Imágenes de páginas
PDF

publicly by the Florida experiment station. The Florida tobacco "boom," started by the tariff of 1890, was short-lived, but the work has been persisted in. It is now demonstrated, since that date, that Florida has all the natural conditions necessary for growing cigarleaf tobacco, both wrappers and fillers, of a quality equal to most of that which has been imported from the Island of Cuba in recent years, and wrappers of finer quality than those imported from Sumatra. These are strong statements, but they are justified.

The industry in Florida has practically three divisions: First, the culture of domestic varieties, which are rapidly giving way to (second) the culture of tobacco plants raised from the best Cuban seed, and (third) the raising of Sumatran seedleaf. The seed of the latter was obtained with difficulty by a man sent to Sumatra for the purpose. A little of this importation was planted in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and has given promising results, but the bulk of the seed was distributed in Florida. The 1896 was the third crop of this new variety since its importation, and it is conservative to say that it has already revolutionized the cigar-leaf industry of Florida, and upward of 1,000,000 pounds of it were produced in 1896. Plates V and VI, on Page 36, give an admirable idea of this Floridagrown Sumatran seedleaf, which is quite different from all other tobaccos grown in America, or Cuba, and a view of a whole field of it is afforded on Page 434.

Havana wrappers and fillers have been grown very successfully in Northern Florida, the most extensive operations being conducted by the Owl Cigar Company, in Gadsden county, who also grow Sumatran leaf. This concern owns 17,000 acres, divided into nine plantations and each having its superintendent. It owns 146 barns (each from 40x00 to 40x108 feet), 210 tenements for laborers, besides its own mills, repair shops, etc At Quincy, it has four large warehouses, besides the buildings where the final fermentation and packing is done. The company raises 900 acres of tobacco annually, besides other crops, and packs 2500 bales of tobacco each year. It employs 1200 men in the growing season and 500 men the year through, at an annual payroll of $150,000. Other planters raised about 1000 acres of cigar leaf in the Gadsden section during 1896, making a total of nearly 2000 acres in that region, practically all of which is usually sold by the growers by Ootober.

The plant of Sumatran seedleaf in bloom (except for its flower) reminds one of the common sunflower rather than of what we are accustomed to in tobacco. Its leaves are of so delicate a nature that after being fermented it will take about 200 of them to weigh a pound. Hence the wonderful "wrapping" capacity of this leafthat is, the great number of cigars that can be covered with one pound of Sumatran seedleaf. The 1896 crop of it in Florida was nearly all bought up before election, at 20 to 50 cents per pound for the cured leaf, while it is claimed that selections of Florida-grown Sumatran leaf have sold to cigar manufacturers for $1.50 to $2 per pound, in appearance rivaling as cigar wrappers the finest imported from Sumatra, while in quality (that is, flavor, body, burn, etc.), surpassing the best Sumatran leaf. Unlike the leaf direct from Sumatra, which is so poor in quality as to be unfit for the bulk of the cigar (fillers and binders), this Sumatran seedleaf, when allowed to fully ripen, possesses quality and aroma that make it desirable for fillers, being wholly free from the bitter taste of the imported article. In this respect, it seems to improve after one or two years' domestication. In Florida, it does well on both old and new lands, while in Sumatra tobacco is grown largely on new land. Aside from its hardiness, thrift and quick-growing qualities, and the high price the best leaf commands.

[graphic]

this Florida Sumatran seedleaf is specially attractive ta the planter, because, under the same conditions, it averages more pounds of cured leaf per acre than do other varieties heretofore grown in Florida. Sumatran seedleaf makes 800 pounds under average conditions, and as high as 1000 to 1200 pounds have been claimed in a few instances. Mr. Curry, who had 130 acres of Sumatran seedleaf under his charge in Florida in 1896, reports an average of 800 pounds of merchantable cured leaf per acre. Being so upright in growth, plants are set 12 to 15 inches apart, in rows three and one-half to four feet apart, giving 10,000 to 12,000 plants per acre. Col. F. B. Moodie, who has done much to develop the industry as president of the Florida tobacco growers' association, and to whom we are greatly indebted for much information, reports that with proper care seventyfive per cent of the crop will be fine A wrappers, the balance seconds, binders and fillers.

Imported seed is very delicate, but that from the first or second year's growth in Florida is much more hardy. But even in Northern Florida, it is never safe to sow this variety before the middle of March, by which time other varieties are usually transplanted. In Gadsden county, on the Gulf side, Sumatran seedleaf is transplanted as early as April 1 to 10. Under favorable conditions, it is a rapid grower, and within 40 to 50 days will attain the remarkable hight of six to eight feet, and when in flower nine to ten feet. It has been found best not to top the plant at all, and if at all, not until about four-fifths of the leaves have been harvested. Some top to 24 leaves, while others get 30 to 40 leaves on the taller plants. Early planted Sumatra is without spots, but the later planted crop is spotted. If the soil is poor, or the season dry, so that growth is slow, or if the plant is topped too low, the leaves are thick, dark and comparatively undesirable. Harvesting of the early crop is done from June 15 to September 15, by breaking off (or "priming") the leaves as fast as they "speak." Let it be noted that the word "speck" is used for "ripe." Indeed, this variety of wrapper leaf must not be allowed to fully ripen, as its texture and its popular and delicate light pea-greenish hue will be spoiled by deepening into the "brown and sear." If the leaves are allowed to ripen, they make a good filler, better still after one or more years' reproduction in Florida. If harvested before July 1, a second crop may be grown on the same land. In harvesting the tobacco crop, the stalk is not cut until the leaves are all gathered. As soon as the lower leaves are ready to harvest, they are plucked by hand, carefully laid in baskets covered with burlap, and brought in carts designed for this use to a tent at one end of the curing barn. Three or four pickings at different times are necessary, to handle the whole crop. The field work is all done by negroes, who are paid 75 cents per day, and are under white superintendents.

For hanging in the barn, laths are used. They are deeply notched at one end with a saw, and into these cuts the cord is drawn, which holds the leaves. Girls or boys string the leaves on these cords with a needle made for this purpose. The girls get 20 cents per 100 laths and will sometimes string 350 per day. The leaves hang face to face and back to back, a finger breadth apart, 40 to 50 leaves to a lath, as shown in Fig. 125. The laths hang from four to six inches apart on the poles in the barn, and a barn holds from 20,000 to 25,000 lath, being filled in a day or day and a half. The barn curing is done much as it is at the North, with careful attention to ventilation and moisture, but without artificial heat, as white vein and pole burn seem to be unknown. The cure is usually completed within 35 to 40 days, when the green color has disappeared from

« AnteriorContinuar »