Stripping Trees in Making Manila Hemp, Philippines

Special Collections > Keystone Slides
tiff scanned file from original glass slide
In the grain fields of our country, thousands of pounds of twine are needed each harvest to tie the bundles of wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Ropes are needed in ship building, construction work, hauling, farming, and other industries. Smaller cordage is needed every day in hundreds of ways. Twine, ropes, and string are made of fibers. The most important of these in obtained from a plant called henequen (hn´ -kn), or sisal (s-säl´) hemp. Most of this fiber comes from Yucatan. The next most important fiber comes from the Philippines. This is abaca (ä´ bä-kä´), usually called Manila hemp. Abaca is obtained from a tree-like plantain or banana plant. There are 14 varieties of this plant. It looks much like the banana plant, but it is not so large and the leaves are narrower and darker in color. It grows to a height of about 70 feet. The hot, wet climate of the Philippines is exactly suited to its growth. The plant is made up of layers, much like the layers on an onion. In the outside folds are the long, tough fibers-the abaca. The plant is first chopped down and its top lopped off, leaving a trunk that looks like a short pole. A piece of bone is run between the first and second layers. The outside layer is pulled off at one stripping. Then the next layer, and so on. These strips are called bast. A machine scrapes off the pulp, leaving the fibers free. The fibers are put into drying sheds, or cured on poles in the open, and are later shipped in bundles. Some of the fibers are 8 and 10 feet long. Each plant yields about ½ pound of dried fiber. About $20,000,000 worth of abaca is exported from the Philippines each year. Some of the hemp is also made into sailcloth, laces, and hat braids. Keystone ID: 10035 Note: All titles, descriptions, and location coordinates are from the original Keystone Slide documentation as supplied by the Keystone View Company. No text has been edited or changed.
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