In May, after further meetings with Timken, Scripps asked McRae to investigate the possibility of using the decorticator in the manufacture of newsprint.
McRae quickly became excited about the plan. He called the decorticator “a great invention. . . [which] will not only render great service to this country, but it will be very profitable financially. . . . [it] may revolutionize existing conditions.” On August 3, as harvest time neared, a meeting was arranged between Schlichten, McRae, and newspaper manager Ed Chase.
Without Schlichten’s knowledge, McRae had his secretary record the three-hour meeting stenographically. The resulting document, the only known record of Schlichten’s voluminous knowledge found to date, is reprinted fully in Appendix I.
Schlichten had thoroughly studied many kinds of plants used for paper, among them corn, cotton, yucca, and Espana baccata. Hemp, it seemed, was his favorite: “The hemp hurd is a practical success and will make paper of a higher grade than ordinary news stock,” he stated. His hemp paper was even better than that produced for USDA Bulletin 404, he claimed, because the decorticator eliminated the retting process, leaving behind short fibers and a natural glue that held the paper together. At 1917 levels of hemp production Schlichten anticipated making 50,000 tons of paper yearly at a retail price of $25 a ton. This was less than 50% of the price of newsprint at the time! And every acre of hemp turned to paper, Schlichten added, would preserve five acres of forest.
McRae was very impressed by Schlichten. The man who dined with presidents and captains of industry wrote to Timken, “I was to say without equivocation that Mr. Schlichten impressed me as being a man of great intellectuality and ability; and so far as I can see, he has created and constructed a wonderful machine.” He assigned Chase to spend as much time as he could with Schlichten and prepare a report.