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It is astonishing how ignorant is the world as a whole 
of the great industries which maintain our oft-boasted 
civilization, and it is ignorance of this character which 
this series of books aims to dispel. 

Produced on the same lines as the " Peeps at Many 
Lands " series, which has met with such remarkable 
success, these books will bring the reader into a com- 
plete understanding of all the great industries of the 
British Empire and the world at large. Technicalities 
being avoided, there are no impedimenta in the way 
of easy assimilation of the story and the romance of 
great manufactures. The reader is taken into the 
atmosphere and confronted with the stern realities of 
each industry, and when he has laid down the book 
he will find he has another window in his house to let 
in the sunshine of knowledge. 

This, the first volume, is devoted to sugar-growing 
and sugar-making, and the volumes to follow will also 
be written from first-hand knowledge. 




I. YOIT AND I .-...- 1 


in. A CHAT ABOUT SUGAR-CANE - - - - 9 

IV. A CHAT ABOUT SUGAR-CANE {conUnued) - - 14 



Vn. DEMERARA SUGAR AT HOME - - - . - 25 

Vm. A TRIP " ABACK " - - - - - 31 

IX. A TRIP " ABACK " {continued) - - - - 36 















jIILL ... - - Frontispiece 



3. COOLIE LINES - - - - - - 8 





8. A SUGAR estate's MARKET-PLACE - - - - 27 

9. THE TAJA FESTIVAL - - - - - 30 


11. REAPING SUGAR-CANE - - - - - 33 

12. R.M.S.P. company's cargo service shipping cane-sugar 40 



INDIES - - - - - - - 46 



17. PRIMITIVE SUGAR MILL - - - - - 69 

18. SPIDER MEN - - - - - - 62 













UNDERWOOD) .... On the ewer 


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I FIND myself confronted with the opportunity oi 
acting as your guide on a trip round and about the 
Sugar World. I accept the position with a dual 
sense of responsibility : within the limited time that 
we have at our disposal for the entire expedition, I 
must do justice to sugar as absolute monarch of wide- 
spread domains ; and I must bring you to the journey's 
end feeling that you have enjoyed to the full every 
stage of the tour, and have come back with a familiar 
knowledge of sugar-growing and sugar-making. 

You, as I understand you en masse, are not a com- 
munity of embryo specialists in sugar ; hence, you 
are not hoping or expecting that I shall give you such 
technical instruction in the art of sugar-production 
as would help you on the road to becoming a successful 
sugar - planter, sugar - manufacturer, or sugar-refiner. 
With the majority of you, an interest in sugar springs 
directly from the fact that you eat it in numerous 
forms and under various disguises, and like it so much 
in all its mediums of appeal to your palate that the 
mere mention of its name gives you a pleasant sensa- 
tion. Even if you have not a very " sweet tooth,'* 



you would mourn the limitations that would be put 
on your daily fare by the total abolition of sugar from 
universal food-supplies. Indeed, so firm a hold has 
this commodity taken on popular taste, that its 
essential quality is symbolic of all things nice, and 
I venture to believe that there is not one of you for 
whom the " salt of life " has not a formidable rival 
in the " sweets of life." 

Your interest in sugar has recently been stimulated 
by various plans and rumours of plans for adding 
sugar-production to our English industries. Naturally 
enough, you are now specially anxious to know many 
things about this industry. But surely there have 
been previous occasions when, simply as a result of 
your being intelligent mortals, you have felt a momen- 
tary curiosity about the details of sugar-growing and 
sugar-making ; am I not right in my interpretation 
of the nature of that curiosity, and my conclusion as 
to why you have never followed it up and found out 
what you thought you would like to know ? Your 
attitude was, I take it, exactly the same as my own : 
you did not want to wade laboriously through annual 
statistics of the Sugar World's output, or to make 
an exhaustive study of records concerning agricultural 
and scientific experiments to increase production on 
certain sugar-growing areas, and of inventions to 
improve sugar-making machinery. To all such matters 
you were prepared to give just so much attention as 
they could reasonably demand from an intellectually 
alive lay public ; but your first and foremost desire 
was to get into touch with the sugar industry in its 
natural environment, to see the surroundings in which 
sugar is grown and made, to know about the people 


who devote their workaday lives to its cultivation 
and manufacture. Why have you never realized that 
desire ? Up to the present moment, I am persuaded 
that you have been in the same helpless position as 
I was until quite recently. I could not find anyone 
who, through the popular medium of a book, had dealt 
with the sugar industry from a popular standpoint. 
Consequently, I determined to set forth on a travel- 
round of various centres of the industry in its many 
phases, from the cultivation of the raw material to the 
manufacture of the marketable commodity, with a 
view to seeing for myself the things I wanted to see, 
and finding out for myself what I felt I should like to 
know. Having done this, I now offer myself as your 
guide on a similar quest. 

Briefly to sum up our relationship the one to the 
other during the whole course of this tour : the majority 
of you, I take it, have no direct commercial interest 
in sugar ; you are simply and solely pleasure-seekers of 
general knowledge. And those of you who happen to 
have a commercial interest in this commodity would 
like to know something more about sugar than its 
exchange value and all the problems that affect market 
prices. It is my aim and object to help all of you to 
gain an intimate knowledge of sugar-growing and 
sugar-making by taking you to look at the scenes and 
scenery amidst which they flourish, and by so leading 
you into the life of which they are the centre that you 
may not only get into touch with its stern realities, 
but feel the fascination of its subtle romance. 

By the Sugar World we will understand those dis- 
tricts in which the production of sugar is of intense, 
ofttimes paramount importance from the commercial 


standpoint. This world, whither we are bound, is 
widespread, covering a vast area and embracing 
territory in every continent of the globe. To which 
of its many industrial centres shall we first make our 
way ? 

Seeing that British possessions figure prominently 
in the Sugar World, shall we not naturally make straight 
for some British centre of sugar-production ? Let 
us go to British Guiana, the homeland of Demerara 

It is a fifteen days' voyage from Southampton to 
this, our only Colony in South America, but we are 
spending such a festive time on board the Royal 
Mail Liner which is taking us there, that we have come 
into the region of the flying-fish and the Southern 
Cross, and are n earing our destination, before I remind 
you of the object we have in view. Deck-quoits, 
athletic sports, cricket and dances on board are all 
very fascinating, I admit, but we must not forget that 
eventually we are going to test the enjoyment of our 
whole expedition to the Sugar World by the amount 
of pleasure derived directly from seeing sugar grown 
and made. If you will deliberately turn your back 
on the ship's alluring attractions, and spare a few 
minutes to listen to some prosaic facts, I can promise 
that you will increase your power of appreciating 
not only Demerara sugar-land, but all sugar-lands. 
For there are some things which you must know in 
order to understand what you are going to see, and I 
am sure you will agree with me that understanding 
is one source of pleasure. So let us seek a shady spot 
where we can have a quiet talk. 




Sugar is hatched from germs which inhabit the sap 
of certain plants. In the birth stage it takes the form 
of tiny grains. I am going to tell you, quite simply 
and briefly, the way in which the germs become solid 
little grain-bodies, and in the course of the story 
I shall answer many of the questions with which you 
are now bubbling over ; sweep away, I hope, most of 
the difficulties that are now puzzling you. 

" Why is some sugar soft like powder, some crystal- 
lized, some in the shape of odd-looking lumps, some 
in smooth-faced, dice-like cubes ?" 

" And why are some kinds a dark brown colour, 
others of a pale yellow or golden hue, and others quite 
white ?" 

You see, I can quite appreciate and sympathize 
with your present bewilderment ; not very long ago 
I was feeling in a similar state of chaotic curiosity. 
But if, in a few minutes' space, I am so to simplify 
the process of sugar-production that you are full}^ 
prepared to enjoy the scenes and scenery of Sugar 
Land by the time you get amongst them, I must ask 
you to come to my help. I want you to forget all the 
questions that are surging in your brain, to make your 
minds a blank. Good ! Now listen to me atten- 
tively, with wide-awake interest, and I promise not 
to tax your patience one whit more than is necessary. 

The chief sources of the world's sugar supply are 
the sugar-cane and the sugar-beet, whose juice is 
abundantly rich in sugar-germs. These two plant 


families are the prime givers of the millions of tons 
of sugar which are yearly distributed North, South, 
East, and West, yearly to be devoured in connection 
with some food or drink by you and me, our friends 
and our neighbours, and the vast majority of the in- 
habitants of every quarter of the globe. 

Imagine that you are holding in one hand a piece 
of sugar-cane, and in the other a sugar-beetroot : to 
look at, the cane is very much like bamboo, with 
which Japanese occasional tables have made you quite 
familiar ; the beetroot, being white, reminds you more 
of a parsnip, or of a freak turnip, than of its dark 
crimson relative which you know so well. In appear- 
ance, neither the cane nor the beet gives the slightest 
suggestion of harbouring moist sugar, crystallized 
sugar, lump sugar, or any other kind of sugar you have 
ever seen. Of a truth, they do not contain any sort 
of sugar in popular, solid form, but in their juice lurk 
the germs of brown sugar, yellow sugar, or white sugar, 
soft, granulated, or cube — in a word, of any variety 
the manufacturer wills to call into being. 

Obviously, then, the first step in sugar-making is 
to extract the juice from the canes and beet. 

For this purpose, the canes are crushed in a mill ; 
the juice runs down through the rollers into a trough, 
and the cane refuse, called " megass," is shot aside to 
be used for fuel. 

The beetroots are shredded, and their juice is ex- 
tracted by a process which is technically known as 
" diffusion." In simplest explanation, this is what hap- 
pens : Hot water is let into a closed vessel which contains 
a mass of beetroot-shreds, and as a natural consequence 
— discovered and turned to account by science and the 


inventive genius — the beetroot-juice, which Is the denser 
liquid, begins to escape from the plant cells to mix with 
the water, whilst the water begins to penetrate the cells 
to mix with their juice. This intercourse goes on until 
the liquid within the beet-shreds and that in which 
they are immersed are of equal density, by which time 
what was originally water is now syrup. This syrup 
is conducted to a second vessel containing beet-shreds, 
and the same natural mixing again takes place, the 
immersion liquid being fortified with a further supply 
of sugar-juice. Again the immersion liquid is con- 
ducted to another vessel containing beet-shreds, and 
to another, and another, until diffusion practically 
ceases ; the immersion liquid has become as dense and 
as good in quality as the natural juice of the beet, hence 
neither wants to commingle with the other. In other 
words, the hot water put into the first vessel has been 
gradually changed into beet-juice. Beet-juice, by the 
way, naturally contains 75 per cent, of water. 

From what I have told you thus far about diffusion, 
you may be thinking there is a great deal of waste 
in the process. In order to guard against confusing 
you, I led you to imagine that all the vessels contained 
freshly-shredded beet ; as a matter of fact, no vessel is 
replenished with a supply of new shreds until all the 
goodness has left the previous supply, but the only 
difference this makes to the process, as I have explained 
it to you, is that immersion liquid circulated through 
vessels of partly exhausted beet-shreds has to perform 
a longer journey before it becomes diffusion juice, or 
pure beet-juice. 

The diffusion juice is drawn off, and at this stage 
corresponds with the cane-juice extracted by crush- 


ing ; the refuse is called " pulp," and is used for cattle 

Sugar-juice, no matter whether it comes from cane 
or beet, has next to be cleansed of certain elements 
which are called "impurities." These so-called im- 
purities are, for the most part, organic elements of the 
juice other than sugar- germs, amongst them being fer- 
mentation germs, which would soon get to work and 
wreck the formation of sugar ; by the help of milk of 
lime and carbonic acid a large proportion of alien 
matter is collected, and the process of clarification is 
completed by filter process. Before clarification, the 
sugar-juice is opaque and grey ; afterwards, it is clear 
and straw-coloured, and although it still contains a 
certain amount of impurities, there are not enough 
left to interfere with the birth of the sugar-germs. 

Next, the clarified juice, which naturally contains 
a great deal of water, has to be concentrated. The 
water is thrown off by evaporation, the juice, under 
the influence of extreme heat, becoming a thick 
syrup. This syrup is the incubator of the sugar- 
germs, wherein they are born as tiny grains. The 
grains are separated from the liquid by a process of 
draining, or by means of a wonderful machine called 
a "centrifugal." 

The residue liquid is treacle or "molasses." The 
dry sugar assumes one of three general forms, accord- 
ing to the methods of incubation and separation that 
are followed : (a) It is soft and powdery, consisting 
of single grains ; (b) granulated, consisting of crystal- 
lized forms, composed by the union of several grains ; 
(c) moulded, in slabs of compressed grains, which can 
be cut up into square or oblong lumps. 





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The colour of sugar is determined by its degree of 
purity, absolutely pure sugar being white, or, strictly 
speaking, colourless. The sugars made at beet factories 
and cane mills are, as a rule, grey, brown, or some 
shade of yellow from pale lemon to bright gold. Those 
of yellow hue have been sufficiently clarified to be 
sold for household use ; the greys and most of the 
browns go on to a refinery, where they are melt-ed 
and subjected to a more rigorous course of purification. 
Water plays a very active part in the bleaching and 
refining of sugar ; so does the " blue '* which your 
washerwoman uses. 



I HAVE put the cart before the horse by telling you 
about sugar-making before sugar-growing. But I 
thought you would be more interested in the cultiva- 
tion of sugar-giving plants if you first had a general 
idea of how sugar in its familiar varieties is brought 
into existence. 

In coming now to sugar-growing, let me remind you 
that I said a short time ago, " sugar-germs inhabit the 
sap of certain plants." From such plants I singled 
out the sugar-cane and the sugar-beet as being the 
main sources of supply, but before sketching for you 
the life-story of the two dominant producers, I must 
point out that there are other plants from which sugar 
is made. Chief among the minor producers are the 
sugar-palm tree of India ; the sugar-maple tree of 
America ; and an African corn-plant called " sorghum,'* 



which has been, introduced into the United State 
We used to import a considerable amount of Indian 
palm-sugar, known as " Jaggery " or " Gur," but it 
is now grown chiefly for native consumption ; maple- 
sugar, beloved in its homeland as a dainty, is only 
produced in comparatively small quantities, and practi- 
cally the whole supply is reserved for American use ; 
sorghum-sugar is of an inferior quality. None of these 
sugars is in a position to compete with cane-sugar or 
beet-sugar, which together rule the world's sugar- 

Of the two plants which are the universal suppliers, 
by far the older is the sugar-cane. 

The sugar-cane family is generally believed to be of 
Eastern origin, although some old writers say that the 
West Indies and Central America have an equal claim 
to be regarded as its native land. Nevertheless, most 
authorities agree that Cochin China, or some near 
neighbourhood thereto, is its only real homeland, 
whence it was introduced into China, India and Arabia. 
During their world - famous period of political 
supremacy, the Arabs started the cultivation of sugar- 
cane in all parts of the widespread Mohammedan 
Empire, including Spain. The Spaniards, in their 
turn, either transported sugar-cane to the West Indies 
and Mexico, or, if they found it already growing in the 
West, they considerably developed its cultivation and 
taught the natives the art of sugar-making. Experi- 
ments have proved that sugar-cane will grow in all 
tropical and sub-tropical countries ; at the present 
time, there are centres of cultivation in every con- 

Originally, all sugar-canes seem to have been of one 


kind, but, for a reason which I will explain to you in 
a few minutes, there are now numerous varieties of 
the plant ; all the different kinds, however, retain 
certain family characteristics. 

Each cane is composed of root, stalk, leaves, and some 
species have a head of flowers. The stalk, which har- 
bours the sugar-juice, is ringed with joints at intervals 
throughout its whole height of from eight to twelve, 
maybe twenty feet ; each joint contains a bud, the 
germ of a new cane. Luxurious, bladelike leaves 
spring out at every joint of the stalk, bending at 
graceful angles under their weight ; the topmost leaves 
cluster into a thick bunch. As the cane ripens, some 
of the lower leaves fall off, and, in the case of the 
flowering varieties, out from the sheath aloft shoots 
an arrow, long and slender, and richly adorned with 
white or grey feathery heads of countless little silken 

Broadly speaking, the system of sugar-cane cultiva- 
tion is the same in all parts of the world. Every cane 
crop not only gives a sugar harvest, but supplies a 
stock of cuttings for the next season's crop. At harvest 
close the ground is ploughed or hand-forked, and either 
furrowed or drilled in rows, from three to six feet 
apart ; plant canes, or cuttings from the tops of ripe 
canes, are then laid horizontally in the furrows or 
holes, or thrust in at an angle, a foot or two apart, and 
lightly buried. The eyes of the buried joints soon 
begin to spring, and young canes enter on the life of 
about sixteen months which they require to reach a 
state of perfection. The roots split up and spread out 
in all directions to a considerable distance ; as it is 
essential for each division to get a firm grip of the 


ground, all the roots must be kepf^well covered with 
soil in the early stages of growth. 

Besides transferring neighbouring soil to the roots, 
there is plenty of work to be done in the fields whilst 
the canes are growing ; indeed, even a moderate-sized 
plantation, which makes any pretension to up-to- 
date cultivation, demands the manual labour of a 
whole army of field-hands, under the supervision of 
agricultural and scientific experts. There is much 
weeding to be done, the soil must be nourished with 
manure, watchful eyes must be on the alert for attacks 
on the canes by those destructive enemies known as 

Moreover, sugar-cane will only thrive under con- 
ditions which combine heat, a very considerable 
amount of moisture, good drainage, and dry ripening 
and harvest seasons. In sugar-cane lands, dry periods 
can be relied on, to some appreciable extent, to occur 
in certain months ; thus, knowing the time necessary 
for canes to attain maturity, it is possible to fix the 
planting season so as to prearrange for auspicious 
ripening and harvest seasons, always providing that 
the climate does not happen to play pranks. But in 
those countries where alternate floods and droughts 
are the order of the year, sugar-planters are con- 
fronted with many difficult drainage and irrigation 
problems ; for it is essential that the canes shall have 
an ample but regular supply of water for many months 
continuously. Brains must be kept active in devising 
and improving drainage and irrigation systems, and 
many hands must constantly be at work cleaning 
trenches, manipulating pumps, and overhauling sluice- 


And there is still one other important operation that 
must be performed between successive harvests. The 
full-grown leaves of a sugar-cane field make up a 
tangle of exuberant, tropical vegetation ; a few of 
them drop off of their own accord as the canes ripen, 
but the majority retain a tenacious hold of the stalks, 
and, in commingling, rival the impedimental under- 
growth of a tropical forest. Not only are they so 
thick as to be wellnigh impenetrable, but their edges 
are sharp as a razor. This tangle of leaves, called 
*' trash," has to be cleared away before the canes can 
be reaped. Trash is usually cut away by hand, but 
sometimes it is removed by fire. Forewarned, even, 
when first you see a cane-field in which the trash is 
being burned away, you will find it difficult to realize 
that you are not witnessing a terrible catastrophe. 
Ferocious tongues of flame lick through the whole 
field and dart up to the sky, amidst awesome clouds 
of smoke. Not only does it look as though the whole 
field would be devoured, but as if the neighbouring 
fields must surely be devastated ; as if, just as surely, 
the catastrophe will reach the proportions of a prairie 
fire and ravage a myriad acres of sugar plantations. 
The marvellous fact remains, however that the flames 
are confined within a stipulated area, and that they 
devour the trash without actually destroying the 
canes. It is a matter of dispute as to whether fire 
damages the crop : some planters maintain that it 
does not harm the sugar- juice ; others are equally 
certain that the scorching heat is prejudicial even to 
the canes, which have a very stout coat, and, in con- 
sequence, they adhere to the much more arduous 
method of having the trash removed by hand. 


After trash-clearing comes the harvest. The canes 
are reaped with some form of cutlass ; the harvest- 
makers sever each cane close to the ground, dexterously 
trim off any odd leaves that may still be clinging to 
the body of the stalk, and slash off a short piece of the 
top, from which in turn they sever the head. The 
long, bare pieces of cane are taken to a mill to be 
crushed ; the decapitated tops, consisting of the 
upper joints, are kept for planting. The "heads " are 
used for fodder. 



Although the system of cane cultivation is the same 
throughout the Sugar World, numerous and widely 
different practices are followed in regard to details. 
Some such differences are matters of custom, others 
are the natural result of local conditions. 

For instance, I said the top joints of canes were 
cut off and kept for planting ; as a rule, the tops only 
are used for this purpose, being specially selected as 
the nucleus of a new crop on account of their com- 
parative softness and readiness to send forth young 
shoots. But in some countries the whole length of 
ripe canes is used for cuttings. 

Again, as a general rule a new crop is raised from 
cuttings, but successive crops are sometimes grown 
from one batch of roots. If the old roots are allowed 
to remain in the ground after harvest, shoots spring 
from each " stool " or cluster. These shoots produce 
a fresh growth of canes, called " ra toons," whic h 



mature in about twelve months. Ratoon-crops are 
not usually so luxuriant as those raised from plant 
canes. The possibility of cultivating them with any 
success depends largely upon the fertility of the soil. 

And yet another striking difference : in some centres 
the old-fashioned methods of hand forking and weed- 
ing are favoured, whilst in other more advanced dis- 
tricts labour-saving agricultural implements are used. 

A reliable guide as to the importance in local eyes 
of the local cane industry in particular, and the whole 
cane industry in general, is the amount of attention 
given to manuring. 

And a very sure sign of progress is shown by the 
existence of Grovernment Nurseries and Laboratories, 
where experiments are carried on in the interests of 
sugar-production in a particular country and its various 
localities. Amongst the most important experiments 
are those which aim at discovering the special varieties 
of cane that are most likely to thrive under local con- 
ditions, and those which have for object the breeding 
of new varieties from seeds. 

Sugar-cane seeds abound in the clusters of tiny 
flowers that appear when the canes arrow. What a 
motley crop the planter would have if he sowed his 
plantation with them ; no two can be relied on to 
produce the same kind of plant. 

By being taken to different countries, and brought 
up in different ways, members of the sugar-cane family 
have acquired peculiar habits of their own, and de- 
veloped individual traits. For instance, some sugar- 
canes are of medium height and girth, others short and 
slim, tall and slim, tall and fat. Thej^ all make a 
brilliant colour display with their stalks, but whilst 


some favour a coat striped in orange and purple, others 
prefer scarlet flecked with blue, an artistic mixture 
of greens, barbaric splashes of indigo and vermilion, 
or a patchwork of sunset hues. Another, and vital, 
difference in the canes is the varying amount of juice 
they contain, and the varying quantity and quality 
of sugar which that juice will yield. 

Plant canes can be relied on to follow the habits of 
their parent, but seedlings are perverse and self-willed. 
The majority of seeds from one cane will more often 
than not produce throw-backs, akin to remote an- 
cestors, or a new variety. The self-willed seedlings 
are aptly called " sports." Sports are great favourites 
in the Experimental Nurseries. They shed much light 
on the sugar-cane family as a whole, and offer many 
valuable suggestions as to the most skilful, scientific, 
and profitable ways of cultivating a sugar-cane plan- 
tation. A specimen collection of bits of sport canes is 
reminiscent of a gaily variegated bundle of Christmas 



The sugar-beetroot grows in temperate regions. To- 
day its chief centres of cultivation include almost 
every European country and the United States. 
England has recently shown a keen desire to produce 
the plant on a large scale, and it is hoped that she will 
soon be taking a prominent position not only as a 
sugar-beet farmer, but as a beet-sugar manufacturer. 
Up to now the part played by the British Isles in 

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Bugar-production has been limited to refining, England 
and Scotland both having won renown as being among 
the leading refiners of the world's sugar-supply. 

The birth and growth of the beet-sugar industry 
make very modern history in comparison with the 
career of cane-sugar. Native Chinese and Indians 
were sucking the juice out of bits of sugar-cane in the 
very long-ago days ; and as early as the sixth century 
both India and China were turning cane-juice into 
sugar, India having made such progress with the in- 
dustry that she was then carrying on an export trade 
with Europe in a white variety. 

But it was not until the middle of the eighteenth cen- 
tury that beetroot-juice was found to be particularly 
rich in sugar-germs. The discovery was made by a 
German chemist, and it was one of his compatriots 
who, towards the close of the century, invented the 
first practical method of extracting beet-juice. In 
view of the very old example set by the cane-sugar 
industry, it is not surprising that this invention em- 
bodied a crushing process ; the roots were reduced to 
pulp by a machine, and the pulp was wrapped in cloths 
and carried on trays to be squeezed in hydraulic presses. 
The simpler and more economical diffusion process 
of extraction was not adopted till 1860 ; the pioneer 
of this new method was an Austrian sugar-manu- 
facturer, who laid the whole beet-sugar industry under 
an inestimable debt to his genius and enterprise. 

To go back to the infancy of this industry : remember, 
they were two Germans who first discovered that sugar 
could be made from beet- juice, and that there was a 
way of making it which gave promise of creating a 
profitable new industry. To the credit of Germany, 


1$ .SUGAR 

you should take note that the first beetroot-sugar 
factories were erected in the Fatherland. 

France was quick to recognize the possibilities of a 
venture which held forth bright prospects to both the 
agricultural and manufacturing classes and masses. 
She threw her commercial heart and soul into the 
business of founding a rival branch of beet-sugar pro- 
duction, and, as luck would have it, that rival branch 
was soon being fostered by strong political support. 
The master-mind of Napoleon was just then bent on 
ruining British commerce. In 1806 the powerful 
Emperor had ordered Europe to suspend trade rela- 
tions with the British Isles ; in 1807 he had resorted 
to the extreme measure of singling out as contraband 
every ship, no matter what its nationality, which 
touched at any port of Britain or of a British Colony. 
British Colonies, notably the West Indies, were at 
this time prominent among the leading producers of 
the world's sugar — cane-sugar, of course, for the beet- 
sugar industry was in its infancy. The Napoleonic 
blockade naturally sent the price of sugar up to famine 
rates in Europe, and fortunes seemed to be awaiting 
men who could produce a homeland supply, from the 
newly discovered beetroot source, to make up to some 
extent for the lack of imported cane-sugar. In their 
zealous pursuit of the new industry the French had 
much direct support from Napoleon, in addition to 
the encouragement derived from his policy of blockade. 
He voted considerable sums from the National Ex- 
chequer to foster beet-sugar production, and made 
extensive grants of land for sugar-beet cultivation and 
the erection of factories. As a result of French com- 
mercial enterprise, backed by political support, by 



1812 France had forty beet-sugar factories at work, 
which made her a formidable rival to Germany, the 
homeland of the industry. 

When the Napoleonic blockade was raised, the price 
of sugar naturally went down, and, just as naturally, 
the youthful beet-sugar industry found it very hard 
to compete with the old-established cane-sugar in- 
dustry. Gradually, however, the new industry was 
nursed into such a vigorous condition that it became 
a most threatening rival to the older one. Other 
European countries followed the lead of Germany and 
France, and their various Governments came to the 
assistance of the farmers and manufacturers. Eventu- 
ally, at the close of the nineteenth century, there 
existed a State-aided, European beet-sugar industry, 
which bade fair to ruin the whole world's ancient and 
widespread cane-sugar industry. 

By this time, however, the European Governments 
had begun to wake up to the fact that beet-sugar had 
now attained such a vigorous hold on commercial life 
that it could very well fight for itself ; and to realize 
the still more important fact that they had been 
helping a minority of farmers and manufacturers to 
grow rich at the expense of the community. Also, by 
this time, there was a general outcry from sugar- 
cane planters against the unfair methods of compe- 
tition resorted to by their rivals. And on both sides, 
politicians interested in economics and the welfare of 
the community were agitating for reform. 

The general discontent led to an International Con- 
ference on the sugar question, in 1903. At this meet- 
ing, historically known as the Brussels Convention, 
fair-play terms of competition were arranged, and the 


two industries were henceforth to fight for supremacy 
on their own merits. 

Since I do not wish you to think I have been influ- 
enced by any political bias whilst outlining the history 
of beet-sugar, I should like specially to point out to 
you some of the benefits derived by the cane-sugar 
industry from its tough struggle for life. 

The beet-sugar producers have always shown them- 
selves keenly alive to the necessity of keeping up to 
date in the pursuit of agriculture and manufacture. 
And if their respective Governments' methods of 
rendering them assistance are open to criticism, at 
least it must be admitted that the giving of help bore 
witness to national interest in national industries. On 
the other hand, the cane-sugar producers, for the 
most part, were content to jog along as their ancestors 
for many generations had done before them ; they did 
not see the force of laying money " dead " in im- 
provements. And there was little or no national 
interest in their industry to spur them on. 

Largely owing to the fight put up by beet-sugar, 
there has been a complete revolution in the methods 
of conducting the cane-sugar industry. Planters now 
devote their attention to the latest scientific methods 
of cultivation ; up-to-date estates have a resident 
chemist, who gives advice on such matters as artificial 
manuring, tests the quality of the sugar-juice, and 
looks after the boiling at the all-important birth stage 
of the grains ; factories are fitted with the latest im- 
provements in sugar-making machinery. And national 
interest in the industry is shown by the attention 
given it by Boards of Agriculture, and by Government 
Experimental Nurseries and Laboratories. 


" Which is the better sugar," you are wondering, 
" cane or beet ?" " And which industry is now 
likely to become supreme ?" 

The first question I put to two experts in turn, the 
one a Professor who has the interests of the cane-sugar 
industry close at heart, the other an equally eminent 
devotee of its rival. From both I received the same 
answer, which amounts to this : Cane-sugar and beet- 
sugar are equally good ; the impurities of sugar-cane 
juice have a pleasant taste and smell, whilst those of 
beet-juice are unpleasant, but when the sugars have 
been refined, not one person in a million can tell 
which is which. Since then, I have asked several lay- 
folk if they have any preference for either of the two 
general makes, and in every case but one the experts' 
statements were endorsed by public opinion. The 
exception, a housewife, assured me that preserves keep 
better when they are made with cane-sugar. 

As to which industry is likely to attain a lasting 
supremacy in the world's sugar-markets, I do not 
think there is a single authority who would venture 
to voice a prophecy. Even under fair-play con- 
ditions, there are so many details to influence the 
fighting power of the rivals, as you will see for your- 
selves when we go over cane plantations, beetroot 
farms, mills and factories. 

Is there any reason why you should take sides in the 
fight ? 

A little time ago it might have been argued that as 
Imperialists you should patronize cane-sugar, because 
our Colonies play such an important part in the in- 
dustry. Now that England is going into the beet- 
sugar industry, it looks as if Patriotism were going to 


call on you to favour beet-sugar. It is no business of 
mine what sort of sugar you use. I have only come 
with you as guide to the Sugar World and showman 
of its life. Any serious, underlying idea I may have 
in taking up this position will be fully realized if you 
remember, whenever you see sugar or consume it, 
that sugar-production is one of the most important 
of our British Imperial industries. 



The rival sugar crops belong to such very different 
plant families that the methods of rearing them are 
different in many respects, as also are the ways of 
gathering in the harvest. 

Sugar-beetroots are raised from seeds. Among the 
untiring efforts that have been made to bring the beet- 
sugar industry to a high standard of efficiency, the 
care and attention given to the seed department con- 
spicuously point to zealous pursuit of progressive 
ideals. The better the seed, the richer the quality and 
quantity of sugar-juice in the roots. The yield has 
already been trebled through the agency of the seed 

You will realize the importance of this increased 
power of production when I tell you that a field of 
sugar-cane naturally gives a very considerably larger 
amount of sugar-juice than does a field of sugar-beet of 
similar size. But so great has been the stimulus given 
to beetroots by selecting the very best seed from which 


to raise the crops that the difference I have mentioned 
has been materially decreased. So much so, that cane 
growers have seen the wisdom of taking precautions 
against losing one of their most effective fighting 
forces — the advantage of a bigger supply of sugar- 
juice from every acre under cultivation. To maintain 
that advantage, in the face of such threatening efforts 
of the beetroot-seed nurserymen to deprive them of 
it, they have set about the work of discovering, by 
selection and breeding, canes that will yield the best 
quality juice in maximum quantities, under every 
condition of soil and climate. In a word, the experi- 
ments with seedling canes, which I have told you 
about, have been largely inspired by the success 
attending the establishment of seed nurseries in con- 
nection with the cultivation of sugar-beet. 

The beetroot plant flowers and seeds between the 
age of one and two years. The very best roots are 
selected for the nurseries, whence, directly or in- 
directly, all the farmers obtain their seeds. Germany 
and France are specially famous for their sugar-beet 
nurseries, and the other European countries frequently 
buy seeds from them. 

Generally speaking, the system of sugar-beet culti- 
vation is the same in all lands where the plant is 

The ground is well broken up, thoroughly cleaned 
and manured. The seeds are sown in the early spring, 
and they very quickly sprout into young plants. The 
plants are " married " as they are born, according to 
the vernacular of the industry ; for one of the earliest 
operations in the fields is known as " demarriage." 
The business of unmarrying the infantile seedlings is 


simply what you and I would call " thinning out "; 
this work is all done by hand, and many children are 
to be seen among the labourers who go round the 
fields on their knees at demarriage season. 

It is particularly necessary for the little plants to 
be kept clear of weeds, so hoeing keeps the farm- 
hands very busy. And, as a rule, the crops are given 
a feed of artificial manure. But the beetroot fields 
have only to be tended a very short time, in comparison 
with the long succession of months during which sugar- 
cane fields have to be looked after ; about four months 
after the seeds are planted, the crop is ready for har- 
vest. The roots are levered out with a spade, or with 
a queer-looking kind of fork, which has ball ends to the 
prongs — the ordinary, sharp ends might easily pierce 
the roots and make them " bleed." 

The sowing and harvest seasons vary in different 
countries, according to the general date limits of the 
frost season. The seeds are put in as early as possible 
after Jack Frost can reasonably be expected to have 
taken his annual leave ; but the young plants must 
not be exposed to any risk of a late, flying visit from 
him. The harvest must be gathered in before he is 
expected back, for the roots could not be dug up when 
the ground is in his clutches. But as the sugar-beet 
growing districts are all confined within narrow limits 
of latitude, there is very little difference in the dates 
which mark the beginning and the ending of the 
crops' existence. Generally speaking. May is the 
planting month, and harvest-time comes between the 
end of September and the middle of November. How 
different with the cane crops, which are located 
throughout the world, between wide margins of lati- 


tude. At all times of the year there is a sugar-cane 
harvest being gathered m somewhere. 

I hope I have now silenced the most tiresome ques- 
tions that were worrying you when we started our 
journey. No, possibly there is one other thing that 
many of you would particularly like to ask me. What 
does a field of sugar-beet look like ? Of a truth, in 
itself it makes a very poor show in comparison with 
a field of stately sugar-canes ; the crop is under the 
ground, you know, and all you can see is a dwarf array 
of leaves. You might very well be looking at a field 
of mangel- wurzels. But the labourers, in their various 
peasant costumes, dot the sugar-beet farms with quaint 
and pretty pictures, which are vivid with colour. 
And there is much that is entertaining in the scenes 
provided by the factories, whilst some of the most 
beautiful European scenery forms a setting to the 

But for the present, we must think no more of beet- 
root sugar. We are about to land in Demerara, which 
gives its name to the cane-sugar you have all known 
and loved from childhood days. 



We have set foot on British Imperial soil, in a north- 
eastern corner of South America. We are in the 
country called British Guiana, the little land which 
constitutes our only Colony in a vast Republican 
stronghold. Through stories of such famous republics 



as Brazil, the Argentine, and Venezuela, and of their 
mighty rivers, the Amazon, the La Plata, and the 
Orinoco, you have, I expect, become fairly familiar 
with the power and glory of South America. But how 
many of you had even heard of British Guiana before 
we started forth on our journey here ? How many of 
you, knowing it by name, could have said offhand 
where it is situated ? Yet this least known of all our 
Colonies, this Imperial Atom of a great Republican 
Continent, can call to life for us all the dreams which 
have ever haunted our imagination when we have heard 
the magic name of South America. And it is this 
Nature-enchanted little Colony which is the homeland 
of Demerara sugar. 

The sugar is all grown and made within a narrow 
coastland strip, which has been called to a state of 
civilization entirely by the industry. A large pro- 
portion of the sugar-producing area is situated in the 
province of Demerara, which has thereby given its 
name to the Colony's special make of golden crystals. 
Bounding the sugar-industrial strip on the one side 
is the sea ; inland, the confines are marked by an 
irregular curve formed by the margin of unreclaimed 

Let me try to focus this setting for you, and imbue 
it with life. Demerara sugar-land is very flat, and at 
high-water times the sea is above the land-level. As 
a protection against floods a margin of primeval Bush 
was left along the coast in parts where forests were 
cleared for sugar cultivation. The very low-lying 
grassy shores, which occur in patches between the 
Bush-border, are dotted with pumping-houses, which 
are fitted with powerful drainage machinery. The 


coast traffic consists largely of barges devoted to the 
sugar industry, which, manned by a darkie crew, ply 
between the plantations and Georgetown, the capital 
of British Guiana and central distributing port of the 
Colony. But the most fascinating part of the whole 
exterior setting is the background of forests. On 
this present expedition of ours, I should be leading 
you astray if I took you for the ideal trip which it was 
my own good fortune to make into the wilds of British 
Guiana ; still, I feel justified in giving you a peep at 
those forests, for a mere glance will help you to under- 
stand how much hard work and enterprise have gone 
to the redemption of a homeland for the Demerara 
sugar industry in this gorgeous wilderness of a country. 
Three broad rivers penetrate the wilderness, but their 
course is frequently blocked by turbulent rapids and 
unnavigable falls. Here and there paths have been 
cleared in the jungle by cutlass and axe ; but, for the 
most part, the forests are a seemingly boundless, im- 
penetrable expanse of giant trees, which rise from a 
dense tangle of undergrowth, only to be knotted to- 
gether again by thick masses of creepers, and by stout 
Bush-cables and ropes. These background wilds of 
sugar-land are the home of orchids, of other delicately 
wrought blooms which are equally fantastic in shape, 
of a wealth of vivid-hued flowers, of birds of brilliant 
plumage, such as parrots and macaws, and of aboriginal 
Indians. In a word, they are closely akin to the world- 
famous forests of the Amazon, to which they are near 
neighbours ; and there is little doubt that when they 
are better known they will be equally renowned for 
their wealth and beauty. 
I hope you have been able to picture the surroundings 


to the cradle of the Demerara sugar industry. Now I 
want to give you a first peep at the little strip of British 
Guiana which is devoted to sugar-growing and sugar- 

We have landed in Georgetown, and here at once you 
begin to scent the atmosphere of the cane district. 
True, Georgetown is an up-to-date city, whereas the 
cane-fields constitute a region which has a distinctly 
country aspect and atmosphere. Nevertheless, you 
notice at once that the capital has a very cosmopolitan 
population ; and you are particularly struck by the 
number of East Indians you see in the streets. Coolies, 
as these folk are called, form the main part of the 
labouring population of the sugar estates. Blacks, 
who, as you see, are also prominent among the in- 
habitants of the capital, sometimes work as field-hands, 
but their position on the estates is more often that of 
factory hand, or of driver — an under-foreman who looks 
after a gang of labourers, and one of whose chief duties 
is to see that all his charges go to work. Some of the 
higher positions, too, are filled by natives. As you 
are in the capital of a British Colony, naturally you 
are not surprised to find some white people here ; you 
may also rely on meeting a few of your countrymen 
on the sugar estates, where they fill such responsible 
offices as those of planter, manager, engineer, chemist, 
and overseer. 

Many of the estates are quite close to Georgetown. 
Some, as I have told you, are on the coast ; others 
border the lower course of the Demerara River. Here 
is a bird's-eye^ view of one of them, chosen at random. 

An oblong expanse of land has one of its narrow sides 
fronting the natural waterway ; this low-lying land 


has been empoldered, being protected against floods 
by dams, main drainage trenches with sluice-gates, 
and a river or sea margin of Bush left, as I have ex- 
plained, when the clearing was made. The main 
drainage trenches, with their sluice-gates connecting 
with the water frontage, can also be used, if necessary, 
for irrigation purposes. Lengthways down the middle 
of the estate runs a broad walk, on either side of which 
are navigation canals. From this central walk as 
base, the estat-e is laid out in rectangles, completed by 
cross-navigation canals as side boundaries. The cane- 
fields occupy the rectangular enclosures, and are further 
divided into sections by drainage ditches. 

The chief buildings on an estate are the factory — 
known as the mill — the manager's house, the over- 
seers' quarters, a hospital, a school, and a store, 
usually kept by a John Chinaman. The hospital and 
school are compulsory institutions in the case of all 
estates which employ indentured coolie labour. The 
Colony brings over the coolie immigrants, the planters 
paying part of the expense involved ; in return, the 
coolies are attached to an estate for five years, the 
Government being responsible for their welfare. The 
system of indentured labour is very much like that 
of apprenticeship. These apprentices have to live on 
the estates and do the work they undertake ; they are 
paid for that work, and apart from the restrictions 
mentioned, they are free agents. In completing their 
apprenticeship they cancel all obligations to their 
employer and to the Colony. 

Let us make a short journey to one of the Demerara 
sugar estates, in the near neighbourhood of George- 
town. Here, before taking you among the canes, I 


will show you the school, because I am sure you will 
find the scene within particularly entertaining. 

The schoolhouse is a wooden building of one story, 
specially designed to be a cool and shady retreat ; it 
has a gallery approach, and the space within the door- 
way is given up to one room, which has jalousies for 
windows. In this room you find the quaintest col- 
lection of copper-coloured girls and boys, of all ages 
and sizes. They all have bare legs and arms, and seem 
but half clad, but since you are so very hot, even in 
those light clothes specially chosen for the tropics, you 
feel inclined to envy them their fashion of scant attire. 
Standing in the midst of this assembly, do you not feel 
that you are an onlooker at a Juvenile Fancy Dress 
Fair ? The schoolmistress is a Black, albeit a British 
subject like yourself ; close under her wing are her two 
picaninnies, who look very smart in European costume, 
and answer to the very English names of John and 
Maria. But can you imagine any more appropriate 
names than those to which her coolie pupils answer — 
for instance, Pancheoo, Baldeo, Buddho, Chowa, Dooka- 
wah, Gangee, Jumney, Ruggoomunden, and Tulsi 
Singh. No wonder your eyes roam from coolie girls 
to coolie boys, and back again through the crowd pick- 
ing out boys from girls ; it certainly is difficult to make 
up one's mind which sex as a whole presents the weirder 
appearance. However, apart from numerous varia- 
tions in the colour of their garments, I expect you have 
already noticed that all the boys seem, with one 
accord, to have agreed to wear nothing but a short 
cotton shirt, and silver bracelets on their wrists ; that 
the girls have rings in their noses, bangles on their 
ankles, a bright kerchief headgear, a cotton skirt to 

Mrs. F. iriiiU 



the knees, a gay bolero — which, by the way, is called 
a "juila" — and between the body garments a couple 
of inches of bare flesh, as natural waistband. 

Drilling, reading, and reciting tables all seem part of 
the fun of the fair to you ; as a matter of fact, this 
picturesque little crowd is doing its best, and quite a 
good best too, to show what little East Indians can 
learn, even in a foreign school; what they can be 
taught, even in a foreign language. 

Singing is a great favourite among lessons, judged 
by the enthusiastic and whole-hearted way in which 
they give a sample performance, for your benefit, of 

" I have got a fiddle. 
It is nice to see ; 
Strings around the middle. 
Father gave it me." 

The children only have to attend school in the 
morning ; in the afternoon they go to work in the 
cane- fields. 


A TRIP ** aback" 

I AM going to take you *' aback." 

No, I am not indulging in the slang expression for a 
surprise in store, although, as a matter of fact, you will 
see much that will both amuse and astonish you. 
" Aback " is plantation lingo for the cane-growing 
lands which lie to the rear of the mill and ofl&cial 
residential quarters. 

I am only going to give you a peep at a small estate, 
covering about two thousand acres, and employing 


eight or nine hundred hands ; small, that is to say, in 
comparison with some of its neighbours, one of which 
embraces ten thousand acres, and has a staff numbering 
fully eight thousand men, women and children. 

But the size of an estate makes little or no differ- 
ence to the out-of-door plantation work in Demerara, 
and in this scorching sun you will not want to make a 
very long trip, seeing that a short one will serve our 
purpose equally well. In the case of the mills, how- 
ever, size is apt to affect working methods, so when I 
want to show you how Demerara sugar is made, I 
shall take you to the biggest mill in the Colony, where 
you can see the latest improvements for extracting the 
juice from canes, and turning it into crystals. 

By kind permission of the manager, we step into the 
little Noah's Ark which is kept at a landing-stage near 
his house, to be used by himself and his overseers for 
daily tours of inspection. Our craft was designed for 
hard wear and tear, and makes no pretension at being 
either beautiful or comfortable. Her coat of paint is 
of serviceable grey hue ; canvas sugar-bags do duty as 
carpets and seat coverings ; and fitted to the hut 
amidships are sun-bleached, shower-mottled blinds, 
haunted by ghostly stripes. It is a mere accident of 
taste that the little boat's quaint form and appearance 
have a decided charm for us. 

As we take our seats within the hut, a black boy and 
a coolie lad attach a mule to the boat by a long chain ; 
a moment later, the darkie deftly jumps astride the 
rudder, and the coolie flicks his whip. A lengthy 
interval elapses, in which we wait the mule's pleasure 
to step forth and tow us along. At last we are under 
way. Your eyes wander from left to right, from right 





to left, watching the panorama that is gliding past. A 
stretch of green grass, whereon cows and sheep are con- 
tentedly grazing, carries you back to Enghsh meadow- 
lands in the Fen District ; a moment later comes an 
expanse of virgin Bush, thick set with scrub and trecR 
that are knotted into an impenetrable tangle by endless 
twistings and turnings of gaily flowering creepers ; next 
pass in broken procession stately palms waving their 
feathers aloft in the gentle breeze, clusters of wild 
bananas, arrays of strange shrubs, displays of strange 
fruit, and patches of barren wastes ; and through all 
the scenes, ever and anon flit birds of brilliant plumage, 
and mammoth butterflies whose gorgeous wings have 
been steeped in the magic colours of the tropical wilds. 

As we near a primitive wooden bridge, the mule is 
unhitched, and by the help of the bank the helmsman 
steers us under the rafters and sharp round a corner. 
The while the beastie is being relinked to the boat, we 
scramble on to the roof of the hut, from which vantage- 
ground we can get a wide view of our surroundings. 

We are now in the right of the plantation's two 
main navigation trenches, which run parallel, but are 
separated by a broad tow-path. We have struck the 
cane-lands. As far as the eye can reach to take a 
sweeping glance over the low-lying landscape, lo and 
behold there is an arena which seems entirely given 
up to a magnificent show of green leaves But know- 
ing what you already do about sugar-canes, your 
imagination quickly transforms this restful-hued but 
deserted-looking panorama into a scene richly endowed 
with colour, and permeated with the drowsy hum of 
life. Look at the standard canes close at hand, along- 
side the dam ; their decorative staffs are plainly visible 



among the streamer leaves thereon, and immediately 
they make you realize that there are thousands upon 
thousands of multi-coloured stalks concealed in the 
great, green beyond. And, see, a yard or two ahead 
of you there is a brown figure slowly rising from the 
dark depths of the earth, as it would seem, to stand in 
the shadow of a cane-bower, with little sunbeams 
darting around him hke fireflies. The sudden appear- 
ance of this man, cutlass in hand, reminds you that 
there is work to be done on a sugar plantation, that 
this very estate employs several hundred field-hands, 
men, women and children. The majority of them are 
on duty to-day, but they are hidden away among 
the canes. Many of them we shall discover when, 
presently, we land and take a walk through the fields. 
We have been towed along for a good quarter of a 
mile without coming across another sign of life. Having 
grown accustomed to the solitary aspect of our sur- 
roundings, we again experience a shock of surprise 
on seeing a coolie girl break through the canes ; but 
this little disturbance of our equilibrium is a mere 
nothing compared to the astonishment that takes 
possession of us as we watch that girl step straight off 
the dam into the water — with her clothes on. She 
wades, neck-deep, through our navigation canal, hauls 
herself up on to the tow-path, shakes herself, crosses 
to the companion canal, and wades through that. On 
the opposite bank she slips off her short, jumper bodice, 
wrings it out, draws it over her head again, and 
plunging into the canes, is lost to view. She has 
simply been following the usual method of transit by 
which the labourers cross the waterways between the 

A TRIP " ABACK " 35 


A TRIP " ABACK " — Continued 

Five minutes more in which there is no figure to be 
seen on the landscape. Now, riding towards you 
along the tow-path comes a man on mule-back. He 
is a white overseer, who, upon coming up with us, 
gives us greeting and dismounts. He has come to meet 
us, and conduct us through some of the cane-fields. 

Why do you look so surprised as you cover him with 
a swift glance from top to toe ? You expected to see 
him arrayed in the full uniform of what you call Bush 
Kit 1 I assure you he is so dressed. Speckless brown 
boots, elegant puttees, brand-new khaki riding- 
breeches, and all the other magnificent etceteras of 
a plantation overseer on the stage, or in a novel, are 
not for workaday life. Ask of any man who knows 
about such things from personal experience what is 
the best style of costume to wear for plantation-work, 
and his reply will almost invariably be : " Any old 
thing is good enough." 

Hence, you need not be at all surprised to find our 
new friend in a very old suit, the coat sagging from 
the effects of many a tropical drenching, the trousers 
tucked into ancient leggings, and his kit completed 
by navvy's boots and a weather-beaten wideawake. 

We step out of the boat on to the dam, and the 
overseer prepares to join us. He gets into a tiny, flat- 
bottomed boat, known as a '* floater," in which there 
is just room for him to stand up, and his Uttle blaek- 
boy attendant jumps into the trench and pushes him 


Let me give you a few hints before you follow our 
leader in this expedition among the fields. Mind how 
you push the canes asunder to get through, for the 
leaves have edges that cut like a razor. Keep your 
gloves on, if you can endure the heat of them. But 
at any cost to your hands, you must guard your face, 
especially your eyes, and you must be prepared to find 
this a difficult task when you are among the fields of 
full-grown canes. And do not jump in regulation good 
form, so as to come down on both feet at once ; the 
slimy banks of the drainage trenches, which you will 
have to clear, are very slippery, and if both feet come 
down together and do not get a good grip, you are more 
than likely to fall back into the muddy water. Whereas, 
if you give yourself two chances of a foothold, and lose 
one, you may still manage to shufiie into safety. The 
navigation canals you will have to cross, to get from 
field to field, are too wide to jump. Each of you will 
go across separately in a floater ; be very careful to 
keep your balance, particularly at the moments when 
it is shoved off, and when it bumps against the opposite 

As we follow our guide, we see canes in numerous 
stages of their plantation career, and discover workers 
engaged in many different kinds of field labour. In 
one section, men are busy reaping, and piling the cut 
canes up by the dam-side, ready to be taken to the 
mill in punts. In a neighbouring field, we emerge 
into a tangle of canes, and have to make our way very 
slowly and warily. An intervening trench strikes us 
as being an expanse of open country, in contrast with 
the cane thicket, and it is a pleasant change to jump 
through the air after a long struggle to tunnel through 

A TRIP " ABACK " 37 

a barricade of leaves ; but a second after landing, we 
are again busy tunnelling with hands and shoulders, 
the while our feet plod wearily through a thick bed of 
mud. At intervals we come across an old coolie 
woman, a pretty coolie lass, or a group of bewitching 
little coolie children. All the workers in this field are 
weeding. In the course of traversing this section we 
chance upon the black " driver," who is in charge of 
the gang. 

The next field is an open expanse of stubble ; here 
the canes have all been reaped, but the ground is in 
the clutches of their massed roots, or " stools." 
Labourers have begun to clear this space ready for 
planting, and you see many hands busy ploughing with 
shovel and fork. And in a near neighbouring field a 
mighty fire is at work, devouring the trash, thus making 
ready for the reapers. 

Heading for the main navigation trench, we pick up 
our little houseboat some distance ahead of where we left 
her, and proceed to travel on among the cane-lands to 
our journey's end. Sun-lovers though we be, we are 
now grateful for the shelter and shadow of the hut 
amidships, and we are so tired that its sugar-bag 
carpeted floor and sugar-bag cushioned seats seem to 
be the height of luxury. We close our eyes and in- 
dulge in day-dreaming. We are wandering through 
a picture-gallery of life, in which every scene that is 
presented to us has a double power of appeal. Each 
memory-painted canvas shows us fascinating Orientals, 
draped in picturesque native costume, apparently 
playing at work on an arena which is luxuriantly 
bedecked with stately and graceful sugar-canes ; and, 
at the same time, these pictures make us feel the 


atmosphere is charged with Western enterprise and 

So vivid are the impressions made by life in the 
Demerara cane-fields, that it is impossible to imagine 
time can ever fade them, or distance rob them of one 
iota of their enchantment. 



We are going to visit the largest sugar factory in 
Demerara, an establishment that is not only dis- 
tinguished for its size and output, but for its up-to- 
date machinery and methods. The sugar estate of 
which it forms such a vital part is known as 
" Diamond," and embraces many estates that have 
now been grouped under one management. Planta- 
tion Diamond, the most extensive sugar estate in 
Demerara, covers a vast area on the east bank of the 
Demerara River, on the outskirts of Georgetown. 
Factory Diamond is situated about an hour's drive 
distant from the city. 

The way to the factory is along a road teeming with 
picturesque scenes, and occupying the foreground of 
a magnificent display of tropical vegetation. True, 
the whole spectacle is arrayed on a dead level arena ; 
but flat country hath its charms, as everyone knows 
who has visited Holland or the Norfolk Broads, 
and the mudlands of Demerara that have been trans- 
formed into sugar-cane land can hold their own with 
any flat lands in the matter of fascination. 


For a long stretch the road threads its way through 
an avenue of palms, aloft on whose giant, branchless 
trunks are plumelike boughs that nod gracefully in 
the breeze. Here it is flanked by a canal, which is 
entirely covered by a thick carpet, that has a ground- 
work of green, richly bedecked with a raised pattern 
of cerise-hued Lotus - lilies. A little farther on is 
another canal, with an equally thick carpet, but this 
time the design is wrought by dehcately tinted, 
lavender water-hyacinths. And all the while, in the 
background, are waving fields of sugar-cane, spreading 
around and across to the remote horizon. In some 
parts this same scene is displayed on both sides of the 
road, but at intervals on the river-side the land narrows 
and becomes a scrub patch intersected by canals, with 
kokers or sluice-gates, which play an important part 
in the drainage system of the cane - fields. At in- 
tervals, too, the view of the sugar-cane display is 
partially blocked by logics, rows of labourers' dwellings 
that front the canals ; and sometimes it is wholly 
blotted out by a foreground of market gardens, planted 
with cocoa-nut trees, plantains, and numerous other 
tropical fruits and vegetables. 

Again, there are roadside scenes of daily life which 
temporarily draw our attention from the cane-fields. 
We are constantly meeting and passing some of the 
coolies and coloured folk, who comprise the labouring 
population of the estates, or an enterprising John 
Chinaman who has made a prosperous business concern 
of his little shanty of a store in the vicinity of the 
plantations. We see women squatting alongside a 
trench, washing clothes by the novel method of 
beating them with bats ; a wedding-party of East 


Indians driving in a cab, the bride closely veiled, the 
bridegroom crowned with a pagoda-like erection in 
bamboo and cardboard, bedecked with tinsel streamers 
and coloured paper rosettes ; darkies balancing on 
their heads small, medium-sized, or enormous burdens 
of all descriptions, according to their accustomed 
method of carrying anything and everything ; odd 
figures playing shop on the ground, seated beneath 
an old umbrella beside a tray of fairings. 

But in spite of these many distractions, the pre- 
dominant cane-fields ultimately succeed in winning 
our undivided attention. They are the great spec- 
tacle ; everything else gradually assumes its rightful 
position as part of the mise en scene. As far as the 
eye can see — and it has a wide range of vision over 
this level country — they clothe the landscape. Where 
the canes, with their numerous streamer-leaves, flank 
an intersecting trench, they look tall ; indeed, we can 
see that if we stood amongst the tallest of them they 
would tower above our heads. But taken all together, 
the cane-fields are dwarfed by the gaunt factory-shafts, 
which here and there dart very high up into the air. 

To-day, there is smoke belching from those chimneys ; 
and around us are many other evidences of a busy 
harvest season, such as we noticed during our trip 
aback. For instance, over yonder a field is ablaze, 
and we know that the flames are preparing it for the 
reapers ; in many of the near-at-hand fields we can see 
bands of reapers wielding their cutlasses. 

And here is a new and very clear witness to the present 
prevailing interest in Demerara sugar-land. Along the 
canal, running parallel to the road we are traversing to 
the mill, comes a train of cane-laden punts, towed by a 

CO — 
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mule. To-day, throughout the whole sugar-producing 
region of the Colony, canes are being cut, transported 
to the mills, and ground with the utmost speed ; for 
when the harvest season, or, as it is more usually 
called, the grinding season, begins, everything must 
be done as quickly as possible, because freshly cut 
canes give the best sugar-juice. There are two grind- 
ing seasons in British Guiana — one in May and one in 

The pleasure of arriving at our destination is tinged 
with regret that the journey has come to an end. But 
just now there is barely a second in which to think of 
the past, for the present is brimming with dehghts. 

In a spacious room, which occupies the entire first- 
floor of a country mansion that is balanced aloft on 
piles, we are made very welcome by the manager and 
his family. But we are not allowed to go over to the 
mill just yet. Surely we must be tired after that long 
drive in the sun — and thirsty and hungry, too. Yes, 
here we find ourselves once more happy strangers in 
the 'midst of friends. Thoroughly refreshed, we are 
sent across to the factory buildings in charge of an 
overseer. Our guide is most stimulatingly enthusi- 
astic ; he is heart and soul in his work, and not only 
has he a mind for the commercial side of sugar-makmg, 
but an artistic eye that spots the picturesque features 
in the life of his business. Almost at once we feel sure 
that he will not insist on giving us a dry-as-dust lesson, 
but that he will put us in possession of facts in a way 
that tends to show the romance of a great industry. 




Taking us to the imposing-looking building which is 
called the mill, our guide starts at the initial process 
to show us the whole business of sugar-making. We 
stand outdoors, fronting a vast trough that is fitted, 
left and right, with long, wide, gruesome-looking rakes. 
This trough is situated in the mill-dock, and is fed 
from punts on each side ; but as the double-feeding 
action consists of precisely similar left-hand and right- 
hand manoeuvres, we concentrate our attention on the 
near tactics. A cane-laden punt has been towed 
alongside the trough. This punt is fitted with a net- 
work of chains, slung underneath the canes ; to effect 
the unloading, long, overhead chains are now attached 
to the sling - bed ; there is a mysterious roar of 
machinery; and in a twinkling our astonished eyes 
behold the whole three-ton load of canes rising bodily 
from the punt into the air. For a moment we see 
them resting securely in a sling, the next moment the 
whole load looks as if it were going to turn turtle, the 
next it falls into place on the trough platform. The 
cane-rakes are lowered, and begin their work of 
gathering in fresh supplies wherewith to feed the mill, 
while the empty sling falls back into the punt with a 
fierce clatter of chains. 

The canes are raked down from the platform into a 
carrier, practically a shding staircase, which takes them 
up to the mill-rollers to meet their doom. 

We walk up a sloping platform, which follows the 
loute of the carrier, climb some steps, and reach an 


upper storey of the factory, where we can see the canes 
being crushed. They pass through four sets of rollers, 
for this is a mill designed to squeeze out practically 
every drop of their juice. The juice extracted by 
each crushing falls through a copper strainer, and 
is all conducted through channels, via a pipe, into 
one tank. Another sliding staircase carries away the 
mangled remains of the canes, known as megass, which 
will burn and give a great heat. Hence megass is a 
valuable economic asset ; it furnishes practically all the 
fuel for the motive power of a sugar factory. Megass 
has other uses, of which more anon, for at present our 
interest is wholly claimed by another economic triumph 
achieved by this very modern mill which we are visiting. 
It has a labour-saving device for feeding the furnace ; 
in course of transit, part of the megass is thrown off 
down a sHde to keep the fire going, and there is a 
contrivance by which the supply can be increased, 
diminished, or completely shut off. The surplus is 
mechanically shot into a storage siding. 

We now go down to the ground-floor and watch the 
cane- juice, fresh from the rollers, running into the col- 
lecting tank ready for its second stage of evolution. 
For clarification purposes it is pumped into iron tanks, 
and mixed with a certain amount of lime. It is then 
pumped through steam-heated vessels and raised to 
boiling-point, or higher. 

Further to follow this stage in sugar-manufacture 
we have to climb up various flights of steps. As we 
begin the ascent we cling to the handrailing — of 
course it is sticky, that was only to be expected if we 
had stopped to think, and there is really no necessity 
to hold on, for the steps are very firm and not particu- 


larly steep. But what a shock that sticky touch gave 
us for the moment ! The whole factory is so clean, so 
very spick and span, that it was a surprise to get 
that hint of the nature of the material on which the 
machines are working. Now we begin to appreciate 
the immense amount of care that must be exercised in 
keeping all the surroundings, everything connected 
with sugar-making, in such a wholesome condition. 

When a halt is called, we are standing on a platform 
amidst large tanks that resemble goods trucks. The 
juice is pumped into these tanks, where it is allowed 
to subside for a short time. When the impurities have 
sunk to the bottom of the tanks, the clear juice is 
conducted to a series of evaporators called " triple 
effets," to be concentrated until it attains the con- 
sistency of a thick syrup. 

This syrup is then drawn into vacuum pans, and 
evaporated until crystals form. Whilst the crystals 
are incubating, constant tests are made of the condi- 
tion of the boiling. The manner of conducting these 
tests recalls pleasant reminiscences of toffee-making. 
But the pan-boiler does not use a cup of cold water, 
and enjoy himself by indulging in tasting experiments. 
To note the gradual growth of the crystals, he exposes 
a small quantity of the boiling on an ordinary piece of 
glass, and there is a look of great anxiety in his eyes 
as he examines the specimen substance of his pan. 
The pan-boiler, a native operator, holds a most re- 
sponsible position ; a trifle too little or a trifle too much 
boiling, and the contents of his pan are spoiled — more- 
over, his reputation, very likely an excellent one of 
long standing, has gone for ever. 

When the crystals are sufficiently formed, the con- 


tents of the pan are discharged into a tank below. 
The substance at this stage is known as " masse-cuite," 
and consists of crystals mixed up with a syrupy residue 
called " molasses." The compound is a sticky, dark- 
coloured mass, which does not bear the slightest trace 
of resemblance to golden, Demerara sugar. Yet in a 
few seconds, by a simple operation, it is transformed 
into familiar aspect. 

All that remains to be done is to separate the crystals 
from the molasses. For this purpose the masse-cuite 
is discharged into centrifugals, circular receptacles that 
have a network lining of very fine mesh. Herein it is 
whirled round at lightning speed, with the result that 
the liquid part of the mass is forced through the 
meshes, and the crystals are left high and dry. In a 
golden shower they tumble out into a conveyer, which 
runs them up to the store, ready for packing and ship- 

The sugar leaves the store via a chute, dropped from 
the upper floor to the ground-floor. A weighing- 
machine stands beneath its lower mouth, which can 
be opened and shut, as desired, by a slide. Empty 
sacks take their turn on the weighing-machine, and as 
each one gets its fill of 250 pounds it is removed and 
securely fastened. With little or no delay, the bulging 
sugar-bags are sent to Georgetown, whence they are 
taken in cargo-boats to the world's markets. 

Factory Diamond, one of the finest sugar factories 
in British Guiana, employs some 200 hands to make 
and manipulate its enormous output of about 17,000 
tons of sugar a year. Roughly speaking, half the 
factory operatives are coolies ; the other half, coloured 
natives of the Colony. Most of the labourers are adult 


males, but the various gangs include some women and 
a few children, who perform numerous Hght duties, 
keep the buildings clean, and take part in the manu- 
facture of by-products of sugar-cane . 

The two chief by-products manufactured at a sugar- 
mill are molascuit and rum. 

Molascuit, used for cattle-food, is a mixture of 
molasses and sifted megass ; that is to say, a com- 
pound of the residue of masse-cuite and the fine " dust " 
of the residue of crushed cane. 

The process of rum-making begins with a mixture 
locally known as "wash," in which molasses and 
water are the main ingredients. The wash is run 
into big vats, and allowed to ferment. After fer- 
mentation, it is passed through stills, and through the 
successive mediums of evaporation and condensation 
it becomes rum. 



Nowhere can you witness more quaintly attractive 
entertainments than those which take place in Demerara 
sugar-land, on high days, holidays, and sundry other 
special occasions. 

Every Saturday brings a time of rejoicing ; for it is 
the weekly festival of Pay-Day, and all the labourers 
have a half -holiday to celebrate the occasion. At 
noon, they go home, doff their working-clothes, and 
don their Sunday-best raiment. Think of them all 
men, women and children, as dressing themselves up 


to take part in a Pageant, in which East and West 
will vie with each other for your good opinion as to 
which contributes the more engaging feature to the 

The finest scene is presented when the actors, coming 
in family groups from all directions, join forces on the 
tow-path, and stream in a dense crowd along the last 
section of the route to the pay-office, alongside the 
mill. En masse, that crowd makes you think of a 
festival procession wending its way through an Oriental 
fairyland ; coolies predominate in actual numbers, and 
Western costumes are sombred into insignificance by 
their Eastern robes, headgear and jewels, which flash 
before your eyes in a gorgeous medley of scarlet, blue, 
green, saffron, magenta and gold, freely interspersed 
with patches of white and cream to throw into still 
bolder relief the naturally vivid colours. 

Around the pay-office the Pageant breaks up into 
groups. Now you can see the darkies to better 
advantage. Most of them present quite a smart 
appearance in their best clothes ; but the majority 
follow one detail of fashion which strikes you as very 
quaint. Accustomed as you have grown to seeing 
them without shoes and stockings, you now look upon 
their bare feet as a strange, new sight. Bare feet going 
about their business in company with oddments of 
workaday garments are not remarkably incongruous. 
But bare feet beneath frilly petticoats and an elaborate 
frock, bare feet protruding from the trousers of a 
highly respectable suit — such a combination of primi- 
tive custom and civilized fashion naturally strikes you 
as somewhat odd. Some of the women tie up their 
heads in a red cotton kerchief, and then perch on the 


top thereof a large, fancy straw hat, bedecked a la 
mode, with ribbons and flowers. 

The labourers are called in gangs to the pay- wicket. 
Whilst waiting their turn, they rest in the shade, 
whiling away the time according to their fancy. Here 
you see an old coolie woman leaning against a wall, 
enjo3dng a pipe. Near by, a mother is buying a bun 
for her pickaninny, from an old granny who is hawking 
round a basket of " dainties." One very little girl is 
sitting by herself under the shade of a very big gamp, 
sucking a piece of sugar-cane ; she can hardly be more 
than eight years old, yet her name is on the pay-sheet 
for a very good week's work in the fields. On the 
canal bank lies some timber ; every length of wood is 
being made to do duty as a garden-seat. All around, 
men and women are doing nothing, and doing it in a 
most picturesque style ; and dotted about the groiuid 
in their midst are infants and tiny tots. But most of 
the children in the scene are playing about in the punts, 
in which they have not long ago come back from work ; 
the favourite pastime is the perilous game of walking 
round the edge of the boats. 

After drawing their wages, the labourers, big and 
little, all go off to the market. An estate's market- 
place is situated by the roadside ; the scene it presents 
on a Saturday afternoon is very animated and uniquely 
picturesque. The goods are displayed on either side 
of the highway, which is more like a country lane than 
a road ; nearly every stock-in-trade is spread on the 
ground — sometimes on a cloth, more often on the grass. 
A few things are piled up in baskets, or on little trays 
reared on folding stands. The salesmen and sales- 
women, blacks, coolies and Chinese, generally disport 



themselves on Mother Earth, kneeling, squatting, 
sitting cross-legged, crouching with knees drawn up to 
chin, or lounging in the near neighbourhood of their 
wares ; here and there, an odd figure is perched on a 
dwarf stool. 

Eatables are very prominent among the goods for 
sale. One ground-stall is set out with an assortment 
of vegetables ; you are quite excited when you recog- 
nize the familiar potato amongst piles of strange- 
looking roots, tubers, pods, and fruits of the cucumber 
and marrow family, which boast such queer names as 
bolinjays, tanniers, eddoes and squash. A smaU 
expanse of neighbouring grass exhibits a very pretty 
display of green and red pepper-pods — caUed " pi- 
mento," and their neighbours on the other side are 
some giant hands of bananas and plantains. Next 
comes a rival attraction to food — an exhibition of 
clothes and finery ; ranged along the ground in piles 
are cinnamon and cream-coloured tunics for the coolie 
men, best plush juilas and everyday cotton juilas for 
the coolie women, striped prints beloved by the darkies, 
and neat Uttle heaps of brilliant-hued silk scarves hob- 
nobbing with bundles of merino pants and vests. On 
the opposite side of the way is another stretch of food- 
supplies — piles of unhusked rice, known as " paddy,' 
baskets of monkey-nuts, trays of gaudy sweetmeat 
fairings, and so on to another stack of clothing. 

The highway is thronged with folk who have come 
to make a merry festival of marketing, and again you 
are struck with the decorative effect produced by the 
costumes of the masses. The traders, too, have nearly 
all donned holiday garments, and resemble their cus- 
tomers in appearance ; but now and again you espy an 



absurdly comical figure, that reminds you of a cheap - 
Jack who has been at pains to make himself a sight 
not to be overlooked. For instance, can you possibly 
help noticing yonder darkie shrimp-seller, in tattered 
tweed trousers^ a holey singlet, and a battered top-hat 
with a red cord tied round for band ? 

One of the chief festivals celebrated on every sugar 
estate which employs coolie labour is the Taja. In 
British Guiana, all the labourers take part in the Taja, 
blacks joining the coolies in the ceremony and its 
attendant merrymaking. The festival is usually held 
in February, but the exact date varies on the different 
estates, so that the hands from one can go over and 
join those on another, thus insuring an extended round 
of gaiety. 

The Taja is a festival in commemoration of two 
Mussulman saints, Hassein and Hussein, who were 
killed in a long-ago big battle, in which they distin- 
guished themselves by mighty deeds of valour. A 
spot is selected and designated, for the time being, as 
the tomb of the prophets. The earth of this sacred 
spot is beaten hard and smooth. Then there is built 
a structure which is called the Taja ; it is a magnificent 
erection of bamboo, cardboard and paper, from twenty 
to thirty feet high. In the bamboo framework of this 
pagoda-like tower huge cardboard boxes are placed 
one above the other, each box above the ground-storey 
fitting into the one below ; the successive storeys are 
surrounded by galleries. All the corners are decorated 
mtlf coloured, pasteboard balls, and the whole erec- 
tion is profusely ornamented with tinsel and festoons 
of coloured paper, and surmounted with the figure of 
a cock. 


Each village on an estate builds its own Taja, which 
is ceremoniously placed on a selected tomb of the 
prophets, on the first day of the festival, a Saturday. 
On Monday, the Tajas are carried round from village 
DO village to be compared and admired, then, with the 
best one leading, a procession is formed. Finally, each 
group takes its Taja to the estate's wharf — called the 
" stelling " — where, after it has been rifled for tokens, 
it is thrown into the sea. 

Another Showtime is the Last Day of Grinding. On 
this occasion, the mule-boys decorate their mules with 
flowers, and the mill-hands bedeck the machinery with 
bouquets and garlands. And floral adornments can 
well be lavish and luxurious in a land where our most 
carefully-nursed hothouse exhibits are common garden 
blooms, where orchids, Victoria Eegia water-liUes, and 
brilliant-flowering creepers grow in wild profusion. 



Demerara sugar is sent down from the estates to 
Georgetown, the distributing port, in sacks, which are 
always spoken of as " bags." The bags nearly all do 
this part of the journey by water, but some travel by 
train. At Georgetown, they may have a short rest in 
the storage quarters of the wharves, but very often 
they are taken straight on board the 1 Ig steamers 
which transport the bulk of the Colony's annual sugar- 
supply to the world's markets. Of late, a large pro- 
portion of that supply has been going to Canada, owing 


to the high price which the Sister Colony has been 
willing to give for Demerara crystals ; but the Mother 
Country has kept her name on the list of customers, 
and I am sure all of you are hoping that she may 
always do so. 

The boats used for the local transport trade are of 
three kinds : the lighter ; the plebeian punt, which has 
to be impelled by those formidable-looking oars known 
as " sweeps "; and the aristocratic punt, which glides 
majestically along under canvas. 

The transport boats offer many attractions from the 
picturesque standpoint. The barbaric taste of the 
wherryman the wide world over is displayed in gaily 
painted details, such as orange and red rudders, scarlet 
and blue water-barrels. The costumes of the darkie 
crews are often a combination of quaint oddments, that 
cannot be outrivalled by the most fascinating fancy- 
dress of the Italian peasant, or the merriest rags of 
the Spanish beggar. 

But amongst all the alluring charms of the sugar- 
boats, I think you will agree with me that, through the 
medium of a fantastic, labour-saving device which has 
been invented by the wherrymen, the rowing-punts 
have been endowed with the supreme power of amuse- 
ment. To " sweep " these boats down to the harbour 
with the tide is a comparatively easy task, but the up- 
stream, return journey to the estates, even though the 
cargo has been discharged, calls for very hard work if 
manual labour be the motive power. Moreover, 
jealousy arising from the sailor-man's natural pride 
in his own boat has inspired the crews of the rowing- 
punts with a desire to make their craft as efficient as 
the sailing-punts. Hence, the sweeper-crews, when 


going back for a fresh load of sugar, set up a rough 
mast, and rig it with a patchwork sail made of empty 
sugar-bags. The Demerara River is the highway for 
a motley collection of strange-looking boats — Indian 
canoes, corials and woodskins ; timber-rafts, equipped 
with romantic-looking, palm-thatched camps, which 
persuade you at a glance that they are manned by 
relatives of Robinson Crusoe. But amidst all the 
quaint shipping, most striking are the punts under 
sugar-bag canvas ; they look like a cross between a 
Norfolk wherry and a Chinese junk. 

On arrival at Georgetown, the sugar-bags are dis- 
charged in mid-stream into small boats, which transfer 
them to the warehouses or straight to out-going 
steamers ; or the lighters and punts bring them directly 
alongside the wharves. 

It often happens that whilst sugar-bags are being 
unloaded at one side of a wharf, there is a big, ocean- 
going steamer lying at the front thereof, taking aboard 
a large consignment of Demerara crystals for transport 
to one of the world's leading markets. Since this is 
the time above all others to see life in full swing on a 
Demerara wharf, I am going to take you to one of the 
largest of the Georgetown wharves, in the height of 
the sugar-transport season, on a day when it is the 
centre of both unloading and loading activities. 

A large proportion of Demerara sugar leaves home 
on board the fleet of the Royal Mail Steam Packet 
Company and Direct Line Joint Cargo Service. These 
boats discharge a mixed cargo of imports, and take in 
place an export load of sugar, at three of the busiest 
among the many busy wharves in Georgetown, each 
steamer belonging to this fleet being berthed at which- 


ever of the three has available accommodation when 
she comes into harbour. To-day our destination is the 
extensive wharf belonging to Messrs. Sandbach, Parker 
and Co., by whose courtesy I am going to take you to 
see the impressive and amusing scenes amidst which a 
Koyal Mail and Direct Line cargo-steamer is shipping 
a load of sugar. 



Standing at the entrance to a large warehouse, you 
are confronted by massive stacks of bulging sugar-bags, 
that stretch far away into the beyond, and reach from 
the floor almost to the roof. 

A broad gangway leads across the building to the 
main door, where you have paused to take a first glance 
around ; at intervals, narrow passages intersect the 
wall-like piles lengthways, and transversely. Here and 
there you notice that a sugar-bag wall on one side of a 
gangway is lower than its opposite neighbour ; and you 
single out spots amidst the neatly towering masses 
where a rough-and-tumble little heap of sugar-bags 
suggests the ruins of an erstwhile solid wall. These 
breaks in the stacks have been made by the removal 
of sugar-bags for embarkation. 

Walk a few yards along the broad gangway, so that 
you can get a more detailed view of your surroundings ; 
but stand well back out of harm's way, for even into 
this, the quietest of the passages, a heavily laden truck 
may come whizzing round a corner at any moment, 


trundled by a darkie who is putting his back into his 
work with a zest that will not allow him to pull up at 
a second's warning. The while you linger here, the 
more conscious you become of the immensity of the 
bulk, the vastness of the weight of sugar that is stored 
in this building. Your sense of smell detects a most 
pleasing odour that pervades the atmosphere ; presently 
you recognize this fragrance as being akin to the 
essence of freshly made toffee. You watch a near-at- 
hand gang of darkies standing aloft on the sugar-bags, 
throwing them down one at a time to a group of boys 
waiting below with hand- trucks. 

Each boy loads his truck with one bag, and makes 
off with it down the siding. As the last boy disappears, 
the men settle down to enjoy a few seconds' rest. Now 
is the time for you to make your way to the front of 
the warehouse ; step into the siding down which the 
train of boys you have just been watching has dis- 
appeared, but press ahead warily, so as not to fall foul 
of any empty trucks on their return journey. 

You emerge from the warehouse on to a long and 
wide platform at the river's edge ; in front of you lies 
the big steamer which is shipping a load of sugar for 
export ; to your left is a lighter unloading sugar, with 
several lighters and punts waiting in the background 
for their turn to discharge a similar freight. 

You are now in the midst of a veritable pandemonium, 
but you have not come into an atmosphere throbbing 
with work, as might reasonably be expected. On the 
contrary, you seem to have strayed into a Bank Holiday 
crowd of merrymakers, who are enjoying fine sport 
with a number of trucks and sacks which they have 
chanced to discover during a riotous mood, when any- 


thing that comes to hand can be converted into a 
medium of fun and frolic. 

The outstanding feature of this playground is an 
obstacle-race, which is run almost ceaselessly through- 
out the livelong day. There are four goals, the respec- 
tive hatches at which the sugar-bags are being hoisted 
aboard the steamer. The competitors can only 
traverse the narrow gangways through the warehouse 
in single file. But directly a boy reaches the open 
platform, he deftly switches his truck to the left or to 
the right, according to the position of the hatch whither 
he is bound ; then he begins to run as hard as he can 
to catch up with the boy a few feet ahead. A second 
later, he is followed by another boy, who chases him, 
and so on with the whole of the gang who load up in 
that particular gangway. And to add to the bustle 
and excitement, there are boys emerging in quick 
procession from several gangways at one time. 

The competitors themselves create the obstacles 
which block the track. Most of the impedimenta con- 
sist of overturned trucks and scattered sugar-bags, 
which are strewn about the course as the result of 
numerous accidental or deliberately planned collisions. 
The boys going towards the hatches, and those return- 
ing therefrom, are not bound to keep to opposite sides 
of the course ; everyone is free to dodge in and out, 
and round about, just as the fancy takes him. And 
any tactics are fair play in this obstacle-race game. 
So the youngsters who are slowly trundling empty 
trucks to the warehouse, where they will eventually 
get another load and join in another heat for the 
hatches, do not attempt to make for an out-of-the-way 
corner when they want to rest and recover breath ; 


they suddenly come to a standstill in the thick of the 
fray, and often turn their empty trucks at an angle 
which is nicely calculated to upset a comrade's loaded 

The boys get through much more work under these 
sporting conditions than they would do if they were 
subjected to a hard-and-fast discipline whereby they 
had to wheel backwards and forwards so many trucks 
per hour. So skilfully do they manipulate the trucks, 
that in nine cases out of ten they reach the hatches 
without having a spill. Work does not spoil play, and 
play does not hinder work ; a spirit of good-nature 
prevails ; harmless fun is at the bottom of every 
obstacle-making prank ; and fortunately very few of 
the collisions have anything but a humorous aspect. 

At each hatch, the sugar-bags are hoisted up in sets 
of eight by the " whip," a rope sling worked by a 
winch. To see them being lowered and packed away 
in their travelling-quarters, you must go on board the 

Come below, and take a peep into one division of 
the ship's capacious hold. Deep down in a yawning 
chasm, two gangs of men are on duty ; they take it 
in turns to rest and work. The workers let the bags 
out of the sling, and pack them in neat rows and 
compact layers. The most popular hand amongst 
these dock-labourers is the water-boy, for heavy pack- 
ing within the bowels of a ship is a thirsty job. Over 
and over again the call of " Water-boy " is repeated 
in more and more urgent tones, until at' last a little 
darkie urchin appears, balancing on his head a pail 
nearly as big as himself. The little imp is famous for 
getting " lost " during his numerous daily journeys to 



and from the tank, but no one ever manages to catch 
him having a nap, a romp with the engine-room boys, 
or a gossip over a dainty morsel with the cook's junior 
factotum. When an exasperated, thirsty member of 
the rest-gang does happen to go off in search of him, 
he is always found leisurely pursuing some stage of 
his task. And the exasperated one knows better than 
to insist on more haste if the boy is carrying water ; 
he would certainly consider it his duty, under such 
provocation, to stumble and drop the pail oJBf his 

On arriving at the hatch, the water-boy lets down 
the full bucket at the end of a rope, impatient hands 
seize it and pass it round as a loving-cup, and within 
a very few minutes the boy is hauling up an empty 

Upon leaving the steamer, you walk over to the side 
of the wharf, to watch the lighters and punts being 
unloaded. The bags are handed up and weighed under 
the supervision of a licensed weigh-master, the weights 
duly recorded by him being those accepted by the 
importers ; they are then taken on trucks to the 
warehouse, where they are stored until their turn 
comes for leaving home. 

At a quarter to six in the evening the order is given 
to cease work. Trucks are speedily stacked up in the 
gangways, and all hands muster round the manager's 
box-office to answer the roll-call. Five minutes later, 
the day's noisy, merry scene of animation has given 
place to a peaceful arena, deserted save by the night- 
watchman, and the piles of sugar-bags that are stacked 
in the warehouse. 




I AM now going to take you to the British West Indies, 
to have a peep at the cane-sugar industry of the 
numerous and beautiful islands which are included 
under that general name for an important part of our 
Empire. Broadly speaking, all these islands produce 
sugar, but those playing the most active and prominent 
part in the industry are Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, 
St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts, and Nevis. 

From Georgetown, we can get up amongst these 
islands in two days, by a Royal Mail steamer. A 
service of boats, specially built and splendidly equipped 
for pleasure cruises in tropical seas, gives us the choice 
of making the round tour of a number of the islands 
in about a week, spending a short time ashore at each ; 
or of stopping a few days, until a sister-ship calls on 
her round, at any we want to explore more thoroughly. 
It will serve our purpose better to adopt the latter 
alternative, and in order that you may see as much 
as possible, in a limited time, of phases of the sugar 
industry with which you are not already familiar, I 
am electing to take you to Barbados and Antigua. 

On the way up to Barbados, I want to claim your 
attention for a very brief interval, the while I give 
you a broad outline of the present-day aspect of the 
sugar industry in the British West Indian islands as a 

These islands have played a very active and highly 
important part in the regeneration of the cane-sugar 
industry. To-day, both private enterprise and the 


Government — as represented by the Imperial Depart- 
ment of Agriculture — are pursuing a progressive policy 
in connection with cane-growing and sugar-making. 
Briefly summarized, this policy may be said to aim at 
simultaneously decreasing expenditure and increasing 
production. Foremost among the means taken to 
realize this end are : experiments in raising seedling 
canes, and in creating new varieties by cross-fertiliza- 
tion, with a view to discovering the richest and healthiest 
canes that can be grown under local conditions ; the 
use of artificial manures ; the substitution of modern 
implements of cultivation for the hoe and fork ; the 
provision of facilities for youths to become trained 
agriculturists ; the adoption of modern sugar-making 
machinery ; and the erection of central mills, where 
sugar can be made on a wholesale scale much more 
economically than small crops can be converted 
severally into sugar by old-fashioned methods. 

Following immediately on your wanderings in the 
flat region of Demerara, the gorgeous panorama of the 
precipitous West Indian islands makes you realize very 
clearly the universal necessity for a careful study of 
local conditions in the interests of successful cane 
cultivation. Here, the cane-lands occupy the plains, 
dells, and lower slopes of hills amongst serried ranks 
of mountain-ranges, volcanic piles and peaks. Obvi- 
ously, there is a natural drainage system, but there 
are districts in which it must be modified, and the 
methods employed must vary from those which are 
suitable to low-lying, flat country. Moreover, the soil 
is different, and the rainfall differs as regards degree^ 
annual average and season. Specialized study of cane 
cultivation is pai ticularl}- necestaiy in the West Indies, 


for local conditions vary considerably in the different 

Concerning sugar-making, up to the present you 
have only seen one variety, Demerara crystals, pro- 
duced from cane-juice. The West Indian factories 
turn out numerous kinds : 

Demerara Crystals. — Bright yellow, crystalline 
sugar, similar to that made in Demerara, after which 
it is named. 

White Crystals. — A crystallized sugar, used for 
coffee. With this variety, the bleaching process is per- 
formed in the factory where the crystals are made. 
White crystals are now being manufactured in some 
of the Demerara factories. 

Grey Crystals. — Made solely for refining. 
Muscovado (old-fashioned, soft brown sugar). — 
(a) Crude Muscovado, in which the concentrated sugar- 
juice is put into bags or hogsheads, and the syrup left 
to drain away from the solid. This sugar is sent to 
refiners, or to manufacturers of various eatables and 
drinkables that require sweetening. 

(b) Centrifugal Muscovado, the result of separating 
the solid from the syrup by centrifugal machines. 
Sugar of this variety is sold for refining or for grocery 
purposes, according to its colour and to the respective 
markets' demands. 

On arriving at Barbados, I take you straight to a 
place where you can see the most old-fashioned method 
of sugar-making that can now be said to have any 
connection with the sugar industry. In justice to this 
enterprising little island, however, I must assure you 
that by so doing I am treating it unfairly. True, this 
Colony has not yet adopted quite such up-to-date 


manufacturing methods as some of the neighbouring 
islands ; nevertheless, it produces Muscovado of a par- 
ticularly famous quality, and its leading factories are 
equipped with modern appliances for bringing this 
branch of the industry up to a high standard of develop- 
ment. But you will be the better able to appreciate 
the general progress in sugar-production that has been 
made throughout the British West Indies, by no means 
excluding Barbados, if I show you first a most old- 
fashioned mill, and afterwards one of the most up-to- 
date factories in these Colonies. . 



You are out in the open country, standing on a little 
natural platform, round which cane-fields switchback 
over an undulating plain to the coast on one hand, 
and billow over low hills on the other. The platform 
is occupied by a windmill and an unpretentious shed, 
situated within a stone's- throw of one another, the 
limited stretch of ground between these buildings 
affording generous accommodation for little heaps of 
sugar-cane, and for a few odd-job workfolk. Such a 
peaceful, dreamy atmosphere hovers about the whole 
scene — no wonder you look so disbelieving when I tell 
you that you are in the very heart of a sugar estate, 
on one of the most strenuous days of its life. 

But watch the great arms of the mill ; one minute 
they are whirling round at racing speed, the next, 
they are lazily, drowsily lagging on their course, but 

"SPIDEll MEN." Seep. 67 
By permission of J. H. Wilkinson, Esq., Barbados 


Steam-power is used here for cane crushing 



all the time they are continuously on the go. And 
listen to the tunes that are being hummed, whistled 
and sung by the magic musicians who haunt the sails. 
Now you have seen signs and heard rumours that belie 
your first impressions — this little centre of life is not 
resting, dreaming, sleeping ; on the contrary, it is very 
wideawake and active. 

To-day is one of the busiest days of the grinding 
season. Yonder windmill has to crush all the canes 
grown on the surrounding estate ; it can only work at 
the will of the wind, and to-day there is a strong breeze 
blowing. That little shed, which boasts the name of 
boiling-house, is the factory where all the juice ex- 
tracted by the mill is made into sugar. The furnaces 
are fed with megass, but they will only consume dry 
megass ; crushed cane, as it leaves the mill, is " green 
megass," which contains moisture, and this can only 
be used directly as fuel in big furnaces, where there is 
a strong draught. Here, the megass always has to be 
spread out in the sun to dry ; rainy weather cuts short 
the supply of dry fuel and brings the work of the 
boiling-house to a standstill. And sugar- juice, as 3''ou 
know, deteriorates if it cannot be extracted and 
solidified soon after the canes are cut. To-day, the 
Sim is shining and the wind blowing ; the mill can 
work and the fires can be kept going. It is ideal 
weather for getting the utmost possible amount of 
work out of a windmill factory, and all hands must 
co-operate in taldng the utmost possible advantage of 
it. They are certainly doing their share with whole- 
hearted enthusiasm, but hurry and scurry in this old- 
world centre of activity are wrapped in a mantle of 
poetic calm. 


There are fifty-three labourers employed by this 
estate — in comparison, think of the stafE, eight hundred 
strong, of the small Demerara estate we went over, and 
of the big Demerara estate which employs over eight 
thousand labourers. 

All the hands here are darkies, for with the excep- 
tion of Trinidad, which imports East Indian coolie 
labour, the British West Indian islands rely mainly on 
the native labouring classes for sugar-estate workers. 

This little stafi is fulfilling its appointed duties as 
follows : sixteen are working in the fields, cutting and 
loading canes ; six are carting ; eleven are stationed at 
the mill ; four are drying megass ; and sixteen are 
attached to the boiling-house. 

In the West Indies, the canes are reaped with a 
hatchet, which has a fancy-shaped blade. For trans- 
port to the mills, they are loaded on carts, which are 
drawn by oxen. 

So peaceful is the romantic scene which fascinates 
your gaze, that it takes some time for you to notice the 
various signs of activity which are the vital features 
thereof. Gradually, however, you become conscious 
that there are other indications of life besides the 
whirling of the windmill, and the music which accom- 
panies the merry-go-round of sails. A team of stately 
oxen is slowly making its way up the hill with a cart- 
load of canes ; another team is plodding back to the 
fields with an empty cart. From the general-supply 
heaps of already unloaded canes, men are collecting 
little bundles, which they carry on their heads to the 
mill, a few yards away. Women are spreading out 
megass to dry in the sun, and raking it over ; other 
women are carrying dried megass over to the boiling- 

— J^ 


house, on trays of a litter design, or over to a spot 
where a surplus of dried fuel is being stacked up in a 
circular pile, called the " megass heap." 

Come across with me to the windmill. In its little 
round house you find men feeding by hand one set of 
small rollers. What a tiny stream of juice trickles 
from these rollers, which are only strong enough to 
extract less than three-quarters of the sugar-juice from 
the canes. As memory flashes before your mind's eye 
a picture of that huge and powerful mill at Factory 
Diamond in Demerara, with its four sets of gigantic 
rollers designed to get practically the last drop of juice 
out of the canes, do you not feel that here you are 
watching a toy-mill at play ? 

The juice, as you see, passes through a strainer into 
a pipe ; this pipe conducts it to the boiling-house. 
Follow me across to that little outhouse, where all the 
further operations in sugar-making are carried on. 

In a modern factory, cane-juice is mysteriously con- 
verted into sugar within closed vessels ; in this doll's- 
house factory, every successive change is wrought before 
your eyes in open cooking utensils, so, to quote the 
conjurer, " if you watch closely, you can see how it is 

The juice is first heated to " cracking-point " in the 
clarifying tank. The combined influence of the fui'nace 
beneath and the lime within this tank results in the 
impurities of the juice rising to the surface of the 
boiling in a thick scum, which looks like mud. The 
appearance of cracks in this scum is the sign that the 
juice is sufficiently clear for concentration. Now it is 
that the liquid is drawn off by a tap at the bottom of 
the tank ; and, in the interests of economy, any juice 



that may be hobnobbing with the impurities is recovered 
by squeezing the scum through coarse canvas bags, in 
a hand- worked filter press. 

The clarified juice is conducted for concentration 
purposes to the " copper wall "; this consists of a series 
of big, open pans, known as " tayches," under each of 
which there is a furnace. The juice is boiled in the 
first pan until a certain amount of evaporation has 
taken place, when it is ladled out into the next tayche ; 
here, further evaporation brings the liquid to a denser 
stage, and again it is ladled out into a neighbouring 
tayche. The ladling is done by hand, with a " dipper " 
— a small copper bowl with a very long handle — and 
the liquid is thus transferred from one tayche to another 
until it has been brought to the requisite stage of density. 

The now treacly mass is next whirled about in an 
oscillator, which looks like an old-fashioned churn ; by 
this process, the sugar-grains are detached, to some 
extent, from the liquid. 

From the oscillator, the mass is poured into large 
tanks, called " coolers "; here it is left for a few days, 
after which it is dug out and put into hogshead casks. 
These hogsheads, which have perforated bottoms, are 
taken to the stanchion-room, which has an open fioor 
of rafters, with tanks beneath ; here they are left to 
drain. It takes about four weeks for the molasses to 
drip out, at the end of which time the contents of the 
hogsheads consist of dry, powdery grains, or Muscovado 
sugar. The top of the contents of a cooler is usually 
taken off separately and drained in sacks. 

Barbados is one of the very few centres of the 
industry where such methods are still followed, but 
year by year the romantic aspect of the landscape is 


being modernized by the disappearance of windmills 
and the appearance in their place of factory shafts, 
belching forth smoke. From the pm'ely commercial 
standpoint, Barbados will have to be congratulated 
when all her old-fashioned factories have been replaced 
by up-to-date ones ; but we as sightseers rejoice that 
this island still preserves some of the strikingly pic- 
turesque relics of the Sugar World in olden days. As 
sightseers, too, we are particularly interested in tho 
" spider men " of this island. They are to be found 
in large numbers in the capital, taking hogsheads of 
sugar and syrup from the warehouses to the wharves 
on skeleton carts called " spiders." They steer through 
the most crowded thoroughfares at break-neck speed, 
and generally seem to regard their occupation as fine 

In some parts of the British West Indies, other 
primitive methods of sugar-making are still practised ; 
but in such cases, the sugar is kept for home use. 
For instance, there are cattle-mills, driven by oxen, 
mules, or donkeys, on the principle of the very old- 
fashioned merry-go-round. And there are places in 
which the juice is boiled gipsy-fashion, in an iron pot 
hung from a tripod, over a fire on the ground. 



When the British West Indies realized the stern neces- 
sity for taking steps to bring their sugar industry up 
to date, various changes were effected by the owners 
of estates. All such changes naturally called for an 


outlay of capital, and were largely regulated in nature 
and extent by the amount of money a proprietor was 
willing and able to invest in improvements. The 
result as seen at present — the revolution still being in 
progress — is the distribution throughout the islands of 
plantations and factories where cultivation methods 
and sugar-making machinery are nearly all in different 
stages of evolution . Taking the improvements en masse, 
the outstanding features of the advance movement are : 

(1) The adoption of the Louisiana system of cultiva- 
tion, which favours implemental weeding and ploughing. 

(2) The erection of steam crushing-mills. In the case 
of furnaces which will only consume dry megass, the 
power is more or less intermittent, according to the avail- 
able supply of fuel, but any steam mills are much less 
at the mercy of weather conditions than are windmills. 

(3) The adoption of the Santa Cruz factory system, 
in which the leading advantage is provided by furnaces 
which will consume green megass ; provided the 
weather conditions are favourable to reaping, such 
furnaces insure a continuous grinding season. 

(4) The use of Aspinall pans. These are steam- 
heated pans for expediting evaporation, and so facili- 
tating the concentration of cane-juice. 

(5) The use of centrifugal machines. These machines 
separate sugar-grains from molasses in a few seconds, 
whereas the same work takes many days by the 
draining process. 

The factories at which you find one or more of these 
improvements, all produce Muscovado sugar. The 
molasses, or residue syrup, is of superior quality, and 
a valuable asset. Occasionally, too, the pure cane- 
juice is not brought up to the crystallization stage, but 


is transferred from the copper- wall to the coolers in a 
semi-concentrated condition, in which it is known as 
" syrup." There is a very good market for pm-e syrup, 
as distinct from molasses. 

(6) The institution of the Central Factory System, 
which has proved so successful in the working that 
peasant farming is becoming increasingly popular. 

Under this system, the cane-farmers in a given 
district contract to sell their crops direct to a central 
sugar-making factory. Thus, numerous inferior mills, 
the upkeep of which was a ruinous drain on their 
owners' slender profits, have given place to one up-to- 
date factory. In a word, there has been a division of 
responsibihties in some of the British West Indian 
islands — notably Trinidad, St. Lucia, and Antigua — 
by which the man who now wishes to devote himself 
to the sugar industry need no longer double the roles 
of grower and manufacturer. 

The first Central Factory erected in these colonies 
was the Usine St. Madeleine, at Trinidad, founded in 
1870, at the instigation of Sir Nevile Lubbock. 

The Central Factories favour the process of boiling 
in vacuum, and are noted for their output of " refining 



I AM now going to take you to the Island of Antigua, 
the home of Gunthorpes, one of the largest and most 
enterprising of the recently erected central sugar 
factories in the British West Indies. There is only 


one grinding season in this island — coincident with 
the one harvest season — from February to June ; all 
the sugar has to be made in those few months from 
the freshly cut canes, but in those few months the 
factory can easily deal with all the canes brought to 
it under contract, and so well is it equipped, and so 
well managed, that it could cope with a considerably 
larger supply. 

By the courtesy of the manager, we have permission 
to make an expedition to Gunthorpes, the while it is 
actively engaged in completing its year's grinding 
within the prescribed limits of five months. Work 
is in full swing by night as well as by day, and I have 
asked leave to take you to the scene of operations after 
dark, as it will be quite a new experience for you to 
see life in a sugar factory by night. 

About nine in the evening we set out from St. John's, 
the capital of Antigua, to drive to our destination, 
about half an hour distant. M3n?iads of stars are 
twinkling overhead, and the moon is shining brightly ; 
not only can we see very plainly that our route is 
bordered by cane-lands, but we can trace the outline 
of distant hills, and catch glimpses of a more distant 
shadowland of mountains. Destitute of mortal habita- 
tions, of any sign of mortal life, this peaceful country- 
side as lit up by the nightlights of the sky seems to us 
an enchanted land. Suddenly our whole attention is 
engrossed by one spot in the landscape, where brilliant 
illuminations display a vast building in a wide frame 
of light, and thrust the beyond into an inky darkness. 
In a little time our eyes become accustomed to the 
contrast between the blaze of electric light and the 
soft glow of moon and stars, and we can again discern 


details of our immediate surroundings. We are now 
driving along a road that is bordered by dignified- 
looking wooden houses ; these are the headquarters 
of the manager, chief engineer, overseers, and chemist 
at the Gunthorpes Factory. At the manager's house 
we alight, and are welcomed by its hospitable host and 
hostess, under whose escort we walk over towards the 
goal of our expedition. 

Passing through wide entrance gates, we find our- 
selves in the extensive grounds known as the mill- 
yard. We approach the works through an avenue of 
palms, which threads its way through a garden 
beautiful. In tones of warmest enthusiasm, the 
manager tells us about the capabilities, the possibilities 
of the works, their excellent sanitary arrangements, 
their well-devised accommodation for the workpeople, 
and he constantly goes off at a tangent into an equally 
enthusiastic sketch of plans for making the site still 
more pleasing to the eye ; the more we hear about Gun- 
thorpes, the more we see of it, the more strongly we 
are convinced that it is justly entitled to rank as a 
Model Factory. 

We are taken first to the office, the gallery of which 
commands a wide view of the mill-yard. Facing us 
is the actual factory, and all aroimd sweeps a busy 
railway station. What a rival collection of lights 
reveals the scene — there is electric light streaming 
through the factory windows in company with the 
scorching glow of red-hot furnaces ; there is electric 
light flashing through the mill-yard from gigantic 
lamps ; there are signal lights and sentinel hghts along 
the railway line, gradually being dwarfed and dimmed 
by distance until they look like tiny fireflies in the 


darkness, and overhead countless stars are blinking 
and winking and twinkling in the moon-bathed vault. 

A cane-laden train is just coming into the station. 
One great siding is crowded with cane-laden trucks — 
they look like four-legged tables turned topsy-turvy 
on trolleys, and piled up with golden sheaves. Another 
big siding is crowded with empty trucks, which are 
waiting until the morning to be coupled up to an engine, 
and taken to fetch more sugar-cane. The railway 
line, which extends for about six miles up country, 
was built by Gunthorpes, and is used solely for 
cane traffic between the contracting estates and the 

We walk across the mill-yard to the discharge plat- 
form, alongside the cane carrier. Here we find a staff 
of eight men, working under the directions of the 
" Cane Carrier Boss." Two trucks at a time are un- 
loaded ; three men stand in each, throwing canes down 
to the carrier, and as they fall higgledy-piggledy 
therein, two of the gang arrange them a little more 
conveniently for safe transit to the rollers. The 
carrier works on the "sliding staircase" principle, 
and is capable of bearing a load of twelve tons. 

On entering the spacious factory, we are immediately 
struck by the highly picturesque effect of the brilliant 
light playing on the faces of the darkie workpeople. 
As we follow our leader through the building, we soon 
begin to realize that the Gunthorpes method of making 
cane-juice into sugar is practically the same as that 
which we saw at Factory Diamond, Demerara. But 
whereas Diamond makes yellow crystals for the con- 
sumer, Gunthorpes turns out grey crystals for the 
refiner ; the difference is accounted for at the clarifica- 


tion stage of the juice, the processes of bleaching and 
purification not having to be carried out so thoroughly 
for refining crystals as for Demerara crystals. 

The outstanding difference in the treatment of cane- 
juice which distinguishes all Crystal-sugar factories 
from Muscovado works, is the method of doing all the 
boiling in vacuum instead of by steam. 

A few comparative statistics will help you to realize 
the enormous economic importance of modern sugar- 
making machinery, such as that with which this central 
factory is equipped. 

The Gunthorpes Mill can grind 450 tons of cane in 
a day — a windmill has done a good day's work if it 
crushes 30 tons. 

Gunthorpes can make 1 ton of sugar from about 
9 tons of cane — in Muscovado works, from 12 to 17 tons 
of cane are generally represented by a ton of sugar. 



You will remember that the object of om- whole 
expedition was merely to get a peep at the Sugar World. 
But to do the scantest justice to a widespread industry, 
I must point out that, so far, I have only taken you 
to a few of the Imperial British lands where cane- 
sugar is produced. And although the British Dominions 
play a very active and important part in the pursuit 
of this particular branch of sugar- production, you must 
be made clearly to understand and fully to realize 
that many foreign countries are our much-to-be- 



honoured rivals in the development of sugar-cane 
growing and cane-sugar making. 

With a view to helping you to form some idea of the 
enterprise of our competitors, I want you to glance 
through a list which will, I think, enable you to conjure 
up a fairly comprehensive picture of the Sugar World. 

I. The Chief Cane-Sugab-producing Countries. 
(a) In the British Empire. 

Penang, Straits Settlements . . . . | 

British India 
Penang, S 

Natal .: :: :: :: :: } """«*• 

British West Indies: Jamaica, Trinidad, 
Barbados, Antigua, St. Kitts, Nevis, I . 
St. Lucia 

British Guiana, South America 

Queensland ^ Australia, and 

Fiji Islands / Pacific. 

(h) In Non-British Dominions. 
Spain . . . . . . . . . . Europe. 

Java {Dutch East Indies) 1 

Formosa {Japanese possession) . . • • r Asia. 

Philippine Islands ( United States control) J 

Egypt ] 

Portuguese East Africa . . . . • • r Africa. 

Reunion Island {French possession) . . j 

Louisiana and Texas (United States) . . North America. 

Porto Rico ( United States territory) 

Cuba (Republic) 

French West Indies : Martinique and Gua- ^ Wost Indies 


Danish West Indies : St. Croix 

Santo Domingo, and Haiti (Republics) . 

Mexico (Republic) . . 



Guatemala (Republic) 
Salvador ( „ ) 
Nicaragua ( ,, ) 
Costa Rica ( ,, ) 
Dutch Guiana 
Venezuela (Republic) 
Peru ( „ ) 

Argentine ( „ ) 
Brazil ( „ ) 
Hawaii, i.e.. Sandwich 
States territory) . . 


South America. 

Islands {UnUed \ p^^jg^^ 

United States 

II. The Chief Beet-Sugar-producing Countries. 


Austria- Hungarj^ 














) Europe. 

North America, 

The total cane-sugar crops of the world for the 
year 1909-10 amounted to 7,820,000 tons. Included in 
these figures is the crop of British India, wliich, being 
all consumed locally, is not available for the general 
market. Statistics of this crop are very difficult to 
obtain : 2,000,000 tons is a rough estimate thereof. 

The present beet-sugar crop is about 6,600,000 tons. 
Over 2,000,000 tons are contributed by Germany, 


while Austria-Hungary and Russia each contribute over 
1,000,000 tons. 

In the East, the largest and most important of the 
foreign cane-sugar crops is produced by the island of 
Java. Here cane cultivation is most zealously pursued 
on scientific lines. Reaping is begun in May, and prior 
to the cutting of the canes a harvest festival is celebrated 
with much ceremony. Java has long been famous for 
producing raw sugar of the very best quality ; and at 
the present time it is gaining a considerable reputa- 
tion for white sugar, particularly in our Indian 

Among Western cane-lands, Cuba is predominant. 
Indeed, this island is supreme among the cane-sugar 
producing countries of the world, although Java, as 
leader in the East, runs Cuba very close for the world's 
championship. Both islands annually produce about 
1,000,000 tons of cane-sugar. British India is the 
only other centre of the cane-sugar industry which 
can boast a crop yielding sugar by the million tons ; 
but she is very behindhand in her methods of cultiva- 
tion and manufacture. 

The cane-sugar producing centres which are fast 
pushing their way to the fore in the East and in the 
West respectively are Hawaii (the Sandwich Islands) 
and Porto Rico. 

Sugar-cane was first grown in Australia in 1823, by 
New South Wales. Some twenty years later Queens- 
land began cultivating sugar-cane, and it was this 
Colony's enterprise which created an Australian sugar 
industry. Queensland has always been the supreme, 
generally the sole, source of supply, and to-day the term 


" Australian sugar " is commonly understood to mean 
Queensland sugar. 

In its initial stage, the Queensland sugar industry 
was developed on the plantation system, whereby a 
wealthy capitalist is planter, mill-owner, and manu- 
facturer. This system worked satisfactorily until 
about 1884 ; then, following on a boom in the Colony 
as a sugar-growing country, came a period of depres- 
sion, and in 1885 the industry seemed to be on the 
verge of annihilation. 

At this juncture the Legislative Assembly voted a 
large sum to be lent for the purpose of establishing 
central mills. Two mills were experimentally worked 
on the new system, with such successful results that in 
1893 an Act was passed with a view to encouraging 
the development of the Central Factory System. 
Under this Act, a number of farmers could combine to 
form a co-operative company, and obtain capital to 
erect and equip a central mill by mortgaging their cane- 
lands to the Government. The agreement made over 
such mills to the companies as their own property upon 
repayment of the Government loan. 

The " White Labour " movement threatened more 
than to counterbalance the beneficial effects of the new 
system, according to the sugar-producers' criticism of 
the popular agitation against the employment of 
Kanaka labour from the South Sea Islands. However, 
soon after the inauguration of the Commonwealth, the 
Federal Government passed an Act banishing black 
labour from Australia : but about the same time a duty 
was levied on foreign cane-sugar produced by coloured 
labour, as an offset to the higher wages which Australian 
sugar-planters had to offer to obtain white labourers. 


With State-aided central factories, moderate-sized 
estates, white labour, and preferential treatment in the 
Commonwealth markets, the Queensland sugar in- 
dustry has grown and prospered. 



It is November, and the Continental beet-sugar- 
making season is at its height. 

The factory for which we are bound is in Belgium. 
A train from Brussels quickly takes us out into the 
country, and within an hour we are among fields and 
farms. We alight at a station which has a spacious 
siding occupied by beetroot-laden trucks, and as we 
make our way to our destination, ten minutes' walk 
distant, we are every moment meeting or passing beet- 
root-laden carts. 

The factory whither we are bound is worked on the 
" central " system. At the beginning of the planting 
season, it enters into an agreement with a number of 
farmers around ; the latter undertake to put such and 
such an acreage under beet cultivation, and the factory, 
which supplies its co-operators with the best selected 
seeds, binds itself to buy the crops. Naturally, there 
are certain stipulations for the protection of both 
contracting parties. 

The roots are taken from farms to factory in barges, 
via canals ; and overland by train and waggon. We 
will make our way first to the factory yard and watch 
the unloading operations. 

Waggon after waggon, arriving from the farms, 
comes into the yard and discharges its load ; and carts 

FACTORY. See p. 80 

Photo by E. Russell Taylor, J.P., Chairman, Beet-Sugar Founders, Ltd., Liverpool 


drawn by horses, or oxen, or by a horse and an ox in 
double harness, bring hither the roots that have 
travelled by train to a near-by station. For a few 
minutes we watch the beet being thrown up into heaps ; 
then we pass along a narrow path, hedged in by great 
walls of neatly piled- up roots. 

We emerge on to the side- walk of a canal. A barge 
is discharging its cargo of beet. In the stern, a mother 
is crooning to her baby, preparing a meal the while ; 
and it is quite evident that she has already done a good 
day's work, for a clothes-line propped up over the 
whole length of the boat is festooned with a variety 
of drying garments. In the bow stands a painted 
barrel, surrounded by a medley of mops, pails, 
shovels, and cans. The barge's capacious middle is 
still three-parts full of beetroots ; in their midst are 
eight men, working in gangs of four. Each man is 
armed with one of those specially designed forks 
having ball-ended prongs, such as I told you were used 
in the fields. The roots are scooped up on the forks 
and thrown into a chute on the canal bank ; through 
a small opening they tumble, with a splash, into a 
gutter, along which they float to the factory. Some- 
times the men unload facing the chute, but at intervals 
they turn their backs thereto, and throw the roots over 
their shoulders. And if the factory is too busy to 
deal with the contents of all the barges as they arrive, 
the beets are transferred to the yard in baskets. But 
beet-sugar factories work day and night to turn the 
whole crop into sugar before the frost comes. 

We now walk over to the factory and watch the 
scenes that are being enacted immediately without 
the building. The loading of pulp — the remains of 


beet from which the sugar-juice has been extracted — 
makes a most attractive picture. The great, snowy- 
white heaps of refuse look as if they were made up of 
boiled turnips. Judging from its appearance, you 
would say the pulp is quite dry, but, as a matter of fact, 
it contains about 90 per cent, of water. It is very 
good for cattle food, and is sent back to the farms to 
serve this purpose. Another very interesting per- 
formance to be seen outside the factory is the arrival 
of the beetroots for immediate use within. They are 
borne along a gutter by a stream of rather dirty-looking 
water, beetroots being too heavy to float on absolutely 
clean water. Their special entrance into the building 
is a breach in the basement wall ; this can be blocked 
by a grille when no more roots are wanted within for 
the present. 

We now go into the factory, to see what happens 
to the beet that have been admitted. We find that 
immediately on entering they are caught up in the 
compartments of an enormous wheel. They are going 
to be thoroughly washed. The wheel revolves, and 
the compartments, in turn, shoot out their contents 
into a trough. 

The cleaned beet are mechanically transferred to 
an elevator, which consists of a number of iron boxes, 
slung ladder- wise between chains. The elevator hoists 
them up to a floor above, where they are weighed, 
after which a carrier takes them to the cutting-machine. 
This machine, which is fitted with a gruesome-looking, 
revolving plate of knives, severs them into shreds. 

By means of a revolving shoot, the shreds of beet 
are supplied, as required, to the diffusion machine 
below on the ground-floor. I have already explained 
to you the diffusion process of extracting sugar- juice, 


which is carried on within the cylindrical vessels of 
this huge turn-table. 

After the beetroot- juice has been extracted, the 
various processes of sugar-making in this factory are 
carried out by up-to-date machinery in practically 
the same way as at Factory Diamond, and at Gun- 
thorpes, or any other modern sugar-making centre- 
The juice is clarified by an admixture of lime and car- 
bonic acid, passed through filter presses, and con- 
centrated in vacuum pans ; and the crystals are 
separated from the molasses by centrifugals. 

The output of this factory consists mainly of white 
crystals. Decolorization is primarily effected by 
means of sulphur, when the sugar is in the juice stage, 
but the crystals are also " blued " in the centrifugals. 

Factory-made beet-sugar is whitish in appearance, but 
it is not, as a rule, on a par with refined sugar ; generally 
speaking, it ranks with raw, brown cane-sugar, and 
when sold directly for use, mostly goes to manufac- 
turers of jam, marmalade, chocolate, and other com- 
modities that require sweetening. Some of these 
manufacturers only use refined sugar. But when the 
factory-made product is not subjected to the refining 
process, it is necessary in the case of beet-sugar entirely 
to free it from molasses, because any trace thereof 
would be made manifest in a disagreeable flavour, 
whereas it is not so absolutely essential to bleach raw 
cane-sugar, or, in other words, to remove all suspicion 
of its even having been in contact with molasses, for 
sugar-cane molasses has a pleasant taste. 

Beet-sugar factories, like modern cane-sugar mills, 
have facilities for making molasses yield a second 
supply of sugar. 





I WANT you clearly to understand the difference between 
factory-made sugar and refinery-made sugar. 

Generally speaking, cane-sugar factories — which we 
have hitherto spoken of under their more usual name 
of " mills " — and beet-sugar factories both produce 
what is known as raw sugar. This product is not 
impure in the sense that it has been adulterated or 
contains dirty or harmful ingredients, but in that it 
retains certain chemical constituents of the juice 
which are not sugar, as, for instance, colouring matter. 
Raw sugar goes (a) to brewers, and manufacturers 
of such commodities as confectionery and condensed 
milk, and (b) to refiners. But, in addition to their 
output of raw sugar, many factories make sugar that 
is very nearly akin to the refined article ; for instance, 
Demerara crystals come so nearly up to the chemical 
standpoint of purity, that to all intents and purposes 
they are refined sugar. Again, best quality factory- 
made Muscovado takes high rank among pure sugars. 
And in this matter of producing an article that can be 
sold directly for grocery purposes, cane factories have 
a decided advantage over beet factories, for, as I have 
already told you, the foreign ingredients in cane-sugar are 
agreeable to the nose and palate, whereas those in beet- 
sugar are productive of a disagreeable taste and smell. 

But in order to pass the chemical test of purity, all 
sugar, no matter whether its origin be the cane or beet, 
must be refined. This most searching process of puri- 
fication is capable of converting good quality raw sugar 
into an article that is absolutely pure sugar to the 


Photo by E. Russell Taylor, J. P., Chairman, Beet-Sugar Founders, Ltd., Liverpool 


extent of 99*95 per cent. ; the remaining 006 per cent, 
is water. You will readily understand, therefore, 
that in buying her sugar the economical housewife 
must take into consideration its quality, which is to 
say, its sweetening capacity, in relation to its price. 

There are some large and important refineries 
situated in the midst of sugar lands ; but others are 
located in Great Britain, which at present can hardly 
be said to come within the confines of the sugar-growing 
world. Amongst all centres of this branch of the 
sugar industry, a distinguished position has been won 
by the Sugar Refineries of Messrs. Henry Tate and 
Sons, Ltd., in London and Liverpool. 

By courtesy of the proprietors, we are now going 
to have a peep at their world-renowned Silvertown 
Refinery, on the Thames. 

We will first make our way to the Wharf, whither 
comes raw sugar from every Continent of the Globe. 
It matters not whether this raw sugar is made from 
cane-juice or beet-juice, whether it arrives in the form 
of Muscovado, or of refining crystals that are grey, 
yellow, or white ; so long as it all comes up to sample, 
it is received at this great central factory and tm'ned 
into refined sugar ere it leaves the premises. Standing 
on the Wharf, we watch powerful hydraulic cranes 
hoisting bags of raw sugar from barges and swinging 
them into a warehouse at the top of the high factory. 
Other barges are being loaded with boxes of refined 
sugar, each package bearing the well-known and 
honoured trade-mark of " TATE " framed in a diamond. 
And among the numerous scenes of activity on this 
Wharf, there is one other that is of outstanding interest ; 
whilst the sugar-bags are being hauled aloft, coals are 


being mechanically unloaded from railway trucks and 
barges, and carried mechanically to the furnaces via 
underground passages. 

We pass into the Factory, and climb up and up to 
the top-jfloor, where at length we find ourselves in the 
receiving depot for raw sugar. As the cranes deposit 
the bags at the entrance, a gang of factory hands un- 
loads the slings at lightning speed ; and with equal 
rapidity the bags are passed into the warehouse, 
sampled, and weighed. You notice that the warehouse 
floor, inlaid with large iron plates, looks like a chess- 
board on an enormous scale ; these plates cover 
openings into the floor beneath, which is occupied by 
capacious bins. When the raw sugaj* has been weighed 
and sampled, you see it shot through one or other of 
these openings, into the storage quarters below ; in 
the bottom of the bins are holes, through which the 
sugar can be let down into the melting-pots as it is 
required for refining. 

For refining purposes, raw sugar is converted into 
a syrup ; that is, it is dissolved in water. But there 
are certain impurities which will not melt, so the next 
business is to remove these by filtering the liquor 
through cotton cloth. And next, the filtered solution 
is passed through animal charcoal, which completes 
purification by removing the natural colouring matter 
of the sugar-juice. 

You will be specially interested in the "Char- 
Koom " of the Refinery, because it presents sugar- 
making scenes with which you are unfamiliar. But 
you will not want to stay there long, for not being 
suitably attired for the " climate," you will find the 
atmosphere uncomfortably hot. We descend from 


the warehouse into a large room, which has a most 
funereal aspect. It is fitted with long rows of huge, 
black cylinders ; these are full of animal charcoal, 
through which soaks the sugar-juice that has already 
been subjected to the cotton cloth process of filtration. 
The juice is brown when it enters the char vessels, 
but white when it leaves them. The white juice is 
a compound of pure sugar and water. 

Now the sugar has to be solidified and the water 
evaporated. In other words, the juice has to be con- 
centrated. The methods adopted are so similar to 
those which you have already watched in modern 
factories, such as Diamond and Gunthorpes, that for 
some time you feel quite at home in the various quarters 
of the Refinery which you visit. You recognize the 
vacuum pans, and know that within them sugar 
crystals are incubating ; you can sympathize with the 
anxiety of the pan-boiler as he scrutinizes samples 
of the boiling on a piece of glass, for you realize that 
with him rests the responsibility of deciding when 
the masse- cuite is ready to leave the pans. 

But you are not prepared for the next operation. 
You expected to see the masse- cuite dropped into a 
big trough, and thence run off into centrifugals ; 
whereas here it is expelled into enormous, barrel- 
shaped moulds. These moulds have a hollow middle, 
round which there radiate to the sides a number of 
vertical plates, enclosing narrow, slab-like spaces. 
The masse-cuite is poured into these spaces, which 
together contain about ten or eleven hundredweight, 
and left to cool. Then the moulds are taken by over- 
head railway to an adjoining room, where each is 
swung by a crane into a centrifugal ; as the won- 


drous machine whirls round, you know that the syrup 
is being driven out, that sugar is being left high and 
dry. You watch the mould being lifted out of the 
centrifugal — you see the lid being unscrewed — and you 
half expect a shower of crystals to issue from the 
vessel. Instead of which you are confronted by solid, 
white slabs of sugar, arrayed between the vertical plates. 
The slabs are taken out and stoved, a process whereby 
they are hardened under the influence of hot, filtered air. 

The centrifugal room has a striking appearance, 
particularly in contrast with your recent memory- 
picture of the sombre char-room ; the numerous slabs 
of white sugar bedeck this spacious apartment with 
most picturesque " snow " scenes. 

The slabs are transferred to the cutting-room, 
where, again, everything is spotlessly clean, and where, 
again, there is every possible contrivance to guard 
against the highly purified sugar being touched by 
hand. The slabs are brought hither on a moving band, 
but their progress is suddenly arrested by a triangular 
framework set with knives. The knives cut from 
above and below, dividing the slabs into strips ; a 
second later other knives, working at right angles to 
the first ones, divide the strips into the familiar form 
of cubes. The contents of the frame now fall into a 
sieve, and take part in a dance, during which dust and 
uneven lumps are separated from the perfectly cut 
cubes. The cubes are riddled through into a carrier, 
and mechanically conveyed to the other side of the 
room to be packed for transit to all parts of the world. 

The packing is practically all done by machinery, 
and most of the machines work automatically ; those 
which require any manipulation are tended by trim- 


looking girls, garbed in scrupulously clean cotton 
uniform. The cubes are put up in cardboard boxes, 
which hold specified quantities varying from 1 pound 
to 14 pounds, or in tins if they are going to the tropics ; 
and these smaller packages are subsequently fitted 
in layers within wooden boxes. Or the cubes are 
packed straight away into hundredweight cases. 

But this Refinery's enormous output of sugar does 
not all leave the works in the form of cubes. Castor, 
white crystallized, granulated, moist and preserving 
sugars are all produced here ; indeed, every variety 
of refined white sugar is made. Some of the cook- 
ing sugars consist of broken cubes and the sugar- 
dust that falls from the slabs during the cutting 
process. But most of the " loose " varieties are 
specially treated onwards from the vacuum pan stage. 
The masse-cuite is only run into moulds for the pro- 
duction of cube sugar ; with other ends in view it 
is centrifugalled in the free state, and the separated 
sugar crystals are specially treated according to the 
kind of sugar that is required. For instance, they are 
" granulated " in revolving cylinders ; herein they are 
tossed about, and brought into contact with a current 
of hot filtered air, with the result that they become 
dry and crisp. They are then passed over sieves to 
free them from " dust." 

Inferior grade sugars are made from the syrup 
driven off from the superior qualities. And the 
syrup from which all the crystallizable sugar has been 
extracted is called molasses, and is turned to profitable 
account ; it is mixed with a very absorbent variety 
of moss in the manufacture of Moleissine Meal, a 
popular cattle food. 


A peep into the Laboratory, the Box-Making 
Department, the Electric Power House, the dining- 
rooms and dressing-rooms of this vast labom* centre 
helps you further to realize what an enormous amount 
of energy and enterprise have gone to the building up 
of this great organization. 

And now in these last few minutes before we leave 
the Refinery, these last few minutes which herald 
the end of our whole expedition, I should like to bring 
home to you the extent of the great revolution that 
has been effected since the not-long-ago days when 
Messrs. Henry Tate and Sons launched refined sugar on 
the world's markets in the convenient form of cubes. 
You will remember that I took you to Barbados, in 
the West Indies, to show you a windmill, in order that 
you might appreciate the gigantic strides which have 
been made in the machinery of modern sugar factories. 
Now, in imagination, come with me again to that island. 
Here, in one of the hotels, you can see a collection of 
the moulds in which the old-fashioned sugar-loaves 
were formed. These copper moulds are kept brightly 
polished — in graduated sizes they are hung in rows 
within a framework and used as gongs, and to 
every visitor they are' pointed out as curios, relics of 
a bygone period which is now ancient history in the 
sugar industry. Yet less than forty years ago those 
moulds were serving the purpose for which they were 
designed, " loaf " sugar was enjoying world-wide 
popularity, and cube sugar, its famous supplanter — 
with numerous dice-like and oblong variations of the 
model — was unknown. 





SB Browne, Edith A, 

217 Sugar