SOUTH AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRIES.
MESSRS. ROBT. DIXSON & CO.'S TOBACCO MANUFACTORY.
We have on many occasions during the past few years recorded the establishment and de velopment in our midst of forms of industry till then unknown here. In this article we
purpose giving a few particulars as to a tobacco manufactory which has within the past fort- night been started in the building hitherto known as Clark's Flour-Mill, Halifax-street. If the name and reputation of the firm beginning this new venture be any criterion as to the ultimate success of their enterprise we may congratulate both them and the citizens of Ade- laide on the opening of the new establishment, ' The United States Tobacco Factory,' as it is henceforth to be called. The firm of Messrs. Robt. Dixson and Co., of Melbourne and Sydney, and now also of Adelaide, is one well known in the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria, in the former of which they have two tobacco factories, and in the latter one. The business they purpose carrying on in this city is the manufacture of plug or flat cake, and twist or negrohead tobacco. We believe that up to the present time there have been in Adelaide small factories for cutting up tobacco and manufactur- ing cigars, but not for making the varieties just mentioned. As the consumption of the favourite ' weed ' in this colony alone reaches about 200 tons per annum, there was undoubtedly a good opening for the establishment here of a tobacco factory on an extensive basis. That South Australian smokers will soon be well supplied with colonial made tobacco is also tolerably clear, as, in addi tion to the United States Factory just opened, another fine large building for a similar purpose is being erected in Grenfell-street ; and there are rumours of yet another firm from Victoria trying the same line in Adelaide. It may be interesting here to mention that while we have hitherto had no tobacco manu- factory for the supply of the 200 tons annually consumed in this colony, nearly the whole of our supply coming from America, Victoria, with a consumption of 800 tons per annum has supported five factories ; and New South Wales, with a consumption of 600 tons, has had four factories. One of the latter was recently built and fitted up by Messrs. Dixson & Co., at a cost of £7,000. Of course the conversion of the old Halifax-street Mill into a tobacco factory, and the cost of the presses and other machinery necessary for meeting the demands of the South Australian trade, will not approach that amount ; but the establishment of such an industry is of importance, because of the money it will cause to be circulated in the colony instead of its going across to America, and also because of the employment of the necessary labour. Messrs. Dixson having only begun the actual manufacture in Halifax-street a fortnight ago, the number of hands now engaged there is only about 30. When the balance of the machinery arrives from America that number will be increased to 60 persons. Mr. Robt. Dixson, a member of the firm, who has superintended the fitting up of the United States Factory, and by whom we were cour- teously shown over the premises, is a gentleman who has done considerable service in directing and encouraging the cultivation of the tobacco plant in Victoria. He informed our representa- ive that when he first visited the neighbouring
colony in 1870 the growth of the tobacco plant, there only yielded about 20 tons ; and that— to some extent as a result of his labours, by writing on the subject and by personal visits to the plantation— the yield in 1875 had risen to 450 tons. This year we believe the quantity is estimated at 700 or 600 tons. The bulk of it is grown on land lying near the Murray aud its tributaries. An attompt has been made to grow the tobacco-plaut in New South Wales ; but up to the present time it has not proved very suc- cessful, at least in regard to quality, though up wards of 300 tons of the colonial leaf tobacco finds its way into low grade stock annually. There is plenty of suitable soil in New South Wales, and probably the extension of the rail- way system there will open it up for the growth of tobacco. In South Australia little beyond mere experimental growing has been done. The tobacco manufactured at the United States Factory will be made from the Virginia leaf tobacco, grown, as its name indicates, in the American State which has long been famed for yielding the choicest pipe tobacco. The leaf tobacco is sent from America in hogsheads containing about 13 or 14 cwt. of the dry and compressed leaves. Before describing the processes the tobacco goes through in the manufactory it may interest some of our readers if we briefly mention the method of its cultivation and drying. The plant in Virginia grows three or four feet high, and its leaves are not unlike the ordinary cab- bage plant. They are two or three feet long, aud about one-third as broad. Sown early in spring in beds, they are afterwards planted out in soil carefully prepared, small hillocks about a yard apart being raised for the purpose of planting each one in. As soon as the flower shoots appear they are carefully nipped off, so that the whole sap of the plant may go into the leaves. This process requires great attention, and considerable care has also to be taken to destroy the tobacco worm— a most voracious pest which often does great damage. The whole cultivation of the tobacco plant in Virginia is carried on by negroes. In Victoria Chinese labour is used for the purpose. Since the American war the Virginia planters gene- rally let their plantations out in small pad docks or 'lots' to the negroes, among whom the women and children come in for a large share of the work. After the plant has been about 90 days in the ground the leaves become mottled in appearance. The plant is then cut near the root, and the stalk is divided longitudinally, in order that the leaves may be the more conveniently hung on laths to dry. Fire is applied, and according to the character of the tobacco required the drying or curing goes on for periods varying from a week to two months. Then the leaves are stripped off the stalk and tied in small bundles called 'hands'; then hung up again for a short time and afterwards packed in heaps to sweat. The leaves are afterwards stripped off the stem or mid-rib, which is too hard to take the pressure subse- quently applied to the leaves, besides being too woody in its composition. The stems are used in Great Britain for snuff, but snuff is a luxury for which there is as yet re- markably little demand in South Australia. To the sweating process already mentioned is due most of the peculiar flavour of tobacco, the leaves up to the sweating time being almost flavourless and comparable to hay. This opera- tion is a delicate as well as an important one, for if the tobacco becomes heated the flavour is destroyed. On the other hand, for cigar tobacco a very high degree of sweating has to be induced, the reason being that the plants from which cigars are made are grown on hotter soil and develop more saltpetre. In 1875 the tobacco crop of Victoria, consisting of about 450 tons, was all materially injured by oversweating. 'When a tendency in this direction is noticed the tobacco is exposed to the air again and dried. After sweating the tobacco is packed in hogsheads and is ready for market. When in- tended for Great Britain or Australia, however, it is rehandled by a person named a ' stemmer,' who takes out the stems of the leaves, redresses them, and then packs them once more — the object being to prevent injury by dampness during the voyage. On arrival at the manufactory the leaf tobacco is slightly damped, so as to render it pliable for making up. If intended for chewing it is materially sweetened with liquorice and white sugar, sprinkled on in solution, but if for smok- ing little of this sweetening is used. The leaves are then opened out, the large ones being separated from the small, the latter going inside the ' strands' and the large ones outside. For 'negrohead twist' or 'fig' tobacco these 'strands' are simply the leaves twisted round each other and tucked in at the ends. They are carefully made of one uniform length — seven inches — and weight, 19 of them going to the pound. For ' nailrod' the strands are not twisted, being covered with a single wrapper or leaf, and carefully closed up at the ends. The whole of this work is done by hand, boys opening out the leaves, but careful workmen being required to twist and roll up or otherwise make the tobacco, which must be of the prescribed length in order to go into the presses, and the weight of which must also receive due attention. In the United States factory the twisting room is an apartment 40 feet by 30 feet, parti- tioned off from the main body or building, which is a very large one, comprising five storeys each 88 feet by 40 feet, exclusive of the engine and boiler-house and the sweating-room. The upper storeys will be principally used as drying rooms. The basement is occupied by the presses and heavy machinery, and the first storey by the other appliances required. One of these is a machine patented in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, for making plug or flat cake tobacco. The tobacco made into a long strip is by an end less band carried between two rollers, one run- ning inside the other, and there flattened. It then drops on to a drum where it is cut by revolving knives into the required length of four inches. An outer wrapper has then to be put on, and the ' plug' tobacco is ready for pressing. After the ' fig' tobacco has been twisted as already described into strands seven inches long, it is conveyed to the pressroom and there sub jected to a pressure of about 450 tons. This is done by means of a hydraulic press, the pumps in connection with which are — together with the whole machinery of the place— worked by a 10-horsepower beam-engine. As these hydraulic presses are expensive, costing about £250 each, stout iron frames called 'retainers' are used for the purpose of maintaining the pressure when once it has been put on in the hydraulic press. Lines of tramway run along the base- ment of the factory for the purpose of conveying the retainers and their contents under the presses. About 30 layers of ' figs' are pressed in one retainer, where they remain about 24 hours. By this time the whole of the elasticity in the tobacco has been destroyed. Between every third layer a strip of sheet iron is placed. The hydraulic press is usually worked at a pressure of 450 tons, which can if necessary be increased to 900 tons. Messrs. Dixson have already on their premises two hydraulic, five screw, and seven retaining presses, and more are shortly expected from America. When the tobacco comes out of the presses it has the black appearance well known to all smokers. By many persons this is supposed to be something added to the tobacco, but in reality it is only the latent moisture drawn to the surface by the enormous pressure to which the tobacco has been subjected. After this process the ' figs' are taken into the drying room, where the layers are spread out on frames and subjected to artificial heat. The tobacco is then pressed again, but this time in a ' polisher,' the layers of tobacco being divided by tin plates, the pressure against which induces the brightness peculiar to the surface of tobacco when sold. This is the last process before packing, which is done in wooden boxes con- taining 60 lbs., 120 lbs., or 180 lbs., according to the variety made.^ The packing boxes are surrounded with a thick casing of wood and a band of iron to prevent their breaking open when pressure is put on the tobacco, as is the case alter every few layers are packed. After the boxes and their contents have remained from ten days to six weeks in the sweating-room, they are fit for market, the whole of the processes of tobacco manufacture having been completed. The stemmed leaf tobaeco as it entered the premises was worth about 15d. or 18d. per lb. exclusive of a duty of 9d. per lb. Its marketable value is now about 3s. 6d. During its manufac- ture the tobacco is flavoured by essences, but as each manufacturer prides himself on the superiority of his flavouring, this part of the business is generally regarded as a profound trade secret. When in full working order Messrs. Dixson expect to turn out about two tons weekly of manufactured tobacco of the 'Conqueror' and 'Yankee Doodle' brands. They do not intend manufacturing cigars, as the demand is small and is already supplied by Adelaide makers. The whole premises are being fitted up with the necessary plant and machinery— with black- smith's and carpenter's shops, with lathe and saw bench driven by steam— and one section of the building is to be converted into a steam drying-room, so as to perfect the condition of the tobacco in damp weather. Judging by the preparations made, the firm having them in hand, and the opening there was in Adelaide for such an establishment, we should imagine the proprietors of the United States Tobacco Factory have a successful career in prospect for their Adelaide branch.