The Tour de Fleece and Wyoming Wool!

The annual international Tour de Fleece is underway! Yes, the bike race the Tour de France is also underway, but this is the Tour de Fleece! Spinners (on spinning wheels, e-spinners and drop spindles) from around the world gather virtually to spin fiber daily, concurrently with the international bike race, the Tour de France.

Star Athena is credited with starting the first Tour de Fleece. She explained, “The Tour de Fleece is an online spin-along for everyone who loves to spin yarn and play with fiber! It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself while connecting with other spinners and having fun too… I started the first Tour in 2006 by spinning yarn along with the Tour de France. The concept was simple: they spin, we spin….  In 2006 we started out with just 16 spinners, though we had a lot of fun…..Currently, we’re beyond 10,000 participants.”   

So, while cycling history, the Tour De France, and the history of spinning and spinning wheels are not collecting strengths of the American Heritage Center, spinners frequently spin wool fiber, and you can learn about the business of wool in our collections!

The first sheep in Wyoming passed over the emigrant trails on their way to Utah and California. The first permanent flocks were probably established near Fort Bridger in 1846-1847.

Sketch of a ewe from box 28 of the B. C. Buffum papers at the American Heritage Center. Buffum joined the University of Wyoming as an agriculture professor in 1891 and went on to lead UW’s agricultural experiment stations throughout the state.

Sheep ranching as an industry truly began in Wyoming along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad in the late 1860s. Growth of the industry in central and northern Wyoming was delayed until railroads penetrated into these areas, because lack of transportation facilities prevented ranchers from moving their products to market.

AHC collections related to wool and sheep are broad and include organizational records, private company/ranch records, and the University of Wyoming’s Wool Department/Experiment Stations. Just a few samples are below. 

The Wyoming Wool Grower’s Association was founded in Cheyenne on April 11, 1905. Its purpose was to create an effective lobby in Washington to re-establish a wool tariff, to permit sheep grazing in the Forest Reserve, to control transportation rates, to eradicate predators, and to prosecute raiders.

The King Brothers Company was founded in 1892 in Albany County, Wyoming, by brothers Francis S., Herbert J., and Joseph S. King. The Kings specialized in breeding and raising purebred and registered Corriedale and Rambouillet sheep and won numerous prizes and honors for their wool.

Wool workers on wool bales at the King Brothers Ranch.
Photo File: Ranch-King Brothers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The William Daley enterprise was primarily a sheep ranch in Carbon County, Wyoming. The ranch was founded by William Daley. The ranch was managed by William Webster Daleys son, Perce Edward Daley. The company was active from 1886 to 1953.

The University of Wyoming College of Agriculture began to study sheep and wool in 1907 after passage of the Adams Act, which provided funding of $5000 per year for land-grant universities for sheep and wool research. The Wool Department was established in 1913 and conducted research, training, and experiments on sheep and wool in cooperation with the Agricultural Experiment Station before being merged with the Animal Science Department in 1955.

Sheep on experimental farm in 1901.
Box 6, B. C. Buffum Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The AHC wool collection go beyond Wyoming, too.

The National Wool Growers Association (U.S.) was established in 1865, and was the first national livestock organization in the United States. The collection contains records of the National Wool Growers Association, as well as some for related and affiliated organizations such as the American Wool Council and other industrial and state organizations concerning livestock.

The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) was a national organization that represented and defended the interests of the sheep and wool industries. It was established in 1989 by a merger between the American Sheep Producers Council (founded 1955) and the National Wool Growers Association (founded 1865).

3,000 sheep crossing Platte River at Alcova, Wyoming.
Box 1, Joseph E. Stimson collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

So, there is much to explore at the American Heritage Center. While the Tour de Fleece officially runs from June 26 to July 18 this year, AHC collections are available for research year-round! Please visit and follow “The Catalogs” title to get started with your research. The Reference department is always available to assist with research as well. Please contact us or 307-766-3756.   

For those of you participating in the Tour de Fleece this year: Happy Spinning from the AHC!

Post contributed by AHC Archivist and Reference Department Supervisor Ginny Kilander.

#always archiving

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