1902 Encyclopedia > Jute


JUTE is a vegetable fibre which, notwithstanding the fact that it has come under the notice of manufacturing communities only within comparatively recent times, has advanced in importance with so rapid strides that it now occupies among vegetable fibres a position, in the manu-facturing scale, inferior only to cotton and flax. The term jute appears to have been first used by Dr Boxburgh in 1795, when he sent to the directors of the East India Company a bale of the fibre which he described as " the jute of the natives." Importations of the substance had been made at earlier times under the name of pát, an East Indian native term by which the fibre continued to be spoken of in England till the early years of the 19th century, when it was supplanted by the name it now bears. This modern name appears to be derived from jhot or jhout (Sanskrit, jhat), the vernacular name by which the substance is known in the Cuttack district, where the East India Company had extensive roperies at the time Dr Boxburgh first used the term.

The fibre is obtained from two species of Gorclwriis (nat. ord. Tiliacese), G. capsularis and G. olitorius, the products of both being so essentially alike that neither in commerce nor agriculture is there any distinction made between them. These and various other species of Corchorus are natives of Bengal, where they have been cultivated from very remote times for economic purposes, although there is reason to believe that the cultivation did not originate in the northern parts of India. The two species cultivated for jute fibre are in all respects very similar to each other, except in their fructification and the relatively greater size attained by G. capsularis. The capsules or seed-pods in the case of G. capsularis are globular, rough, and wrinkled, while in G. olitorius they are slender quill-like cylinders, a very marked distinction, from fig, 1, in which a and b show the capsules of C. capsularis and C. olitorius respectively. Fig. 2 represents a flowering top of C. olitorius. The two plants are thus botanically defined:—

Corchorus capsularis.—Annual; 5-10 feet; calyx deeply 5-cleft; petals 5; leaves alternate, oblong, acuminate, serrated, two lower serratures terminating in narrow filaments ; peduncles short; flowers whitish-yellow, in clusters opposite the leaves ; capsules globose, truncated, wrinkled, and muricated, 5-celled ; seeds few in each cell, without transverse partitions ; in addition to the 5-partite cells, there are other 5 alternating, smaller and empty.
Corchorus olitorius.—Annual; 5-6 feet; erect; leaves alternate, ovate-acuminated, serrated, the two lower serratures terminated by a slender filament; peduncles 1-2 flowered ; calyx 5-sepalled ; petals 5; capsules nearly cylindrical, 10-ribbed, 5-celled, 5-valved; seeds numerous, with nearly perfect transverse septa ; flowers small, yellow.
Both species are cultivated in India, not only on account
of their fibre, but also for the sake of their leaves, which
are there extensively used as a pot-herb. The use of
C. olitorius for the latter purpose dates from very ancient
times, if it may be identified, as some suppose, with
the mallows mentioned in Job xxx. 4, "Who cut
up mallows by the bushes." It is certain that the Greeks used this plant as a pot-herb ; and by many other nations around the shores of the Mediterranean this use of it was, and is still, common. Throughout Bengal the name by which the plants when used as edible vegetables are recognized is nalitd; when on the other hand they are spoken of as fibre-producers it is generally under the name pat. Both species are cultivated, on account of the fibre they yield, in the greater part of Bengal. The cultivation of 0. capsularis is most prevalent in central and eastern Bengal, while in the neighbourhood of Calcutta, where, however, the area under cultivation is limited, G. olitorius is principally grown. In 1872, a year which showed an extraordinary development of the cultivation, there were returned 921,000 acres as under jute in Bengal, to which Pubna contributed 122,000, Dinajpur 117,000, and Bang-pur 100,000 acres respectively.

Hitherto jute has not been cultivated to any considerable extent in localities other than Bengal. From remote times it has been grown in the Hankow district of China, but not largely. In the United States of America the cultiva-tion of the plants has also been introduced, but it has not made much progress. Recently considerable attention has been given to the culture of the plant in Egypt, and in the Dundee trade report of the 23d March 1881 there occurs the following statement:—" Some samples of jute grown in Egypt are being Bhown here. Reports on quality are varied, but, considering it is a first attempt, on the whole satisfactory. It proves beyond a doubt that Egypt is capable of producing this material, and for the trade of the district this is a matter of great importance, as having the fibre grown near at hand will enable our manufacturers to compete more successfully in all markets with the Indian mills."

A hot moist climate with abundant rainfall and rich alluvial soil appear to be the conditions most favourable for the successful cultivation of the jute plants. The land requires to be well tilled and abundantly manured, and, the ground being so prepared, the general time of sowing the seed throughout northern and eastern Bengal extends from about the middle of March to the end of May. The seed is sown broadcast on the prepared ground, the young plants are thinned out to 6 inches apart, and the ground carefully weeded. The stalks are ready for cutting down between the middle of August and the middle of October. As a rule the plants are cut down close to the root with a kind of bill-hook or sickle, and the fibre is obtained best in quality when the crop is secured in the flower. It is, however, common to allow the crop to run to seed and even to ripen seed before cutting, a practice which renders the resulting fibre hard and woody, thus intensifying one of the principal drawbacks of the jute fibre.

The fibre is separated from the stalks by the process of retting practised in the case of flax, hemp, &c. (see FLAX, vol. ix. p. 294). In certain districts of Bengal it is the practice to stack the crop for a few days previous to retting, during which period the leaves drop off the stalks, and otherwise the stalks themselves are thereby brought into a condition for more rapid retting. The general practice, however, is to tie the crop into bundles sufficient for one man to carry, and to place these at once in water for the purpose of retting. Pools and ponds of stagnant water are preferred for retting where such are available, but the process is also carried on in the water of running streams. The period necessary for the completion of the retting process varies much according to the temperature and condition of the water, and may be said to occupy from two or three days up to a month. The stalks are examined periodically to test the progress of the retting operation, and when it is found that the fibres peel off and separate readily from the woody portion of the stalk, the operation is complete, and the bundles are withdrawn. The following is a description of the method generally practised for separating the fibre from the stalks. "The proper point being attained, the native operator, standing up to his middle in water, takes as many of the stalks in his hands as he can grasp, and, removing a small portion of the bark from the ends next to the roots, and grasping them together, he strips off the whole with a little management from end to end without either breaking stem or fibre. Having prepared a certain quantity into this half state, he next proceeds to wash off: this is done by taking a large handful; swinging it round his head he dashes it repeatedly against the surface of the water, drawing it through towards him so as to wash off the impurities, then with a dexterous throw he fans it out on the surface of the water and care-fully picks off all remaining black spots, It is now wrung out so as to remove as much water as possible, and then hung up on lines prepared on the spot to dry in the sun." The separated fibre is then washed, sun-dried, and made up into hanks, and so is ready for the market. In favourable circumstances the produce of cleaned fibre amounts, on an average, to about 6 maunds per beegah (13i cwts. per acre), but official returns from various districts show differences ranging from 5 to 26 or even 30 cwts. per acre. The cost of cultivation also varies much in different localities. According to the official report of Hem Chunder Kerr, it is as much as Bs. 17 per beegah (about £2, 12s. per acre) in Chittagong, and as low as B. 1 (or 3s. per acre) in Manbhum; but such estimates are obviously of little value, as the cultivation is carried on by the ryots without the aid of hired labour, and forms generally only one among the various cultivated products of the land by which a livelihood is obtained. Jute, however, is certainly one of the most cheaply raised and prepared of all fibres ; and to this fact more than to any special excellency of character it possesses is due its now extensive employment as a manufacturing staple.

The characters by which qualities of jute are judged are principally colour, lustre, softness, strength, length, firmness, uniformity, and cleanness of fibre. The best qualities of jute are of a clear white yellowish colour, with a fine silky lustre, soft and smooth to the touch, and fine, long, and uniform in fibre. As a general rule the root ends are harsher and more woody than the middle and upper portions, but in fine jute this distinction is not so notice-able as in less valuable qualities. In length the fibre varies from 6 to 7 feet, but occasionally it is obtained to a length of 14 feet, and, generally speaking, in proportion to the length of the fibre is its fineness of quality. Inferior qualities of jute are brownish in colour and, especially at the root ends, harsh and woody, with much adhering dark cortical matter and other impurities. The fibre is decidedly inferior to flax and hemp in strength and tenacity; and, owing to a peculiarity in its microscopic structure, by which the walls of the separate cells composing the fibre vary much in thickness at different points, the single strands of fibre are of unequal strength. Becently prepared fibre is always stronger, more lustrous, softer, and whiter than such as has been stored for some time,—age and exposure rendering it brown in colour and harsh and brittle in quality. Jute, indeed, is much more woody in texture than either flax or hemp, a circumstance which may be easily demonstrated by its behaviour under appropriate reagents; and to that fact is due the change in colour and character it undergoes on exposure to the air. The fibre bleaches with facility, up to a certain point, sufficient to enable it to take brilliant and delicate shades of dye colour, but it is with great difficulty brought to a pure white by bleaching. A very striking and remarkable fact, which has much practical interest, is its highly hygroscopic nature. While in a dry position and atmosphere it may not possess more than 10 per cent, of moisture, under damp conditions it will absorb up to 30 per cent, or thereby.

As already stated, its commercial distinction is based on the botanical species of plant from which the fibre is pre-pared ; but in the Calcutta market a series of commercial staples are recognized based on the districts whence they are drawn, the values of which bear a pretty constant relation to each other. These classes, in the order of quality, are :— (1) Uttariyd or northern jute, coming from Bangpur, Goalpara, Bogra, and the districts north of Sirajganj;— for length, colour, and fineness, this is unequalled; (2) Beswdl or Sirajganj jute, which is valued on account of its softness, bright colour, fineness, and strength,—in the last characteristic it is superior to Uttariya jute; (3) JDesi jute comes from Hooghly, Bardwan, Jessore, and the 24 Parganas; (4) Deord jute is produced in Faridpur and Bakarganj,—it is a strong coarse dark and sooty fibre, used principally for rope-making. The other qualities recognized in Calcutta are—(5) Narainganji jute from . Dacca, a strong soft long fibre, of inferior colour; (6) Bdkrdbadi jute from Dacca, of fine colour and softness; (7) Bhatial jute from Dacca, very coarse but strong, and very suitable for rope-making; (8) Karimganji jute from the Mymensing district, a long, strong, and well-coloured staple ; (9) Mirganji jute, the produce of Rangpur, harsh and woody from over-ripeness of the stalks; and (10) Jangipuri jute of Patna, a short, weak, and foxy-coloured fibre of very inferior quality. In the European markets these distinctions are not much remarked, traders' marks and classification being the accepted standards of quality and condition. Moreover, it is only the finer qual-ities that are exported, the lower class jute being used locally for gunny bags, ropes, &c.

At Calcutta and various other centres the jute received from local traders is sorted, packed, and pressed into bales of 400 B> for shipment to the English and other markets. Woody and hard root ends, which will not press into bales, are cut off and sold separately under the name of " cuttings." " Jute," " cuttings," and " rejections " (the last the name of the low-class fibre) are the three heads under which jute fibre is entered in the trade and import lists of Western countries.

The Jute Trade of Calcutta.—The importation of jute into Europe commenced about the end of the last century, but so recently as that period it was confused with hemp. During the earlier years of the present century the imports slowly increased, but, as Hem Chunder Kerr says, "the shipments were so insignificant that little or no notice was taken of them by the custom house authorites." Since that time a great revolution has taken place. In 1829 the custom house assigned to jute a separate heading, in which year we find the exports amounted to 496 maunds (364 cwt.). From that time the growth of the trade has been upon the whole steady and continuous, and marked by extraordinary progress, as will be evident from the following table of exports, which is compiled from official sources :—

== TABLE ==

Excepting a comparatively insignificant fraction, the whole of these exports of raw jute have been consigned to Great Britain, the United States of America being the only other country which bulks at all largely in the returns. Occasional shipments were made to America from 1829 onwards; but the quantities were small and very fluctu-ating till about 1850, up to which year frequently the total imports for a year were under 1000 cwts. From 1850-51 onward a rapidly increasing but still fluctuating demand for raw jute has grown up in the United States, till in 1872-73 the American demand amounted to 307,718 cwts. of jute and 1,158,895 cwts. of cuttings and rejections. An importation of 3072 cwts. was made into France in 1836-37, but there was no steady demand for jute in that country till 1845-46, when 9708 cwts. were taken. Since that time there has been a varying but upon the whole increasing demand, and in 1872-73 there were imported 137,126 cwts. The only other considerable shipments are to East Indian ports ; but, taken altogether, it may bo said that quite nine-tenths of the raw jute which leaves Calcutta is primarily disposed of in the British market.

Jute Manufacture.—Long before jute came to be known and to occupy a prominent place amongst the textile fibres of Europe, it was in extensive use and formed the raw material of a large and important industry throughout the regions of eastern Bengal, in which the plant was cultivated. Among the native Hindu population the spinning and weaving of jute was, and still is, in various districts, the most important domestic industry. The forms into which the material is worked among the Hindu populatior—for the Mussulmans do not use jute—are cordage, cloth, and paper. The cordage is twisted into all sizes, from the fine thread used for weaving up to strong ropes for the hawsers of native boats and for tying bales. The more important native application of jute is, however, in the manufacture of gunny cloth and gunny bags, used in extraordinary quantity and number throughout the world, for packing and carrying all manner of goods and merchandise, and by the natives themselves for clothing and numerous domestic purposes. The ordinary mode of weaving gunnies for bags and other coarse purposes is thus described :—" Seven sticks or chattee weaving-posts, called tand pard or warp, are fixed upon the ground, occupying the length equal to the measure of the piece to be woven, and a sufficient number of twine or thread is wound on them as warp called tand. The warp is taken up and removed to the weaving machine. Two pieces of wood are placed at two ends, which are tied to the ohari and olcher or roller; they are made fast to the khoti. The behit or treadle is put into the warp; next to that is the sarsul; a thin piece of wood is laid upon the warp, called chupari or regulator. There is no sley used in this, nor is a shuttle necessary; in the room of the latter a stick covered with thread called singa is thrown into the warp as woof, which is beaten in by a piece of plank called beyno, and as the cloth is woven it is wound up to the roller. Next to this is a piece of wood called khetone, which is used for smoothing and regulating the woof; a stick is fastened to the warp to keep the woof straight." Gunny cloth is woven of numerous qualities, according to the purpose to which it is devoted. Some kinds are made close and dense in texture, for carrying such seed as poppy or rape and sugar; others less close are used for rice, pulses, and seeds of like size, and coarser and opener kinds again are woven for the outer cover of packages and for the sails of country boats. There is a thin close-woven cloth made and used as garments among the females of the aboriginal tribes near the foot of the Himalayas, and in various localities a cloth of pure jute or of jute mixed with cotton is used as a sheet to sleep on, as well as for wearing purposes. To indicate the variety of uses to which jute is applied, the following quotation may be cited from the official report of Hem Chunder Kerr as applying to Midnapur. "The articles manufactured from jute are principally (1) gunny bags ; (2) string, rope, and cord; (3) kampa, a net-like bag for carrying wood or hay on bullocks; (4) chat, a strip of stuff for tying bales of cotton or cloth ; (5) dola, a swing on which infants are rocked to sleep; (6) shika, a kind of hanging shelf for little earthen pots, &c; (7) dulina, a floor cloth; (8) beera, a small circular stand for wooden plates used particularly in poojahs ; (9) painter's brush and brush for white-washing; (10) ghunsi, a waist-band worn next to the skin; (11) gochh-dari, a hair-band worn by women; (12) nvukbar, a net bag used as muzzle for cattle ; (13) parchula, false hair worn by players; (14) rakhidiandhan, a slender arm-band worn at the Rakhi-poornima festival; and (15) dhup, small incense sticks burned at poojahs." Eaw jute fibre and old gunnies are also largely used throughout the presidency in the manufacture of paper.

The introduction of jute factories on the European system into Bengal has had a considerable influence on the domestic manufacture of jute, notwithstanding that a vast industry is still prosecuted in the ancient Hindu manner.

The following extracts from official tables will show the extent of this particular branch of industry.

The number of gunny bags imported into Calcutta amounted in 1877-78 to 21,446,000, in 1878-79 to 26,380,000, and in 1879-80 to 20,488,000.

== TABLE==

The different districts which contributed chiefly to the trade during these three years are the following:—

== TABLE==

The gunny bags exported from Calcutta in the year 1877-78 numbered 79,384,000 ; in 1878-79, 82,635,000 ; and in 1879-80, 92,284,000.

•• It will be seen that the exports of bags exceed the quantity sent into Calcutta by no less than 57,938,000 bags in 1877-78, 56,255,000 in 1878-79, and 71,796,000 in 1879-80. This is of course due to V.ie large manufacture in Calcutta and the suburbs.

The import trade of Calcutta in gunny cloth during the three years referred to was in round numbers as follows :—51,000 pieces in 1877-78, 70,000 in 1878-79, and 88,000 in 1879-80.

Out of the total supply, that of power-loom manufacture was 43,000 pieces in 1879-80, as compared with 19,000 pieces in 1878-79. The hand-made pieces amounted to 45,000, as compared with 51,000 in 1878-79.

The export of gunny cloth by sea was consigned as follows:—

== TABLE==

Besides the registered supplies mentioned above, the returns show a large quantity of power-loom gunny cloth, amounting to 664,000 pieces, sent up country from Calcutta mills without passing the port commissioners wharves. The gross total of gunny cloth exported from Calcutta was 54,731,000 yds. in 1878-79, and 61,468,000 yds. in 1879-80.

Formerly America was the largest customer for Indian jute manu-factures, very large quantities of gunny having been consigned to the United States for packing cotton and other merchandise. That demand has, however, very largely fallen off, and now the Australian colonies and Burmah and the various East Indian ports are the principal places to which the manufactured articles are sent from Calcutta.

European Trade and Manufacture.—The occasional parcels of jute which were sent to the European market by the East India Company previous to the year 1830 appear to have been principally used for the making of door mats and similar purposes; but the whole quantity was at that date, and, as will be seen by the table, p. 801, for several years thereafter, quite insignificant. Some part of these imports found their way to Abingdon in Berkshire, a town in which the manufacture of carpets, sacking, and cordage was extensively prosecuted, and to the manufac-turers of that town is due the credit of being the first in Great Britain to experiment with the fibre, making it into yarn and cloth. In 1833 a quantity of dyed yarn was sent from Abingdon to Dundee, then an important centre of the heavier flax manufactures, and there it attracted a good deal of attention. Consignments were soon thereafter received direct at Dundee and experimented with, but little or no real progress was made for a considerable time, for jute forms no exception to the general rule that the intro-duction of new textile fibres is attended with many diffi-culties before a successful issue is reached. The many unsuccessful attempts to convert it into yarn caused it to be disliked by the manufacturer, and the bad reputa-tion it had acquired as to strength and durability made it no favourite in public estimation. Indeed, so far was prejudice carried against it that some of the manufacturers banished the fibre entirely from their works, fearing it might prove prejudicial to their interests. Among the circumstances which added materially to the rapid develop-ment of the jute trade, lying outside its natural growth owing to cheapness and other causes, were the war with Bussia in 1854-56, which temporarily cut off the supplies of Bussian flax and hemp, and the cotton famine which re-sulted from the civil war in America in 1861-63. Leaving these circumstances out of account, however, the growth of the jute trade has been remarkable and steady, as will be seen by the following table, embracing a period of fifteen years from 1865 to 1880, during which no such cause as those alluded to above affected the trade.

== TABLE ==

Manufacture. — [n their general features the spinning and weaving of jute fabrics do not differ essentially as to machinery and processes from those employed in the manufacture of hemp and heavy flax goods. Owing, how-ever, to the woody and brittle nature of the fibre, it has to undergo a preliminary treatment peculiar to itself. The pioneers of the jute industry, who did not understand this necessity, or rather who did not know how the woody and brittle character of the fibre could be remedied, were greatly perplexed by the difficulties they had to encounter, the fibre spinning badly into a hard, rough, and hairy yarn owing to the splitting and breaking of the fibre. This peculiarity of jute, coupled also with the fact that the machinery on which it was first spun, although quite suit-able for the stronger and more elastic fibres for which it was designed, required certain modifications to suit centage of whale oil and water, and, according to the ideas of the person superintending, a mixture of ashes or other ingredients, supposed to have a softening tendency. These batches, which generally contained from 4 to 5 tons each, were allowed to lie from twenty-four to forty-eight hours, at the end of which time a slight fermentation caused by the oil and water was induced, and the batch was then considered ready for the preparation process. The hand process has now, however, been superseded by a more speedy and economical appliance. In order to get the fibre into that soft pliant condition so essential to the spinning operation, jute softeners or mangles have been introduced. Of these machines there are various types, but in their general outline and principle they are closely allied to each other. The machine consists of a double row of fluted rollers, generally from twelve to eighteen pairs, the one placed on the top of the other, so that the flutes longitudinally intersect each other. The rollers, when the machine is in motion, have a rippling recipro-cating action, by which means the material passing through is rendered soft and pliant. In connexion with this machine, and with the view of dispensing with the more cumbrous and expensive mode of batching already described, an apparatus is attached, and is so adjusted that the jute on passing through the rollers receives with great precision a proper allowance of oil and water. The quantity of oil used varies from half a gallon to one gallon per 400 lb bale, and the quantity of water, according as the atmo-sphere is dry or damp, is from 12 to 18 per cent, of the weight of material operated on.

Such qualities of jute as retain rough and hard root ends or " butts" require to undergo another preliminary process termed " snipping," by which these " butts " are combed out, and separated from the remainder of the fibre; these, being torn and split up into the form of tow, may be so used in the subsequent preparing and spinning operations. A good deal of jute is now prepared at Cal-cutta by the snipping process instead of by cutting, the butts being thereby secured in a more useful and valuable condition.

The material, after being softened, and, if necessary, snipped, is passed on to the assorters, whose duty is to select the different qualities for the special uses to which they may be applied.

Spinning.—All the subsequent processes through which jute passes are essentially the same as those employed in the corresponding heavy manufactures of flax (see LINEN). AS in the case of that fibre, there are two dis-tinct processes of preparing yarn, viz., by " line " spinning and by " tow " spinning. If intended for line spinning, the long jute fibre is cut or rather broken into lengths of from 20 to 24 inches. It is then ready for hackling, spreading, drawing, and roving, just as in the parallel case of flax " line" spinning. Similarly in the tow spinning the fibre is first submitted to the breaker card, then the finishing card, after which it passes through the drawing frames and the roving frame, and then, as " rove" or rovings, it is ready for the spinning frame; but, in the case of some very heavy yarns, the material is spun direct on the roving frame.

The weights of jute yarn are estimated by the spindle of 14,400 yards, and the finest kinds spun are about "2 lb yarn," i.e., yarn weighing 2 lb per spindle. The minimum weight commonly found in the market is, how-ever, 7 lb, from which the yarn lists rise in sizes up to 40 H), or to very much heavier weights for special pur-poses. The ruling feature of jute is its cheapness, and the great demand for jute manufactures arises in connexion with rough and cheap fabrics, such as sacking and bagging, bale covers, hessians for upholstery purposes, &c, tarpaulings, linings, pocketings, and backing for floorcloths, for which purpose it is woven in webs from 6 to 8 yards wide. It takes dye colours readily, which, however, are fugitive, and as dyed yarn it is woven into carpets, rugs, &c.; and woven and printed curtain cloths and tapestries are also made from jute. The fibre, how-ever, is not worthy of being woven into elaborate and some-what costly fabrics; and it is not likely that as a tapestry material it will take any permanent place. Jute also lends itself readily to the sophistication of more expensive fibrous materials, and is said to be employed in the adulteration of woven silks, more especially in such as are used for cheap ribbons, scarfs, &c. It can also be prepared to imitate human hair with remarkable close* ness, and advantage of this is largely taken in making stage wigs.

Although a few jute factories have sprung up in several localities other than Dundee throughout the United King-dom, notably in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Barrow-in-Furness, and also in various parts of the Continent, Dundee is still the headquarters and controlling centre of the jute trade,—even many of the Bengal factories being owned by Dundee merchants. The following table shows the distribution of the trade and the number of persons finding employment in it for the United Kingdom at the respective dates mentioned :—
== TABLE ==

Some of the Dundee factories are of enormous extent, that of Messrs Cox Brothers, for example, covering 22 acres, and giving employment to 5000 persons, while the annual output of jute fabrics measures as much as 15,500 miles. (J. PA.)

The above article was written by James Paton.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries