Silk Manufacture In The United States. - Of all the manufacturing industries of which the United States is so justly proud, not one stands more conspicuous for its success than silk, though it came into the field with great tardiness and caution. The truth is, native capital rather trembled at the thought of putting itself in competition with the Old World factories whose looms had a skill derived from 1000 years' experience. And yet, at the present day, our industry in the 50th year of its factory life stands second among the nations of the earth in point of production. We have beaten the Orient, we have beaten Switzerland, Germany, England, every European nation, except France; and we are approaching her with rapid strides. Although the silk manufacture is comparatively a new industry, yet we are now able to compete with all foreign productions in the medium grades to completely control our home market. In the very high grades, the older nations have the advantage of skilled hand-loom weavers, schools of design, and long established methods of printing and dyeing, which enables them to dictate to the fashionable world new styles and fancies. In the lowest grade of silk fabrics China and Japan have the advantage of cheap labor. It has taken years to dispel the old-time prejudice against American silks. Their intrinsic merit, however, has forced the American public to recognize their superiority, particularly in the quality of durability, and as the great majority of buyers purchase such"goods for service, and not for idle show, the American silks, after a protracted up-hill fight, have obtained their place among the standard staples of the United States. In 1891 the value of our manufactures of silk was $60,000,000; the value of French manufactures was a trifle over $100,000,000. It is very probable that the next ten years will make the United States the equal of France in the production of silk fabrics. However, it cannot be denied that France must be for many years to come the leading silk manufacturing nation of the world, and the great producer of fine goods. With such a rival, it is certainly a matter of no little pride to Americans that we have been able so far to develop a home industry that can now supply the demand for all but the very finest and the very cheapest grades of goods. It is from advantages derived from improved machinery for increased productiveness that the present position of the American silk industry is largely due. It has enabled our manufacturers to take the entire home market for certain styles of silk fabrics from the Swiss, the French, and other foreign competitors who previously supplied us with staple goods. In European factories, the speed of spindles ranges from 2,500 to 4,000 revolutions per minute. In the mills of this country the spindles perform from 12,000 to 15,000 revolutions a minute. These spindles save labor on a vast scale by various deft and unique automatic contrivances and attachments. Another great labor-saver is the American belt-spinner, which obviates the necessity of many bands or small belts, the one large belt touching all the flanges of the spindles and turning them uniformly. So different, indeed, is the American machinery from the foreign, that when a weaver or spinner from over the seas enters an American mill he is dumbfounded, and does not know what this and that piece of splendid machinery with its lightning-like movement is. To enter nearly any silk mill in this country, even the inexperienced eye is at once struck by the economy of space, by the complete utilization of time, the perfect division of labor, and the consequent harmony of movement among machines and operatives. So great has been the improvement in machinery since the industry was started in this country that it is stated at the present time one operative will spin more silk and do it much better than 2,000 could half a century ago; the room occupied would be only one four-hundredth part as much, and the cost of the machinery about one-twentieth. In 1891 there were 584 establishments engaged in one branch or another of the silk industry, employing 55,000 hands, and producing 860,000,000 worth of goods. These establishments were distributed as follows: New Jersey, 157; New York, 263; Pennsylvania, 64; Connecticut, 43; Massachusetts, 24; Illinois, 10; California, 6; Rhode Island, 5; Maryland, 4; Virginia, 2, and 1 each in Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and Tennessee. In the neighborhood of Paterson, N. J., alone, there are 82 factories manufacturing silks, 16 dye houses, 2 silk-finishing establishments, 5 making silk braid, 1 silk-spinning factory and 12 silk-throwing firms, while there are 23 firms engaged in making silk machinery for use in Paterson and other silk centers. These mills employ 25,000 hands and turn out annually about $39,000,000 worth of silken goods. The year 1882 showed the largest imports of silk into this country. The annexed table is interesting as showing the total consumption of silks in the United States as well as the steady progress made by our domestic looms since 1882

Consumption Of Silks In The United States

 

Domestic Silks.

Foreign Silks. Duty Added.

1882...............................................

$35,102,020

$57,951,051

1883 ................................................................

87,214,290

48,357,854

1884...............................................

84,444,770

46,786,892

1885...............................................

36,893,662

85,281,115

1886...............................................

54,941,026

41,732,895

1887...............................................

56,429,185

46,093,315

1888...............................................

57,288,422

47,906,137

1889...............................................

58,668,780

50,645,574

1890...............................................

42,631,105

57,773,245

1891...............................................

60,000,000

56,842,093