Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/188

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176
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.

V. THE MANUFACTURE OF WOOL.

By S. N. DEXTER NORTH.

I REMEMBER the interest inspired in boyhood days by a certain colored map in a curious and recondite book in my father's library. This map undertook to group the ancient world into divisions according to the raw materials principally utilized in the clothing of the people. As a boy I was impressed by the fact that the sheep's-wool and goat's-hair countries, marked on the map in red, comprised nearly the whole of its space in a broad belt running from Hispania and Gaul on the west, covering the greater portion of what is now Germany and Austria, all of Italy, much of Russia, European and Asiatic Turkey, Arabia, and Persia. The northeast corner, occupied by the vast terra incognita of the ancients which we now call China, was marked on the map as the only part of the globe whose people dressed in silk fabrics. Egypt was christened the home of the ancient linen manufacture, and the map was colored in a manner to indicate that flax was also indigenous in several other small sections, mostly contiguous to the upper Rhine, and all of it bordering on rivers. India stood alone, the solitary country whose primitive inhabitants possessed and utilized the priceless inheritance of cotton. The great regions north of the wool belt were vaguely outlined on the map as peopled by barbarians who clothed themselves in skins, furs, and felts, and to whom the art of weaving was presumably unknown. One fond of the contrasts of history could not fail to be struck by the fact that the British Isles, now the home of the textile industries, were included by the map-maker in this vast expanse of country where the wheel and the distaff added nothing to the comforts of life.

If we were now to construct another map on the same principle, we should find the vivid colors which stood for the several fibers on the old map so blended and run together through the great belt line of the temperate zones that neither fiber would here predominate over any other. To-day all the fibers known to the ancients are used by all the civilized people of the globe, each for the purpose for which it is found to be best adapted. Each has had an evolution peculiar to itself, and each has been the gainer by every discovery or invention that has simplified the manipulation and thus extended the use of the other.

The sheep was the first animal which man learned to domesticate for his own service, and none has proved more useful to him.