Milling In Pompeii by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: Essay

While visiting Naples, last fall, I took a great interest in the wonderful museum there, of objects that have been exhumed from the ruins of Pompeii. It is a remarkable collection, including, among other things, the cumbersome machinery of a large woolen factory, the receipts, contracts, statements of sales, etc., etc., of bankers, brokers, and usurers. I was told that the exhumist also ran into an Etruscan bucket-shop in one part of the city, but, owing to the long, dry spell, the buckets had fallen to pieces.

The object which engrossed my attention the most, however, was what seems to have been a circular issued prior to the great volcanic vomit of 79 A.D., and no doubt prior even to the Christian era. As the date is torn off however, we are left to conjecture the time at which it was issued. I was permitted to make a copy of it, and with the aid of my hired man, I have translated it with great care.

Office of Lucretius & Procalus,
Dealers In
Flour, Bran, Shorts, Middlings, Screenings, Etruscan Hen Feed, and Other
Choice Bric-A-Brac.

Highest Cash Price Paid for Neapolitan Winter Wheat and Roman Corn

Why haul your Wheat through the sand to Herculaneum when we pay the same price here?

Office and Mill, Via VIII, Near the Stabian Gate, Only Thirteen Blocks From the P.O., Pompeii.

Dear Sir: This circular has been called out by another one issued last month by Messrs. Toecorneous & Chilblainicus, alleged millers and wheat buyers of Herculaneum, in which they claim to pay a quarter to a half-cent more per bushel than we do for wheat, and charge us with docking the farmers around Pompeii a pound per bushel more than necessary for cockle, wild buck-wheat, and pigeon-grass seed. They make the broad statement that we have made all our money in that way, and claim that Mr. Lucretius, of our mill, has erected a fine house, which the farmers allude to as the “wild buckwheat villa.”

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We do not, as a general rule, pay any attention to this kind of stuff; but when two snide romans, who went to Herculaneum without a dollar and drank stale beer out of an old Etruscan tomato-can the first year they were there, assail our integrity, we feel justified in making a prompt and final reply. We desire to state to the Roman farmers that we do not test their wheat with the crooked brass tester that has made more money for Messrs. Toecorneous & Chilblainicus than their old mill has. We do not do that kind of business. Neither do we buy a man’s wheat at a cash price and then work off four or five hundred pounds of XXXX Imperial hog feed on him in part payment. When we buy a man’s wheat we pay him in money. We do not seek to fill him up with sour Carthagenian cracked wheat and orders on the store.

We would also call attention to the improvements that we have just made in our mill. Last week we put a handle in the upper burr, and we have also engaged one of the best head millers in Pompeii to turn the crank day-times. Our old head miller will oversee the business at night, so that the mill will be in full blast night and day, except when the head miller has gone to his meals or stopped to spit on his hands.

The mill of our vile contemporaries at Herculaneum is an old one that was used around Naples one hundred years ago to smash rock for the Neapolitan road, and is entirely out of repair. It was also used in a brick-yard here near Pompeii; then an old junk man sold it to a tenderfoot from Jerusalem as an ice-cream freezer. He found that it would not work, and so used it to grind up potato bugs for blisters. Now it is grinding ostensible flour at Herculaneum.

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We desire to state to the farmers about Pompeii and Herculaneum that we aim to please. We desire to make a grade of flour this summer that will not have to be run through the coffee mill before it can be used. We will also pay you the highest price for good wheat, and give you good weight. Our capacity is now greatly enlarged, both as to storage and grinding. We now turn out a sack of flour, complete and ready for use, every little while. We have an extra handle for the mill, so that in case of accident to the one now in use, we need not shut down but a few moments. We call attention to our XXXX Git-there brand of flour. It is the best flour in the market for making angels’ food and other celestial groceries. We fully warrant it, and will agree that for every sack containing whole kernels of corn, corncobs, or other foreign substances, not thoroughly pulverized, we will refund the money already paid, and show the person through our mill.

We would also like to call the attention of farmers and housewives around Pompeii to our celebrated Dough Squatter. It is purely automatic in its operation, requiring only two men to work it. With this machine two men will knead all the bread they can eat and do it easily, feeling thoroughly refreshed at night. They also avoid that dark maroon taste in the mouth so common in Pompeii on arising in the morning.

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To those who do not feel able to buy one of these machines, we would say that we have made arrangements for the approaching season, so that those who wish may bring their dough to our mammoth squatter and get it treated at our place at the nominal price of two bits per squat. Strangers calling for their squat or unsquat dough, will have to be identified.

Do not forget the place, Via VIII, near Stabian gate.

Lucretius & Peocalus,

Dealers in choice family flour, cut feed and oatmeal with or without clinkers in it. Try our lumpless bran for indigestion.

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