United States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce.

Consular reports, Issues 224-227 online

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and Palermo, asking for a description of the methods in vogue for
the reduction of sulphur ore. The replies* are given below.


There are four different methods employed for the fusion of sul-
phur ore, known, respectively, as the calcarone. Gill, Fiocchi, and
Orlando systems.

The first, the calcarone, is the primitive mode of extraction,
and is the one generally used. The kiln is built into the ground to

♦Advance Sheets of which have been sent the correspondenl.

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a depth of 6 to 9 feet, the walls being of masonry and cylindrical
in form, with a sloping floor of stone and gypsum. When the cal-
carone, or kiln, is filled, the ore at the bottom is in large pieces, so
that there may be no impediment to the **olid*' (Sicilian term for
molten sulphur) running out, and the pieces of ore become gradually
•smaller until the top of the calcarone is reached. The ore is then
heaped trp In the form of a large cone and is covered with turf, sand,
and refuse from former fusions, in order to prevent loss and protect
it somewhat from the elements. Drrring the filling process, sev-
eral air shafts are placed into the ore, by means of which tlie-frre fs
communicated thereto, and through combustion of the mineral
itself the whole mass melts, this process lasting from ten to twenty
days. A small hole is made at the lowest point of the wall, through
which the liquidized sulphur runs and is taken off into square
wooden forms, containing from 130 to 170 pounds of sulphur. This
is continued day by day, until all the sulphur is extracted. The
capacity of the kilns varies from 7,000 to 52,500 cubic feet, and one
fusion of a large calcarone lasts three months. One great disad-
vantage of this system is the damage to vegetation by sulphur fumes.
The calcarone is allowed by law to be in operation only from June
28 to December 31.

The second system, known as the **Gill,'* is by furnaces or ovens
built in masonry similar in form to the calcarone, but much smaller
and covered with a cupola in masonry. They are generally built and
worked in pairs, and each cell or oven contains from 5 to 30 cubic
meters (177 to 1,059 cubic feet) of ore. They are, however, also built
in batteries of four, and the system is this : After being charged the ore
in one cell is fired and the smoke, instead of passing into the open
air, as is the case with the calcarone, passes into the adjacent cell and
gradually heats the mineral, until by the time the first cell has fin-
ished working, the other has reached such a temperature that the ore
ignites and cell No. i is again filled; and so the process goes on.
The advantage is that the gases, which are heavily charged with sul-
phur, are not lost, and the percentage of sulphur recovered is con-
siderably higher; further, the time occupied is much less than with
the calcarone, the working of each cell occupying from seventy-two
to ninety-six hours, according to size; and as very little smoke
escapes, the proprietors can work all through the year.

The next system, known as the **Fiocchi" patent, consists of
wrought-iron cylindrical receptacles, which are suspended by cir-
cular flanges and have an inner perforated shell. When the ap-
paratus has to be filled with ore, it is placed in a vertical position
and the ore, before being put in, is broken into small pieces;
when filled, it is turned in a horizontal position and a steam pipe

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screwed on. Steam at from 60 to 80 pounds pressure is then turned
on, passing into the space between the outer and inner shell and to
the mineral through the perforations of the inner shell, and, in this
way, reaching all parts of the ore. As the mass of ore is heated, the
steam becomes dry, and the sulphur fuses and is run off into proper

The apparatus is 4 meters long by 1.2 meters in diameter. Three
are worked in a row, each containing 3 cubic meters of ore, and
seven fusions are made in twenty-four hours. A steam boiler of 16
horsepower is required for the necessary steam. This system is
adapted for rich ore or ore that is porous; very hard ore can not be
fused. The percentage of sulphur recovered is much greater than
with the calcarone method, with the added advantage that the sul-
phur ore can be rapidly turned into commercial sulphur. The cost
of a plant of this kind being rather heavy, the smaller mine owners
prefer the old system of calcarone.

The last is the Orlando system, and is the same as the Fiocchi,
except that the apparatus always remains horizontal. Four trains,
each loaded with about 15 cwt. of ore, are ran in on rails and remain
during the fusion. The advantage over the Fiocchi system is the
greater facility in charging and discharging the apparatus.


All the refining of sulphur, with the exception of one plant at
Palermo, is done at Catania. The largest plant consists of four
ovens, each containing a battery of ten retorts for refining, capable
of turning out 48 tons of refined sulphur in twenty-four hours; four
ovens with four chambers for subliming and making flower of sul-
phur, capable of producing 2,000 tons during a season; and a steam
mill with runner edge stones of lava, capable of milling 3,000 half-
cwt. bags (165,000 pounds) of sulphur per day.

The refining season commences in October and ends in June.
The milling season lasts only about four months — say, from Febru-
ary to June — and the product is used almost exclusively for the sul-
phuring of vines. In refining sulphur, a large oven in masonry is
used, with an arched roof, upon which are placed the cast-iron
retorts, which are again covered by another arch upon which are
placed cast-iron boxes, surrounded by brickwork. Newcastle coal,
mixed with wood in order to obtain an abundance of flame, is used.
The fire grate is at the bottom of the oven and the gases and flame
ascend by spiral openings and play around the retorts, and the
smoke rises by the flues to the cast-iron boxes, and thence to
the chimney or stack. The sulphur is put into the cast-iron boxes,
where it is fused, and by means of a valve it passes into the re-

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torts, where it is transformed into gas; and from there, by a
special cast-iron pipe, it passes into the condensers, which are cylin-
drical cast-iron vessels. The refined sulphur, which has again be-
come liquid, then passes by a special aperture into cast-iron pans,
so that it may gain the required temperature, and is then ladled out
into cast-iron forms of about i cwt. (no pounds) capacity; or, if
roll sulphur is required, it is ladled into metallic molds of the shape
usually employed in commerce.

In subliming sulphur, an oven, as described above for refining,
is used, but with only two retorts; and the gases, instead of going
into the condensers, ascend into a large, specially constructed cham-
ber, lined with bricks, which is hermetically closed, with the excep-
tion of a valve in the roof, which opens automatically when the tension
produced by the gases is too great for the strength of the chamber.
The gases, as they enter the chamber at the necessary temperature,
solidify and the sublimed sulphur falls in the form of flakes, like
snow, to the ground.

Sulphur of commerce contains from 2 to 5 per cent of impurities.
The lower dark-colored qualities — such as good or current thirds —
are generally used for refining, owing to their lower price.

The total export of sulphur from January i to December i, 1898,
was 415,424 tons, of which the United States received 131,678 tons,
France 84,369 tons, and Germany 26,727 tons.

Alexander Heingartner,

Catania, Decanber 2j, i8g8. Consul.


There are at the present time three methods of reducing sulphur
ore in this district, viz, the calcinatory furnaCe **calcarone," the Gill
oven, and by steam.

By the first two methods, the fuel used is sulphur in its mineral
state, and by the third pit coal. Reduction by calcinatory furnace
is the more general method in use, as the furnace is of easy con-
struction and involves little expense, being operated in the open air
and capable of smelting several thousands of tons of ore at a time.

The calcarone is located as near the mouth of the shaft or
mine as possible, usually on the side of a hill, in order that when
the process of smelting is complete the sulphur may run down the
hill in channels prepared for that purpose, part of the sulphur being
burned in the process of smelting, in order to liquefy the remainder.

The calcarone is circular in shape and has a floor with an in-
clination of from 12° to 18°. The wall around it is made of rough

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Stone, cemented with a mortar of gypsum. At the back of the wall,
the thickness is some 45 centimeters, increasing to the front, where
it is I meter or more, according to the diameter.

In the front is an opening, 1.3 meters high by some 30 centi-
meters (51 by 12 inches) broad, through which the melted sulphur
flows. Two walls run at right angles with the circular wall upon
each side of this opening, 80 centimeters in thickness, with a roof
over them to strengthen the front of the kiln. The stone floor of the
kiln is covered with the refuse of a former smelting, called **ginese.**
The stonework is from 15 to 25 centimeters (6 to 9.3 inches) in thick-
ness and the covering of ginese is some 20 centimeters in depth, this
increasing at the lower extremity. The inner side of the wall is
covered with a mortar of gypsum. The capacity of these calcarones
varies from 100 to 1,000 tons. It requires thirty days to run off a
calcarone of a capacity of 300 tons; sixty days for a capacity of 1,000

The cost of a calcarone with a capacity of 1,000 tons is 1,500
lire, or about $300 in United States currency.

In filling the calcarone, the larger blocks of ore are placed in the
center, forming, as it were, the backbone of the pile, the remaining
space being filled with ore much smaller in size. When the calca-
rone is filled with ore and covered with ginese, the shape or form
of the pile is that of a cone, and after being set on fire resembles a
small-sized volcano. As the liquid sulphur comes from the calca-
rone, it flows into wooden molds, forming solid blocks weighing some
100 pounds.

The quantity of sulphur produced by this system during the
years 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, and 1894, a^ respects the total production
of the mines operated, shows the following proportions: Eighty
per cent, 71 per cent, 65 per cent, 66 per cent, and 62 per cent,

At the present time, about 20 per cent of the total production of
sulphur in Sicily is reduced by the '* Gill'* system. Originally, this
system consisted of but two rooms or cells, but at the present time
four cells are built together. These have usually from 10 to 50 cubic
meters capacity. While the percentage of sulphur obtained by this
system is greater than by the calcinatory furnace, the quality is said
to be inferior. These ovens being built of solid stone masonry, it is
claimed that much heat is saved and again utilized by this system of
reduction. One cell only being fired at a time, the ore in the others
becomes dried out and is in a much better condition to burn freely
when fired, thus saving both time and fuel. The floors of these cells
are constructed upon the same principle and of the same material as
those of the calcinatory furnace.

Reduction of sulphur ore by steam covers only about 10 percent

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of the production of the mines in Sicily. The boilers or ** cookers"
in use are of various kinds and forms, some being movable while
others are stationary. In those of a cylindrical shape, the ore is
placed in a capsule of perforated iron plate inside the boiler. By
the more general method, the ore is reduced in small wagons^ with
perforated bottoms and sides, the steam being conducted through
Iron pipes. Only a certain quality of the sulphur ore of Sicily — a
very small percentage of the production — yields to steam process,
and for this reason it is not probable the reduction of sulphur by
steam, as at present utilized, will become general.

By the calcinatory furnace and the Gill system, the fuel used
being the crude sulphur, the cost is trifling; while fuel for steam
reduction has to be shipped into the country at a great expense.

The system of reduction by the calcinatory furnace is the oldest
known to the sulphur producer of Sicily. It is said to have been
the original method employed at these mines centuries ago. Being
simple in construction, furnishing its own fuel, and requiring little
skill to operate, it bids fair to remain the favorite.

Church Howe,

Palermo, April 10, i8gg. Consul.


On January 14, 1899, I sent to the Department a report showing
under what conditions American wheat might be accepted at Malta in
lieu of Russian. * Since this report, the Mediterranean and New York
Steamship Company's ship Picqua^ from New York direct to Malta,
arrived with a large cargo of wheat and flour. Unfortunately,
the wheat sent was not up to the standard required for military
use. I have received a fair sample of it and find it full of tares
and unclean. The grains, also, are too small. This makes the
second time that wheat from the United States has been received,
and each time it was below the standard. I wish to state as a
result of my recent investigations on the subject that) although
there is every chance for our wheat to gain this market, no
headway will be made with such qualities as have thus far been
received. It is utterly useless for our shippers to send wheat that
will not come up to the requirements. I know that we have the
required article, and it only rests with those desiring to secure
a market here to send large samples first and then, if accepted, to
send wheat equal to the samples. I have sent to the Department of
State for the benefit of those interested in the matter four samples

* Printed in Consular Reports No. aa4, p. locx

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of wheat.* One is a sample of the American wheat recently received
here. This will not pass inspection and is not wanted. The second
and third are, respectively, Russian ** Taganrog" and **Katkof,*'
both of which are at present in use here. The latter two barely pass
inspection, but are accepted. The fourth sample is that of some
English wheat recently imported in a small quantity. This wheat
is very large in grain, is clean, and just what is required. An in-
spection of these samples will at once show what is wanted.

Wheat is taken at Malta at weight per quarter. T-he quarter is
measured and then weighed and must average (i in 25 bags) from 496
to 504 pounds to the quarter; the higher the better. Should it not
reach 504 pounds, shortage is likely to be the result, and a deduction
from the invoiced weight follows. In an invoice of 750 quarters de-
livered to the Government recently, 6 quarters were short in weight.
This, of course, could not be charged for. Mr. Turnbull, of the
firm of Turnbull, jr., & Somerville, located on Strada Reale, Valletta,
recently said to me:

We have large dealings with the Government here and desire to secure an Ameri-
can brand of wheat that will be acceptable. We desire to do business with some
responsible American firm that will send us samples of wheat up to the standard,
and that will, if we order from them, send us wheat up to the sample. On our
orders, the amount of the invoice of wheat would be remitted in full without any
deduction of commissions, brokerage, or other charges. As all commissions arc
paid at Malta, the American exporter would get his quotation. Quotations should
be c. i. f. Malta, freight paid in advance, and insurance against all risks, including
risks of lightering, until the wheat is landed. Lighterage is paid here by the re-
ceiver. The whole order should arrive at once and be fossed, as the Government,
while paying promptly, does not do so until the whole cargo is landed. When an
order is sent by different vessels, the bill is not paid until the last arrives.

The military authorities are not at present buying much Tagan-
rog wheat, but are using up stored material. Advantage should
be taken of this condition of affairs by American dealers, and sam-
ples should be submitted at once. In sending samples, one thing
must be strictly remembered, and that is not to send poor wheat. At
Malta, the question is not cost, but quality. There are several good
firms here that are ready to deal with our exporters. Among them
are the firm above mentioned, C. Breed Eynaud & Co.. and S. Scicluna
& Son. The latter firm has for some time been trying to get some
samples of American wheat of good quality, but thus far has not
succeeded in securing what is most desired.

John H. Grout, Jr.,

Malta, March 28^ i8gg. Consul.

•The samples arc filed for reference in the Bureau of Foreign Commerce. Portions will be sent
to anyone wishing to inspect them. Sample lots have also been sent the Department of Agriculture
with Advance Sheets of this report.

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Since the beginning of the year, the importations of United States
produce to this market have been on a very liberal scale, especially
flour, American descriptions having so far completely ruled the mar-
ket. Produce from other countries has not been able to compete, in
consequence of the difference in cost. The supplies which arrived
direct from New York during the past quarter amounted to 23,548
sacks. If the importation of cereal produce from abroad were not
handicapped in Spain by heavy duties, there is no doubt that this
market would become an important center for the entrance of
American supplies. At the present moment, the demand for flour
is limited to local consumption, but some of it finds its way to the
neighboring Spanish villages in the shape of bread, through the sev-
eral thousands of laborers daily engaged in the extensive dock and
harbor works going on at this port.

It is yet too early to be able to form any opinion regarding the
standing crops in the province of Andalusia; much has, however,
been sown. The bean crop does not seem to promise much.

The trade in petroleum has for some time past been in the hands
of four importers, who have also been long-established retailers in
the article in this market. Owing to a combination among them,
they succeeded in converting the business into almost a monopoly,
raising prices to exorbitant figures ; but a few outsiders having lately
imported a small supply of the article to retail in this market, the
competition has caused quite a decline in prices, which at present
hardly permit of any margin.

During the past month, 18,190 cases of refined petroleum were
imported direct from New York, the greater portion being for ac-
count of the combination. The want of facilities for the storing and
handling of petroleum on shore and afloat, added to strict police
and fortress restrictions, prevent speculation to any extent.

American lard has been in fair demand during the past months,
the ruling prices being considerably under the price of Spanish sup-
plies, which have for some time past been quite scarce, owing to
the reduced number of hogs which were raised during the last
year in the south of Spain. Imports from the United States come
in wooden pails, and lately 2,000 pails jvere received direct from
New York by steamships.

The tobacco market has lately been very inactive for outward
traffic, but the local consumption continues to gradually lessen the
No. 226 6.

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large stocks stored previous to the imposition of id. per pound duty
last year. The direct arrivals from the United States during the
present year have so far consisted of only ^;^;^ cases and 17 hogsheads
of leaf tobacco and 175 cases of Cavendish.

A very extensive business continues to be carried on in American
salted pork, hams, bacon, cheese, and every kind and description of
canned provisions, vegetables, and fruits. These articles of daily
consumption generally come through English ports — principally
Liverpool — and in such quantities as to fully meet the demands,
not only of this British colony and the shipping arriving at its port,
but also of the Spanish neighborhood.

Horatio J. Sprague,

Gibraltar, JprtV i, iSpp. Consul.


The depressed condition of the Austrian export trade, during
several years past, has led the exporters of this Empire to serious
discussion of ways and means to check the decline and restore this
important branch of commerce to its former status.



At a recent meeting of representatives of the cotton-spinning in-
dustry, the results for 1897 — the last year for which full^and accu-
rate statistics had been prepared — were pronounced ** inexpressibly "
bad. In most cases, it was declared, the business was conducted at
an absolute loss. The causes were said to be many, a prime one
being the lack of unity among the spinners. The year 1896 closed
with a very bad showing. Every operator realized that fact, and
also the necessity of action to improve the condition of business.
Each had his own idea of what ought to be done, but no concerted
effort could be effected. Some of the firms worked in harmony,
thereby checking in a degree the rapid decline in prices which had
begun. But enough important concerns held aloof to seriously ob-
struct the efforts of the others; and so the year 1897 rounded up
with a showing of only 3 per cent of the Austrian cotton-spinning
product sold in foreign markets during the twelvemonth.

No official details for 1898 have yet been published, but dur-
ing that year Austrian cotton spinners generally complained of dull
business, and on the whole no improvement over 1897 could be

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A recent issue of Flachs und Leinen, a textile periodical, presents
facts and figures regarding the Austrian linen industry for 1898.
The statistics cover the first nine months, and comparison is made
with the corresponding months of 1897. The past year is shown to
have been unfavorable, both absolutely and relatively. The exports
decreased, the total value being 11,712,356 florins ($4,755,216), as
against 11,981,877 florins ($4,864,642) for 1897. On the other hand,
imports of linen goods increased, rising from 8,325,845 florins
($3,380,293) in 1897 to 10,777,881 florins ($4,375»Si9) in 1898.

The blame for this unfavorable condition is laid almost wholly to
the poor flax crop and to the steady diminution of flax culture in
this country. The quantity of the home product decreased 25 per
cent, while the amount of flax imported increased 40 per cent. The
increase in value of imported flax was 2,000,000 florins ($812,000),
which is reckoned as that much dead loss to the rural population of
Austria-Hungary in 1898.

Among other causes of depression are cited reduction of prices,
continual loss of trade territory, sharp competition, unfair methods
of other textile industries to crowd out linen goods, and various
domestic burdens of taxes, insurance, production regulations, and
the like.

Half the linen product of Austria is consumed at home; the
other half goes to foreign markets. The home market, it is said, is
embarrassed by the present unsettled state of the Empire, the Aus-
gleich controversy with Hungary, and the lack of sufficient legisla-
tive protection and encouragement of the industry. The foreign
markets are made constantly more difficult of access through in-
creased import duties and the establishment of linen factories in
other countries. From no point of view, therefore, does there seem
to be an outlook favorable to the Austrian linen makers.

A large part of the domestic sale of Austrian linen is in Hungary.
The present attitude of that Kingdom gives the linen makers serious
concern. Hungarian leaders of public sentiment do not hesitate to
declare that the Ausgleich (the reciprocal arrangement between
Austria and Hungary, one provision of which is that the products of
both shall be interchanged free of duty) will be renewed only until

Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 224-227 → online text (page 57 of 92)