Drome and silk
B1-Silk industry

Silk manufacturing employed thousands in 1856, some 238 mills employed 9334 workers (3762 in 84 spinning mills and 5572 in 154 throwing mills).

Silk farming

Plantations trees of Mulberry started in the 12th century and expanded until the 19th century (5.2 million trees in 1868). In the 19th century 307 parishes out of the 368 in the Drôme department had plantations. This activity then declined due to silkworm diseases, Eastern silk imports, and the invention of artificial fibres.

P4-1 - 1.jpgPicking mulberry leaves, Illustrations des travaux de Louis Pasteur sur les maladies des vers à soie, P. Lackerbauer, 1870, BNF

Spinning

The growth of silk farming in the Drôme entailed the opening of many small spinning mills. A family business at the start, and spinning reached industrial levels due to mechanization. The production of spun silk receded due to pebrine disease that affected silkworms. Spinning mills disappeared after World War I.

P4-1 - 2.jpgExpedition of the silkworm eggs, Auguste Meynar Company of Valréas

Throwing

The second stage in silk manufacturing after spinning, throwing developed in the Drôme from the 19th century. Many small factories were created in the 19th century. In 1811, 46 factories employed 778 workers, and in 1885, 140 throwing mills employed over 6000 workers. Silk manufacturing became then the major activity in the Drôme. Part of the thread being imported from Asia, throwing mills did better in the crisis which affected silk farming and spinning.

bInterior view of a throwing workshop in the MM. Boutet brother’s silk factory, Taulignan, Pierrette Bline postcard's

Weaving

Silk weaving was not as widespread in the Drôme, as in the Isère or Lyons. It was mainly practised for mixing silk with wool or floss silk. This production of “small fabrics” developed as early as the 18th century. There were some 1035 mechanical looms in 1894.