Silkville - A Kansas Portrait

Ernest Valeton de Boissiere, a former French army engineer, came to the U.S. in 1852. He was a free thinker who envisioned a Utopian community where all would share in the responsibilities and the rewards. Franklin County was chosen for the experiment.
Although the Kansas weather was different from that of France, de Boissiere felt that it was enough alike to experiment with silkworms. He planted mulberry trees, which flourished, and imported silkworms from France and Japan. He also brought over French immigrants as colonists and built a three story, sixty room building to house them. He then added a silk factory, barns, a winery, an icehouse, and a schoolhouse. The looms turned out 300 yards of finished material a day. The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 ranked the silk with that produced in France, Italy, and Japan.
Competition from the cheaper labor of foreign countries forced a shift towards the dairy industry, which was also initially successful. As colony members found that they could make more money elsewhere, however, the communal life of Silkville broke down.
In 1892, de Boissiere disposed of Silkville. He died in his native France in 1894.

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