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Besides the two principal oil-seeds already named, we imported in 1859 about 183,000 qrs. of poppy, sesame, sursee and unenumerated oil-seeds. The specific returns of imports of these for last year are not yet published by the Board of Trade.
While the consumption of oil and oil-seeds was so much larger than usual last year, the stocks held are exceedingly small, and prices high. The manufacture of linseed oil in the United Kingdom, in 1860, was estimated at 65,000 tons, of which 33,700 tons were exported. The home production of oil-cake was also considerably in excess of former years. The stock of rape seed held was only about 18,000 qrs. at the commencement of this year, while of poppy and Niger seeds there were none on hand. Rape and seed oils, we are told, continue to sustain the same prominent position in our markets they have done for years past, and, independent of a large home make, 9,500 tons were imported into the kingdom last year.
A new kind of grease, made from rape oil, is now manufactured at Leipzic. The mass of grease or fat is quite pure, without taste or smell, and, according to medical certificates, contains nothing in the least injurious to health. In cookery it answers fully the purposes of butter, with the advantage, that, instead of the usual quantity of butter, onethird in quantity of this rape seed grease will suffice. The butter sold in London is bad enough, in all conscience; and we therefore trust that, for edible purposes, the rape grease may be kept by our German friends.
The ground nut, as it is popularly termed, the subterraneous fruit of the arachis hypogæa, is now cultivated very extensively as an oil-seed, especially at the Gold Coast, Gambia and Sierra Leone, on the West Coast of Africa. England imported, in 1859, 1,124 tons from the Gambia, 1,116 tons from Sierra Leone, and 147 tons from the Gold Coast. But large quantities are sent direct thence to France. Thus, in 1857, 13,554 tons of ground nuts were exported, of which 11,300 tons went to France and 1,300 to the United States. From Sierra Leone, 243,123 bushels were sent away, of which 206,503 went to France. The French imports from their own African possessions are also considerable; and it is stated that from 70,000 to 80,000 tons of ground nuts are annually received, chiefly at Marseilles.
In the Southern States of America its culture is much attended to, and there, and in parts of the West Indies, it is called pindar and peanut. In Brazil it is known under the name of mindoubi. In Natal and the Cape, as well as in the Indian Presidencies, the ground nut is now extensively grown; and in Spain and Algeria it is found to rank among the more advantageous objects of field cultivation. The price has of late been steady in our market for them, at £16 10s. per ton. The prepared oil, expressed from the seed or kernel, is of the finest quality, and fit for some of the most delicate purposes to which oil is put. Under the name of gingelly and teel, quantities of sesamum seed are imported from India and Egypt, and occasionally from other quarters. The small seeds are of all colors, varying from white to black. fully pressed, sesame oil is quite equal to the best olive. On the coast of Africa, and in some parts of the West Indies, sesame is called bennie seed.
Cotton-seed oil is now a large article of commerce, its seed being abundant, and the difficulties of removing the husk having been got
In cotton seed the oil is in smaller proportion, and the albuminous compounds larger than even in the best linseed cake.
There are other seeds, of less commercial importance, which are occasionally used to obtain oil from, among which may be enumerated pumpkin, melon and cucumber seed in India, and also under the name of agusi in Western Africa; dodder seeds, or gold of pleasure, (camelina sativa,) in the South of Europe and Canada; sunflower seed, cress seed, Niger seed, the small black seed of guizotea oleifera, called “ramtil” in India; radish seed and safflower seed; (carthamus tinctorious ;) the oil of this makes excellent soap. Mustard seed is also pressed for oil.
We have confined our remarks entirely to the oil-seeds properly so called, distinct from the oils obtained from nuts and other vegetable sources, which furnish so large a proportion of the supplies, as the palm, cocoanut, olive, bassias, vegetable tallow and wax, which can scarcely be looked upon, in an agricultural point of view, as objects of agriculture, although they are of high importance, both to the producer of the oil, the merchant and the manufacturer.
Professor ANDERSON well observed, some time ago, that the introduction of new oil-seeds into commerce is a matter which very much depends upon the farmer; for, in the more familiar seeds, such as linseed and rape, the value of the cake often exceeds half that of the seed, and the price obtainable for it is a matter of the utmost moment to the manufacturer, who cannot afford to use a seed unless he can sell the cake to the farmer. He must be guided also by the proportion of oil the seed will yield in the press, and hence a knowledge of the quantity of that substance contained in them is of importance to him. A knowledge of the composition of these oil-seeds is important also to the farmer, because it is quite possible that some of them may be sufficiently low-priced to permit them to compete advantageously with linseed, which is occasionally used, more particularly for feeding calves, although its high price necessarily restricts its employment.
We may, hereafter, touch upon the composition and comparative feeding properties of the oil-cakes obtained from many of these seeds, whether home-made or imported.
TRADE WITH THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA. LATE London papers contain a despatch from the British consul at Lagos, and a copy of a treaty of commerce, signed by the king and chiefs of Porto Novo, dated July 2d, authorizing British subjects to erect factories for collecting palm oil and other produce of the country. Other privileges are conceded in fulfilment of the treaty; a payment of two heads of cowries for every pound of ivory exported from Porto Novo. A similar treaty was also concluded with the chiefs of Badagry, the traders to pay one and a half head cowries on every 150 gallons of oil
, and two strings of cowries on every pound of ivory exported from Badagry; the payment of one head per thirty gallons hitherto charged on palm oil coming from Porto Novo, and all other charges and imposts on produce, to cease.
THE SEAL FISIERY OF LABRADOR.
From a recent article in Harper's Magazine, entitled “Three Months in Labrador," we gather the following information respecting one of the most important industrial pursuits of the North country:
The seal fishery of Labrador is valued at $1,500,000 per annum, and is wholly prosecuted by Newfoundland vessels, with the exception of perhaps a dozen that sail from Canada and other Provinces. The hunting ground lies between the 49th and 52d parallels of latitude, and the season of catching extends from March to May, inclusive. The average fare of successful vessels is two thousand seals, though as many as eight thousand have been taken; but of upward of four hundred vessels that yearly engage in sealing not more than sixty make remunerative voyages, and many suffer heavy losses. Hence the business is altogether a lottery. Nevertheless, the chances of large gains are so seductive that sealers' berths, in vessels “up for the ice," command a premium of from $8 to $20. The men so engaged obtain their outfit (which includes clothing, guns, ammunition, &c.) on credit, the cost of which is deducted from their earnings at the end of their voyage; and they not unfrequently find a balance of $125 in their favor at the close of the season. Yet they are fortunate if, after their accounts are squared, they do not find themselves in debt to the vessel, or at least with empty pockets. The expense of the outfit is borne by the owners of the vessel. The captain receives no wages, but is allowed a tare of ten cents on every seal caught. When this is deducted, one-half fare is divided among the crew, and the other half falls to the owners. The average price per seal is $3 50. Consequently, a fare of two thousand seals, worth $7,000, yields to the owners and crew $3,325 each, and to the captain $350.
Sealing vessels are sheathed with iron and extra planked about the bows to protect them from the ice. On reaching the ground they are warped into channels cut through the ice, where they lie snugly moored until warm weather breaks it up. Then the sealers, singly and in small parties, each man armed with a heavy iron-spiked bat, and muffled to his eyes in furs, go forth in quest of victims. These lie quietly sunning themselves near their breathing holes, often a hundred together, uttering doleful cries and frog-like croaks. Upon some hummock a sentinel is ever on the alert to warn of approaching danger. But the hunters, creeping stealthily, and taking advantage of the wind and inequalities of surface, rush upon them at the first alarm, dealing death-blows right and left among the affrighted herd, who wriggle hurriedly over the ice, and tumble floundering into their holes. The old seals generally escape, as their movements are wonderfully quick; but many of the young are killed. These are now dexterously “sculped,” stripped of their blubber and pelts, which come off entire; the bloody carcases are left to glut the starveling bears and arctic foxes, and the pelts rolled up and dragged away to the vessel. After the ice breaks up the seals are shot from boats in open water, where they are found disporting.
There are various kinds of seals, among which are the harbor, ranger, jar, hood, doter, bedlamer, harpe, blue and square flipper; differing as
greatly in size and physiognomy as members of the human family. There are canine and feline looking seals ; seals with round smooth heads cropped like a prize-fighter's, and seals with patriarchal beards and long flowing locks; meek pensive-looking seals, and seals fierce and long tusked; little seals three feet long, and monsters upwards of eight feet in length, weighing a thousand pounds. Selah! The hood seal when attacked throws up a thick bullet-proof hood or shield before its face, and whichever way a gun is presented this defence is always opposed, the animal moving dexterously from side to side with every movement of his assailant. An effective wound must be given directly under the ear, and it requires an expert marksman to hit him there. The harpe is most esteemed, and commands a market price of $7 to $8. He is a first-class pugilist, and always shows fight, rising on his hind flippers, dodging the bat skilfully, and often seizing it from his assailant's hand. He is very tenacious of life, and, when worsted, frequently feigns death. At such times the unsuspecting sealer, stooping over to “sculp” him, is liable to serious injury. Sometimes they have been completely disembowelled.
Seals whelp in March, and suckle their young. They are in good condition at all seasons, but are seldom taken after July, as they migrate to more northern regions, returning in December. In early summer they are caught in strong, large meshed nets. They constitute an important article of food to the settlers and Esquimaux, and to the latter are indispensable. The blubber is exceedingly fat, and being cut into strips and thrown into vats, a large quantity of oil is obtained by natural drainage. The residue is tried out by heat. It is extensively used for machinery, both in Europe and the United States, but is sold under a different name. Its value is about fifty cents per gallon.
The Seals of Spitzbergen.—A full-sized Spitzbergen seal, in good condition, is about nine and a half or ten feet long, by six or six and a half feet in circumference, and weighs six hundred pounds or upwards. The skin and fat amount to about one-half the total weight. The blubber lies in one layer of two or three inches thick, underneath the skin, and yields about one-half of its own weight of fine oil. The value of a seal, of course, varies with the state of the oil market all over the world ; but, at the time of which I write, oil being unusually cheap, they only averaged five or six dollars apiece; but still, the fact of the animals being of some use contributed to render the chase of them much more exciting, as nothing can be more distasteful or unsatisfactory to the feelings of a true sportsman than taking the life of any thing which is to be of no use when dead.
From what I have heard, I am inclined to suspect that a good many of the shipwrecks which happen in Spitzbergen are caused wilfully, in order to defraud the insurance offices. These vessels are principally insured in Hamburg, and, I believe, the rate of insurance is as high as seven per cent. ; although one would think that even that was little enough for the unavoidable risks of such a dangerous voyage, without taking into consideration the impunity with which such nefarious proceedings as I have alluded to may be committed in those distant waters.—Lamont's “Seasons with the Sea-Horses."
TIE COTTON CULTURE IN CHINA.
We find an extract from Fortune's work on China, giving an interesting account of the mode of growing cotton in that extensive empire. That work states that the word cotton is derived from Kho-ten, the name of the most western district of China, and it must have been cultivated there centuries before it was known to the western world. We have no means of learning how much cotton is produced there, but probably more than is now produced in India, as its immense population is supplied mostly from home manufacture.—Editors of Merchants' Magazine.
The Chinese or Nanking cotton-plant is the Gossypium herbaceum of botanists, and the “Mie wha” of the northern Chinese. It is a branching annual, growing from one to three or four feet in height, according to the richness of the soil, and flowering from August to October. The flowers are of a dingy yellow color, and, like the Hibiscus or Malva, which belong to the same tribe, remain expanded only for a few hours, in which time they perform the part allotted to them by nature, and then shrivel up and soon decay. At this stage the seed-pod begins to swell rapidly, and, when ripe, the outer coating bursts and exposes the pure white cotton in which the seeds lie imbedded.
The yellow cotton, from which the beautiful Nanking cloth is manufactured, is called “ Tze mie wha" by the Chinese, and differs but slightly in its structure and general appearance from the kind just noticed. I have often compared them in the cotton fields where they were growing, and although the yellow variety has a more stunted habit than the other, it has no characters which constitute a distinct species. It is merely an accidental variety, and although its seeds may generally produce the same kind, they doubtless frequently yield the white variety and vice versa. Hence, specimens of the yellow cotton are frequently found growing amongst the white in the immediate vicinity of Shanghae; and again, a few miles northward, in fields near the city of Poushun, on the banks of the Yang-tze-kiang, where the yellow cotton abounds, I have often gathered specimens of the white variety.
The Nanking cotton is chiefly cultivated in the level ground around Shanghae, where it forms the staple summer production of the country. The district, which is part of the great plain of the Yang-tze-kiang, although flat, is yet several feet above the level of the water in the rivers and canals, and is consequently much better fitted for cotton cultivation than those flat rice-districts in various parts of the country—such, for example, as the plain of Ningpo—where the ground is either wet and marshy, or liable at times to be completely overflowed. Some fields in this district are, of course, low and marshy, and these are cultivated with rice instead of cotton, and regularly flooded by the water-wheel during the period of growth. Although the cotton land is generally flat, so much so, indeed, that no hills can be seen from the tops of the houses in the city of Shanghae, it has, nevertheless, a pleasing and undulating appearance, and, taken as a whole, it is perhaps the most fertile and agricultural district in the world. The soil is a strong rich loam, capable of yielding immense crops year after year, although it receives but a small portion of manure. VOL. XLV.-NO. V.