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ADDRESS OF HON. HENRY S. RANDALL.
Delivered before the Ohio Wool Grower's Association, in Columbus, Jan. 6, 1864
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Wool Grower's Association of Ohio:
The present is an extraordinary epoch in the history of the woolen interests of our country. Under the stimulus of the high prices paid for the raw material, production has increased far more rapidly during the last two years than at any preceding period. The United States census returns the number of sheep in the United States, in 1850, as 21,723,220, and in 1860 as 22,163,105,* an increase of but two per cent. in ten years. Of the latter number, there were in the loyal States and Territories, 18,251,328.7 In 1862, a much larger proportion than usual, and in 1863, nearly the entire number of breeding sheep in the country, of good age, were saved from the usual diminution caused by slaughtering the fleshy ones; and proportionately few ewe lambs were sold in either year to the butcher. If we assume that the annual increase of our sheep, including breeders and non-breeders, is fifty per cent; that half of this increase are ewes; and that ten per cent. will cover the number of breeding sheep which are annually drafted from flocks for old age, which die of disease, or are destroyed by casualties, and especially that worst of all casualties, dogs,) we still have, for the past year, an increase of fifteen per cent. in breeding sheep, leaving wethers out of view.
The gentlemen in the U. S. Department of Agriculture inform me, that from that data collected from the correspondence of that office, they estimate the entire increase of 1863, (including wethers,) at twenty-five per cent., and the entire increase of the last four years at forty per cent., or 7,300,531 sheep, which, added to the previous number, gives an aggregate
“ This differs from the summary in the preliminary report of the census, which contains an error of 1,154,651, in the return from Indiana.” I take this statement from the article on the “ Condition and Prospect of Sheep Husbandry,” in the Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1862, which may be regarded as official, having been prepared by J. R. Dodge, Esq., of the Commissioner's Office. The same article states that “there were returned by the assistant marshals, not included in the regular returns, because not owned by farmers, 1,505,810, making the aggregate 23,668,915.”
+ Viz: Sheep owned by farmers, 16,263,718 ; additional not owned by farmers, 1,101,282; in the Territories, 886,328.
1859. 1860. 1861.
of 25,551,859 now in the loyal States, which is 1,882,944 more than the total number in all the States in 1860.
I regard this estimate as rather high. Some of the border loyal States have been ravaged by war, and the probability is that their number of sheep has not much increased since the last U. S. census was taken. I am not disposed to put the entire increase of 1863 at more than twenty per cent.
It certainly has been vastly more rapid than this—unprecedently rapid -in some of the new States and Territories, for a period of several years. I will cite two examples. The St. Paul Press gives the following statistics of wool production in Minnesota :
No. of sheep.
Am't of wool clipped. 1850.....
500 pounds. 4,000
500,000 The people of that State anticipate that when their State Census is taken in 1865, their flocks will have increased to 500,000 sheep, and their wool clip to 2,000,000.
In a paper read before the California State Agricultural Society, by James E. Perkins, Secretary of the California Wool Growers' Association, it is estimated that the following amounts of wool were produced in that
..2,378,250 pounds. 360,000
..6,857,109 The highest average quarterly prices paid for wool during the thirtyfive years which closed with 1861, were 75c. for fine, 63c. for medium, and 50c. for coarse; and the two first named qualities commanded those prices but through a single quarter—the third one of 1831. During nine other quarters, or two years and three months, fine wools averaged 70c. and medium 60c. per pound. During seven of the same quarters, coarse wool averaged 50c., and during three of them 47c. per pound. Throughout the whole thirty-five years, fine wool averaged 50 3-10ths c., medium 42 8-10ths c., and coarse 35 5-10ths c. per pound. The wools above classed as fine, included Saxon, grade Saxon, and choice lightish fleeced American Merino; the medium included American Merino and grade down to half-blood; the coarse included one-fourth American Merino and below.
The period of thirty-five years above indicated, extends back to the first stablishment of our woolen manufactures on any broad and permanent
State in the years
1854. 1855.. 1856. 1857.
1860.. 1861. 1862.. 1863..
basis, and represents our woolen interests under every variety of circumstances, and in every phase of prosperity and adversity. Eight different woolen tariffs were in force—some of them, like that of 1828, stimulating production and manufacture into manias—and others, like that of 1846, striking down at a blow a great branch of our manufactures, (that of broad cloth,) and actually revolutionizing the sheep husbandry of our country. It was the death-knell of fine-wooled sheep* in North America. Periods of pecuniary inflation and depression succeeded each other like the sunshine and storms of tropical skies. Thus the wool prices above given may be said to display about the degree of strength and persistency possessed by the wool growing interest, in our country, down to the opening of the present civil war.
This picture would not be historically complete without a statement of the prices of wool during the war of 1812, and during the maritime and commercial restrictions which preceded that event, but I have given this elsewhere; and those prices occurred under circumstances so different from those that now prevail, or ever can again prevail in our country, that they furnish no important lesson pertinent to the inquiry which I propose to
Fine wool is now about 10 cents, medium about 17 cents, and coarse about 25 cents higher per pound, than they have ever been before since the war of 1812, taking the contemporaneous paper currency as the standard of value.
The rise in the price of wool has naturally been accompanied by a rise in the price of sheep. The average price of the latter, for example, in Ohio, for the ten years ending with 1860, is estimated to have been a few mills less than $1.29 per head. In New England, New York, and some other States, they were somewhat higher; but taking our whole country together, they did not, for the same period, average more than $1.50 or $1.75 per head. Today, they would probably average double the last named gum. No one ever saw common and grade sheep so high priced before; and pure blood Merinos have reached the "high water marks” of 1809 and 1810, and of the period of the importation of the Saxons, between 1824 and 1828. Frequently in the first, and occasionally in the last of those periods, from $1,000 to $1,500 were paid for a ram, and $1,000 for a ewe.
Within the past year I have known $2,500 to be offered and refused for a ram, and $1,000 per head to be offered and refused for ewes, and $20,000 to be offered and refused for fifty ewes. All these were gennine offers. Several rams were sold last Fall from $1,200 to $1,500 a head and quite a number of ewes from $400 to $800 a head. From $100 to
• I mean really fine-wooled sheep, like Saxons, high grade Saxons, &o.
$150 are almost as common prices for good full blood stock ewes in Ver. mont, as $40 and $50 were five years ago.
In the prices of sheep and wool, we have a sufficient explanation of the enormous increase in their numbers which is now taking place in our country. In a moment of such remarkable apparent prosperity, are not intelligent wool growers called upon, like the mariner who feels the favoring breeze swelling into a gale in his sails, to look warily about for those portents which indicate whether the ship can hold on safely under her present canvassor whether it is necessary to "furl away” to meet the coming squall?
The important questions which now press themselves on the attention of every considerate flock-master, are: Is this extraordinary advance in the market value of the sheep and wool the result of exceptional and temporary causes, and therefore likely to be of limited continuance, or is it occasioned by circumstances which may be expected to be of permanent duration? If it is to be temporary, how rapidly, and to what extent, will it recede? Or, to generalize these and many similar questions into one, What are the future prospects of wool growing in our country? This is the vital question of the day appertaining to that important industrial interest which this Association has convened to consider, and I may therefore presume, gentlemen, it is the one you would prefer to hear discussed on this occasion.
I. Is the existing advance in the market value of sheep and wool, the result of temporary or permanent causes ?
The rebellion of the cotton growing States of the Union, and its resulting effects, have cut off, or vastly diminished our supply and the world's supply of cotton. Wool is required to take its place, and this has produced scarcity and correspondingly high prices in the latter commodity. From 1841 to 1850, inclusive, the cotton crop of the United States averaged 2,173,000 bales per annum, and from 1851 to 1860, inclusive, 3,251,911 bales per annum. In 1850, the annual manufacture of cotton in the United States, was 487,800 bales, or 195,120,000 pounds. In 1860 it had reached 910,090 bales, or 364,036,000 pounds.* The latter amount cost 855,994,755, which is less than seven cents per pound. In 1863, those best informed on the subject, estimate the consumption at but 4,000 bales per week, or 208,000 bales for the whole year-only about twenty-five per cent. of the former consumption. And this would have been considerably less but for the recent re-opening of the trade with New Orleans.
This enormous diminution of production has fallen heavily on the manufacturer as well as the consumer. Most fortunately, the cotton spinners of
According to census returns, the whole crop grown in the United States in 1860, was 5,196,944 bales of 400 pounds each.
Massachusetts, alarmed by the prospect of a short crop in 1860–61, laid in a full year's supply from that crop, and by running on short time in 1861, they continued to operate a portion of their machinery until the latter part of 1862, at a large profit. In November and December, 1862, the scarcity of goods carried the price of cloth to a point which gave a small profit at the ruling prices of cotton, and the same state of things has continued since. Yet in Mr. Bachelder's report to the Boston Board of Trade, on the cotton manufacture of 1861, he estimated the spindles stopped in the last six months of that year at half the whole number.
In Mr. Atkinson's report to the Boston Board of Trade, on the cotton manufacture of 1862, from which I have derived most of the foregoing facts, it is stated that on June 1st of that year, of the 4,745,750 spindles north of the Potomac, 3,252,000, or sixty-eight and a half per cent of the whole number, were stopped; and that in the succeeding July, more than seventy-five per cent. of them were stopped.
I learn from the same authority that the expenses and interest on unused mills of the value of $600,000, kept in good repair, exceeds eight per cent., without including the depreciation of idle machinery.
But between these clouds there falls, thank God, a beam of the brightest sunshine. It appears that the operatives have not suffered. Enlistments in the army and the demand for mechanics in the government work shops, have, says Mr. Atkinson, given employment to the men, while the woolen mills, more active than ever before, and the manufacture of shoes, clothing, etc., have absorbed the labor of female operatives, so that atLowell, where the stoppage of cotton spindles has been largest, deposits in the savings banks actually and largely increased in 1862.
Let us take a brief glance at the falling off of our exports of cotton. The following statements are derived from official returns to the Treasury:
Value of cotton exported.....
1862. $1,180,113 $2,937,464
But custom-house returns do not disclose the real facts, so far as exports are concerned. The officers of our treasury have ascertained from foreign official exhibits that there were irregularly and surreptitiously exported, during the year ending June 30, 1861, the following amounts of cotton, not of course included in our custom-house records:
750,663,546 lbs :: 133,000,000