, but the high prices, and increased saccharine matter in the smaller canes, had much more than made up for the deficiency. The Cuban planters have this advantage oyer* those of Louisiana, that the cane-roots survive from year to year. In our country, planting is necessary every season; this is expensive, and the young plant sometimes " catches a cold," as a Cuban termed it when descanting on this fact.
The attention of most visitors is much given to the processes of making sugar, in which vast improvements and economy have latterly been introduced. The ear becomes soon familiar with the words representing new air-tight condensers, and with the names of the most celebrated estates, in which the Brothers Arietta make a prominent figure, their estates being understood to present the best culture and the best boiling, Ac, no less than the most successful employment of the Chinese workmen. A very handsome folio volume has lately been published in Havana, descriptive of the best sugar estates; the plates (if we Temember, there are fifty-four, well lithographed and colored) are sold together or separately, so that each visitor can bring away characteristic scenes. The whole cost of the book exceeds fifty dollars; it was purchased by one of the party, for deposit, probably, in one of our best public libraries. It is of course in Spanish.
Logwood is a product of the island, and 'the tree is used for hedges, the trimmings being more or less employed for domestic dyes. Food from the roots of the Yucca and other productions, is prepared on the plantations, but the banana and plantain have superseded the use of the Bread fruit, which was at one period extensively introduced, and is now found growing in gardens, but its product not greatly esteemed or employed.
In many private gardens, it is usual to see the large citron growing rampantly, bent over arbors, and the fruit hanging down, of an enormous size. We were allowed to pick one that weighed four pounds and six ounces, and this was by no means the largest. Limes, lemons, and, in short, all the tribe, grow with wonderful rapidity, and come into bearing very young; but there is little commercial demand for the fruit, and it is sparsely cultivated. But what glorious effects might be produced by the possession of such ornamental trees and shrubs, in connection with Euphorbias, the Cactus, and a thousand things we value so highly! As to attempts at ornament in this way, they are the exception, and more rare than is credible. You may see more Camellias in a small northern greenhouse at home, than will greet your eye during your whole visit to Cuba, where they would grow to a great size, and need no more care than anything else; but there it is so much more easily procured, that what we esteem so highly, is here neglected.
The best fruits of the country find a good market at the conserve factories, the most resorted to being Dominica's, the proprietor of the fashionable ice cream, or, rather; ice water shop. He is extensively in the business, and his wares are so toothsome and excellent, that it is a universal thing for American visitors to invest from a hundred dollars, downwards, in the guava and other jellies and conserves, dried and candied fruit, etc.; these, and domestic manufactures of the same kind, are also much consumed by the Islanders, who seem to live upon fruit, conserves, and vegetables. Dominica's restaurant is more crowded than any we have ever seen.