Page images
PDF
EPUB

APPENDIX A.

AMERICAN MERINOS.

Prepared by request, for this report, by Hon. Henry S. Randall, LL. D.,

President of National Wool Growers' Association." Full-blood American merino sheep, as that designation is now understood, include only full-blood descendants of the merinos imported from Spain into the United States near the beginning of the present century. Six were introduced by different persons between 1793 and 1802. In the last named year, Mr. Livingston, the American Minister in France, sent home two pairs obtained from the French government flock. Later in 1802, Colonel Humphreys, the American Minister in Spain, on his return from his embassy, shipped a flock to the United States, of which 21 rams and 70 ewes safely reached his farm in Connecticut. The merinos imported prior to these last have not, so far as is known, left any fullblood descendants.

Col. Humphreys published no detailed account of his purchase or of the previous history of his sheep. He evidently regarded the fact that he purchased them, and that he obtained them directly from the merinos of Spain, as all that was important to be known, and as a sufficient guarantee of their blood and quality, and so indeed it was. He was a singulo larly high-toned and public-spirited man-wealthy-intent on doing a patriotic service to his country by introducing these sheep; and that he fully supposed that he had accomplished the latter object he himself bears witness. In his poem “On the industry of the United States of America,” he proudly declares:

“Not guarded Colchis gave admiring Greece

So rich a treasure in its golden fleece." The particular Spanish family or families from which his sheep were selected cannot now be regarded as a matter of any consequence; but from investigations which circumstances formerly impelled me to make among all the accessible public and private records and facts appertaining to the subject, I came to the undoubting conclusion that they were drawn from a single family, and that the Infantado.

Judging from the statements in Colonel Humphrey's manuscript letters lying before me, he not only found great satisfaction but great success in breeding his merinos. The very ones he brought from Spain, he says, increased half a pound in their fleeces; and their descendants continued to improve in that and every other particular. He speaks glowingly of their hardiness and propensity to fatten; and in the highest terms of their mutton. This gentleman died in 1818, when causes, hereafter to be

1 Author of Sheep Husbandry in the South, Fine Wool Husbandry, The Practical Shepherd, &c., &c.

detailed, had sunk the merinos into contempt and neglect. His invaluable sheep were then scattered, and, as a general thing, they appear to have fallen into the hands of those who attached no great value to their blood, for I can learn of but two or three instances where they were preserved distinct after 1826.

The next importations of importance were made by Mr. William Jarvis, American consul at Lisbon, Portugal, in 1809 and 1810. Taking advantage of the offers of the Spanish Junto to sell the confiscated flocks of certain Spanish nobles, he bought and shipped to different ports in the United States about three thousand eight hundred and fifty merinos, He wrote to me, in 1811, that about thirteen hundred of these were Aqueirres, two hundred Montarcos, the rest Paulars and Negrettismostly the former. He says: “Those I reserved for myself were composed of about half Paulars, a quarter Aqueirres, and the other fourth of Escurials, Negrettis and Montarcos, which I subsequently mixed together."

In regard to other importations at this period, Mr. Jarvis writes in the same letter: “ There were sent in the latter year (1810) by others about two thousand five hundred, composed of Paulars—had of General Downie-Montarcos, Aqueirres and Guadalupes. Part of those went to New York, part to Boston. All those sheep were Leonesa, trans-humantes, and were of the prime flocks of Spain. I have been able to be thus minute in relation to the merinos in 1809 and 1810, as I was then American consul at Lisbon, which was the port from which they were all shipped, it being only about one hundred miles to Badajos, and the nearest seaport to that place.” Some of these cargoes did not reach the United States until 1811. I have elsewhere given the names of a number of the importers, and it is not necessary to repeat them here.

The circumstances existing at the time of the introduction of these sheep were highly propitious to their careful breeding and rapid diffusion. From 1807 to 1812 the maritime regulations of England and France, and our own retaliatory ones, paralyzed, and during a portion of the time entirely suspended, our foreign trade; and the ensuing war with England, which lasted to 1815, completely swept our cominerce from the ocean. Thus our people were driven to the establishment of wool and other manufactures, and to the production of the raw materials. State legislatures, the public press, and politicians of every party and grade, encouraged efforts in that direction, and patriotic as well as pecuniary enterprise warmly responded to these appeals. The new importation of merinos was hailed with enthusiasm. From $1,000 to $1,500 a head was frequently paid for them. Flocks of full-bloods or grades were started in all parts of the country. Unwashed full-blood wool rose to $2 50 a pound during the war.

The peace of Ghent exposed our infant and unprotected manufactures to the competition of the world. The exhaustion and derangement of our finances accelerated their overthrow, and they fell without a strug

gle, and irretrievably. There was no longer any market for fine wool in the United States; and merinos valued at $1,000 a head in 1809 sold for a dollar a head in 1815. Their propagation as a separate breed was thenceforth abandoned by most owners, and the great mass of them became merged in the common coarse sheep of the country.

This state of things continued until 1824. In the tariff of that year the protective policy on wool and woollens, inaugurated by the tariff of 1816, was so far extended that it was supposed it would make fine wool production again profitable. The Saxon (merino) sheep were introduced, and created a new fine wool furor equal to that between 1809 and 1815. The tariff of 1828 increased the protection and increased the excitement.

If we did not know the singular one-ideaism which so often characterizes these "improvement" manias, it would be a subject of astonishment that while the Saxon sheep were sought with so much eagerness, commanding quite equal prices with those of the Spanish merinos fifteen years earlier, the pure blood flocks of the latter yet in the country attracted comparatively little notice, and they were chiefly valued because they would grade up more rapidly than other sheep toward the Saxon standard of tineness; in other words, make a better cross with the Saxons. Most unfortunately a large share of the holders of the Spanish, or "oldfashioned merinos," as they were then called, adopted the same theory of relative value and rushed into the cross, breeding steadily towards the Saxons, so as to obliterate the distinctive Spanish characteristics as rapidly as possible. Yet at that very time, and at all subsequent times, prime Spanish fleeces were worth more in market than Saxon fleeces. The greater weight of the former more than compensated for the greater fineness of the latter. The Spanish were a strong, hardy, thoroughly acelimated sheep, well adapted to our climate and systems of husbandry. The Saxons were the reverse in every particular.

Yet for upwards of fifteen years the Saxons maintained an almost undisputed ascendancy. Their faults were attributed to want of accli. mation. They had cost too much to be readily given up. They were in the hands of the wealthy influential farmers, prominent in agricultural literature, and prominent in polities, who believed themselves and convinced others that the conditions of success could be secured by protective legislation. A corresponding class of manufacturers urged the same views. A constant struggle was kept up on the floors of Congress between the friends and enemies of protection, each usually maintaining extreme views, so that when either was victorious extreme measures

? To a similar statement in "Fine Wool Husbandry” I appended a note, which with a slight change I will copy here:

"I trust po former breeder of the Saxons will complain of these remarks, when I say 'quorum pars fui. Thirty-eight years ago I became the owner of a pure Spanish flock. Subsequently I purchased some Saxons,

iwas so gratified with the produce of a few picked sheep, that I bought and bred a flock usually number: ing fra 500 to 700. They were derived from the most celebrated Hoeks. I kept them several years and gave them a fair trial before going back to the Spanish merinos, which, very fortunately for myself, I had Lever entirely abandoned."

were adopted. Consequently there was none of that steadiness or permanency in the public policy, under which industrial interests materially affected by foreign competition can alone flourish. I have not space here to give the provisions of the different wool and woollen tariffs, but a glance at the prices of wool under them will throw some interesting light on the subject under examination.

Under the tariff of 1824, in force until September, 1828, fine wool averaged a trifle over 45 cents a pound; under the tariff of 1828, extending to March 3, 1832, about 57 cents a pound; under the tariff of 1832, extending to January, 1834, about 57 cents a pound; under the tariff of 1833, to towards the close of 1837, about 667 cents a pound; thenceforth under the same tariff, extending to October, 1841, about 513 cents a pound; under the tariff of 1841, extending to September of that year, about 461 cents a pound; under the first year of the tariff of 1842, about 350 cents a pound; thenceforth under the same tariff, extending to December, 1846, about 41 cents a pound. During this entire period of 22 years, fine wool did not on the average exceed medium wool in price more than 10 cents a pound, and medium still less exceeded coarse.

During the same period, pure Saxon sheep in the best flocks averaged less than three pounds of wool per head. In 1810 the flock of Henry D. Grove, the celebrated German importer and breeder-not numbering over 200 sheep, and well kept-yielded an average of 2 pounds 11 ounces of washed wool a head, and he regarded this product as so satisfactory that he adduced it as a proof of the value of his favorite breed in that controversy between the advocates of the Saxons and Spanish merinos which was then filling our agricultural publications.?

This controversy had opened in about 1835. At that period small picked lots of Spanish merinos, purchased by different persons of Mr. Jarvis, yielded 45 pounds of washed wool a head. The flocks of Stephen Atwood, of Connecticut; of John T. Rich, of Vermont; of Francis Rotch, of New York, and my own, yielded an equal amount.3

The increase in the weight of Spanish fleeces was thenceforth rapid. In 1844, my Humphreys sheep yielded 5 pounds 13 ounces of washed wool a head, and a small lot of Rich ewe tegs purchased in Vermont, five pounds. In 1845, Mr. Stephen Atwood wrote to the author of the

From 1827 to 1861 inclusive, a period of 35 years, the average price of fine wool at Boston was 50 3-10 cents; of medium, 41 8-10 cents ; of coarse, :35$ cents. Fine wool averaged 15 per centum higher than medium, and medium 14 per centum higher than coarse.

2 See his letter to me in “Transactions” of New York State Agricultural Society, 1841, p. 333.

3 Mr. Atwood's flock and my own, bere referred to, were descended from Colonel Humphrey's flock; Mr. Rich’s from a Paular importation made at New York in 1811 ; Mr. Rotch's were selected from different flocks.

* Four of the ewes had two years' fleeces on, but I thought this fully offsetted by the number of tegs in the flock, wbich, under the usual treatment of those days, yielded consid erably less wool than grown sheep. My Premium ram's first fleece in 1844 was 10 pounds. In 1847 one of my ewes produced 7 pounds 10 ounces. In 1849 one of my rams produced 13 pounds 3 ounces. All were well washed.

American Shepherd, that his flock consisted of 150 half ewes and half rams and wethers; that his ewes yielded five pounds of washed wool per head, and his lambs an equal amount; that his wethers yielded six pounds, and his rams from seven to nine pounds; that his heaviest ewe's fleece in the preceding spring was six pounds six ounces, and the heaviest ram's fleece 12 pounds 4 ounces. I think a few other flocks yielded about equal amounts of wool, but the facts are not before me. The prime merinos of that period then were producing upwards of two pounds more of wool a head than prime Saxons, while that of the latter fetched in the market but 67 cents per pound most in 1815, and but 64 cents per pound most in 1846.

The Saxon breeders had never received anything like a proportionable remuneration for their wool. They had lived on hopes deferred, looking for changes which never came. When the tariff of 1816 overthrew the broadcloth manufactures of the country, there was no longer any ground for hope, and the Saxon sheep rapidly disappeared and gave place to the American merinos, as the Spanish sheep were thenceforth generally called.

They had indeed become a distinctive variety, like the Saxon Merino, the French merino, &c., presenting both essential and visible differences from their Spanish ancestors or from any other merino family. They differed materially from the Spanish in amount of wool, size, and form. The weights of prime American washed fleeces have just been stated. Livingston gives the average weight of the Spanish ram's fleece, unwashed, at the beginning of this century, at 84 pounds-Yonatt at eight pounds. Both give the average of the unwashed ewe's fleece at five pounds. The King of England's carefully selected Negrettis, about 100 in number, yielded, for five successive years, (1798-1802,) an average of 33 pounds of brook-washed wool-scoured weight 2133. This included the wool of some wethers (the number unspecified) but no rams.

In 1801 Dupont de Nemours and an associate sent to the United States unquestionably the largest-fleeced Spanish ram ever introduced here. He produced 84 pounds of washed wool. Colonel Humphreys mentions it as a matter of note, in a manuscript letter which I have read, that a merino ram bred by himself yielded seven pounds five ounces of washed wool.

In respect to size and form, Petri, who visited Spain in the early part of this century to examine its merinos, gave a table from which I select

See Sir Joseph Banks's annual reports concerning this flock.

* Dupont de Nemours was head of the commission appointed by the French government to select the merinos given up by Spain by the treaty of Basle. He and M. Delessert sent four rams to America, three of them intended for their own farms in this country, and one for President Jefferson. All but one perished on the passage. The remark in the text is confined to Spanish sheep imported from Spain. French merinos of heavier fleece were subsequently introduced.

« PreviousContinue »