Ferdinandopoli s, the art and life of “whitelegs”

sete san leucio

A (fictional) letter from one of the workers at the San Leucio Royal Silk Factory My dear great, great, great grandson, i am writing to tell you about the silk factory that King Ferdinand I inaugurated in 1776. We were given jobs because of our experience in silk spinning and weaving – a traditional industry in these parts – and our work rules our lives. Rarely do we leave the confines of the factory and, when we do, they call us “whitelegs” because of our uniform. But they are just jealous that they are not at work like us; we are privileged because we have everything we need to live well, although we have to work 14 hours a day. [charme-gallery]The King wisely chose San Leucio, where he has a hunting lodge that is far enough from court to allow him to relax but close enough for him to keep an eye on the goings-on at the palace inCasertaand inNaples, the capital of his kingdom. Ferdinand intended this silk factory as an experiment and he could never have imagined that other rulers would follow his example. He has planned everything: from farming the silkworms and spinning the silk to weaving the finished product, all inside the walls of the palace and separated from his apartments by a single door. [charme-gallery]He comes to admire our work and to check that the machinery works properly. We have special waterpowered machinery to spin the silk yarns and other machines to measure the length of the yarn as well as huge looms on which to make the Jacquard bedspreads that have been used in the world’s most famous palaces and have made San Leucio silk famous. But King Ferdinand’s project excels not only in its products but also in its management. [charme-gallery]We have everything we need: a two storey house, our own orchard and vegetable garden, a school for men and women that will guarantee our future, as well as equal opportunities, health assistance and pensions for all. It might sound like utopia to you in your age, and all that you can now see of “Ferdinandopolis” is a beautiful palace on a hilltop and the art of silkweaving which we have left you as a keystone in the craftsmanship ofCampania.