Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8





Acres of mulberry trees--multitudes of silkworms--mills

booming--a corner on the world's silk market! It would be a

fantastic dream indeed for an Ohioan today, a vision such as this

of wealth to be derived from a monopoly on raw silk, but in 1836

such hopes were stirring hundreds of people not only in Ohio but

throughout the East and South. By 1838, at least seven states,

Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey,

Maine, and Vermont, were paying large bounties for each pound

of silk raised by their citizens, and in Ohio a petition was being

circulated which would ask the General Assembly to do likewise.

By 1841, John W. Gill and Thomas White had erected a mill near

Mount Pleasant in Jefferson County which was weaving the first

figured silk and silk velvet, so it is claimed, ever made in these

United States. Henry Clay was to wear a silk suit made in this

factory, the first American flag ever unfurled in China was to

come from the same source, and an exhibit of the Mount Pleasant

silk shown at an exposition in London was to send European

competitors home in a panic of dismay.

A decade later, however, the boom was over, and hundreds of

mulberry plantations scattered over this and other states were

the only conspicuous evidence that it had ever existed. In fact,

in Ohio the mulberry trees seem to have been in some ways the

most conspicuous feature of the whole movement.  Thousands

upon thousands of the young trees changed hands during the first

fever of the silk furor, and whether or not their purchasers ever

realized any gain from the silkworms which the mulberry leaves

were to feed, it seems very likely that many a nurseryman, pro-

vided he got into and out of the game soon enough, must have

cashed in at least to a small extent.  In Ohio, it is pretty safe

to assume that mulberries rather than silk proved the more prof-

itable venture.

In the papers of Orren Bryant,1 who engaged in the business

1 Preserved by Fitch C. Bryant, New York, N. Y., and by the Alexandria Local

History Committee.