Friday, December 18, 2015

422. Chinese Silk, Jamesetown and Benjamin Franklin

We have learned that Benjamin Franklin promoted the silk production in North America in the colonial ear. Until July 2015, we have no idea when the silk reached North America. According to the article, Unearthing Jamestown’s Leaders, and a Mystery, by Nicholas Fandos , in the New York Times, July 28, 2015, the silk came to North American soon after Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement was established in May 1607. Researchers found the remains of a silk sash over the chest of Captain West’s skeleton, likely indicating his military rank.

In the eve of theAmerican Revolution, Franklin realized the value of silk to a new American society. He visited Ezra Stiles’ home in Newport, Rhode Island in the spring of 1763, to discuss with him the latter’s experiment with raising silkworms. The minister’s 3,000 worms were just beginning to cocoon. Stiles was working hard to gather large amounts of mulberry leaves to feed the silkworms. In order to help Stiles’ experiment, Franklin, in December the same year, sent him some prints “copied from Chinese Pictures concerning the Produce of Silk.” Two years later, in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the silk industrial development in China, Franklin studied the history of silk in China.

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