Historic Sheep and Wool

by Lauria on January 31, 2014

This article that I read from my New Yorker friend Ruth about Tavern on the Green in Central Park being a sheepfold before it was a famous tourist trap led me down a rabbit hole of all kinds of historic sheep and knitting interests.

sheepcentralpark1910

Boston Common was once grazing land (in addition to being a public garden, and where hangings and drills and parades took place), allowing sheep and cows to graze until 1830. In November of 1931, Boston Commons hosted a sheep shearing competition, according to a Lewiston Daily Sun story. The winner from Texas sheared a sheep in 4.5 minutes.

1931 Sheep Shearing

The newspaper story mentions a “Wish it with Wool” campaign where people take a pledge to give three people all (or mostly) wool gifts for Christmas that year. It sounds an awful like the “Give Handmade” pledge, doesn’t it? I found an article in the Prescott Evening Courier urging people to support the local Arizona wool market! I wouldn’t think of Arizona as being a great place for wool-growing, since the summer I spent there it was 112 degrees for a week, but when they mentioned Mohair, it started to make a little more sense.

Angora Goats

Our Angora Goats (where Mohair comes from) are not well-suited to cold climates, so they might fare better than the sheep in the heat. Apparently, automobiles used Mohair in upholstery!

I love reading about the history of shepherding in the US. Are you reading any good historic articles or books?

{ 6 comments }

1 fran January 31, 2014 at 8:18 am

I read somewhere that they used to raise angora in Florida – but for meat or maybe it was optional…

2 Anna January 31, 2014 at 9:18 am

Very cool post Lauria!

3 Sarah V. February 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I LOVE this post! So interesting :) Although it’s not about shepherding, I love Sylvia Olsen’s boon the history of the Cowichan sweater.

4 Jane from Maryland February 1, 2014 at 9:59 pm

I adore Sheep and Man by Michael L. Ryder. Did you know merino rams were banned by the British from importation to the American colonies. Somehow (??) George Washington managed to get ahold of one and build a great flock at Mt. Vernon.
And the deMedicis during the Renaissance in Italy depended on wool wealth to fund the great art!

5 Jenny February 3, 2014 at 6:20 am

Thanks for sharing fascinating ‘wool’ history/archives!

6 Lis February 3, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Keep in mind that Prescott is at about 5,000 ft elevation, so much cooler than the Phoenix area. Much of Northern Arizona is even higher — 7-8,000 feet — and Navajo churro thrive. (Although, churro is not typically a nice yarn for knitting!)

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