When, having left behind the Gallery of Machinery in Motion, one passes from the vestibule, by a quarter conversion to the left, into the Raw Materials Gallery, the room one first encounters is the Forest Industries room, described in our previous issue. Immediately afterwards comes the Agricultural Products exhibition, which we will visit together if you wish
not all of them, but only those that are not used for human consumption. And even then we only have among the non-food products those that are easy to preserve; namely: textiles: cotton, flax, hemp, wool and silkworm cocoons; oil plants, waxes, oils and resins; tobacco; tanning and dyeing materials; finally, fodder. This is more than enough for an interesting talk.
We even have in this room something else than agricultural products; we have
They adorn the upper parts of the walls. There are some very beautiful ones which are entirely machine-made, backgrounds and prints. On this subject I will give you a piece of advice: Beware of green papers. Here is a recent fact:
A young man showed all the symptoms of arsenical poisoning. He was sent to the country, recovered there, and returned home. A month later, the same symptoms recurred, but aggravated: swollen gums, violent facial neuralgia, extreme languor, considerable emaciation. A cistern was leaning against the wall of the flat; thinking that it could be the cause of the illness, we decided to remove it. While this work was being done, the young man had to leave; he returned after a fortnight completely cured. But a month later he was sicker than ever. Then the doctor, Mr. Whitehead, had an inspiration: the room was hung with green paper; he had this paper replaced by a hanging of another colour; the accidents did not recur. The owner of the house then remembered having heard the painter who had decorated the flat say that he "did not like to put up green paper, because it always made him sick. "
Now here is the explanation of the fact.
A square of this paper, about 33 centimetres square, was taken and the velvety part was scraped off. The green powder thus obtained weighed 1 gram 50 centigrams; but chemical analysis showed that it contained 55 centigrams of arsenious acid, a most poisonous substance. The walls of the room having a surface area of 350 square feet, the paper that decorated it therefore contained 192 grams 50 centigrams of a violent poison, and this four years after it was laid. The rest is understandable. The workman who, in order to glue this paper, presses it with a brush, detaches arsenous acid from it; the servant who dusts the walls does the same: the toxic powder falls on the floor, spreads in the air. Hence the accidents mentioned above. So beware of green paper. Having said that, let's deal with class 43, which didn't need to borrow from any other room to contain poisons.
There are display cabinets all around the room. Another row of display cases runs the length of the room. In the middle, in the place of honour, is the splendid exhibition of the
Imperial Tobacco Manufactures.
It is well known that the manufacture, sale, storage, warehousing, import and export of tobacco have been a state monopoly in France since 1811, by decree of Napoleon I. Tobacco growing is the only activity that is not subject to state control. Tobacco cultivation alone escapes this monopoly, but to form the privilege of farmers who exercise it under the supervision of the authority. The state processes these crops in factories employing about 20,000 men and women. It sells its products through 36,000 traders. The sale price is not based on the cost price, but on the needs of the tax authorities, as we saw in October 1860, when the finance administration suddenly raised the price per kilogram from 8 to 10 francs, in order to bring this tax into line with the decimal system. This enormous and sudden increase in price did not harm sales. While from 1856 to 1860 the average annual revenue had been 178 million francs, in 1861 this revenue rose to 215 million. This is one fifth of the yield of indirect taxes and revenues. And it is the revenue on which there is the least misunderstanding to fear. By a unique privilege, nothing can stop its upward march, neither shortages, nor wars, nor commercial crises; one can reduce one's bread ration, but one does not save on tobacco. From 1811, the date of the establishment of the monopoly, to 31 December 1860, the total profit made by the State on this singular article was 3,293,881255 francs.
The State is thus the only exhibitor in France. Its showcase, isolated in the middle of the room, can be seen on all four sides. In the corners are plants in full vegetation. We can follow their development and see on their magnificent pink flowers all the characteristics of the family to which these poisonous plants belong: the perfidious belladonna, the henbane and the jimsonweed.
Tobacco is worthy of this relationship. It contains in the form of organic alkali one of the most terrible poisons known. A poison to which only curare and prussic acid can be compared. A poison such that medicine has had to ban it from therapy. This alkaloid is nicotine, discovered in 1828 by Reimann and Posselt. It is an oleaginous liquid, transparent, colourless, with an acrid smell and a very burning taste. Its vapour is so irritating that it is difficult to breathe in a room where a single drop has been spilt. The dog on whose tongue one or two drops have been placed is almost immediately seized with tremors, he staggers, falls, his breathing becomes difficult, violent and continuous convulsions occur, paralysis follows and the animal soon succumbs. The sting of a needle dipped in nicotine is fatal.
But to enjoy its formidable properties, the alkaloid does not need to be isolated from the plant it characterises. Dry leaves, simply applied to the skin, have caused severe symptoms of poisoning. In the middle of a joyful meal, the poet Santeuil was struck down almost instantly after drinking a glass of Spanish wine in which a careless guest had poured powdered tobacco. Tobacco smoke itself can cause fatal accidents; orange trees, chrysanthemums and other plants subject to its influence have died in a short time. Birds, under the same conditions, languish and die as if struck by poisoning.
It is especially in tobacco factories that one can observe the toxic power of an atmosphere charged with nicotine. The
Four fifths of the workers are forced to leave their work at least temporarily. Even when they are acclimatised, they retain an aspect of suffering and the characteristics of premature old age. It must be acknowledged, moreover, that the administration watches over the health of the workers it employs with paternal solicitude.
The lower part of the display case is occupied by numerous samples of dried tobacco leaves. Each packet bears the name of the department from which it comes. Algeria is also included; we even have the culture of the colonists and that of the Arabs. There are also seed capsules and the products of various hybridisations. These departments have their specialities. Thus, the Lot gives a very full-bodied, very thick tobacco, used for the manufacture of snuff, and the same is true of the Nord; in the Pas-de-Calais, on the other hand, and in Alsace, fine and light leaves are obtained for the manufacture of cigars and pipe tobacco (scaferlaty). Indigenous cultivation, which is progressing, absorbs 20,000 hectares of good land! In 1860, it provided more than 24 million kilograms of tobacco. In spite of the great profits that the State makes, this culture is only lucrative in the hands of small farmers who employ their wives and children in this work, and do not take into account the time that it requires "If it were necessary," writes M. Schlœsing, "for a landowner to pay for all the days that represent the care of a hectare of tobacco, during and after the harvest, we doubt that he would be able to make a suitable profit. "
The upper parts of the showcase are occupied by the manufactured products. On one of the main sides are the cigars and cigarettes; on the left, the cigars which come from the departmental factories; on the right, the Havana products manufactured in France by the Reuilly factory; in the middle, the imports from Havana and Manila, all that has been made up to now of the most expensive and best, I suppose, of this kind, namely: the fior-fina at 50 centimes, the cazadores at 60, the emperatrices at h 75, the imperial ones at 1 franc, the napoleones at 1 fr. 50. On the opposite side, we have snuff, or grated tobacco; chewing tobacco in carrot form, in large rolls, in small rolls and pipe tobacco or scaferlaty: superior scaferlaty called foreign, at 12 fr. per kilo, which are composed solely of one or other of these tobaccos: Maryland, Varinas, Latakia, Levant, etc. .... Ordinary scaferlatys at 10 fr., scaferlatys at reduced prices for the land and sea armies and for the frontier departments. The purpose of this last reduction is to enable the Régie to withstand the stiff competition from smugglers who, while selling Belgian, German, Spanish tobacco, etc., at very moderate prices, are nonetheless making very good profits. Moreover, the State only gives the border departments value for money: the tobacco it sells them at reduced prices is of inferior quality.
The snuff is made with full-bodied leaves like those from the Lot and the North. There is a 40 percent exotic content. The leaves are wetted with salt water, chopped, piled up in masses of 40 to 50 thousand kilograms, left to ferment for four months, and pulverised; it is then dry grated. This dry grated cheese lacks amount. It is sprinkled with salt water; it is then perfect grated. Piles of 30,000 kilograms are formed and left to ferment for 9 to 12 months, during which time it is decanted 2 or 3 times. Finally it is spread out in horizontal layers. A month or six weeks later, it is mixed, sifted and put into barrels. It is finished.
The manufacture of chewing tobacco is simpler. The carrots are cylinders made of strongly pressed leaves and surrounded by a string. The rolls are real tobacco ropes. The large roll is made up of leaves arranged lengthwise and wrapped around a selected leaf, which is called a robe. The workshop for the large rolls is almost a rope factory.
Ordinary pipe tobacco consists of a large number of tobacco varieties. The leaves are softened by wetting them with salt water, the large ribs are removed, the rest is chopped, roasted, dried, put into masses and a fortnight later packed.
Cigars are made up of three parts: the interior or filler, an assembly of pieces of leaf arranged longitudinally; the binder, a larger piece of tobacco that wraps around the filler; and the wrapper, which spirals around the cigar and hermetically seals the surface. In France, 5, 10 and 15 centime cigars are made; the manufacture of these is the speciality of the Reuilly factory. We can get an idea of the extent of cigar consumption by looking at the fact that the Paris factory, which today employs 1,500 cigar makers, had barely 150 15 years ago.
The use of powdered tobacco has no great disadvantages, especially since the present manufacturing processes strip it of part of its nicotine. Its action is purely local: it increases nasal secretion, dulls the sensitivity of the pituitary gland, and obnoxiously reddens the lips, the wings of the nose, and the eyes; but that is all that can be reproached.
It is quite different for chewing tobacco, especially when used on an empty stomach. The pleasures it brings are sometimes bought at the price of simple or cancerous stomach ulcers. Malebranche, who in the last years of his life had contracted the habit of chewing, died of stomach cancer; Petit-Radel, for the same reason, succumbed to a cancer of the pylorus. This way of ending things is not very common among sailors.
As for smoking tobacco, the list of misdeeds attributed to it is much longer. Taken in excess, it provokes and maintains a more or less lively thirst, destroys the appetite, makes digestion difficult, reddens and swells the gums and lips, and alters the teeth, and Toirac, a distinguished dentist, used to say that the abuse of smoking tobacco was enough to defray his art. Moreover, chronic pharyngitis, many cases of amaurosis and cancer of the lips, which, it seems, affects almost only smokers, are blamed on this tobacco. That in the long run it weakens the senses, the mind and the memory does not seem to be in doubt. Some also see it as a cause of locomotor ataxia and epilepsy; a young student is cited as having been driven to epileptic idiocy by the permanent intoxication of tobacco. The substitution of the cigar for the pipe, which passes for an advance in elegance, is not fortunate from the point of view of hygiene, since, unless the cigar is not brought directly into contact with the mucous membranes, this method of using tobacco combines the effects of the chew and the pipe.
Now you can make a choice. Grated, scaferlati, cigar or carrot, which do you prefer?
A more satisfactory exhibition, and indeed quite satisfactory, is that of the products of our sheepfolds; the specimens are numerous, and there are some admirable ones.
The first mention goes to the famous extra-fine merino flock of Naz (Gex district) which is the property of M. le général baron Girod, of the Ain. Coming from the sheepfold of a former steward of the bodyguards of the King of Spain, this herd has existed for more than sixty-seven years, during which time it has constantly reproduced itself, i.e. without any foreign stallion. It has provided various countries with numerous male and female breeding animals. Its wool is distinguished by strength and elasticity as well as by fineness and softness. The breed is of medium size and thrives on meagre pastures.
Apart from its intrinsic value, this showcase is interesting in that it shows us the pure products of the breed that, just a century ago, served as the model for the creator of our native merino breeds.
Wild animals are known to have two kinds of hair: silky and woolly. Domesticity can cause them to lose one or the other. In the merino the woolly hair alone remains.
A century ago (1766) we got all our fine wool from Spain. The French government, wanting to free itself from this tribe, turned to Daubenton. The problem was this: to obtain, with the French breeds, a wool as beautiful as that of the Spanish merinos.
Daubenton began by bringing in rams from Roussillon, a province bordering on Spain, with which he shared a similar climate. He combined these rams with ewes from Burgundy. Here are the results he obtained:
The rams of Roussillon had a wool six inches long and the ewes of Burgundy a wool three inches long. Daubenton obtained in the first generation a length of five inches, in the second a length of six inches and so on. At the end of seven or eight generations he had obtained twenty-eight inches in length.
The fleece of the first breeding ram weighed two pounds. The fleece of those that followed was six pounds, then eight, then ten and finally twelve. The fineness followed the same progression.
Pure wool is that which no longer has any silky hairs or jars at all. By the fourth generation, Daubenton had purged his products of all silky hair, he had only pure wool sheep. He had thus succeeded in giving them the qualities of Spanish merinos, i.e. wool that was long, abundant, fine and pure.
The products of the Rambouillet, Mauchamp and Beaulieu flocks, of the Rambouillet and Gevroles cross-bred electoral breed, and of the dishley-merinos, allow us to appreciate how fruitful the great example set by Daubenton was. The silky wool of the Mauchamp herd is exhibited by the creator's son, Mr Graux. M. Godin aîné of Chatillon sur Seine shows us the fleeces of the Rambouillet and Gevroles cross-breed; he keeps 1500 animals on 210 hectares, the rams and ewes, bred in large numbers, are sold in France and abroad and as far as Australia for reproduction.
Flax and hemp.
We have to note here the happy progress of mechanics. To the great benefit of hygiene and labour, the mechanical retting and scutching of these two textiles are tending to prevail. By scutching we mean the operation which consists of crushing flax and hemp to separate the filamentous bark from the woody substance which forms the centre of the stems.
Mr. Léoni and Mr. Coblenz, owners of the beautiful factory of Vaugenlieu, go even further in this direction; they operate the mechanical scutching without scutching.
The bundles from the harvest are first cleaned of their roots by means of a special machine.
They are then dried in an oven and subjected to the successive action of two milling machines which remove the filaments. The remaining woody part, the "chenevottes", as they say, is burned in the boilers and the factory does not use any other fuel. Finally, the filamentous parts are passed through a machine consisting of two horizontal sheet metal drums making 250 revolutions per minute, the surfaces of which are fitted with blades of various shapes and directed in different directions so as to produce sorting, combing and splitting of the fibres. It is something similar to the Philippe and Girard machine. All that remains is to subject these fibres to the action of the hydraulic press and to form them into bales for shipment.
The United States Civil War deprived Europe of cotton, and the rapid progress made in recent years in the preparation and manufacture of hemp and flax had no other cause.
It was also attempted to introduce the cultivation of cotton in various parts of Europe and in France itself. Although these trials have now lost much of their importance, they have not ceased to be interesting. Let us therefore take a look at the exhibition of Mr. J. Hortolès, nurseryman in Montpellier, where are gathered bolls of cotton harvested on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the burning sands of Pérols which seem favourable to this kind of culture. The exhibitor tells us that the bolls are completely open from September onwards, and that the harvest can thus be carried out before the autumn rains. He refers to three years of experience. This very year he sowed half a hectare in the former marshes of Vie, now dried up and in the sands already mentioned.
To see so many showcases full of the precious products of the bombyx: these cocoons in the strands and these cocoons threaded in immense strings, these floats of silk grége and these clouds of carded silk, and this silk floss, and all the products that spinning, weaving and dyeing know how to make from it, and so many substitutes for the mulberry worm, that of the castor-oil plant, that of the ailante plant, etc.; to see so many sources of silk, and so many products that are used in the production of silk. To see so many sources of wealth and so much real wealth, who would think that we are in the presence of an industry in distress, beset by a scourge that has so far defied all the efforts of art and science!
The imperial farm of Vincennes and M. Guérin Meneville show us the possible resources of the future: the bombyx-yama-mal or Japanese silkworm, the first cocoon of which was obtained in France in 1861; the magnificent bombyx atlas, born in Paris and which comes from the Hymalaya; the enormous tussah or bombyx mylitia, which until now has not been able to reproduce here, its education having been too prolonged in the autumn; the Hymalaya oak worm, bombyx Roylei, tried at Vincennes in 1864, and whose too late hatching also caused the experiment to fail; the oak worm, bombyx polyphemus, tried for four years; the plum worm, bombyx cecropia, tried for much longer, and always without success. These difficulties and failures should not discourage experimenters. The oak silkworm, which we have not yet been able to appropriate, is being reared in Boston on a large scale by M. Trouvelot.
M. Chabot fils, of Lyon, has a very rich and varied exhibition. Mr. Camille Personnat, of Laval, shows us all that can be done with the carded silk of the ailante worm. Miss Bruno Broski has sent from the Château de Saint-Selve, near Bordeaux, cocoons and gregarious silk as white and bright as snow. From her window to that of Miss C. Dagincourt, of Saint-Amand (Cher), the contrast is complete; we have here indeed the products of the education of a race of moricauds, education conducted from 1863 to 1866. The consignment from Mrs. Durival's widow, from Ro-morantin (Cher), also deserves a mention, if only to honour the initiative of the exhibitor through whom sericulture was introduced 25 years ago in Sologne, where Mrs. Durival is still the only one to practice it.
There is a humble product for which a few words of explanation will not be useless. It is silk floss, the residue of reeling and milling. It is commonly believed that it is only used in the composition of the most inferior fabrics, in hosiery and trimmings; this is a mistake. All scarves are made of it, it forms the raw material of the Roubaix article; it is used to make the satin weft, an article from Amiens, and the warp of the Castres cloth. All cordonnet comes from it. Finally, we shall mention as an application worthy of interest the sailing silk which has been tested in recent years in the shipping industry, and which seems to compensate for the higher price resulting from the use of such a material for such a purpose, by the advantage of superior strength and great lightness. Spun silk floss is known in the trade as "fantasy".
The ever-increasing consumption of paper has led to a shortage of raw materials, which all manufacturers complain about.
In addition, the quality of rags is becoming less and less suitable for large typographic works. The shortage is such that certain English industrialists have proposed to the pasha of Egypt to buy from him, in order to convert them into pulp, the strips of all the mummies contained in the sarcophagi of that country. This conversion was tried in London in 1847, and boards of remarkable quality were produced. According to the calculations of these speculators, the Egyptian tombs contain at least 20 million metric quintals of cloth. It seems that there is a considerable profit to be made.
Let us hope with Mr. Decaisne that such a monstrous profanation will not take place. But the best way to prevent it is probably to discover new materials suitable for making paper. For a long time, inventors have been engaged in this search, and we have before us proof that their work has not been sterile.
Mr. Caminade, in Orleans, borrows his raw materials from the alfalfa root. His showcase shows us the natural root - open - disintegrated - disintegrated and bleached - disintegrated and dyed without bleaching - the pulp obtained from it - the same pulp bleached - and finally various samples of paper.
Mr. Aug. Délayé, in Crepols (Drôme), addresses the wood. According to him, wood alone can solve the question. He exhibited pulps made from different species, and the papers of very different qualities that are made from them.
But nothing is more curious, in this respect, than the showcase of Mr. Eug. Pavy's shop window in Saint-Denis and in the Côte-d'Or. It does not look like much, it must be admitted, but it will interest all those who see what it contains. China grass, rice, wheat, oat and rye straw, beetroot, mustard, rape and poppy stalks, reeds, elm bark, manure, plant detritus
From all these and other things, he makes pulp and paper of all kinds, not to mention the fact that the chemical disintegration of the plants on which he works provides him with a fertiliser above all else.
For the record, we quote magnificent collections of seeds, beautiful samples of hops, and all the fodder flora including Schrader's brome, and all the forest flora, and the herbs and products of oil mills, starch factories, etc. .... Mrs. Émile Léon of Sainte-Croix, near Bayonne, exhibits under glass a climbing plant originating from Martinique and which serves as a sponge, which has earned it the vulgar name of torchon. This vegetable sponge would have been acclimatised by the exhibitor in the region she is skilled in.
Insecticidal powders offered to agriculture. Agriculture, indeed, has no more serious enemy than the insect. Three hundred thousand species of insects besiege us day and night, and as soon as our surveillance is relaxed, they invade our fields, our granaries, our building sites, and our homes, stopping only when there is nothing left to destroy.
Hides and skins.
After the agricultural products come the hides and skins, but as another room, placed a little further along the road we are following, is also devoted to them, we will wait to talk about them until we have been able to cover them all.
Let us however mention the remarkable products of Mr. Henri Reeg, saddler in Paris.
It is well known that our saddlery uses only pigskins of English origin, preferred because of their suppleness and dark colour. Now, Mr. Reeg's exhibition proves to us that he has been able to give these qualities to the leathers he prepares. We therefore owe him our freedom from a tribute that is even more humiliating for our industry than it is costly for our purse.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée