Silk Culture An California
By Mrs. D. J. Murphy


President of Ladies' Silk Culture Society of California


The members of the Ladies' Silk Culture Society of California beg to call your special attention to their work, which must appeal to every person who desires to help our boys and girls to a practical knowledge of a branch of industry that for thousands of years has proven a source of wealth to every nation that has fostered it.


Now the United States is stands over ninety million dollars a year to foreign countries for raw silk.


Why not raise this raw material ourselves and keep this vast sum of money at home?


Experiments have demonstrated that California is better adapted by soil and climate to the growth of the mulberry tree, the natural food for the worms, and for the raising of them, then any other country on the globe.


The Ladies' Silk Culture Society of California has practically shown that this industry can be successfully carried on as a special business on any scale desired, in over thirty counties of this state.It would certainly be more remunerative than many other speculative investments, making us independent of this foreign importation.To those who argue that we cannot compete with the cheap labor of Asia and Europe we answer, we have done so in other branches of productive industry, notably in fruit, wine and varied other productions.


The raising of silkworms from its very nature is a home industry; it calls for no large investment of capital--a few patches of the mulberry tree planted round the home, the orchard and the garden, by the men; the labor of caring for and feeding of the worms can be done by the women and children of the family.The work is easy, particularly to those who are unfitted for severe or rough labor.


When the cocoons are ready they can be sent to the filature station and sold, as the farmer now disposes of his fruit to the canneries.The modern methods in most silk raising countries are carried out on these lines.


In former efforts that have been made to promote this industry in our State, the great drawback to a permanent success has been and is the lack of knowledge of the part of our rural population of the great value of the industry in not knowing how to raise the worms, there being no educational institution in the State for this purpose.


The art is not difficult to acquire; it can be easily learned from printed instructions, which, if carefully followed, will result in success.


This society will freely give these instructions, which also will be printed in French and Italian, to those desirous of experimenting.


Till within the last few years the reeling of the silk from the cocoons was also done in the home, but the old-fashioned hand loom is now almost a thing of the past.Reeling the silk from the cocoon has become an organized factory industry, giving employment to thousands of girls and women all the year round.


The Ladies' Silk Culture Society will, in the near future, own one of these latest, up-to-date machines for reeling, and will buy at the highest market price all the cocoons offered them.The art of reeling will be taught by expert teachers and this branch of the industry will be carried on in the city.It is by such practical efforts as these that this society hopes to establish this valuable industry in the State.


The basis of silk culture is the mulberry tree.The first step, therefore, to future success in developing the industry is to plant trees everywhere throughout the State that is best adapted to the raising of the worms, not only around the home, but in every vacant corner of the farm, along the highways, as shade trees, on riverbanks and the foothills that are now called uncultivated.It should be the duty of the supervisors in every county to provide funds for this purpose.


In all European silk raising countries the governments take the greatest care that these trees are provided and cared for, hence the great commercial value of the industry.Every schoolhouse in the State should have a few trees in its yard, and practical instructions in raising the worms given to the children.This also is provided by the government in silk-raising countries.


By such methods as these the industry will spread another source of wealth to California be assured.Every nurseryman throughout the State should at once realize what the value of these trees will become in the future.


Samples of the raw silk, raised by us, have been placed in the information bureau in the Ferry Building, San Francisco, and also at the Chamber of Commerce, Napa County.A spool of our silk was reeled by Carlson & Currier at Petaluma, and pronounced equal to the best raised anywhere.


At the recent Land Show in San Francisco a gold medal and the blue ribbon was awarded for raw silk raised in the Agricultural Institute, Rutherford Farm.An exhibit of California raised silk is made at the Panama-Pacific Exposition.


EDITORíS NOTE: Mrs. Murphy is a pioneer San Franciscan, who after reading an exhaustive treatise on silk culture in Europe, decided to investigate the conditions in California with reference to raising silkworms and the mulberry trees upon which they feed.She induced a number of friends to join her in establishing an experimental farm in Rutherford, Napa County, where they have by actual production for a number of successive years, proved to their own satisfaction that California offers remarkable possibilities as the silk manufacturing State.Mrs. Murphy is the widow of the former district attorney of San Francisco.


Source: California's Magazine, New Call Building, San Francisco, 1915, Pages 412-413.

© 2002 Nancy Pratt Melton