Date of this Version
Silk Roads, Other Roads: Proceedings of the 8th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 26-28, 2002, Northampton, Massachusetts
In 1934, Mr. Paolino Gerli, President of the newly formed International Silk Guild, concluded his address at the Twenty-third Annual Convention of the National Retail Dry Goods Association as follows: “A new deal, a new era…Out of a glamorous past, not a Cinderella with a time limit beauty is beckoning to you, but a beautiful Princess, awakened by Prince Charming into a new consciousness of its eternal right to be the Queen of Fabrics.” These lofty words, delivered before an audience of American manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers, were a call to arms for the beleaguered American silk industry. His words imparting a tone of righteousness, Mr. Gerli reflected the regal image of silk that the industry cultivated and would soon actively advance with a national promotional campaign. In that same address, he more pointedly acknowledged the woes which overtook the industry: “A new consciousness, a new pride, a new fighting spirit has been injected into the silk industry, finding its expression in a closely knit and aggressive body calling itself The International Silk Guild.”
The International Silk Guild was formed in 1933. Its purpose as stated in The American Silk and Rayon Journal, February 1934, was simply and broadly to foster trade and commerce in silk goods in the United States. The group was comprised of a diffuse range of silk textile industry and retail professionals. Raw silk importers, silk wholesalers and manufacturers, and retailers had realized by the early years of the nineteen thirties that the silk market was declining. Regenerated fibers had been encroaching upon the U.S. textile market during the nineteen twenties, and in the thirties, their production greatly increased while silk production decreased. According to the industry publication Textile Organon, February 11 1935, silk consumption in the United States generally rose from 1920 to 1929. However, from 1931 to 1933, The Rayon and Melliand Textile Monthly of January 1935, reported that production of all-silk fabric in the United States fell by 45%. Several problems, among them the Great Depression, the over-production of raw silk by Japan, and poor quality silk fabrics culminated in the nineteen thirties in a significant decline in silk demand and consumption in the United States. In response to this decline, professionals in the U.S. silk industry organized, forming The International Silk Guild, a group which represented the interests of raw silk importers, silk wholesalers, and silk manufacturers. The group adopted an aggressive stance, attempting, through an active marketing campaign, to increase sales of silk in the United States.
At the same time silk production was decreasing, production of rayon and acetate was increasing. Between 1931 and 1933, production of all-rayon fabric increased by 150%. Although the problems facing the silk industry were varied and complex, the industry’s professionals blamed their woes upon the production rayon. American Silk and Rayon Journal, December, 1934, states, “The chief source of trouble in the loss of markets of the silk manufacturers is the rayon industry.”