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San Juan Island Scene Of Smuggling Wool
From Sheep Raised In Canada

a note from history...


At one time, prior to the settlement of the boundary dispute between the United States and Britain in 1872, the residents of the San Juan Islands in Washington and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia could move freely back and forth. Once this border was set, however, they were governed by the laws and customs regulations of two differing nations. Smuggling was the natural result.

smuggling included everything from groceries and wool to Chinese immigrants and opium. Sheep ranchers of the Canadian Gulf Islands could get twice as much for their wool if it was sold in the United States. Many found the temptation irresistible. And many of those who didn’t choose to sell illegally found themselves vulnerable to the many sheep rustlers from the San Juans, who would sneak in at night and take the wool back to the United States “on the hoof.”

The most well-known smuggler was a little man from Shaw Island in the American San Juans, Alfred Burke. In his long, slender rowboat painted a dull black, to blend with the sea water for camouflage, he would cross the Haro Strait at night during shearing season. Traveling from one sheep ranch to another, he would trade chickens, tobacco, candy for the children and even cash for wool fleeces.

The Gulf Islanders kept these transactions as discreet as possible. They would leave the fleeces in a convenient spot in the barn. Burke would slip in, quietly pick up the fleeces and leave the agreed upon payment in its place.

Back in the San Juans, Burke would sell his fleeces to the various sheep ranchers. The scheme came finally to the attention of the customs men when one rancher with only 100 sheep shipped 30 tons of wool to the market in Port Townsend. Investigation showed that more wool was being shipped through Seattle and Port Townsend than “could possibly grow on the backs of all the sheep” in the whole region.

Customs agents were soon on Burke’s trail. They went unobtrusively to some of the Gulf Islands themselves and put little wooden pegs in some of the fleeces they found in the barns there., When these fleeces showed up at a warehouse on Orcas Island in the San Juans, Burke was arrested.

He was later acquitted, when the judge at his trial ruled that he had not actually been seen to cross the international boundary with the wool. Most islanders were pleased with this result.

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Shaker Labels

Labels from the canned foods packed by the Shaker communities in the mid-1800s are a fine addition to any collection of labels. The Shakers canned vegetables, as well as other products.

The labels may be marked, “Packed By The Shakers At Mount Lebanon, N.Y.”
Illustrations on the label can help to determine its age. Pictures of horse-drawn wagons are usually on the earlier labels.

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Slot Cars Raced In The 1960s

Slot Car

During the 1960s and early 1970s, slot cars were one of the most popular toys in America. Young boys would gather wherever a race track was set up - most often in the home basement - and race their souped-up cars.

Over 20 companies marketed slot cars, with tracks of differet gauges. These included the model train makers such as Lionel and Marx. Many of the most popular cars were manufactured by Aurora, which produced the fastest cars and were among the least expensive. Aurora eventually came to dominate this market. Today, they are popular collectibles.

Greenberg’s Guide to Aurora Slot Cars, by Thomas Graham, published in 1995, is a good reference for these little cars.

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Bangles Still Popular

The fashionable ladies of the late 1800s covered their arms with bangles – gold, gold-filled, silver or other metals made into inflexible bracelets.

The hinged bangle bracelet could be found in every jewelry box of anyone wanting to be in fashion. There were many types, from the conservatively engraved ones to those studded with gems.

By the early 1900s, while bangles remained popular, their styling changed to narrow bangles worn in sets of five or six, sometimes even more.

In the 1930s, the popular bangle was the so-called “slave bangle,” a rigid ring worn on the upper arm.

Bangle bracelets remain popular today, and in addition to those made of metal, the early Bakelite ones and the plastic ones of the later 20th century are all attractive to those who enjoy wearing jewelry.

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