Monday, April 16, 2012
History of Wool
Before learning about The Futon Shop's farm to bedroom movement, here is a brief history about how wool and the farm.
Early American history
During the 16th and 17th centuries, England tried to discourage the wool industry in the American colonies. Nonetheless, colonists quickly smuggled sheep into the States and developed a wool industry. By 1664, there were 10,000 sheep in the colonies and the General Court of Massachusetts passed a law requiring youth to learn to spin and weave.
By 1698, America was exporting wool goods. England became outraged and outlawed wool trade, making it punishible by cutting off a person's right hand. The restrictions on sheep raising and wool manufacturing, along with the Stamp Act, led to the American Revolutionary War. Thus, spinning and weaving were considered patriotic acts. Even after the war, England enacted a law forbidding the export of any sheep, but wethers.
George Washington raised sheep on his Mt. Vernon estate. Thomas Jefferson kept sheep at Monticello. Presidents Washington and Jefferson were both inaugurated in suits made of American wool. James Madison's inaugural jacket was woven from wool of sheep raised in his home in Virginia. President Woodrow Wilson grazed sheep on the White House lawn.
Sheep raising has played a role in several historical conflicts such as the "Highland Clearance," American range wars, and the English "enclosing of the commons." The Highland Clearances consisted of the replacement of an almost feudal system of land tenure in Scotland with the rearing of sheep. Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes.
In the U.S. range wars, violent conflicts erupted between cattle ranchers and sheep herders as both competed for land to graze their livestock. Britain's close of the commons was similar to the Highland clearance; open fields were enclosed into individually-owned fields for sheep farming, displacing many subsistance farmers.