This image is part of an ongoing VT History Photo Essay Project. The project objective seeks to explore VT history through images that also reflect the art and photography of the respective time period. Eventually the best images will be curated into a gallery on the website. Unless otherwise specified, the history is sourced from the excellent book by Charles t. Morrisey: Vermont - A History.
In the 1820's and 1830's Vermont's economy was dominated by sheep farming. The landscape of Vermont was very different from today with much of the land deforested leaving open hillsides well suited to pasture land for sheep. The Napoleonic Wars had loosened Spain's ability to restrict the export of Merino sheep and the embargoes of the War of 1812 further encouraged the domestic sheep industry in the United States. Vermont had the hillside pastures and nearby New England mills ready to take the wool. Fleece was golden to Vermonters. By 1840, sheep outnumbered people in Vermont by a 6:1 ratio. The industry was protected by high tariffs, which were removed in the 1840's, leading to more cost-effective competition from the West. The Vermont sheep bubble collapsed, done in by the Vermont landscape which does not lend itself to large operations no matter how hard a Vermonter works. Vermont's landscape has always been both beguiling to behold and limiting in support to economic development. The Vermont Shepherd owners David and Yesenia Ielpi Major generously made their farm available for photography.