Flax, the common name of the plant linum usitatissimum, and also of its most important product, the filaments obtained from the fibrous covering of its hollow stems, used from the remotest times in the manufacture of linen thread. The coverings of the Egyptian mummies testify that the linen mentioned by the most ancient writers was the product of the flax plant. The seeds furnish linseed oil; and of the residue, after this is expressed, is made the oil cake which is extensively used for feeding and fattening cattle. On account of its mucilaginous character, flax seed is also employed in medicine, its infusion in boiling water having a soothing effect in cases of inflammation of the lungs, intestines, etc.; and when ground to meal and mixed with hot water, it forms an excellent emollient poultice. The flax plant is a slender annual, from 2 to 3 ft. high, bearing small lanceolate leaves distributed alternately over the stalks. These terminate in delicate blue flowers, which are succeeded by globular seed vessels of the size of small peas, containing each 10 seeds, brown, oval, and flat, and remarkably bright, smooth, and slippery. The husk of the seed yields 52.7 per cent. of a pure gum soluble in cold water; and the interior portion yields the peculiar oil already referred to.

The plant, now cultivated in almost all parts of the world, is supposed by many to have been first known in Egypt, or possibly in the elevated plains of central Asia; but though no doubt a native of warm climates, the fibre attains its greatest fineness and perfection in temperate regions. The seed is richer in the tropics. Near the northern limits of its cultivation the product of the flax is abundant, but the quality is inferior. The flax of Holland and Belgium commands a higher price than that of Russia. This difference is owing partly to the extreme care given by the Hollanders and Belgians to its preparation. The Irish, who have cultivated the crop from an early period, and who seem to possess as great natural advantages for its culture as any people, rarely furnish so valuable an article as the Belgians. The greater part of the importation is from Russia, and the countries bordering on the Baltic. The rich soil of the valley of the Nile is well adapted for its cultivation, and the product of Egypt is increasing under the encouragement given by the English, who find it more economical to procure their supplies from foreign countries than from their own. -The New Zealand flax is obtained from the leaf of an endogenous perennial plant, plior-mium tenax, which is a native of New Zealand and Norfolk island.

The leaves are from 2 to 6 ft. long and from 1 to 3 in. broad, and have a fine strong fibre, which was once used by the New Zealanders for making dresses, ropes, twine, mats, cloth, etc. This species of flax has been imported into Great Britain, where it has been chiefly used for making twine and ropes; but its importation is now unimportant and its price low.-Flax appears to have been cultivated in New Netherland as early as 1626. The seed of flax was ordered to be introduced into the colony of Massachusetts in 1629, and flax was cultivated in that state soon after the war of independence, particularly at a distance from the coast. Manufactories for making sail cloth were established at Salem and Springfield in 1790. In Virginia flax was annually cultivated, spun, and woven by Capt. Matthews prior to 1648. Bounties for its production in that colony were offered in 1657. Flax was among the products for the encouragement of whose cultivation the British parliament made considerable grants to the patentees of Georgia in 1733, 1743, and 1749. Early attention was given to the cultivation and manufacture in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. According to the census of 1870, the total amount of flax produced in the United States was 27,133,034 lbs., of which 17,880,624 lbs. were produced in Ohio. 3,670,818 in New York, and 2,204,606 in Illinois. The total amount of flax seed was 1,730,444 bushels, of which 631,894 were the product of Ohio. In 1872 85,863 acres were sewn with flax in Ohio, which produced 733,384 bushels of seed and 24,477,361 lbs. of fibre.

In 1870 there were in the United States 90 establishments for dressing flax, the products of which were valued at $815,010. Of these establishments, 40 were in New York and 27 in Ohio. During the year ending June 30, 1873, 4,171 tons of raw flax, valued at $1,137,737, were imported into the United States, the largest quantities being from England and Russia; and the imports of flax manufactures, chiefly from England and Scotland, amounted to $20,428,391.-The manufacture of flax constitutes an important element of British industry. In 1871 there were in England and Wales 155 flax factories, with 369,768 spinning spindles and 19,816 operatives, of whom 12,614 were females; in Scotland the number of factories was 191, having 317,085 spinning spindles and employing 49,917 hands, of whom 36,362 were females; while in Ireland there were 154 factories with 866,482 spinning spindles and 55,039 operatives, of whom 37,700 were females. The imports of rough or undressed flax for 1872 amounted to 1,518,855 cwt., valued at £3,772,279. Most of this amount came from Russia, the imports from that country amounting to 1,115,804 cwt., valued at £2,690,610. Germany, Belgium, and Holland ranked next in order.

In addition to the above, 176,789 cwt. of dressed flax, valued at £659,704, were imported, mostly from Belgium. In 1872 there were 137,360 acres planted with flax in the United Kingdom, of which 122,003 were in Ireland.-The flax crop thrives upon almost any good soil thoroughly pulverized and well drained, but more especially upon rich sandy loams regularly supplied with moisture during the spring months. In Ohio, three pecks of seed are sown to the acre, which yields from six to twelve bushels of seed and from one to two tons of straw, which is manufactured into tow for rope walks and paper mills. It may be sown very early in the spring, and to good advantage succeeding a crop of grain. As it is gathered in July or early in August, another crop may be obtained from the same land during the season. A common practice with the Belgians is to sow the white carrot broadcast with the flax, and when the latter is gathered, which is done by pulling the plants by the roots, the soil is loosened around the young carrots, and being then top-dressed with liquid manure, they thrive luxuriantly. Grass or clover seed is also often sown immediately upon the flax seed. The better soils take three bushels of seed to the acre, the poorer two bushels.