Poisonous Wool

An interesting newspaper story on poisonous wool was found in the Tucson “Arizona Weekly Citizen” for October 28, 1881. Death can occur when a shearer or a wool sorter carelessly handles wool from a diseased or dead sheep.

The story mentions wool sorters in England being subject to a peculiar disease when wool has been taken from sheep that had died from Anthrax, a malignant splenie fever that exists among sheep.

In the United States, another person’s death had also been attributed to wool. Mr. Naud, a prominent citizen of Los Angeles, had been sorting wool that had been placed in his care. Some of the clipped that he was sorting came from scabby sheep and “was, consequently, poisonous to a certain degree. After handling the wool he chanced to touch a small bleeding wound on his person and became inoculated with the poison from the wool. His blood became thoroughly impregnated with the poison, and after a long illness and great suffering from pyemia, he died.

“It is possible that the sheep in Arizona are not affected with disease to any extent, yet the greatest caution should be used to exclude the wool of sheep that have died or are suffering from any disease, from the better wool intended for the market.”

There were many dipping vats in Arizona to rid sheep of scabby in the early history of the industry. One of those dipping vats was at Cordes where many sheep were sheared each year. The sheep were run through the vats before leaving Cordes. I wrote about this topic in an earlier blog where scabby had been reduced if not eliminated in the years 1906 to 1916 because sheep owners were vigilant in this practice of dipping. The cost to dip a sheep ran between 2 1/2 to 3 cents. The picture of a dipping vat; it is the same one I used in the earlier blog.

Dipping Vat at Cordes. Date unknown. Unknown men.

There were other dipping vats within the state. One was at the Verde River Sheep Bridge and another on the west side of the San Francisco Peaks. There had to be other dipping stations within the state along the trails used by the sheep men as they drove their sheep northward each year.

One further comment and that is the story failed to mention whose wool Mr. Naud was handling; they may not have known or did not think it was necessary to mention the wool grower.

Two last comments – if anyone knows who any of the men were in the picture above, please send me a message and if anyone knows of other locations of dipping vats, I would appreciate that information as well.

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