1902 Encyclopedia > Italy > Manufactures

(Part 11)



Though Italy is pre-eminently an agricultural country, its manufacturing industries are of considerable importance, and some of them have a long and varied history. Of chief note is the silk trade,—though it has suffered greatly from the silkworm disease which broke out in 1854. Accordingto De Vecchi (Arch, di Stat., 1876) the total annual production of raw silk in Italy previously amounted to 7,612,000 lb ; in 1865 it was reduced to 3,876,400 ft, but it has since considerably recovered its ground. The average, indeed, for the ten years 1868-1877 is given by the same authority as 5,753,880 lb; and according to the report of Luigi Maccia to the Milan chamber of commerce in 1881 the cocoon harvest amounted in 1878 to 81,843,740 lb, in 1879 to 41,648,200 ft, and in 1880 to 79,546,280 lb, which would represent in round numbers 5,500,000 lb of raw silk for the first year, 2,798,000 lb for the second, and 5,345,000 for the third.

The following table (XIV.) from the same report indicates, with approximate accuracy, the contributions of the different regions to these totals:—

== TABLE ==

As a silk-producing country in fact Italy ranks second only to China, and leaves all its other competitors far behind. The culture is carried on in at least 5300 communes, and in 1877 it was calculated that 4839 men, 81,165 women, and 25,373 children were employed in the unwinding of the cocoons—an operation which was formerly effected for the most part by the growers themselves, hut has now passed into the hands of those who can bring better appliances and more modern methods to bear. The district in which the unwinding is most extensively carried on is Lombardy, and it is there too that improvements in the process are most widely adopted: while in the Veneto, for example, there are 10,031 of the old-fashioned ovens to 4698 of the modern steam apparatuses, in Lombardy the latter number 29,576 and the former only 9305. If we turn to what is more distinctively the manufacture of the silk, we find the pre-eminence of Lombardy more strongly emphasized. The position it occupies is evident from the following table (XV.) :—

== TABLE ==

The raw material for these silk-throwing factories is partly obtained from abroad, in spite of the large home supply already indicated; for a considerable proportion of this—though much less than was formerly the case—is exported for manufacture at Lyons and elsewhere. According to Signor Fuzier in his Paris exhibition report, 44,000,000 lb of silk from other European countries, and 176,000,000 lb from Asia, are worked up by the Italian spinners. The special department of cascami employs about 27,000 spindles in Jesi, Novara, Meina, and Zuniglio.

In silk-weaving Italy stands comparatively low. Signor Ellena, general director of the customs, [Footnote 453-2] estimates the number of looms at from 10,000 to 12,000, of which only 665 were power-looms—very meagre totals in comparison with those even of the Swiss canton of Zurich, which numbers about 1000, power-looms and 40,000 hand-looms. Lombardy (especially the town of Como)is again the principal seat of the industry, Campania ranking second, and Piedmont third.

Next in importance to the silk industry stands the cotton manufacture. During the American war the cultivation of cotton in Italy received a remarkable but temporary stimulus. In 1864 it occupied about 227,645 acres, and the produce amounted to 622,896 quintals, but the corresponding figures for 1873 were only 85,422 acres and 180,230 quintals. In 1877 Italy had only about 880,000 cotton spindles, or rather more than Belgium; and these consumed about 264,000 quintals of the fibre. Liguria and Piedmont contain the greatest number of spinning mills. In the number of its cotton looms, however, Lombardy stands highest, and Liguria, Piedmont, and Campania follow. The total number for the country is stated at more than 13,000. Of the cotton goods the great proportion consists in the coarser fabrics,—muslins, tulles, &c, being obtained almost exclusively from abroad. The average importation of cotton yarn for the ten years 1870-1879 amounted to 109,000 quintals, and that of cotton fabrics during the same period to 116,000 quintals.

As has been already seen, Italy is a great wool-growing country ; and while it exports about 1,760,000 lb of the native produce, it imports, mainly from South America, a quantity varying from 10,382,680 lb in 1870 to 18,983,600 lb in 1879. The following table (XVI.) indicates the extent of the industry, which, unlike that of cotton, has a long and in parts brilliant history in the country :—

== TABLE ==

More than 3000 hands are further employed in the shoddy trade. With few exceptions, the Italian factories receive the wool in its raw state from the grower, and perform in succession all the various operations of washing, scouring, carding, dyeing, weaving, and dressing. They manage to supply a large part of the home demand, and also export a small quantity of goods.

The flax and hemp industries have been prosecuted in Italy for centuries ; but a large proportion of the manufacture is still carried on by hand-loom weavers working in their own houses—to the number probably of more than 68,000. The following table (XVII.) indicates the distribution of the distribution of the factories:—

== TABLE ==

The manufacture of jute is quite insignificant:—two weaving factories in Lombardy and Liguria, and spinning mills at Crema, Poirino, and Grugliasco. It is estimated that about 8400 hands are employed in the making of ropes and cordage; and of the produce in this department there is a very considerable export, varying in the ten years 1870-79 from aminimum of 20,797 quintals in 1870 to a maximum of 36,908 in 1873. The factories that produce mixed fabrics are 210 in number, and upwards of 5000 hands are employed in them.

The extent to which weaving is carried on in the simple domestic fashion has been indicated in connexion with the linen trade; it also maintains its ground in several of the other departments, and the popular prejudice—if prejudice it be—in favour of the firm-wrought fabrics that are thus produced will long keep the clack of the solitary loom familiar to the inhabitants of many a town and village. It is said that there are at least 230,000 of them at work throughout the country.

The making of felt hats, which gives employment to nearly 5000 hands, is mainly carried on in Piedmont, and particularly in the circondario of Biella and at Intra. The produce is for the most part of a coarse quality, hut finds a market not only in Italy but also in France, Austria and Switzerland, the Argentine Confederation, and Tunis. The trade in straw hats is rapidly growing in importance : while in 1867 the number exported was only 7661, it rose in 1877 to 4,526,000.

Owing to the abundance of the raw material, Italy has long been successful in the manufacture of paper from linen rags according to the old-fashioned processes ; and the development of the more modern methods has been fostered by the ready availability of water power, though on the other hand the outlays for chemicals, machinery, and fuel are serious drawbacks. The supply of home-made paper is far in excess of the demand, and there is a corresponding excess of export over import, more especially in blotting and packing papers. The imported paper is almost exclusively of the finer qualities. According to Signor Avondo, the annual quantity of rags obtained in Italy is 88,000,000 lb. There was formerly a great txport of rags to America in the shape of packing material for marble-blocks.
In the manufacture of leather and skins Italy has long been successfully engaged ; and though the industry has now to compete with the new enterprise of India and America, the annual production is valued at £4,000,000. The staple article is shoe leather; in the finer departments—such as kid skins—foreign competition is too strong for the full development of the native industry. It is estimated that there are upwards of 1300 works in the country, employing more than 10,000 hands.

A private company, established in 1868 under the name of Regia Cointeressata, secured for fifteen years the exclusive privilege of manufacturing and selling tobacco in continental Italy and Sardinia, on condition of paying to the state an annual rent and a certain proportion of the gains after the rent was deducted. In the period 1869-1870 the rent was to be 66,894,811 lire, in the second period (1871-74) 72,293,032, in the third (1875-1878) 79,484,891, and for the fourth (1879-1884) 93,000,000. Up to 1875 the Government share in the ultimate profit was fixed at 40 per cent., and from 1875 at 50 per cent. The results of this arrangement have not been equal to the anticipations formed in regard to them. In 1877, however, the Regia extended its control to the island of Sicily.

According to the regulation of 1879 the cultivation of tobacco for exportation is permitted in any part of the country on payment of a licence, while the cultivation for the inland monopoly is restricted to certain regions annually determined, and within these regions no cultivation for export can be carried on. The rules are of a very rigid description. The provinces in which the monopoly cultivation has usually been located are Vicenza, Ancona, Perugia, Rome, Benevento, Salerno, Lecce, Sassari, Catania, and Messina. The total area of the ground so occupied was only 4500 hectares (11,120 acres) in 1877; to satisfy the national demand from internal sources would require from 18,000 to 20,000 hectares (44,480 to 49,420 acres). Un an average it is calculated that every inhabitant of Italy uses about 5 oz. of snuff, 10 oz. of cut tobacco, and 9| oz. of cigars annually—the total expense being 5 "518 lire or 4s. 6d. per head.

The manufacture of oils is among the most flourishing of the minor industries, and the demand which it makes on foreign countries for supplies of raw material is rapidly increasing. The amount of oil-seeds imported in 1870 was 27,000 quintals, in 1879 211,400 quintals. And. at the same time the consumption of the oils within the country exceeds the quantity manufactured, so that the excess of the import over the export of oil in 1879, for instance, was 135,660 quintals. There are 437 oil works in the kingdom (198 in Lombardy), and they employ nearly 2000 hands. Rape, linseed, ricinus, ground-nuts, and sesamum are all made use of, especially the first and last. Soap works are said to number as many as 537 (151 in Sicily alone, and 87 in Apulia), and to engage 1770 men, 135 women, and 179 children ; and the exportation of soap, which was less than a third of the importation in 1870, has increased till the excess is strongly in its favour. The 10 stearine-candle factories employ upwards of 500 hands, and form the nucleus of what may be a large industry.

The sugar manufacture is of limited extent. During the Austrian rule it was carried on in Lombardy and Venice with the support of the state; but the political changes proved fatal to its existence, and it was not till 1872 that the first sugar refinery of the kingdom ot Italy was established at Sampierdarena. This, however, proved a flourishing business, and supplied about one quarter of the entire consumption of Italy, which was estimated at 176,000,000 lb ; in 1876 it employed 500 hands, and carried on distilling operations. Beet-root sugar has been manufactured since 1869 at Anagni, where the factory was formerly protected and privileged by the Papal Government ; and there are other factories at Rieti, Cesa (in the Val di Chiana), &c. (English Parliamentary Papers:—Reports on Sugar Industries in Foreign Countries, 1876.)

In 1877 there were 9583 distilleries in the country, and 370 manufactories of aerated waters. The brewing establishments amounted to 145, and manufactured 2,488,838 gallons. Both barley and hops are largely imported from abroad, the hops mainly from Austria and Germany. In the following table (XVIII.) the first column indicates the quantity of beer annually imported, the second the quantity annually made in the country:—

== TABLE ==

The iron manufacture has increased in importance in Italy during the last decade. In 1872 the production of wrought iron and steel was estimated at 48,909 tons ; in 1877 it was 73,000 tons, and 12,000 hands were employed in the works. Liguria has the credit of nearly half of the total amount. The works at Savona, Voltri, and Pra, at Vobarno near Lake Garda, and at Val d'Elsa deserve mention. Some of these have furnaces of the Siemens type.Considerable progress has also been made in the manufacture of machinery ; the number of men employed in this department (the Government factories being omitted) increased from less than 12,000 in 1872 to 15,000 in 1877. The Italian mechanicians do not seek to compete with foreigners in the production of large steam engines and hydraulic motors, but devote their attention to the minor kinds of machinery for wool and cotton factories, dye works, railways, &c.

The principal chemical works are those of sulphuric acid at Milan, Turin, Naples, and Genoa, of hydrochloric acid at Milan, of nitric acid at Milan and Avigliana near Turin, of carbon disulphide at Bari, Pisa, San Giuliano, and of quinine at Milan and Genoa. This last manufacture, though it only dates from 1870, exceeds that of any other European country. The quinine is partly exported to Russia. Tartaric acid, as a matter of course in a wine-growing country, is produced in abundance. Glue-making is also a widely diffused industry, and the manufacture of artificial manures, which was carried on in 32 factories in 1878, is increasing in importance. India-rubber works exist at Milan.

In the various ceramic arts Italy was at one time unrivalled, but the ancient tradition has long lost its primeval impulse ; [Footnote 454-1] and even where the industry remains the art has for the most part perished. The works at Vinovo, which had fame in the 18th century, came to an untimely end in 1820; those of Castelli (in Abruzzo Ult. I.) were supplanted by Charles III.'s establishment at Capodimonte, 1750, which after producing articles of surprising execution was closed before the end of the century. The first place now belongs to the Delia Doccia works at Florence. Founded in 1735 by the marquis Carlo Ginori, they maintained a reputation of the very highest kind down to about 1860 ; but since then they have not kept pace with their younger rivals in other lands. They still, however, are commercially successful, producing to the value of 700,000 or 800,000 lire, and employing 600 workers. Other cities where the ceramic industries keep their ground are Pesaro, Gubbio, Faenza (whose name long ago became the distinctive term for the finer kind of potter's work in France, faience), Savona and Albissola, Turin, Mondovi, Cuneo, Castellamonte (more than 30 establishments, 500 workmen), Milan, Brescia, Sassuolo, Imola, Rimini, Perugia, Castelli, &c. It is estimated that the total production of the finer wares amounts on the average to 10,000,000 lire per annum. The ruder branches of the art—the making of tiles and common wares—is pretty generally diffused. (For further details see Giuseppe Corona's Report on the French Exhibition of J878, Class XX., "Ceramica," Rome, 1880.)

The jeweller's art as a matter of course received large encouragement in a country which had so many independent courts ; but nowhere has it attained a fuller development than at Rome. A vast variety of trinkets—in coral, glass, lava, &c.—is exported from Italy, or carried away by the annual host of tourists. In 1877, for example, while 388 quintals of raw coral were imported, 563 quintals of wrought coral were exported, and in the same year no less than 22,891 quintals of imitation jewellery in glass. The copying of the paintings of the old masters is becoming an art industry of no small mercantile importance in some of the larger cities. [Footnotes 455-1]

The production of mosaics is an art industry still carried on with much success in Italy, which indeed ranks exceedingly high in the department. The great works of the Vatican are especially famous (more than 17,000 distinct tints are employed in their productions), and there are many other establishments in Rome. The Florentine mosaics are perhaps better known abroad ; they are composed of larger pieces than the Roman. Those of the Venetian artists are remarkable for the boldness of their colouring.

The small amount of capital accumulated in the country, the heavy expenses involved in the importation of much of the machinery necessary for the larger industries, the comparative inexpertness of the mass of the operatives, and the difficulty consequent upon these and other circumstances of competing with foreign manufacturers who can produce at a cheaper rate—these are some of the reasons of the backward state of Italian manufacturing industry. The inexpertness of the operatives—due to lack of experience and of education—is the more noteworthy because it counteracts the advantage to be derived from the cheapness of labour. The principle of the division of labour has comparatively limited application. From the same factory, for instance, may be obtained ploughshares and theodolites.


453-2 A large proportion of the facts mentioned in this section on the manufactures are borrowed from V. Ellena's paper in Arch. di Stat., 1880.

A curious instance of the tenacity of popular art tradition in the country is furnished by the fact that some of the long-lost processes of Etruscan pottery have been found in use at St Angelo in Vado, a remote corner of the Marches. See Aless. Castellan! in Amer. Ass. for Adv. of Science, 1876.

1 See, for example, the notice of Venice in British Consular Reports, 1879.

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