San Francisco Bulletin, December 7, 1866
As some persons already know, this is a handsome city of 6,000 inhabitants, and has wide, level streets. Some uncommonly fine buildings for such a town, a couple of ample public squares in addition to the usual plaza, a pretty park adorned with shrubbery, half a dozen newspapers, and several first class schools. But there are almost incredible items of interest connected with the place which are not so well known. For instance: The county is said to be out of debt; the $150,000 of scrip appropriated for the stately Courthouse now in course of erection has sold at figures ranging all the way from one up to five per cent. premium; the city is also out of debt and has $150,000 in its treasury. I give these marvels as they were told to me--I dare not vouch for them. Cities and counties that are out of debt are very rare; the official virtue that permits them to remain so is still rarer--wherefore we must receive such statements as the above with caution.
The Academy of Notre Dame is a fine structure, and its elegant grounds are kept in perfect order. The establishment cost $130,000. The people of San Jose propose to build a preparatory school for the reception of pupils destined for college, which shall rank with the finest in the Union. I paid full price at the principal hotel--without abatement on the score of being a newspaper man--and this ought to entitle me to say it is much the best hotel on the coast outside of San Francisco, without being accused of compounding for my board with puffs.
I spent two hours in questioning Mr. Prevost about the silk culture--and crowding him down to categorical answers without permitting him to wander off into other departments of the subject--and what I don't know about this business now is hardly worth knowing.
The dry, sunny, mild and balmy atmosphere of California, and especially of San Jose Valley, is unsurpassed in all the world in its peculiar adaptation to the production of raw silk. The mulberry tree springs up in a shorter time, flourishes more luxuriantly, and is blessed with a greater freedom from disease or blemish of any kind, in this State than in almost any other country. Its trunk attains a circumference of two or three feet in six or seven years, and slips will grow to the height of 10 or 12 feet in a single year. In writing about these things to that officer of the French Government whose duty it is to keep the nation posted on the agriculture of the world, Mr. Prevost subtracted several inches from the first statement and knocked off several feet from the second, so as to bring them within the limits of that officer's credulity! It was a piece of noteworthy sagacity.
Mr. P. raises his cocoons in a garret about 40 by 12, which has no ventilation, and where the thermometer gets up to 107 sometimes--a state of things which no silk worm would put up with in any other country--yet the beasts eat ravenously, live happily, and curl up in July or August and die with unalloyed satisfaction. They weave a silken winding-sheet for themselves, and always take a pride in getting it up the best they know how. If these shrouds are to be sent to the factory, the life of the imprisoned worm must be destroyed. If not, that worm turns into a very imbecile looking and inferior quality of butterfly and bites a hole in the end of the cocoon and climbs out. And as long as it lives, it never takes any interest in anything but laying eggs. It lays them by the thousand, and they turn to worms and fall to eating mulberry leaves with an avidity that shows they mean business. A hundred thousand silk worms at dinner at once make a noise with their teeth something like the racket of a steam printing press.
There were about 200,000 cocoons produced in California this year, half of them by Prevost. He reserved half for the market and saved the rest to breed eggs from. Mr. Prevost is the old original pioneer of the silk culture in this State, and furnished eggs and information to one farmer after another, until, after six years of persevering labor, he has now the satisfaction of seeing the silk business surely and steadily gathering strength and establishing itself as one of the permanent sources of the State's wealth and importance. But for the fact that some chattering, pretentious impostor too frequently steps in at the eleventh hour and robs the pioneer of his laurels, I would expect Prevost to be honored with the title of Father of California Silk Culture, some day. But let him look out that he don't confer affluence and distinction upon the State, and then die in poverty and neglect at last.
A silk manufacturing company has been formed, machinery has been purchased, and the buildings are now in process of erection. The grounds--26 acres--were donated by citizens of San Jose.
Mulberry trees should be planted 10 feet apart, so that the sunshine can have free access to all the foliage. Thus planted, an acre will contain 435 trees. Any farmer can have four or five acres of trees, and his young children, useless for all other purposes, can feed silk worms, and produce cocoons for the factory. There is no trouble and no expense connected with the operation. Mr. Prevost has about 30 acres of trees, and the 100,000 cocoons he reared the present season would produce 2,000 yards of silk fabric, a yard wide--worth $4,000 or $5,000, I suppose. Being a bachelor, I never have occasion to buy silk goods, and am not well acquainted with prices. A cocoon averages 800 yards of fibre, or 200 to 250 yards of thread--about one spool, I should say. Woven into cloth, it will make a strip of silk goods a yard long and an inch wide.
Silk can be manufactured in San Jose, with Chinese labor, cheaper than it can be imported. One great advantage the culture of silk has over many other products is that it is not in any wise cramped--it has the whole world for its market. There are hundreds of thousands of acres in California, well situated to do the silk culture.
The State Legislature has instituted very fair premiums for the encouragement of the silk interest, and latterly, the agricultural and industrial societies have given assistance in the same direction, though at first they gave lop-eared rabbits and incomprehensible pictures done with a needle on the general plan of a darned stocking, the preference over the silk culture.
Mr. Prevost has been obliged to give lengthy instructions to farmers so often by word of mouth, that he has finally concluded to write a complete manual of the silk culture and publish it for the benefit of all who are interested, and he is hard at work at it now.
When a climate can be found which insures the mulberry tree against disease, no occupation is so free from risk and so surely profitable as the silk culture; and California furnishes that climate. Therefore, there is little question that she will one day become a great silk-growing State.
Mark Twain Mystified.
EDITOR BULLETIN--I cannot understand the telegraphic despatches now-a-days, with their odd punctuation--I mean with so many question marks thrust in where no questions are asked. The despatches appear to be in the last degree mysterious. I fear we are on the eve of fearful things. Now, read this ominous telegram. I cut it out of this morning's papers, and have been studying over it most of the day, but still I don't consider that I understand it now any better than I did at first:
NEW YORK, December 6.--The World's Brownsville special says: The city of Matamoras was surrounded[?] to General Sedgwick, commanding the United States horses[?] on the Rio Grande, on the evening of the 24th ult. Col. T. G. Perkins, of the Nineteenth U.S. Infantry, being the only artillery[?] regiment now on duty there, was stationed in command of eleven[?] men of the French[?] cavalry, who crossed over and stultified [occupied?] the city that day, but did not return until the previous[?] day, on account of having to remove [remodel?] the pontoon bridge, to let his baggage train cross over, whereby he did not get back again [where?] in time to prevent it, or at least not as much as he might if he had, and certainly not otherwise if he did not or was unable, or even could not and went back on him. So Gen. Wxgrclvtkrvw [?] thinks.
Come, now, this is not right, you know. I have got to lecture Monday night, and my mind ought to be in repose. It is ruinous to me to have my mind torn up in this way on the eve of a lecture. Now, just at the very time that I ought to be serene and undisturbed, comes this dreadful news about Col. T. G. Perkins and his incomprehensible (but I think, wicked) conduct, and Gen. Wxrg(insert remainder of alphabet)'s bloodcurdling though unintelligible opinion of it. I wish to Heaven I knew what Perkins was trying to do, and what he wanted to do it for, and what he expected to gain by it, and whether he ever accomplished it or not.
I have studied it over patiently and carefully, and it appears
that he, with his regiment of American infantry, being the only artillery
there, crossed over with his French cavalry and occupied some city or other;
and then returned the day before he went over and sent his baggage train across
to the other side (of course returning again at some other time not mentioned,)
but too late, unfortunately, to prevent it, which this Gen. Wxgr, etc., thinks
he might if he had, or otherwise if he did not or was unable; he therefore--
However, it ain't any use. This telegram is too many for me. Despondently,