Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/189

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177
AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.

The whole object of primitive living may be said to have been compassed in the domestication of the sheep. His pelt and wool were the covering for man's nakedness, and his flesh was his food. Thus the sheep was the most important of all the instrumentalities

PSM V39 D189 A merino ram.jpg
Fig. 1. — A Merino Ram. Weight, 192 pounds; weight of fleece, 35 pounds.

which contributed to the evolution of the primitive man, by slow, uncertain steps, from a state of barbarism akin to that of the beasts, into the first dawn of civilization. The evolution has been accompanied by a scientific attention to the breeding of the sheep, with a view to increasing its wool-bearing powers and improving the quality of the fiber, not surpassed, if indeed it has been equaled, in the care or training of any other animal, and achieving results commensurate with the effort. The history of this evolution is hardly less interesting than that of the manufacture itself.

Wool is the only fiber which possesses the felting property in any considerable degree. This quality of felting imparts to woolen fabrics a firmness, an elasticity, a strength, a warmth,

PSM V39 D189 Magnified fibers of silk wool and cotton.jpg
Fig. 2. — Magnified Fibers of (A) Silk, (B) Wool), and (C) Cotton.

and a durability altogether lacking in the products of any other fiber. There is no fiber used in textile manufacturing which has an affinity for dye equal to that of wool. Aniline colors may be fixed on this material by simply bringing the fibers into contact with the liquid containing the coloring matter. Where richness of effect is desired, and a fabric sought which shall possess all the characteristics of artistic development, wool remains, as in the days of the lost effulgent royal purple, the unrivaled material of the artisan. From the pedestal of supremacy where these characteristics placed it wool can never be dethroned.

Again, the manufacture of wool is the most laborious, the most