This week in 1921 was a slow week in the wool industry across the country, or was it? The wool trade was active but not lucrative for the wool growers. Tariff legislation was still in the debate stages in congress and it was thought that it would not help the situation for wool growers of the west. A great deal of wool was being held in warehouses in the east and buyers of wool were not eager for the new clip that was accumulating in the west. The buyers were only willing to advance five to ten cents a pound to the wool growers; a much lower amount than they had advanced last year. This money was used to pay outstanding debt that the wool growers had accumulated and would be used to fund their expenses for the coming year.
What a difference just a few months could make in the industry when it looked as if at the end of January, the wool growers were going to receive between 30 and 35 cents a pound for their wool. The Boston wool brokers, Salter Bros., had written to M. I. Powers and the Babbitt Brothers that they saw a considerable improvement in the wool market for the next several months and had told their buyers to pay as much as 35 cents a pound in order to get ready for the new clip that would be coming in the next few months from the western wool growers. I wrote about this in an earlier blog.
The tariff legislation was asked for by the National Wool Growers’ Association at their annual meeting in Salt Lake City. The association asked for: 1. An import duty be placed on foreign mutton and lamb., 2. Import meats be branded as such., 3. A petition be filed with the interstate commerce commission calling for a reduction in livestock and wool freight rates. There were other items that the association also wanted but those three can be easily dealt with here.
In reading the newspapers for the first few months of 1921, railroad rates were reduced at least for Arizona. The Corporation Commission of Arizona agreed with the Wool Growers that a reduction in rate was needed to ship sheep north instead of trailing them in the spring after shearing as was the normal practice of sheep owners. Feed along the trails was inadequate to allow for survival of many of the sheep already in poor condition from the poor winter range conditions in the deserts where the sheep graze while lambing and being sheared. The reduced rates would be allowed for a specific time period, time enough for all the sheep to be moved northward.
Another outcome of the weak wool market and drought conditions was seen in the wages that was agreed upon by both the sheep owners and the cattle men who were in a similar situation with no market for the cattle. Separately both organizations had agreed to pay $45 a month for help. ($45 in 1921 would be equivalent to $604.19 in today’s dollars; not a great deal of money. What is not discussed is the fact that both the cowboy and herder received room and board; makes a big difference when that is factored in.)
And that is this week in 1921.