Crude and Curious Inventions at the Centennial Exhibition


(3.) Special Crops.—Among husbandry implements we have hitherto considered those for the culture of land and the preparation of grain for food. We now proceed to mention a few special crops and implements connected therewith, and as the list is but partial, it must be recollected that we are confined by the terms of our title to those industries which were presented at the Centennial: we find to our hand machines or implements for working in sugar, tapioca, tea, oils, fruit, honey, dyes, and lacquer.

India supplied us sugar and cotton; China, silk and tea; from Persia we have peaches and melons; Egypt, perhaps, gave us wheat; America blessed the world with corn and potatoes, — not to mention tobacco. Not one of these, however, is of as much importance as rice, the common property of India, China, and the Malaysian archipelago.

Sugar, which now seems a necessary of life among us, has been known in Europe as a common article of diet only for a couple of centuries, or so. It is a very common organic product, being found in many grasses, roots, and even in the sap of trees, but the devices we show are for the sugar-cane, a perennial plant which has been spread over the whole tropical world as one of the results of the rage for discovery and commercial occupation which commenced about the close of the fifteenth century.

Although the western world had heard of the sugar-cane of India from Nearchus, who commanded the fleet of Alexander the Great down the Indus, and the sweet crystals had a reputation as a curiosity or as a medicine for a thousand years after the era of “ Young Ammon,” the sugar-cane was not known in the Mediterranean countries until brought there by the Saracens. It was cultivated in Cyprus and Sicily in the twelfth century; taken to Madeira in the fifteenth, and thence to Brazil and Santo Domingo in the sixteenth ; Barbadoes was supplied from Brazil in the seventeenth century, and the plant was brought into Louisiana a little more than one hundred years ago, but the culture was much increased by refugees from Santo Domingo about the close of the last century. It does not seem to have spread very rapidly, but maintains its hold in climates suited to it.

The Japanese sugar-cane mill (Figure 157) has three vertical rollers geared together, and the canes are fed in on each side by two men who sit upon the ground so that the sweep may pass over their heads. The same style of press on a smaller scale is used in the United States for grinding sorghum, which is an African cane (holcus sorghum). We adopt new devices and new products with but a passing thought; in the East it is very different: there century follows century without visible change, except as climatic or dynastic disturbance may affect industries. The condensed syrup is being ladled into tubs.

The sugar-cane mill (Figure 157) has an interest in the probability that it represents the mill of the ages. The middle roller has a square gudgeon, in which the sweep lever is socketed, and is turned by a buffalo which walks round in a circular track, the end of the sweep resting on a wheel; as the rollers are geared together they revolve in exact accordance, and two passes are thus obtained, one on each side of the middle roller, the canes being fed in two directions. The juice flows by spouts into tubs set in the ground, one of which is seen at the left.

Figure 158 introduces us to the boiling of the cane juice, the wooden tubs with metallic bottoms being set in the top of a furnace which is on the lower story, only the top of it appearing in the view.

The tubs are emptied into the tray shown in Figure 159, where the concentrated syrup cools and crystallizes. When it has reached a certain condition, it is shoveled into cloths which are held in square, open frames, so as to make up the damp sugar in packages ready for the press. Two men are seen stirring the sugar that it may granulate, and two others are packing, one having just filled his frame; the other is beginning to arrange one.

The next step is to press the package of sugar to remove the molasses. The press is about as crude as possible. One man attends to two presses; he is about to put a cloth-covered package of sugar in the vat, upon a support which is not visible from where we stand. He will place on it a board and a square box, and a semi-cylindrical block of wood with the flat side downward. Then he will insert the end of the lever in the hole through the post and will rest it on the block; next he will pick up the heavy stone with a thong around it and suspend it from the end of the lever, which he may not be aware is a “lever of the second order. ” The molasses runs out of the vat into a tub at the man’s feet. The pressed sugar is dry enough for market.

The sugar-cane mill of Dinajpoor, Eastern India, is a mortar the rolling pestle of which is worked by two oxen that travel in a circle and cause the pestle to crush the cane, which is chopped into thin slices and thrown into the mortar. This is a log of a tamarind-tree sunk in the ground to give it firmness, and hollowed out on top. The pestle is a timber eighteen feet in length and one foot in diameter, rounded to suit the shape of the mortar, and having a button on its lower end which catches in a hole in the bottom of the mortar to keep it in place. The juice runs out below through a strainer and into a sunken pot.

The sugar mill is very ancient in Ceylon. The Mahawanso) or official history states that one existed in the district of the Seven Corles at a period corresponding to our A. D. 77.

A tribe of the Zambesi, in Africa, also raises the sugar - cane and extracts the juice with primitive wooden rollers.

The Guiana Indians have two crude forms of sugar mills: one has a pair of wooden rollers; the other is a press in which a lever is made to rest upon the cane placed horizontally beneath it on a table. The standing portion is a grotesque likeness of the head and shoulders of a man: his broad shoulders are the table, the lever passes into a hole in his neck beneath his chin, the expressed juice runs over his breast into a vessel.

Sugar-cane is grown in many places, as in Java and some of the islands of Polynesia, where the stalk is chewed and the juice sucked, but no sugar is made.

Trinidad exhibited at the Centennial its apparatus for the preparation of manioc or tapioca. This starchy product is yielded by the jatropha manihot, a plant which grows abundantly in the tropical regions of South America, the West Indies, and Africa. It is a plant of the family euphorbiaceæ, and has a tuberous root which yields a starch known in Brazil as mandioca, also called cassava from the Haytian name kasabi: it is the tapioca of commerce. There are three varieties, one of which has a highly poisonous milky juice, which is removed by grating and pressure.

The mandioca grater of South America and Trinidad is a wooden block, thirty-six by twelve inches, rather concave, and studded with sharp pieces of quartz set in a regular diamond pattern. The pulp of grated, woody fibre and starch is then put into a basket, such as is represented by Figure 161, which is sometimes made of the bark of a waterplant, but in this instance of cane splints in regular basket work, a pattern being produced in red and black and the natural yellow color of the cane. The baskets, of which a number were exhibited, hold from one to three pecks. In this basket the root is drained of its poisonous juices ; the pulp is then put into a long elastic cylinder (Figure 162) made from the bark of a climbing palm, the jacitira, a species of desmoncus. This plaited tube has a loop at each end and forms a strainer. It is packed with halfdry raspings of the root from the basket, and then hung from a limb by its upper loop; a weight is attached to the lower loop, and as the bag lengthens its cubic contents diminish and the remainder of the liquid is pressed out. The one shown at the Centennial stretches from eighteen to thirty inches. In Guiana it is sometimes made to hold several bushels of pulp, is hung from a cross-beam between two posts, and stretched by a lever, on the farther end of which a woman sits.

The straining cylinders, called tipitis, are very well and ingeniously made, and it is probable that we might take a hint from them in some of our manufactures. They are an article of trade in Brazil, where the Portuguese have not yet introduced any efficient substitute for the native methods and devices. The pulp is turned out of the cylinders in a dry, compact mass, which is broken up, the hard lumps and fibres are picked out, and the farina at once roasted on large, flat ovens from four to six feet in diameter, with a sloping rim about six inches high. These ovens are made of clay mixed with ashes from the bark of a tree called caripé, and are supported on walls of mud about two feet high, with a large opening on one side to make a fire of logs beneath them. The mandioca cakes, or beijú, thus prepared are sweet and agreeable to the taste, and the bread is usually made fresh every day, as when it gets cold and dry it is far less palatable. All this work comes on the women, who have to go to the field for the roots at least every other day, and every day to grate and prepare the manioc and bake the bread, which forms the greater part of the food of many tribes in Brazil, Guiana, and some of the West India Islands.

The tapioca of commerce is a more carefully made article. The sieve (Figure 163) is for sifting the dry tapioca to remove the dust. It is sixteen inches square, and constructed of cane splints in a wooden frame.

The term cassava is perhaps as well known as the Brazilian mandioca and the names manioc and tapioca, all of which refer to the same article. It is a kind of starch, like the product of the maranta arundinacece (arrowroot), a tuberous plant growing in the East and West Indies. The root is mashed and the pulp soaked in water, dissolving the starch, which is freed from the fibre by straining. This process is analogous to that adopted with corn, potatoes, wheat, and other vegetables abounding in starch and used to afford the commercial article.

The juice from the scraped cassava is boiled to destroy its deleterious qualities, and produces a brown liquid known as cassareep and much used as a sauce. It is the principal ingredient in the famous West India pepper-pot.

The tribes of tropical Africa use the manioc root in the same way as those of Guiana, the Monbuttoos, for instance. The Angolese prepare it by scraping the root on to a cloth and washing out the starch granules: these pass through the cloth and settle in the water, which is then decanted. The starchy farina is dried on an iron plate over a fire, being continually stirred with a stick till it forms into globules, making tapioca. The process is the same in Loanda-land.

Among people so painstaking as the Chinese and Japanese, every industry has its own set of tools and methods. This is true of tea as of silk, cotton, lacquer, and a variety of other things.

The Japanese implements and apparatus employed in the handling and preparation of tea are of the simplest and cheapest kind. They are not without merit, however, and are hardly susceptible of improvement so long as the value of labor is so small. If we had to pick leaves, sort, and pack them, we should instantly look about for some machinery. We have reapers for grain, cutters and huskers for corn, pullers and hullers for beans, pickers for cotton, and there is no absolute reason why leaves should not be expeditiously picked, prepared, and packed without laborious handling. But it will be long ere this happens, however, unless the experiment of tea-growing in our Southern States should prove a success; even then it will be decades before they give us as good a product as China and Japan. We need patience as well as perseverance, and there is much finesse in the matter of tea-making, and great room for that kind of skill which seems to be intuitive and incommunicable, being the result of the training of a people for scores of generations in special pursuits.

The Japanese at the Centennial took a great amount of pains to render their life and works plain to our people. In the present instance we find the cultivators and handlers represented by groups of pickers, dryers, sifters, sorters, packers, and dispensers; of these, four are selected for illustration. The mat table (Figure 164) receives the leaves which are picked from the bushes in the field; is to be found in all countries of the Eastern seas. It is large or small, and is of various materials, but it has always the same shape and never has a handle.

The vegetable oil sesamum (which substantially retains with us its Arabic and being brought in by the pickers the leaves are laid upon the open-work table and distributed evenly by the fingers and the fan. Figure 165 shows the pan over the furnace, in which the wilted leaves are curled and dried, being stirred and rolled meanwhile. In Figure 166 is a suspended sifter of wicker work used in sorting the leaves, retaining the flat, imperfectly rolled ones, which are treated a second time; it is about as convenient a purely handmethod as can be desired, the weight of the sieve being borne by the cord, and the leaves stirred by one hand while the sieve is shaken by the other. The qualities are sorted, put into separate pans, and handed over to the packers. These are seen stowing the tea in chests or pouring it into jars. In Figure 167 a man is discharging the contents of a basket-scoop through a funnel into a jar. This tray, of rattan, bamboo, or wicker,

Greek names: Ar. simsim ; sesamon) yields a large proportion of the oil of the Orient.

Figure 168 is a wedge press in which the ground and heated seeds of the sesamum indica are pressed, the meal being placed inside of a slack tub and beneath a follower on which rests the beam, which is depressed by wedges driven in with poles suspended from the roof and opererated by a man at each side.

The Japanese did not exhibit the machine or mill for grinding the oleaginous seeds, but it may possibly resemble that of India and Ceylon. The mustard-oil mill of Dinajpoor in Eastern India is a mortar and rolling pestle worked by a buffalo. The Singhalese oil mill is similar; their oil press has a rattan bag which is squeezed between a pair of horizontal bars by means of a band and lever.

The oil mill of Java is a pair of grooved cylinders. The separation of the oil is effected by boiling and expression. A press is made of two boards joined together at one end, and between them is placed the magma in mat bags.

Another method of pressing vegetable oil or tallow was exhibited from Japan. The first view (Figure 169) shows the mode of making a bag out of a strip of cloth cut bias and sewed up. In Figure 170 the bag is laid upon slats on a cloth which covers the top of a barrel. The matter is of an unctuous or oily nature, is heated in a pan over a furnace, and then shoveled into a tray which conducts it into the bag.

Figure 171 is the really primitive press: the round bar is brought down upon the bag whose mouth is closed and folded up beneath. The position of the bar is shifted from place to place, to squeeze out the oil or fat, as the case may be. Have we not been at the yearly hog-butchering of the farm and seen the cracklings thus treated?

Figure 172 is an oil press for treating the tingkawang pulp obtained from the vegetable-tallow tree. (dipterocarpus genus), one of the most beautiful trees of the Bornean forests. The fruit is gathered into baskets by the natives, and set in water to rot the shell; this is then easily removed from the kernel which yields the oil. The kernels are pounded, cooked, placed in rattan bags, and then in the primitive wedge press shown in Figure 1 72. The driving down of the wedge compresses the bag, causing the exudation of the fat, which congeals on cooling. The machine resembles the linseed-oil press of the last century, but is a very inferior affair to the Phœnician oil press of three thousand years ago.

The oil mill of Zanzibar for cocoa-nut and sesamum oil is like that of India and Ceylon. It has a wooden mortar in which is a conical cavity four feet deep and three feet in diameter at top, with a broad, flat rim. A rolling-pestle six inches in diameter is secured in the bottom of the mortar, and its upper end The Japanese exhibited a mode of packing fruit; this is first picked, exposed on frames to dry, or hung on strings to trellises for the same purpose, and then beaten into a mass in a mortar before packing in cylindrical baskets. We have not exactly the same plan with any of our dried fruits, which are either sold loose or packed in barrels. The Spanish prunes, Portugal raisins, Smyrna figs, Normandy pippins, and Egyptian dates are, however, familiar to us in ihe line of imported fruits. The press for packing dried plums has a windlass at each end, around which are wound the cords which press upon the followers in the crates.

The Exhibition had the results of the work of African bees, wax being a considerable article of trade. The bees of to a beam to the extremity of which a camel is harnessed. The correspondence between the apparatus of India and Zanzibar is not extraordinary when we reflect that the ocean has so long been a common passage way to the adventurous Arab sailors.

We do not find among these oil mills any similar to the Chilian mill, which has two large stones, like grind-stones, running on edge in a trough, a bar passing through the axes of the stones being attached to a vertical central post, to which rotation is imparted by a sweep. This is a very old form in Chili, from whence its name. The Roman trapetum was similar, but its stones (orbes) were segments of spheres and revolved in an annular basin (morlarium), their axes being inserted in a wooden nave (cupa), which was pivoted on a vertical pin on top of the central column (miliarum).

Africa are nearly all wild; that is, they are not cared for in hives, but build in trees and crevices of rocks, which are robbed by those who find them. The Balonda and Bongo tribes in Africa keep bees. The bee-hive of Loanda-land is a cylinder of bark taken from a tree by girdling at two points, then slitting and loosening the piece. When removed, it resumes its shape, the slit is sewed up, and the ends stopped by coils of grass rope, in the middle of one of which is the bee entrance. These hives are placed in a horizontal position in trees. The bee-hive of the Bongos of the Upper Nile is made of basket work, and is a long cylinder which has an opening at midlength six inches square. Basket work and bark are both of very ancient use: the Romans, for instance, made their bee-hives (alveare) of osiers plaited, fennel stalks sewed together, or of cork; also of wood and earthenware. They also divided their bee-hives into stories by partial horizontal partitions with spaces for passing up and down.

Apiaries and the management of bees have an important place in the husbandry of the Japanese, and they have several styles of hives, large and small, simple and compound. The one shown in Figure 175 is probably a non-swarming hive, as it has movable boxes in a frame, so that whenever a colony is pressed for room, a full box with a queen may be taken to start a new community, or a box full of honey may be taken out, in either case an empty box being substituted to give the bees space.

As among ourselves, the honey which drains from the comb is regarded as of the best quality, that which is pressed from the comb being more contaminated by contact with bee-bread and old comb. Virgin honey is that in comb which has been only once filled, the comb being clean and white and sweet. Figure 176 shows the Japanese comb drainer.

The press is needed, however, to get all the honey out of the comb. It has a vat with perforated staves, and a follower pressed down by a beam and wedge. The principle is exactly the same as that of the Phœnician olive-oil press of olden time, namely, two posts with a slot in each for the horizontal bar, which is driven down by wedges upon the follower that rests on the cake of bruised fruit. The posts, however, of the Phoenician presses are of massive stone with a stone lintel, and they stand yet in Levantine countries, silent witnesses of the culture and methods of thirty centuries since.

Figures 178 and 179 show the boilers for melting and cleaning the wax from which the honey has been pressed. They scarcely need explanation.

China and Japan use, and the former exports, a great many herbs and infusions, which require a press either to compact them into bales, or to remove the liquor, which is afterward condensed, by boiling, to form a vegetable extract. Among these materials is safflower (carthamus tinctorius), a dye which is used instead of the more expensive saffron (crocus sativus). It is the flower which is used, in each case. The safflower is an annual of the compositæ tribe, and has long been cultivated in the East, whence it is exported to Europe in bales, and forms the like those of Jack Tar. The man, however, manages to throw a part of his weight upon the handspike, and if that were not sufficient he would probably call for help rather than stand up. The red-dye liquor runs out at the spout into the little tub. The pink saucers which some ladies have on their toilet-tables to give a becoming blush to their cheeks have the carthamine color (rouge) obtained in this way.

The oil and the wine press of the Romans was a lever press, the beam (prelum) being worked by a windlass (sucula), as in Figure 180, and handspike (vectis) ; beneath the lever was the orbis basis of various red, rose, and pink dyes. The coloring matter is of two kinds: a yellow, which is soluble in water, and is then removable by pressure; and the red coloring principle, which is soluble in an alkaline solution. The press shown (Figure 180) is used for each of these stages of the process: we will suppose that the worthless yellow water has been run off, and a solution of soda added to the flowers in the vat. A sufficient time having elapsed for saturation, a board is laid over the material in the vat, and blocks upon the board; the lever is adjusted, and its outer end drawn down by a windlass, which winds a thong caught over the lever. The windlass barrel is rotated by a handspike in the usual way, excepting that the motions of the man are not much olearius, or round, flat board which rested on the heap of olives.

Figure 181 is the Japanese press for indigo infusion. It is on the same principle as one or two others given, and is as simple a continuous press as can be devised. We need hardly go abroad for it; many a country cheese has been pressed in this way, — a fence rail in a crack of the fence, and a stick of wood suspended from the free end.

In Figure 182 are Japanese maceration vats for making vegetable infusions, and Figure 183 is a form of wedge press used when great force is required. The principle has been but lately abandoned in this country for the hydraulic press, in obtaining linseed-oil from the boiled magma. The material to be subjected to pressure is placed in a strong canvas bag, and then between the cheek pieces (seen on an enlarged scale in Figure 184) in the mortise through the beam. Wedges are then driven down to clamp the cheeks together, and the dye, in this case, drops down upon cloths beneath; these are then spread in the sunlight to dry.

None of these presses show the advancement of the Roman torcular having a screw (cochlea) cut upon the shaft (malus), and serving to elevate or depress the follower beam (tympanum), which rests upon the object in the press. Such were used in the clothes-press (pressorium) by fullers, wine and oil makers, and others

The ginger cleaner (Figure 185) is a sort of rough grater to remove the bark from the root to make race-ginger, the merchantable form when dried. It is all of bamboo: the bow is a bent strip, the bars are sharp-edged slivers which are farther roughened by notching. It is held in one hand or resting on a table while the root is rasped upon it.

The lacquer of Japan is celebrated the world over for its excellent, quality, durability, and beauty. The material used is the sap of a tree (rhus vernicifera) which is cultivated in Japan especially for the purpose, between the thirty-third and thirty-seventh degrees of north latitude. Figure 186 gives us a sketchy idea of the appearance of the tree, and represents the method of tapping. The tapping tool may be seen in the lower part of Figure 187. When the tree is five years old it is regularly tapped every three or four days from May to October, incisions being made through the bark just deep enough to reach the wood, and extendin one quarter around the trunk. Clear sap flows out, mingled with a very white, milky substance which darkens on exposure to the air and becomes almost black. The incisions are made a little distance apart, and additional ones are made from time to time above and below the starting-point, and then in other positions around the tree, so that by the

end of the season the whole of the tree within reach is covered. As vitality is thus destroyed, the tree is felled and the branches are cut off, soaked in water, and tapped by scoring them in a similar manner. The lacquer is removed by a spatula as soon as it has filled the incisions, the bucket, made of a section of bamboo, being carried by the gatherer.

Figure 188 shows the manner of cutting the lacquer from the limbs, and Figure 189 the peculiar knife that the man uses.

The crude lacquer (ki-no-urushi) is a viscid, gray liquid which is purified and cleansed by allowing it to settle in wooden tubs lined with paper. The superior quality comes on top and is poured off; the thicker quality is then decanted from the impurities. Each quality is strained, and the finer is stirred in order that it may become colored by contact with the air and acquire a dark color.

The manner of using the lacquer varies considerably, but we cannot spare space for intricate details. Spread on thin it is slightly yellow and so transparent as to show the grain of the wood, like shellac. Put on with a drying oil it assumes a polish, but put on alone it requires subsequent polishing. It is sometimes colored by water which has been allowed to stand on iron filings, or with an infusion of nut-galls. The first coating is thick and hard, being of the crude lacquer mixed with burnt-clay dust or fine stone powder, and is laid on with a wooden spatula, a number of which are shown in Figure 190. The brushes are shown in Figure 191.

For coloring, the lacquer is mixed with cinnabar, orpiment, red oxide of iron, prussian blue, or is colored black by iron liquor or galls, as mentioned already. The priming of lacquer and burnt-clay dust is ground with a stone; subsequent layers of common lacquer are put on with a stiff fiat brush (Figure 191), ground with water and charcoal; and the final coat of the best lacquer is ground with softcharcoal and polished with powdered deer’s horn. Front this it appears that the material is excellent and the work most carefully and patiently performed. There is no first-class surface of paint, lacquer, or varnish to be obtained without pains; the stuff does not float into a perfectly level, hard, glossy surface. The admirable polish on our carriages and the French polish on our pianos are the result of skill, method, and care in the use of material of good quality. The Japanese lacquer excels in all respects.

The process of hardening and darkening is a work of time, and is best accomplished in large wooden boxes whose interiors are newly wetted with water; one celebrated kind is effected at sea, in a saturated atmosphere free from dust.

The ornamented varieties of lacquer work are numerous : the goldsprinkled is made by dusting fine gold leaf on to a freshly lacquered surface and coating it with lacquer tinted with gamboge. By making the outer coating opaque lacquer, and then grinding it off to any given extent with charcoal, the metallic spots are revealed in the degree desired. Even tin-foil looks yellow, owing to the color of the supernatant varnish. Relief paintings are (Fig. 189.) Lacquer Spatu done by building la. Japanese Exhibit. up the colors and grinding flat, with a subsequent polished coat over all; carving of bodies of lacquer laid on is also resorted to. The inlaying with mother-of-pearl is done by laying thin plaques of shell upon the lacquered surface, coating with black, opaque lacquer, and then grinding down the surface, first with stone and subsequently with charcoal, so as to reveal the shell to the extent desired. The brilliancy of the shell is increased by laying tin-foil beneath it, and its variety by staining it with colors.

The art of lacquering is more than a thousand years old, and pieces of that age are yet extant. When of good quality it will resist hot or cold water, hot soups and pickles, and even boiling raki, which is a fiery spirit from the innocent rice.

This sketch of husbandry implements by no means embraces all the important husbandry interests; some which were exhibited are omitted here and will appear in future papers; as, for instance, silk and cotton, which will be considered in connection with spinning and weaving.

Edward H. Knight.